Sports Snacks: Food Options for Hungry Athletes

Pre-Exercise "Quick Fixes"

These choices lack nutritional value but are easy to digest, provide the quick energy the body wants, and when eaten five minutes pre-exercise, are unlikely to create rebound hypoglycemia (also known as a "sugar crash").

  • Pop-Tarts
  • Nabisco Sugar Wafers
  • Rice Krispie Treats,
  • Toast with jelly
  • Marshmallows
  • Gum drops
  • Jelly beans
  • Licorice
  • York Peppermint Patties
  • Jell-O
  • Sports drinks (Gatorade, PowerAde, etc.)
  • Fruit juice
  • Sweetened iced tea
  • Defizzed Coke
  • Homemade "energy drink"*

*To avoid red dye and questionable ingredients, make your own energy drink. Simply add 7 packets (teaspoons) of sugar to 8 ounces of coffee. You'll end up with 80 mg caffeine and 110 calories, similar to what's in a Red Bull but at a fraction of the price.

Pre-Exercise High Sodium Snacks

For athletes who sweat heavily; Consuming a salty food before exercise helps retain water in your body and delays becoming dehydrated

  • Pretzels
  • Salt bagel
  • Baked chips
  • Ramen noodles
  • Chicken noodle soup
  • Canned broth (chicken, beef or vegetable)
  • Beef consomme (jellied)
  • Boiled and salted red potatoes or potato chunks
  • Ham & cheese sub with mustard
  • V-8 Juice

Fuel During Exercise That Lasts for 2 to 4 Hours

Buy sports clothes with pockets, so you can carry these with you.

  • Gummi bears
  • Starburst Fruit Chews
  • Jelly beans
  • Licorice
  • Butterscotch candies
  • Peppermint Patties
  • Tootsie Rolls
  • Whoppers Malted Milk Balls
  • Mini MilkyWay Bars
  • GoGurt

Engineered options:

  • Gu
  • Carb-Boom!
  • Clif Shot
  • Clif Shot Bloks
  • Gu Chomps
  • Honey Stinger
  • Hammer Gel
  • Jelly Belly Sports Beans
  • Sharkies
  • PowerBar Energy Blasts

Fuel during exercise that lasts >4 hours

For example, during a long bike ride, cross-country ski, or adventure race

Any of the above snacks that you might consume during 2 to 4 hours of exercise, plus more substantial fare:

  • Peanut butter and jelly on bread, bagel or flour tortilla (wrapped "burrito style" to keep the jelly from oozing out)
  • Gorp (raisins, peanuts, M&M mixture)
  • Trail mix
  • Ham and cheese in a pita pocket
  • Beef jerky (for sodium)
  • Noodle soup
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Chocolate bars
  • Any food that tastes good, settles well and helps you survive the event. (We'll talk "good nutrition" at another time)

Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels both casual and competitive athletes in her practice at Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill MA (617-383-6100).

For fueling help, read her Sports Nutrition Guidebook and food guides for new runners, marathoners or soccer players. See and also

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