Nutrition For HIIT Athletes

Short bouts. High intensity. Quick results. These are some of the enticing attributes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that is causing a whole lot of athletes and exercise enthusiasts to warm up to the fitness regimen. HIIT has stuck around for quite a long time due to its undeniable effective results. From weight loss to lean muscle build up and great cardio, HIIT training generates a slew of well-rounded fitness benefits. Given that it supplies immense benefits during speedy execution, it fits in favorably with the fast-paced lifestyle of city dwellers and professional athletes as well.

HIIT is a training regimen involving highly intense, short bursts of intermittent exercises. It can be customized in line with the special needs and fitness levels of each individual athlete or performer.

Nutrition plays a critical role in the successful execution of HIIT training. A well-rounded execution of a HIIT regimen that also caters to nutrition requirements can bring about tremendous health benefits including normalized blood pressure, optimal insulin secretion, and balanced body chemistry.

It’s crucial for any HIIT athlete to be well informed about the nutritional requirements of this high-intensity training regiment. When it comes to diet requirements for HIIT training, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. HIIT athletes need to be deeply aware of the various factors that make up proper dieting for their daily routines, including factors related to pre-training, post-training, and everything in-between.

Hydration Needs

In general, regular water intake is a requisite for any healthy lifestyle and for optimal fitness performance. However, because HIIT exercises put you through sharp energy-depleting exertions, proper hydration becomes extremely important. Regular fluid consumption during HIIT regimens is critical to mental sharpness, physical performance, body temperature regulation, muscle function, as well as functions of the cardiovascular system. Hydration needs during HIIT training are a delicate matter that should be handled conscientiously.

One of the most common sources of confusion, when it comes to making the right decisions regarding hydration needs for HIIT regimens, is the choice between water and sports drinks. Both drinks provide effective solutions for hydration. However, the rule of thumb is that water is best-suited for exercises that are of low to moderate intensity. During high-intensity workout bouts, sports drinks rich in electrolyte and carbs are the better-suited hydrant. This is because when sweating profusely during intense workouts, you not only lose fluids but nutritional contents including electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, chloride, as well as carbohydrates.

You can lose as much as 2% of your weight due to heavy sweat-inducing intense exercises. Lack of proper hydration during HIIT training can give rise to muscle cramps, dizziness, and weakness. It’s therefore crucial for HIIT athletes to prioritize regular intake of electrolytes and water both in their daily routine as well as their HIIT regimens.

The following pointers can help HIIT athletes cater to their hydration needs during training:

Air Temperature: Since higher temperatures force you to sweat more, you need to drink more fluids when training in warmer conditions, whether indoors or outdoors. And since you sweat a lot more in hotter temperatures and lose more electrolytes, it’s advisable to consume sports drinks rather than water in such conditions.

Dehydration: When you feel thirsty, that means that dehydration has already set in along with its undesirable effects. To prevent dehydration, drink 14-22 fl. oz of fluids two or three hours prior to the workout session and continue hydration throughout the exercise regiment.

Although HIIT training requires the heavy use of stored body fuel, it actually doesn’t require a complex sports nutrition plan. A healthy meal plan, however, is a basic requirement. Such nutrition plans usually entail the use of wholesome ingredients such as lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and plenty of vegetables. They should supply adequate quantities of calories and essential macronutrients for the training activities as well as for overall body energy reserves. It is advisable to consult with a nutritionist to avoid implementing nutritional plans that do not support optimal performance.

Pre-workout Diet Recommendation:

There is no need for an elaborate meal plan for HIIT athletes. Consistency is, however, a crucial factor. You need to stick to the specific diet plan in the days ahead of the workout session. In the few hours (preferably 3-4 hours) before the workout, it is crucial for you to eat foods that have moderate to high levels of carbohydrate and protein. The aim is to go into the training with full energy reserves but not a heavy stomach. Sugars and fattening foods can inhibit performance and crash energy levels. Ideal HIIT pre-workout meals include:

  • Trail mix and nuts with cottage cheese
  • Dried fruit
  • Greek-yogurt smoothie with fruit
  • Peanut butter with banana
  • Oatmeals
  • Whole-wheat toast with peanut butter and banana
  • Non-fat Greek yogurt with fruits
  • Fruits and grain-based bread
  • Dried fruits and almonds
  • Healthy cereals
  • Low-sugar protein bars

During-workout Diet Recommendation:

At this point, you’ll most likely be sweating profusely and losing electrolytes and carbs in significant quantities. The best drink to consume during HIIT workouts is sports drinks to instantly replenish your stocks of carbs and electrolytes. This will help you avoid dehydration and its undesirable side effects.


During post workout, recovery should take priority. The body needs to recoup depleted energy and repair worn out muscles. Post-workout nutrition should mainly focus on consuming foods and snacks that are high in carbohydrates and proteins. According to research, consuming a diet with a carb to protein ratio of 3:1 within 30 mins to 2 hours after HIIT training helps replenish the body’s nutritional stockpile and power the recovery efficiently. Carb heavy foods contain most of the macronutrients needed for muscle repair and growth.

Such foods include:

  • Fruits
  • High-carb cereals with fruit and soy milk
  • Avocados or guacamole with pita
  • Whole wheat crackers with cheese
  • Lean meat such as chicken or fish
  • Humus and pita bread
  • Protein shakes
  • Protein supplements
  • Whole grain cereals with fruit and soy milk

Here are some recipes you can benefit from that include high complex carbohydrates and well as protein:

HIIT Training nutrition best practices

The following best practices for HIIT Training nutrition can help you improve your energy levels and performance. These practices not only complement a HIIT workout plan, but also ensure that you carry out the HIIT regimen with an optimal base of macronutrients, and calories.

  1. As always, consult a nutritionist to find out the best nutrition plan that can be combined with your HIIT regiment to deliver health benefits such as improved cardiovascular stamina, elevated energy, and normalized blood pressure. You can quickly determine whether or not a particular diet plan can deliver benefits by tracking your energy levels, heart rate, blood pressure and more.
  2. Consider your own unique body composition and personal needs: As noted earlier, there’s no one-size-fits-all diet plan for HIIT regimens. Although there are numerous nutrition plans for HIIT training that proves beneficial to most athletes, these plans should be individualized to the ones you adopt for your own HIIT training.
  3. Create a well-thought-out pre and post-workout plan: You need to consume foods with moderate-to-high levels of carbohydrate and protein to address the energy shortages which accompanies HIIT training. Adequate amounts of post-training macronutrients intake are necessary for muscle repair and energy recovery.