The role that water plays in training and performance is vital. Even being slightly dehydrated can impede athletic performance. During training, your goal is to keep up with sweat loss as much as possible.

Plan ahead and begin your next training session well hydrated

  • Consuming 16 oz of fluid before bedtime
  • Consume 16 – 24 oz of fluid in the morning
  • Consume 8 – 10 oz more of fluid every hour during the day prior to training
  • Consume 16 – 32 oz of fluid (like a sports drink) 1 hour before training

By following a personalized fluid replacement plan, you can prevent the consequences of excessive (>2% body weight loss) dehydration such as early fatigue, cardiovascular stress, increased risk of heat illness, and decreased performance.

Estimating Your Sweat Losses

Sweat Rate = (body weight pre-training – body weight post-training + fluid ingestion – urine volume) / exercise time

  • Weigh yourself before and after training (without shoes and clothes).
  • Calculate your weight loss by subtracting the post-training weight from the pre-training weight.
  • Keep track of the amount of fluids that you consumed during your training session. Weigh the bottle(s) before and after your session to determine the actual weight of the fluids.
  • Add the amount of weight loss to the amount of fluid consumed. (Example: 2 lbs (0.9 kg) weight loss + 4 lbs (1.8 kg) fluid consumed = 6 lbs (2.7 kg) fluids lost.) Record any urine volume that occurred between weigh-ins and subtract from the results.
  • Divide the weight of total fluid lost by the exercise time. (Example: 6 lbs (90 oz) / 2 hrs = 45 oz per hour for sweat losses.

[Source: Ryan, M. 2012 “Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes.” Boulder, CO: Velo Press.[

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Prepare: Eating Before a Workout or Race

Your body is constantly using and storing energy (calories) from meals. The energy you use to workout is most likely coming from something you ate a while ago before exercising. On the other hand, the burst of energy you feel from eating something an hour or half hour before working out is due to a spike in blood sugar. This rise helps your performance and prevents hunger pains but the energy of what you ate shortly before exercising will not really be burned during the workout. What will be burned is the stored fuel from previous meals a few or more hours before.

Carbo-loading the night before a workout/race
Carbo-loading is commonly associated with pre-race preparation phase where proportionately more carbohydrates are consumed (in comparison to proteins or fats), in larger quantity than usual, anywhere from 1 to 24 hours prior to an event. The intension is to store additional energy (glycogen) to be used during endurance-based activity.

3–4 hours before exercise:
It’s important to concentrate on complex carbohydrates because they are slow to digest and will provide sustained energy for later. A portion of the meal should be of dense, low-fiber foods and even some liquid carbohydrate sources.

  • Nut butter & maple syrup on toast
  • Fruit smoothie + low-fat granola
  • Oatmeal or BuckCrispies with raisins and almonds + non-dairy milk (almond, soy, rice) + banana
  • Hummus or Red Lentil Dip + crackers + fresh grapes
  • Veggie burger on bun with lettuce & tomato + side salad + soy yogurt with fruit
  • Lentil soup + fruit + sports drink

30–60 minutes before exercise:
Consider consuming carbohydrates within an hour if you have not eaten for 4 hours or more, or prior to early-morning training when liver glycogen is low. Try high-glycemic fruits like pineapples, apricots, and bananas. These will hit your bloodstream quickly to get you moving immediately and they’re packed with nutrients and water to assist in hydration. Dried fruits are also a great choice (although lacking the water) because they’re rich in iron. Iron helps facilitates oxygen transport in the body and promotes optimal respiratory function during exercise.

Sustain: Eating During a Workout or Race

No matter how fit you are, your body can only go so far on your pre-workout fuel and stored reserves before it needs additional fuel to help you to keep going. Mid-workout nutrition is important for slowing muscle glycogen depletion and increasing your body’s ability to use other fuel sources so you can go further.

The intensity of your workout determines whether you need mid-workout carbs.

  • Lower intensity: electrolyte hydration only
  • Higher intensity (30+ min.): carbs and electrolyte beverage, or gels for very intense workouts
  • Longer workouts (60+ min.): consume small amounts of protein every 45 min. Protein can contribute to stable blood sugar levels and provide longer lasting energy than carbs alone

Foods & Fluids During Exercise
Keeping your body hydrated with both water and electrolytes is essential to keeping your body moving. The burn of lactic acid affects nearly every athlete, but proper hydration can help take some of the sting out of the burn. Your blood circulates better when you’re hydrated, delivering oxygen to the muscles and clearing lactate buildup so you can go longer.

  • Sports drinks that contain carbohydrate and electrolytes, while avoiding ingredients that may slow digestion.
  • Easily digested carbohydrate-rich foods during endurance events, for example, banana, bread or roll with jam or agave nectar, sports foods (gels, raisins), or bite-sized pieces of low-fat granola or sports bars.
  • Fluids consumed with carbohydrate gels or carbohydrate-rich foods to speed fuel transport to muscles.

Recover: Eating After a Workout or Race

To recover from the demands of strenuous exercise and prepare for the next workout, you need to refuel your muscles as soon as you can tolerate eating. Choose foods rich in carbs to refuel depleted muscles and include a little protein to help repair muscles and reduce soreness. Always plan ahead, so you’ll have the right nutrient-dense foods and fluids readily available and to avoid reaching for processed, high-fat foods.

Within 20 minutes of finishing your workout:

In the 20 minutes immediately following your workout, your body is most open to restocking lost glycogen. Aim to consume a 3:1 to 4:1 ratio of carbs-to-protein, in a snack or beverage within 20 minutes post-workout to optimize recovery benefits. Studies suggest that by as early as the two-hour post-workout mark, muscle glycogen resynthesis is 50% less effective than in the first 20 minutes.

  • “My After” smoothie – This smoothie contains an ideal 3:1 carbs to protein ratio. The tart cherries contain compounds called anthocyanins which block inflammation while preventing muscle damage.
  • Chocolate-Orange Recovery Pudding – Carob powder is used as a substitute for cocoa powder or chocolate. It’s significantly lower in fat than chocolate and contains more carbs. Carob is also high in calcium and B vitamins

40 to 90 minutes post-workout:
Higher protein post-workout options can be beneficial, but it’s best to wait 40 to 90 minutes after consuming your 3:1 to 4:1 carb-to-protein post-workout snack. This allows your muscle glycogen to replenish before you begin to synthesize new muscle

  • High protein salad with plenty of fibrous vegetables, and high protein seeds, pseudograins and legumes (such as quinoa, peas, lentils and pumpkin seeds). Use a homemade dressing using hemp or flax oil.
  • Heart-nitas Tacos – Hearts of Palm are the edible cores from the palm tree stems. They are a good source of potassium, B-6, and includes energy-providing complex carbs and natural sugars.

[Source: Nutrition Fact Sheet, Issue 3, April 2009, Issue 4, April 2009, Issue 1, April 2009]


Carbohydrates are the major fuel used during exercise. Complex carbohydrates are the best form because of their low glycemic index, ability to help stabilize blood sugar and sustain energy. You can get complex carbohydrates in your diet by adding whole grains, legumes (beans, lentils), fiber-rich vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds.

General Recommendations Based on Exercise Intensity and Duration
Level of Activity Example RDA Intake
Very high intensity/short duration
(<1 minute)
sprinting, power lifting 5-7 g/kg of body weight
High intensity/short duration
(1-30 min. cont.)
track & swimming (200-1500 m), cycling, downhill sking (racing) 5-7 g/kg
High intensity/short duration
(1-30 min. w/ rest)
gymnastics, wrestling, martial arts 5-8 g/kg
Moderate intensity/ mod. duration
(30-60 min)
10k running 6-8 g/kg
Intermittent high intensity/moderate-long duration (>1 hr) soccer, basketball, tennis 6-8 g/kg (8-10 g/kg during heavy training/competition)
Moderate intensity/long duration
(1-4 hrs)
long distance running, swimming & cycling 8-10 g/kg during heavy training/competition
Moderate intensity/ultralong duration
(>4 hrs)
ultradistance running, cycling, swimming, triathlon 8-10 g/kg or more depending on stage of training
Low intensity/long duration (>1 hr) golf, baseball 5-7 g/kg
Other bodybuilding 5-10 g/kg depending on stage of training

[Source: Dunford, M, Doyle, J. (2012) “Nutrition for Sport and Exercise”. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth]


Intense or prolonged exercise increases protein needs because protein repairs small muscle tears that happen during exercise. Plant-based proteins have many benefits – easy to digest, low in saturated fat and promote a healthy body weight. They’re also better for the environment. Plant-proteins are free of the antibiotics, growth hormones and steroids found in conventionally farmed animal protein, or the mercury and heavy metals found in certain fish.

It’s easy for a vegan diet to meet the recommendations for protein, as long as calorie intake is adequate. Strict protein combining is not necessary; it is more important to eat a varied diet throughout the day.

General Recommendations Based on Activity
Level of Activity RDA Intake
Sedentary adult 0.8 g/kg
Recreational athlete (low to moderate volume/intensity) 1.0 g/kg
Endurance athlete 1.2–1.4 g/kg
Ultraendurance athlete 1.2–2.0 g/kg
Strength athletes (consensus not reached among experts) 1.2–1.7 g/kg or 1.5–2.0 g/kg

[Source: Dunford, M, Doyle, J. (2012) “Nutrition for Sport and Exercise”. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth
Messina V, Mangels R, Messina M. (2004) “The Dietitian’s Guide to Vegetarian Diets”. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning]

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Fat fuels longer activity, such as long distance running and cross-country skiing, and is necessary for overall health. Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs: a long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid) are the only fats your body cannot produce on its own so you need to consume them to achieve and maintain optimum health. EFAs (including Omega-3 and 6) support your cardiovascular, immune and nervous system; help repair and regenerate cells, receive nutrition and eliminate waste; help reduce inflammation and keep your joints lubricated.

Recommended Dietary Fat Intake

20 and 35% of total daily calories from healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, olive oil, coconut oil, and soy).

Saturated or highly processed trans fat are not advised. They can raise “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and increase risk for heart disease (even in athletes).
[Source: Messina V, Mangels R, Messina M. (2004) “The Dietitian’s Guide to Vegetarian Diets”. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning]

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The American Dietetic Association released a paper in 2009 explaining their position on vegetarian and vegan diets.

“It is the position of the ADA that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of life, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence, and for athletes.”

For those who are concerned about obtaining adequate amounts of specific nutrients, it’s useful to know which foods contain what.

Plant-Based Sources of Vitamins & Minerals >


You can get calcium from all sorts of plant-based sources and unlike milk, these sources contain vitamins C and K and the minerals potassium and magnesium, which are all important for bone health.

Requirements: Between 1000 and 1200 mg/day

It’s not just vegans who need to plan carefully to get enough calcium each day. Over 75 percent of Americans are deficient in calcium, so plenty of omnivores aren’t getting enough, either. No matter what your diet, you just need to make sure to include two or three servings of calcium-rich foods and/or calcium-fortified foods in each meal, and you’ll be able to hit that target for bone health.

Plant-Based Sources of Calcium >

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The human body needs iron to make the oxygen-carrying proteins hemoglobin and myoglobin. But just because you don’t eat meat doesn’t mean your going become anemic. The World Health Organization considers iron deficiency the number one nutritional disorder in the world. As many as 80 percent of the world’s population may be iron deficient, while 30 percent may have iron deficiency anemia. The human body stores some iron to replace any that is lost. However, low iron levels over a long period of time can lead to iron deficiency anemia. Symptoms include lack of energy, shortness of breath, headache, irritability, dizziness, or weight loss.


Infants and children
7 mo – 1 yr: 11 mg/day
1 – 3 yrs: 7 mg/day
4 – 8 yrs: 10 mg/day
9 – 13 yrs: 8 mg/day
14 – 18 yrs: 11 mg/day
Age 19+: 8 mg/day

9 – 13 yrs: 8 mg/day
14 – 18 yrs: 15 mg/day
19 – 50 yrs: 18 mg/day
51+: 8 mg/day

Plant-Based Sources of Iron >

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