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What Every Gymnast Needs To Know About Mid-Workout Snacks and Lunches

Updated: Jun 28, 2023

Gymnasts use a TON of energy throughout practice. which is why it is so important to refuel your body during long workouts! Eating breakfast, lunch and dinner are key components to refueling and recovery but that is often not enough for a high energy-burning gymnast! This is why snacks, and especially mid-workout snacks, are so important to fuel your body properly.

When does a gymnast need a snack?

Eating a snack mid-workout can be beneficial for performance and can help maintain the high energy levels needed to perform well throughout practice. Most gymnastics practices are 3 to 4 hours which is too long to go without any fuel. It’s common to see a decline in the gymnasts energy, mood, focus, and performance around the 2 hour mark which is when a snack is needed to refuel their energy stores.

Depending on the age, level, and intensity of gymnastics, most gymnasts who's practices are 3 hours or longer will benefit from a performance nutrition strategy that incorporates a mid-workout refuel.

One of the best ways to maintain energy levels and performance for the entire workout is to incorporate a snack after about 90 minutes - 2 hours into practice. If practice lasts 4 or more hours, a gymnast may need additional snacks every 60-90 minutes after that first snack depending on the gymnast. Each snack should consist of around 20-30g of carbohydrates to meet the energy needs of a gymnast during practice.

What should a mid-workout snack look like for a 3-4 hour workout?

Since the gymnasts likely have little time for a snack break or oftentimes aren't allotted a break in the middle of practice, it’s important to prioritize a snack that can be easily digested and turned into usable energy quickly. Simple carbohydrates like grains or fruit are going to be the gold standard to meet the gymnasts needs in the middle of practice. Foods high in protein, fat, and fiber, while are all important nutrients for a gymnast, are much slower to digest than more simple carbohydrates and can slow down the amount of time it takes to feel energized from the snack. Additionally, if you struggle with stomach challenges (upset, cramping, nausea, needing to use the bathroom), too much of these nutrients are likely to be the culprit.

Some of my favorite mid-practice snacks for gymnasts include:

  • Sport Waffles (like Honey Stinger) + apple slices

  • Apple Sauce Cup, Fruit Puree, or Pouch (like GoGo squeeZ) + Pretzels

  • Dried fruit

  • Fruit Juice + animal crackers

  • Oat based granola bar (like BoBo bar, Chewy, Annie’s, Nature valley, Z bars etc.)

  • Fig Bar (like Nutrigrain or Nature’s Bakery) + orange slices

  • Banana + graham crackers

  • Fruit Cup

  • Blueberry Muffin

  • Grapes

  • Bear Bites

  • Fruit snack

  • Gatorade

  • Fruit Cup + Popcorn

  • Juice + granola bar

  • 1 pouch of fruit snacks, dried fruit chews, or caffeine-free energy chews

  • 12-16oz of a sports drink (like Gatorade, Powerade, or Skratch)

What if I get a full lunch break?

Whether you’re at the gym all day long, are at a camp, or you have a 2-a-day practice with a break in the middle, you will need to refuel with more than just high-carb snacks and will benefit from more of a complete meal. For a mid-workout lunch, look to build a high-intensity performance plate.

This mid-workout meal should prioritize carbohydrates, and include moderate amounts of protein and fiber with a small amount of fats

Some examples of mid-workout lunches include:

  • Turkey sandwich with apple slices

  • Burrito bowl with rice chicken, salsa, and veggies

  • Bowl of pasta with meatballs and a side of fruit

  • Pasta salad with grapes and chocolate milk

  • Tuna Fish sandwich with orange slices

If the break between your workouts is more than 3 hours, prioritize that recovery meal as soon after the first practice ends (giving yourself as much time as possible to digest and recover) and then also have a high-carb pre-workout snack ready to eat as well between 45-15 minutes of starting up again (like fruit, crackers, pretzels, granola bar, etc.)

Why not a salad?

So often, I have gymnasts tell me that their coaches or parents encourage them to bring "healthy" foods to the gym (read lots of vegetables). However, a meal like this eaten in the middle of a workout is actually a recipe for disaster!!!

Vegetable-dense dishes like green salad are not an ideal mid-workout lunch is because it doesn’t follow the high intensity performance plate…

While a salad is nutrient dense, it is not energy or carbohydrate dense (meaning you could not possibly eat enough to refuel in the middle of a long practice) and is packed with fiber, which while it is an important nutrient for gymnasts to include in their diet, but not in the middle of practices. Fiber is hard and timely for your body to digest and it can't be turned into energy very quickly. The most dense source of energy that your body can us in a short period of time use is going to be 1st and foremost grains and starches (and 2nd, fruit). A salad will likely leave a gymnast feeling sluggish, hungry, and with a stomach ache...which is a recipe for poor performance during that second practice of the day.

Lunch break at summer camp

Summer gymnastics camps can be a fun way for gymnasts to learn new skills, meet new coaches and make new friendships with gymnasts from all different club gymnastics programs. Oftentimes, camps are intensive and involve a double practice day with a lunch break in between.

What to pack with limited options due to travel?

Camp lunch should still follow the high intensity performance plate even with limited options due to travel (staying in a hotel with only a mini fridge and a microwave available). Packing non-perishable snacks that can be added to a meal is a great way to keep your gymnast fueled. For example, foods like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, goldfish, fruit snacks, bananas, oranges, juice boxes, granola bars, shelf-stable chocolate milk boxes or pre-made protein drinks (like corepower)…etc. The goal is to find packable foods that can be worked into the high intensity performance plate.

Examples of an easy meal on the road that follows the high intensity performance plate:

  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich or uncrustable, a banana and chocolate milk box

  • Cheese with crackers, hummus with pretzels, orange slices and a juice box

  • Pre-made lunchable style boxes (Good and Gather charcuterie bites, Gusto snack pack, Applegate snack pack, etc.) and a juice box

What about takeout, grab-and-go, or fast food?

Although this may seem challenging to follow the high performance plate while on the road, many gas stations, convenience stores, and fast food restaurants do have options that can be turned into a performance plate!

Below are some fast food options that will fuel any gymnast in between workouts!

Sandwich Shop (Like: Jimmy Johns, Subway, Jersey Mike’s, QuickCheck/Wawa/Sheetz/Buc-ee's, Ikes…etc)

  • Turkey sandwich with apples slices

  • Ham sandwich with orange slices

  • Tuna Sandwich with grapes


  • Turkey, egg white and cheddar sandwich with the fruit cup

  • Egg spinach and feta wrap with a banana

  • Protein box with a juice box


  • Egg white grill and a fruit cup (breakfast)

  • Grilled chicken sandwich with a fruit cup

  • Cool wrap with a fruit cup


  • Chicken quesadilla

  • Burrito bowl with white rice, black beans, chicken, and salsa (hold the veggies)

  • Chicken or steak tacos


Mid-workout snacks/lunches are crucial for gymnasts to maintain energy and perform at their best throughout practice. Whether it's a mid-workout lunch or a mid-workout snack, it’s important to fuel them with the right foods so that they can feel energized with no digestive issues.

Looking for more help and support with your fueling plan this summer? I am currently accepting a limited number of gymnasts into my Springboard and Elite Coaching Programs. Interested, get started by filling out this short application today.


Kerry Bair, RD, LDN, MPH

The Gymnast RD

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