Student Athlete Information

Sports Nutrition Special Topics

The importance of good nutrition for sports nutrition cannot be understated. As an athlete, you often have specific sports nutrition needs. Specialized education tools are provided at IU Kokomo to aid in the understanding of what, why, and how to implement proper fueling for optimal athletic performance. Cooking classes and grocery store tours will help you know what foods to buy and how to prepare them for your best athletic performance. Nutrition tips, newsletters, and a variety of handouts on various nutrition related topics are available for student athletes. Registered Dietitian Nutritionists provide tailored team talks and workshops for teams. Below is a list of available sports nutrition topics for teams:

Caffeine has been shown to enhance sports performance in trained athletes when low to moderate doses are consumed. This will equal out to about 3 to 6 mg/kg or for a 130-pound athlete, 177 to 354 mg. The caffeine in a cup of coffee ranges from around 65 to 165 mg, depending on the brand, other ingredients, and methods. Keep in mind that high doses of caffeine can cause tachycardia and fatalities have been reported from overdoses.

The World Anti-Doping Agency took caffeine off the banned substance list in 2004. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has set 15 μg/mL for the urinary limit for disqualification in sports.

Read more about the effects of caffeine in the studies below.

Goldstein ER, Ziegenfuss T, Kalman D, et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2010;7:5. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-7-5.

Spriet LL. Exercise and Sport Performance with Low Doses of Caffeine. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.z). 2014;44(Suppl 2):175-184. doi:10.1007/s40279-014-0257-8.

CONNAHAN LE, OTT CA, BARRY VW. Effect of Caffeine on near Maximal Blood Pressure and Blood Pressure Recovery in Physically-Active, College-Aged Females. International Journal of Exercise Science. 2017;10(2):266-273.


Keeping glycogen stores high promotes good performance. Choosing a high-carbohydrate diet with in combination with some protein before exercise is recommended. Carbohydrates pre-workout are often dosed by using the following:

  • 4g/kg 4 hours before
  • 3g/kg 3 hours before (usually around 300-400 calories)
  • 2g/kg 2 hours before (usually around 200-300 calories)
  • 1g/kg 1 hour before (usually around 100-150 calories)
  • 15-30 minutes before (maybe up to 100 calories)

Having a small snack about 1 hour before you perform will keep you fueled during exercise and optimize performance. Fats are typically avoided due to the fact that they cause digestive distress if consumed too close to exercise.

Read more about the nutrition before exercise in the studies below.

Pöchmüller M, Schwingshackl L, Colombani PC, Hoffmann G. A systematic review and meta-analysis of carbohydrate benefits associated with randomized controlled competition-based performance trials. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2016;13:27. doi:10.1186/s12970-016-0139-6.

Williams C, Rollo I. Carbohydrate Nutrition and Team Sport Performance. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.z). 2015;45(Suppl 1):13-22. doi:10.1007/s40279-015-0399-3.

Post-exercise nutrition is needed to help rebuild and repair the body. Ideally choosing a post-exercise snack 30 minutes after the completion of a workout is best. Using a snack which has a ratio of 3:1 to 4:1 of carbohydrates to protein is recommended.

Examples of these would be:

  • Low-fat chocolate milk
  • Fruit and yogurt
  • Chicken or turkey sandwich with vegetables on it

Current guidelines for hydration include the following:

  • Drink 16-24 fluid ounces of water within a 2-hour period before training.
  • Choose 7-10 fluid ounces of water 10-20 minutes before.
  • Choose 6-12 ounces every 10-20 minutes during exercise, especially in warm weather.

A 1-pound weight loss requires approximately 16-24 ounces to replace post-exercise.

Hydration tips include watching for dark urine color (indicates dehydration), warm weather alerts (heat precautions), and signs of dehydration (nausea, weakness, headache, cramping, etc.).

Read more about hydration choices in the study below.

Casa, DJ et al. National athletic trainers' association position statement: fluid replacement for
athletes. J Athl Train. 2000 Apr;35(2):212-24.

Choosing the correct pre-game meal is important for performance. In general, eating a light pre-game meal around 3 hours before the game or a large pre-game meal perhaps 5 hours before the game works well. Choose a meal that is high in carbohydrates such as pasta, bread, grains, and fruit. Avoid high-protein and high-fat choices as they will lead to a poorer performance. Be sure to have enough water as well.

Sample Pre-Game Breakfast:

  • Bagel with fruit spread
  • Apple
  • Low-fat Yogurt
  • Banana

Sample Pre-Game Lunch:

  • Grilled Chicken on Whole Wheat
  • Lettuce, Tomato, Cucumbers
  • Orange
  • Green Beans

Supplements are usually dosed at specific times, such as caffeine before exercise. Duration of supplementation, as well as dosage are important. In addition, supplementation is not something that should be routinely utilized without proper supervision for several reasons. Supplement safety is a significant concern because the Food and Drug Administration does not monitor all the supplements. It only acts if there are reports of problems. Using 3rd-party tested supplements is recommended in order to ensure reliability. Selecting a supplement needs to be done on the basis of lab tests or similar data.

Many dietitians can help with the needs analysis and selection of supplements. Food is the best source of nutrients and then fortified foods, if needed.

For supplement information, please review the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency web site.

Some supplements may be needed by athletes for good health. It is not uncommon for most people to be deficient in vitamin D and occasionally iron. Proper guidance with these nutrients is needed, so optimal health and performance can be achieved.

Making weight is crucial in many sports. Doing this correctly and not at the last minute is vital to good performance and health. Quick weight loss strategies will sacrifice performance due to muscle loss, dehydration, and poor nutrition. If you are needing work on weight loss for performance, have our sports dietitian nutritionist suggest some helpful strategies.

For athletes who have difficulties gaining weight, there are accepted strategies for putting on weight without contributing to excessive body fat gain. Generally, helpful suggestions include eating every 2 to 3 hours, adding cheese, nuts, healthy fats, or yogurt to foods in order to add calories. Be sure to include adequate weight training exercise as well.

In general, athletes need between 1 and 2 grams of protein per kg of body weight. The amount depends on the sport and sometimes the phase of the season. Good protein choices include low-fat dairy products, eggs, poultry, safe fish, beans, nuts, and lean grass-fed beef.

There are a wide variety of sports foods on the market. All of these products are not appropriate for certain phases of exercise plans. Some have inappropriate ingredients and others have been cited for ingredient safety issues. It is important to read the label and research the company before using sports foods.

Meeting the daily protein needs for vegetarian athletes is sometimes challenging. Utilizing a variety of plant-based protein sources will aid in getting the right amount of protein. It is common for some vegetarians to be deficient in some vitamins and minerals. Careful diet planning will avoid these deficiency issues and help with good performance. For athletes, having a good variety of plant foods, choosing some fortified foods, and sometimes using approved supplements will act as safeguards against nutritional-related performance issues.

Choosing the proper foods and proper timing for these foods is the key to good performance. Below is a sample of food timing:

  • Breakfast (within 1 hour of getting out of bed)
  • Mid-morning snack
  • Lunch
  • Afternoon pre-exercise snack
  • Afternoon post-exercise snack
  • Dinner
  • Bedtime snack (for some)

Timing of meals and snacks should be worked around practice times and frequencies.

Grocery store tours are helpful to help identify the best choices on the market. With so many choices on the market, careful selection and guidance is helpful. Make sure to see our grocery store list under handouts.

If you have questions regarding the best practices for sports nutrition or you would like to schedule a grocery tour or discussion for your team, please don't hesitate to get in touch!