Prime Time

As a registered dietitian, and sports dietitian for the 2020 Superbowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs, I think food and fluid timing is the number one priority! If you are active you need to think about how you PREPARE your body for practice, workout, conditioning, or competition and how to best REPAIR from exercise so you can do it again. That means being in PRIME TIME considering how many times you eat and drink over the day the what, when and how much fluid/food you consume pre and post exercise. Eating and drinking consistently through the day helps your body and brain to be energized and focused, and provides fluid and fuel for exercising muscles as well.

Let’s start with timing around exercise. Ideally you should have something to eat/drink 1 hour before exercise – so you don’t start out on empty. This is part of your warm up.
Less is more- a small amount of food works such as

  • ½ sandwich
  • ½ of a bar
  • ½ of a bottled smoothie or about a 10-ounce glass
  • A handful of trail mix


The goal is to start to recover sooner than later so you don’t want to wait too long to hydrate or eat to help your body replenish and restore

Do drink enough to replace losses- 20-24 ounces of fluid for every pound you lose during exercise in the hours after you are done.
Does your urine look more like lemonade than apple juice? If so, good, and if not, you will need to drink more.
Did your thirst subside?
Eat something within 15 minutes of exercise such as a bottle of chocolate milk, cereal bar, trail mix, or protein bar to help your body recover more quickly.
Protein + Carbohydrate after practice/games- within 30 minutes can help you to recover faster.

This is a winning combo

Protein sources (g)
2 TBSP peanut butter-
12 oz low/full fat chocolate milk
¼ cup nuts
6 cheese cubes
Jerky-3-4 pieces

Carbohydrate sources (g)
½ of a bagel
12 oz low/full fat chocolate milk
1/2 cup cereal
Pretzel sticks 5-6

So how many times a day should you plan on eating?
Let’s think about food as energy breaks- a time to fuel up for body and brain so you can learn and train.

Eat something within 1 hour of getting up. If you are exercising early in the day- you don’t want to be on empty, but you don’t have to eat a large volume either.

Yogurt with fruit and cereal
A smoothie
Cereal with milk and a banana
Toast, fruit cup and hard boiled egg

If you train in the morning, have half your breakfast BEFORE and the other half AFTER activity.

Do try to eat something every 4-5 hours throughout the day. This keeps your energy up and helps to prevent being overly hungry later, and better distributes nutrients over the day.

You may have heard that you shouldn’t eat after 7 PM. First of all, the body does not really know what time it is. I don’t like anyone waiting until 7 or later to start eating, but if you have a game, or workout or practice in the evening, you are going to need to eat something both before and after. And actually, I do like the idea of a pre-bed snack to help the body recover and restore so you can do more.

Let’s focus on consistency and frequency in terms of when you eat whether to train or compete.