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How to Create Your Pre-Fueling Plan



Katie Breazeale, MS, RD, LD


Have you ever finished a workout, or a competition, feeling extremely tired, having cramps, or difficulty concentrating?  These are all signs of under fueling.  One way to help prevent under-fueling is creating your pre-fueling plan.  


Your pre-fueling plan will depend on multiple factors such as duration of the event, intensity, how you ate the day prior, how many competitions that day, and your ability to also consume fuel during the competition.


When to Start Fueling

How soon should you eat/drink beforehand?  In an ideal situation we would follow the table below and say 1 hour prior, at 50 kg, I would eat 50 g of carbs all the way up to 4 hours prior consuming 200 g carbohydrates. Is this how today’s athletes eat? No.  This takes training to get used to eating close to competition.  Always practice during training sessions and not the day of competition.

Time Before Competition

Carbs Recommended

1 hour

0.5g/lb body weight

2 hours

1g/lb body weight

3 hours

1.5g/lb body weight

4 hours

2g/lb body weight

What to Eat for Your Pre-Fueling Snack

Carbohydrates are key ingredients when creating your pre-fueling snack.  Look for foods that are light and easy to digest.  If you’re worried about food, consider liquids.  Listed below are some pre-fueling snack ideas.

 

If you have a longer length of time before your event, consider a meal instead of a snack.  It could be as simple as grilled chicken with rice and steamed vegetables.  Or if your event is in the middle of the day, breakfast might be your-fueling meal.  Consider a breakfast burrito with eggs and salsa and a fresh cup of berries.

 

Hydration as Part of the Plan

Dehydration is going to slow you down which is why it is important to include in your pre-fueling plan. Symptoms of dehydration can range from muscle cramps, aches, or pains that are more severe than expected, dark urine (tea- or cola-colored), and feeling weak or tired, possibly unable to complete job tasks or finish a workout routine.  If you have been tracking your sweat losses during training, then you have an idea of how much to add prior to create less of a loss.  Your hydration plan will look different depending on the weather, indoor/outdoor sports, padding, and what kind of water breaks are allowed when competing. 


Before competition or training, drink 5-7 mL/kg of body weight about 4 hours beforehand. Then if you’re noticing you could use more, maybe it is hotter or more humid, drink 3-5 mL/kg 2 hours prior.   We understand that 2-4 hours prior for fueling and hydration is not always an option especially for early morning events.  Working with a sports dietitian is one way to help create an individualized hydration plan. 


How to change mL to oz: 30 mL = 1 oz. Example: 8 oz water = 240 mL


Supplements: Part of the Plan?

Where do supplements fit in with your pre-fueling plan? There are many supplements these days all offering different claims.  There are 4 things to consider when deciding if a supplement is warranted.

  1. Is it safe?  This is a very important question to ask about the supplement you are considering taking.  Look for side effects, do you recognize all the ingredients on the label, and is it third party tested? Look for NSF or Informed Sport.- Want a list of NSF-Sport or Informed Choice-Sport products? Visit the Fullscript store and then select NSF-Sport or Informed choice-Sport as your filter when searching for products. 

  2. Is it legal?  Similar to safety concerns, but some supplements are made in other countries with different rules.  Check for any banned substances.

  3. Is it effective?  This is one of the least asked questions when it comes to supplements.  Just because your friend likes it, doesn’t mean it’s effective.  Supplements typically have scientific research showing the effectiveness of the product.  Another piece of a supplement’s effectiveness is the dose.  Are you taking the recommended dose?  

  4. Can I afford it?  There are food options that can be more cost effective than a supplement.  Consider food versus supplement options before breaking the bank.


Supplements can be challenging to navigate especially when it comes to safety and effectiveness. Keep in mind supplements are made to add to a plan not to replace food. 


Putting it all Together

  1. Start with how early you can start fueling because that will decide how much you can eat.

  2. Pick a snack or meal depending on how long you have till competition/training.  Remember carbs are your friend especially for fueling.

  3. Add hydration to your pre-fueling plan.  

  4. Decide if a supplement is really needed or if your food fueling plan is your best option.


Always test your fueling plan during practice.  You never know how your body will react to what you're eating during training.  Surprises are not ideal on game day.  If you’re struggling to find what to eat and how much, how much you should drink, or even supplements contact us.  Sports dietitians are your best option for creating a safe and effective plan for fueling. 



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