Hydration, Eating and Exercise
From the Nutrition Management Department in the Air Force Academy's Mitchell Hall

Water is the most important ingredient for health. Water does many important things in the body, including transport of nutrients, elimination of waste, regulating temperature, and aiding in digestion.
Adequate hydration is very important when exercising. Proper fluid intake for athletes is vital for performance and safety. The longer and harder you exercise, the more important it becomes to drink enough of the right fluids.

A loss of 2% or more of body weight can be lost through sweating, leading to decreased blood volume. This causes the heart to pump harder. Cramps, dizziness and fatigue, in addition to heat stroke, can also occur if lost fluids are not replaced.
Other things that may affect fluid loss besides length and intensity of workout and sweating, are temperature and altitude. Exercising in the heat or at a high altitude can increase the amount of fluid you lose through sweating

Water is the best thing to drink for re-hydration. During normal exercise, it is not really necessary to replace electrolytes such as sodium and potassium because it is not likely you will deplete your body's stores. However, sports drinks can be helpful if you are exercising heavily for an hour or more. Drinks that have 60-100 calories per 8 oz helps to supply energy needed to continue on.

Some general guidelines are:
Drink at least 15-20 oz fluids 2-3 hours prior to exercise.
Drink at least 8-10 oz 15-20 minutes before exercise.
Drink 8-10 oz every 15 minutes during exercise.
If exercising longer than 90 minutes drink 8-10 oz of a sports drink every 15-30 minutes
Weighing yourself before and after exercise will aid you in estimating fluid losses. You should drink 20-24 oz fluid for every pound of body weight lost.

Nutrient Note:
Fluid intake should be increased to as much as 3 to 4 liters per day due to exposure to high altitudes

Eating and Exercise

When? What?
What you eat before, during after exercise is critical to optimum performance.

PRE-WORKOUT The day before a competition, you should eat carbohydrate rich meals. This gives time for the carbs to be digested and stored as energy in your muscles. Foods such as cereal, pancakes, bread, fruit, vegetables, pasta and potatoes can help.

One to three hours before a strenuous event or exercise session, you should have a light meal or snack of carb rich foods. This will help you maintain a normal blood sugar level, settle your stomach, keep hunger away, and provide much needed energy to your muscles. While a small amount of protein and/or fat would be okay, try to avoid large portions of fried foods, bacon and eggs, cheeseburgers and other fatty meals. The will be harder to digest and may cause cramps. Stick with foods you are already familiar with. Trying something new may not be a good idea if you do not know how your body will react. Great choices for a pre-workout snack are oatmeal, cereal with lowfat milk, fruit, energy bars, bagels, or even a sandwich on whole grain bread.

MID-WORKOUT During prolonged, intense exercise, such as a sports competition, your muscles may become depleted of fuel. Energy bars and sports drinks may be helpful if exercise lasts over an hour. Replacing these depleted carb stores will keep you from "hitting the wall" and enable you to continue.

POST-WORKOUT Of course the first thing you should concentrate on after exercise is replacing lost fluids. Then you should replace energy stores with carbohydrates. Refueling your muscles will not only help you be ready for the next workout, it will also help prevent injury. Within 15 minutes, or as soon as possible after a hard workout, you should have some fruit, juice, a sports drink or a granola bar.
Have more carbs combined with a little protein within two hours after your workout. This will further re-fuel your muscles and provide the amino acids necessary to rebuild muscle tissue that was damaged during exercise. Some great choices are a bowl of cereal with milk and fruit, a fruit and yogurt smoothie, a protein shake and a bagel, or juice and a peanut butter sandwich.
Keep eating carb rich foods for at least 2 days after exhaustive endurance exercise to make sure you replaced depleted energy stores. Eat fruits and vegetables rich in potassium to replace this mineral that is often lost through sweat. Examples would be oranges, bananas, and potatoes. Sodium is another electrolyte that is lost through sweat. Although it is unlikely you would totally deplete your body of sodium, if you crave salt, go ahead and sprinkle a little on your food, or eat foods like soup, pretzels, or salted crackers.

Try these ideas!

  1. Simple Burrito

Spread 2 Tablespoons of peanut butter on a whole wheat tortilla, top with ½ a sliced green apple and drizzle with honey. Roll up and enjoy!

  1. Good Workout Snacks
  2. small bowl of cereal with milk and a banana
  3. Yogurt and berries
  4. Bagel with peanut butter
  5. Trail mix
  6. Granola bar
  7. Cheese and crackers with cherry tomatoes
  8. Raw veggies and a boiled egg
  9. Half a turkey sandwich with lettuce on whole grain bread


From the Nutrition Management Department in Mitchell Hall
United States Air Force Academy
Shelly Morales, MS, RD, CSSD Nutritionist ext 3663
Stephanie Winsborrow, DTR Diet Technician ext 9812
Please email any questions to:

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