Nutrition is among the most controllable and modifiable factors that influence your athletic success. You can reach new heights if you pay special attention to healthy sports nutrition and hydration, and maintain those good habits.

As a cross country runner, your nutritional needs differ from those of a non-runner, and it may be challenging to find the appropriate meal to fuel your body. This guide will share the steps to a proper diet and hydration for cross country runners, whether you’re an advanced athlete or a beginner.

What is a healthy diet for cross country runners?

The best diet for those long distance runs includes precise ratios of carbohydrates, protein, fats and iron. With this mix, your body will function at its peak performance and stay rejuvenated.

Carbohydrate-rich foods are ideal around training

You need to load up on starches to survive the cross-country environment since they are the primary fuel source for your body. Consuming them in the right proportions with proteins essentially maximizes your athletic performance. The amount to eat daily depends on the duration and intensity of the runs as well as your body weight.

2.5-4.5 grams per pound of body weight, or 55-65% total diet from carbohydrate are recommended (compared to 2.5-3.0 grams/pound for moderate exercisers and more than 4.5 grams/pound for ultra endurance athletes).

To get you started, here are a few healthy, carb-rich foods that are easy to pack for your run:

  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Chickpeas

Fill yourself with protein

While carbohydrates may be the primary energy source, proteins also get burned. Ordinarily, excess proteins lead to an increase in stored fat. But it is different for athletes since the extra is converted to fuel.

Furthermore, protein is crucial for muscle recovery and repair, and runners need it due to the intense demands placed in your body.

Protein should make up about 15 percent of your entire calorie intake, or approximately 2.5 grams per day for every pound of body weight, to significantly boost your endurance. 

Healthy sources of protein include:

  • Eggs
  • Almonds
  • Chicken breast
  • Cottage cheese
  • Greek yogurt
  • Ezekiel bread

Grab a handful of almonds or a container of yogurt for a quick snack for your run.

Fats are important too

Fats offer you a protection level that you cannot obtain from carbs alone. After running for over an hour, they become the main source of energy. 

There are different sources of fats. Fats to avoid include commercial snacks, desserts, and fast foods, as they have little or no nutrients yet are high in calories, salt, and sugar. Instead, opt for healthier options like:

  • Avocado
  • Chia seeds
  • Dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
  • Nut butter
  • Olives & olive oil

Keep your iron status optimal

Cross country athletes, especially if you are female, could be at risk of being low on iron. This can be detrimental to your performance and lead to a lower aerobic capacity.

Iron is essential in the production of red blood cells responsible for transporting oxygen through your body. Therefore, you must devour the right proportions to maintain athletic endurance.

Healthy sources of iron include:

  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Meat (red meat, turkey, tuna)
  • Tofu

Try a smoothie filled with spinach, Greek yogurt, bananas and chia seeds for a snack that’s high in all of the above nutrients.

Note: Unless recommended by your doctor, avoid consuming iron supplements as too much of this element can cause constipation.

How much water should cross country runners drink?

Many factors determine the amount of water to drink, the greatest one being the fluid loss through sweating, altitude, temperature, and exercise intensity.

Before your run: you should drink at least 16 ounces of water every two hours, and an additional 8 to 16 ounces before the workout. 

During your run: Once you begin, you should take in between 4-6 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes. 

After your run: After the exercise, you need about 16-24 ounces for each pound you lose during the physical.

Also, remember to drink water throughout the day. The Mayo Clinic suggests about 15 cups a day for men, and 11 cups a day for women.

Finally, get sufficient sleep

Sleep may not be considered alongside nutrition, but it’s a crucial part of staying healthy as an athlete. With proper rest, you will be better able to handle your training load, and this is crucial to ensure you perform to your highest ability. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each evening. 

Good nutrition combined with physical training is essential if you want to enjoy your sport and achieve your goals. With the tips above, you can maintain the right balance between the energy consumed and the output.

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