Complex Carbohydrates + Protein = Good Energy Bag

Best Sources of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the magic ingredient that your body needs for energy prior to activity. We’re not talking about junk food carbs like cookies, cakes, candy bars, and potato chips. We’re referring to healthy carbs from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It’s okay to combine these with some dairy products (milk, yogurt, low-fat cheese) which also contain protein.

In the lists below, the (*) denotes fruits/vegetables higher in pesticide use. Washing cannot remove all pesticides so peel them when possible.

Whole Grains
During activity and short breaks in play, some quick digesting carbs may be good options for energy, including:

Best Sources of Protein

Protein is the workhorse for building and repairing the muscular breakdown caused during activity – so consuming it along with healthy carbs within 30 minutes to one hour AFTER exercise is considered the “window of opportunity” to refuel for recovery. But protein is not the nutrient for fueling your muscles BEFORE activity.

Many athletes make the mistake of loading up on high-protein foods such as eggs, meat or even high-protein bars before activity. While some protein is fine, the majority of your pre-activity fuel intake should be carbohydrates.

Protein Sources


Good protein options  include dairy, meat/poultry, fish, nuts/seeds and beans; however, milk and yogurt are also good sources, and both contain carbohydrates as well.

See how to stock your energy bag

Tracy Owens

About Tracy Owens

Tracy Owens (MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN) is a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She has worked in private practice, providing clinical and sports nutrition for over 20 years. Her two sons and two daughters have played AAU baseball, USSSA baseball, Legion baseball, Challenge, United, Premier, Elite and ECNL soccer at Capital Area Soccer League (CASL), USTA tennis, summer swim teams, and high school football, swimming, baseball and soccer. Two of her children played Division 1 soccer at North Carolina State University.

Change Your Nutrition and Change Your Game!