by Dr. Hayley Hamilton, Pediatric Hospitalist at The Children’s Hospital at TriStar Centennial

Eating well plays a critical role in keeping sports fun and safe. This is especially true for highly active kids. Athletes of all ages can benefit from proper nutrition to improve performance. It’s crucial that children and teens properly fuel their bodies for running.

Healthy Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy while racing. The best source of carbohydrates is fiber-rich foods because they provide lasting energy and the most nutrition. Whole grains, brown rice, beans, fresh fruit and starchy vegetables are excellent sources of runner-friendly carbs.

Carbs help with hydration too. For every ounce of carbs stored in the muscle, the body stores three ounces of water. During competition that lasts longer than an hour, a low-sugar sports drink that provides electrolytes and carbohydrates is recommended for hydration.

Pre-Race Snacks

A pre-race snack or meal will provide fuel for the muscles, keep blood sugar stable, and keep the body from getting hungry during the run. On race day, choose high carb foods for pre-run nourishment. Try one of these:

  • Bagel with peanut butter
  • A bowl of oatmeal
  • Banana
  • Fat-free fig bars
  • Pretzels

Post-Race Snacks

The body needs to refuel within 30 minutes of a long run or workout. Remember the 3 Rs ( Refuel, Rebuild, Rehydrate) for post workout nutrition:

A balanced post-workout meal or snack should include carbs to refuel, protein to rebuild and plenty of water and/or fluids with electrolytes to replace what is lost in sweat. Great post-race snacks and meals include:

  • A smoothie with fresh fruit and Greek yogurt, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain bread;
  • A turkey sandwich with green salad, a veggie omelet with toast and fresh fruit, or a burrito bowl with rice, beans, chicken and veggies.

Dr. Hayley Hamilton is a Pediatric Hospitalist at The Children’s Hospital at TriStar Centennial in Nashville, TN.