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Fuelling vs. Refuelling

You might have school before training, or it’s competition day and you have two races one hour apart and aren’t sure what to do. Nutrition goes a long way to maximising preparation, performance and recovery in between sessions. Here we explore the how, what and why.

Fuelling the Engine

For younger athletes, Desbrow et al. (2014) recommend the same adult guidelines, emphasising the context. This could be: what sport, how long, how intense? A moderate-to-high carbohydrate meal around 3-4 hours before exercise should help you feel prepared. Focus on starchy carbohydrates, nothing too heavy, and something you’ve tried before that works for you.

A pre-exercise meal could be:

  • Large bowl porridge (65 g) made with 270 ml skimmed milk, optional fruit like apple chunks, strawberries
  • Tuna and light mayo in a large tortilla with mixed saPorridge lad

During Training

For short sessions (0–75 min) carbohydrates aren’t needed - or in small amounts. For longer sessions (75 min-2.5 hours) have 30–60g of carbohydrate every hour. This is the same as in 1-2 large bananas or slices of fruit loaf like Soreen. Consider sports drinks if training is tough. Many provide electrolytes to help hydration. Stay hydrated by sipping water or juice/sports drinks regularly e.g. 100% fruit juice – orange, apple etc - or Lucozade Sport with a few mouthfuls every 20 minutes.

Eating In Between

Snacks in between sessions or at school before training could be:

  • Fruit and nut granola bars or trail mix
  • Chopped or whole fruit with dips (e.g. apple and peanut butter)
  • Celery or carrot sticks with hummus and Ryvita crackers
  • Milk-based drinks and yoghurts (plain or flavoured)

The idea here, as with the entire article, is to help keep carbohydrates stores in your body topped up ready to be at your best, and enough protein for muscle growth and repair. Eating enough is vital for younger athletes. Snacking can help if done appropriately.

Mixed Nuts


Refuelling to Recover

For immediate recovery, zero to four hours after exercise: 1–1.2g/kg body mass per hour, then continue daily needs. For example, if you weigh 50 kilograms (just under 8 stone), aim for 50 g carbohydrates, such as:

  • Milk (one pint) or a large glass of fruit smoothie (300 ml)
  • Ham salad baguette (2/3 of a ruler) or a chicken sandwich (2 slices of bread), fruit and water

Recovery from exercise is crucial for young athletes who might compete or train more than once a day (Kerksick and Fox, 2016). Even for the next day or rest of the week. Overall, eating enough is important for health, growth, and maturation, as well as reducing injury and performing your best (Meyer, Shirreffs & O’Connor, 2007).



Guest Author, Liam Oliver, Nutrition Student.



Kerksick, C., & Fox, E. (2016). Sports Nutrition Needs for Child and Adolescent Athletes (1st ed.). CRC Press.

Meyer, F., O'Connor, H., & Shirreffs, S. M, (2007) Nutrition for the young athlete. Journal of Sports Sciences, 25:S1, S73-S82, DOI: 10.1080/02640410701607338

Desbrow, B., Mccormack, J., Burke, L., Cox, G., Fallon, K., Hislop, M., ... Leveritt, M. (2014). Sports Dietitians Australia position statement: Sports nutrition for the adolescent athlete. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 24(5), 570-84.

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