fbpx Skip to content


Optimal Eating

Fuel for your clients' best workouts

A registered dietitian is your best friend when it comes to suggesting dietary changes to your clients, but you can help them stay nourished around their sessions. Clients’ nutrition goals are as varied as their exercise programs. The chart on page 59 offers ideas that will produce optimal effects before, during and after your clients’ favorite exercise routines.

Hydration Guidelines

In addition to a nutritious diet, adequate fluid is essential for the physical activity your clients perform. Dehydration can lead to potentially serious side effects, such as increased core body temperature, elevated heart rate, decreased blood volume and diminished physical performance (Robergs & Roberts 1997). The human thirst mechanism is fairly ineffective; therefore, planning when and what to drink is the best defense against dehydration. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends approximately 16 ounces (oz) (2 cups) of fluid 2 hours prior to exercise and 4 to 8 oz immediately before to ensure adequate fluid levels and time to excrete the excess (ACSM 2000; Kleiner & Greenwood-Robinson 1996). Add another 12
to 20 oz 1 hour before exercise in warmer temperatures (Kleiner & Greenwood-Robinson 1996).

During intense exercise or exercise in a hot, humid environment, the body can lose up to 2 to 3 liters per hour (Robergs & Roberts 1997). Be sure clients replenish their fluids during activity; 6 to 12 oz every 15 to 20 minutes is optimal (ADA 2000). Drinking a carbohydrate or electrolyte
solution may hasten absorption (Robergs & Roberts 1997).

A carbohydrate beverage (e.g., sports drink) during exercise provides added benefits as intensity increases. It provides the glucose necessary to ward off early fatigue and promote fluid consumption (Robergs & Roberts 1997). Advise clients to avoid fruit juice and soda because their high carbohydrate concentrations can delay fluid absorption and cause stomach distress (Robergs & Roberts 1997). Suggest a beverage containing approximately 14 to 16 grams of carbohydrates and 120 to 170 milligrams of sodium per 8 oz—although sodium is not necessary unless the exercise lasts longer than 4 hours (Kleiner & Greenwood-Robinson 2001; Clark 1997).

The best strategy to ensure proper hydration is to check body weight before and after exercise and consume 20 oz for each pound lost (Kleiner & Greenwood-Robinson 2001). Another method is to monitor urine color. A “light lemonade” color is preferred over “Mountain Dew®.” Lastly, following exercise avoid alcohol, because of its diuretic effect.

Regardless of their workout goals, your clients need ample carbohydrate storage and replenishment. While it is not within a personal trainer’s scope of practice to plan meals for clients, you can offer suggestions based on the Food Guide Pyramid. Provide clients with ideas customized for their favorite workouts, and exercise goals will be easier to attain.

Optimal Eating Plans

Practical Application

Client: 130-pound woman, 5 feet 4 inches
Exercise: low intensity, long duration
Daily Menu:
Breakfast: 1/4 cup (c) Egg Beaters®, 2 slices whole-wheat toast, 1 c grapefruit sections, 1 c nonfat milk, 1 large banana
Lunch: 11/2 c mixed green salad, 1/4 c pecan halves, 4 baby carrots, 1/4 c light tuna in water, 1 tablespoon (tbs) light ranch dressing, 1 whole-wheat pita pocket (toasted), 1 serving string cheese
Preexercise snack: 1 c low-fat yogurt, 1 medium raw apple, 8 oz sports drink
[Workout]Postworkout snack: 1 tbs natural peanut butter, 2 pieces whole-wheat bread, 1/2 c fresh cherries
Dinner: 2 oz chicken breast, 1 c brown rice, 1/2 c stir-fried broccoli, 1/8 c red onions, 4 oz nonfat milk, 8 oz cranberry juice cocktail
Totals: 2,023 calories, 98 g protein, 324 g carbohydrate, 45 g fat

Client: 180-pound man, 5 feet 11 inches
Exercise: heavy resistance training
Daily Menu:
Breakfast: omelette (1/4 c Egg Beaters® & 1 large egg, 1/2 c green peppers, 1/4 c red onion, 1/2 roma tomato, 1/4 c shredded low-fat cheddar cheese), 2 pieces whole-wheat toast
Snack: 11/2 c Total Raisin Bran® cereal, 1 c nonfat milk, 1 large banana
Lunch: chicken sandwich (3 oz chicken breast, 1 multigrain roll, 2 pieces leaf lettuce, 2 slices tomato, 2 teaspoons [tsp] light mayo, 2 tsp honey mustard), 11/2 c mixed green salad, 5 baby carrots, 3 tbs light Italian dressing, 1 medium apple
[Workout]Postexercise snack: 1/2 c hummus, 2 whole-wheat pita pockets, homemade shake (12 oz nonfat milk, 1/4 c low-fat yogurt, 1/2 c frozen blueberries)
Dinner: 11/2 c whole-wheat rotini pasta, 2 oz roasted beef sirloin, 1 whole-wheat roll, 1 c steamed zucchini, 1 c stewed tomatoes, 12 oz cranberry juice cocktail, 1 c cantaloupe
Totals: 3,000 calories, 140 g protein, 500 g carbohydrate, 59 g fat

nutrition resources

Nutrition and Healthy Eating. Learn how to integrate healthy eating and nutrition into everyday lives. Includes information on energy consumption, the Food Guide Pyramid and the DRIs. Resource Series book. Item #C891799.

Sports Nutrition. Learn about the role of mineral supplementation in exercise performance and how deficiency or supplementation of 10 minerals can inhibit or enhance performance. Lecture Series. Item #C882028.

For more information, contact IDEA member services at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7. Outside the U.S. and Canada, dial (858) 535-8979, ext. 7, or e-mail us at [email protected]


American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). 2000. ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (6th ed.). Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
American Dietetic Association (ADA). 2000. Nutrition and athletic performance: Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 100 (12), 1543-56.
Borghouts, L.B., & Keizer, H.A. 1999. Exercise and insulin sensitivity: A review. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 20, 1-12.
Clark, N. 1997. Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Jentjens, R.L., et al. 2001. Addition of protein and amino acids to carbohydrate does not enhance post exercise muscle glycogen synthesis. Journal of Applied Physiology, 91 (2), 839-46.
Kleiner, S.M., & Greenwood-Robinson, M. 1996. High-Performance Nutrition: The Total Eating Plan to Maximize Your Workout. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Kleiner, S.M., & Greenwood-Robinson, M. 1998. Power Eating: Build Muscle, Gain Energy, Lose Fat. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Kleiner, S.M., & Greenwood-Robinson, M. 2001. Power Eating: Build Muscle, Boost Energy, Cut Fat (2nd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Robergs, R.A., & Roberts, S.O. 1997. Exercise Physiology: Exercise, Performance and Clinical Applications. St. Louis: Mosby.
Wolinsky, I. (Ed.). 1998. Nutrition in Exercise and Sport (3rd ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press LLC.

Jenna A. Bell, PhD, RD

Jenna A. Bell, PhD, RD, holds a doctorate degree in exercise science and a master's degree in nutrition. She is a popular speaker and writer for IDEA Fitness Journal.

When you buy something using the retail links in our content, we may earn a small commission. IDEA Health and Fitness Association does not accept money for editorial reviews. Read more about our Terms & Conditions and our Privacy Policy.


Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay up tp date with our latest news and products.