Run For The Kids Nutrition Guidelines

By Meeghan, 22 March, 2011


Carbohydrate loading is often considered the best way to ‘overload’ glycogen stores and improve performance in endurance events. It usually involves at least 2-3 days of rest combined with a very high carbohydrate diet. Unfortunately the amount of carbohydrate that you would need to consume to effectively carbohydrate load is so high that it is unrealistic for individuals who are not highly dedicated endurance athletes. So instead of focusing on ‘overloading’ glycogen stores, a more realistic approach is to ensure that glycogen stores are sufficient to allow you to compete at a high level on the day of the event.

To do this, aim to have a meal with at least 100g of carbohydrate 3 hours before the event, or if you can’t manage a large meal early in the morning, try a combination of smaller snacks instead. Ensure you allow enough time for digestion. A large meal will take approximately 3-4 hours to digest, a liquid meal takes approximately 1-2 hours and a small snack takes a little under an hour.

The type of carbohydrate you consume is also important. Glycaemic index (GI) classifies carbohydrates according to their affect on blood glucose levels. High GI carbohydrates are digested and absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly, causing a spike in blood sugar levels. On the other hand, low GI carbohydrates are slowly absorbed into the bloodstream, providing sustained energy release. Consumption of low GI foods prior to exercise prolongs endurance by 20% compared to high GI carbohydrates, so try to build pre-event meals around low GI carbohydrates.

Examples include:

  • 2 cups of breakfast cereal with 1 cup milk, 1 banana and 1 glass juice
  • 4 thick slices of wholemeal toast or fruit loaf with jam, 1 apple and 1 glass juice
  • 2 wholemeal sandwiches with honey and 1 tub yoghurt

It is also important to ensure you are adequately hydrated prior to the event. Aim to consume 1.5-2.5 litres of water per day for 7 days prior to the day of the event, and consume 500ml-1L of fluid on the morning of the event.

During the event

When exercise continues for longer than 1 hour, the body starts to rely more heavily on ingested carbohydrate sources (from the food you eat rather than carbohydrate already stored in your body). If you are exercising for longer than 1 hour, aim to consume about 30-60g of moderate - high GI carbohydrate (for quick energy release and increased fuel availability) every hour during exercise.

30-60g of mod- high GI carbohydrate is equivalent to:

  • 500ml – 1L sports drink
  • 300-600ml fruit juice
  • 1 sports bar
  • 2 power gels
  • 2 bananas
  • 10-12 jelly beans

In addition, aim to drink about 250ml (1 cup) of water or sports drink every 20 minutes after the 30 minute mark. For those of you in the 5.2km event, it is probably not necessary to hydrate during the race, but feel free to stop at a drink stand if you are feeling dry or thirsty.


To replenish glycogen stores and assist post-event recovery, try to consume about 50g of high GI carbohydrate every 2 hours for the first 6 hours after the event, then resume your regular eating routine. High GI carbohydrates are more effective in increasing glycogen storage than low or moderate GI carbohydrates.

Post-event snack ideas include:

  • 1 bagel with cream cheese
  • 4 rice cakes with jam
  • 750ml sports drink
  • 12 soft lollies (e.g. snakes, jubes)
  • Small bowl of fruit salad

I would advise you to begin the re-hydration process immediately after the event. As a guide, I would recommend at least 2L of fluid in the first 24-hours after the event. If you have competed in the 5.2km event, water should be sufficient, whilst sports drinks will be more beneficial for those in the 14.38km event to replace electrolytes lost through perspiration. You don’t need to go overboard though, 1 bottle is plenty! Use water to make up the rest of your fluid requirements.

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