Nutrition before, during and after physical exercise

  • It is important to begin the day with a good nutritional intake.

  • A reasonable time should be allowed for digestion after eating before doing any intense physical activity.

  • It is essential to drink before, during and, especially, after physical exercise. Isotonic drinks are recommended to replace electrolytes, although they are not essential. Water is enough.

  • Prolonged periods without eating should be avoided, and a sequence of 5 meals per day is recommended based on appropriate basic foodstuffs and energy sources, except in specific cases under medical supervision.


Category A: 5 - 8 years

  • This is a key period for the formation of eating habits. Children need to be taught to “eat everything.”

  • Energy needs are important in this key period for normal growth and development, when children are also very active physically.

  • It is important to ensure the presence of high quality proteins (meat, fish, eggs and dairy products), which children need proportionally more than adults.

  • Children should be trained to eat a full breakfast.

  • Children should not be exposed to too many sweets, candies and carbonated drinks.

  • Allow time for the child to learn to enjoy eating. Food should not be treated either as a reward or a punishment.

Category B: 9 - 12 years

  • Growth needs remain the priority, and it is therefore necessary to ensure the diet provides enough energy while controlling the child’s weight and speed of development. Food preferences become established in this stage, and it is necessary to orient them appropriately.

  • Sweets, carbonated drinks, high fat cheeses, cheese spreads and salty foods should be avoided.

  • Some foods are essential for normal growth and development:

    • Every day: dairy products, fruit, vegetables, salad and bread.

    • Alternate days: meat and meat products, blue and white fish and eggs.

    • Combine with legumes, rice or pasta over the course of the week.

Category C: 13 - 16 years

  • This is the age at which adolescents “shoot up” to reach their adult height, making diet especially important.

  • It is necessary to provide a sufficient calorie intake and a good source of high quality proteins and calcium.

  • Overeating must be avoided to prevent weight problems and obesity.

  • The type of diet followed by adolescents needs to be supervised to prevent them from making up their own overly monotonous dietary combinations in order to lose weight, increase muscle and so on. This can cause important nutritional deficiencies and eating disorders, possibly leading to anorexia.


It is important to drink liquids before, during and after physical exercise. Water is the recommended liquid whilst isotonic beverages in limited amounts are beneficial for ‘hydroelectrolic’ recovery.


Whilst specific fluid recommendations aren't possible due to individual variability most athletes can use the following guidelines as a starting point, and modify their fluid needs accordingly.


Hydration before exercise

  • Aim to drink about 500 mL 2-3 hours before exercise.

  • Aim to drink 250 mL 10-15 min before exercise.

Hydration during exercise

  • Aim to drink 250 mL every 10-15 min during exercise.

  • If exercising longer than 90 minutes, drink 250 mL of a sports drink (with no more than 8 percent carbohydrate) every 15 - 30 minutes.

Hydration after exercise

  • Weigh yourself before and after exercise and replace fluid losses.

  • Drink 600 mL water for every 500 gr lost.

  • Consume a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein within the 2 hours after exercise to replenish glycogen stores.