Exciting news. Our app has a new name – Healthily. Learn more
Find out what food and drink will help you get the most out of your sport and fitness activities .
You should aim to eat a healthy, balanced diet whatever your activity level, as this will provide you with all the nutrients you need.
The Eatwell Guide shows you how much you should eat from each food group to get the balance right.
This page covers:
Starchy and other forms of carbohydrate provide a source of energy for your body to perform at its best, no matter what your sport or activity.
In general, the more you exercise, the more carbohydrate you need to include in your daily meals and around exercise.
A demanding exercise regime will use up your stored energy from carbohydrate quickly, so include some carbohydrate in most of your meals.
A diet low in carbohydrate can lead to a lack of energy during exercise, loss of concentration, and delayed recovery.
If you wish to adopt a lower carbohydrate diet for your sport, you should seek specialist advice.
Eating protein-rich foods alone won't build big muscles.
Muscle is gained through a combination of muscle-strengthening exercise, and a diet that contains protein and sufficient energy from a balance of carbohydrates and fats.
Not all the protein you eat is used to build new muscle. If you overeat protein, the excess will be used mostly for energy once your body has what it needs for muscle repair.
Most fitness enthusiasts can get enough protein from a healthy, varied diet without having to increase their protein intake significantly.
A source of protein should be included at most mealtimes to optimise muscle building.
Taking in protein before and after a workout has been shown to help kickstart the muscle repair process.
You should allow about three hours before you exercise after having a main meal, such as breakfast or lunch.
An hour before exercising, having a light snack that contains some protein, and is higher in carbohydrate and lower in fat, is a good choice to help you perform during your training and recover afterwards.
Choose a snack that you'll digest quickly, like:
These types of food may cause stomach discomfort if eaten just before exercising.
Fatty foods, like:
High-fibre foods, like:
Most exercise lasting less than 60 minutes only requires water.
If you're exercising for longer, have a quick-digesting carbohydrate and some electrolytes (salts and minerals), such as:
Make sure you're drinking enough water (or similar) during your effort.
Not drinking enough water can have a major effect on your performance.
You should start any exercise session well hydrated. This means drinking water regularly throughout the day.
The choice of drink depends on the intensity and duration of the exercise, and your training goals.
You can make a homemade sports drink with 200ml of squash (not low calorie), 800ml water and a large pinch of salt.
Learn more from our water and drinks page.
Food and drink also plays a part in recovering effectively from training.
If you train several times a day, refuelling with a source of carbohydrate and protein – such as a glass of milk and a banana – within 60 minutes of finishing your first session can help you recover faster.
If you're training less than this or have more time to recover, make sure you rehydrate with water and eat as soon as you can afterwards. This might be your next main meal.
In general, a balanced diet will provide the nutrients and energy necessary for sport without the need for food supplements.
Find out more about bodybuilding and sport supplements.
A demanding exercise routine can leave you feeling quite hungry if you're not refuelling correctly in between exercise sessions.
If you're trying to lose weight, you'll need to watch what you eat and drink after your workouts.
If you consume more energy than you burned during your exercise, you may find yourself putting on weight rather than losing it.
A punishing exercise routine may not be the best way to lose weight. Check out our Lose weight section for more advice.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.