Nutrition for Cross Country Runners

As I shoot this video. It is summer, which means one thing, it's time for base building for cross country season. So if that's you, if you're still a high school or college runner, you may be wondering, how do I eat for cross country?
Nutrition for Cross Country Runners

As I shoot this video. It is summer, which means one thing, it's time for base building for cross country season. So if that's you, if you're still a high school or college runner, you may be wondering, how do I eat for cross country? How do I prep? Do I need nutrition? Is it a long enough race? What are all the considerations? Well, today we're going to cover that on this episode of Runner's High.

If you haven't been with me here before, I'm Jesse Funk, the founder of and the host of this show Runner's High, where we talk about everything running and endurance related. Now, if you are a high school runner or a college runner and you're not getting ready for cross-country season, you can still stick around because a lot of the things we're going to talk about today have to do with eating strategies, hydration, all the things around getting ready to race.

But I want to focus in particular on getting ready for cross-country season one because I love cross-country season. It's there's there's the smell of the season with the leaves and, and the rain and just the cool temperatures. And I love the off-road aspect. So but beyond that, I know that often young runners, if that's you get a lot of bad information or at least when I was that age, there was a lot of misinformation and kind of bad strategies on hydration and nutrition.

So I want to cover that and hopefully give you a little bit of a leg up on your competition, number one, but on yourself so that you're not hampering your own performance. So if that's you hit subscribe. Stick around for more videos in the future. But let's get on to talk about what exactly you should be doing as you prepare for your races.

First and foremost, you may think it's carbo-loading as the most important thing. No, it's not the most important thing. It is important, but not the most important. I would say number one is hydration. Now, with cross country in particular, especially when we're talking about high school and college, the races aren't that long in the grand scheme of things.

So you are probably going to be taking in any kind of nutrition while you're racing unless you're in some kind of league or school. That's vastly different than my experience. There's no aid stations or anything like that on these courses. It's just going to be the course start to finish.

That means hydrating the day beforehand is going to be critically important. And knowing that, number one, I want to hydrate, you have to stay hydrated before the race to be ready for the race, but that your hydration needs are going to be different than somebody else's. Because a little known fact, which I'm trying to spread more of, is that each person loses a different amount of sodium in their sweat. It's called a sweat sodium concentration. And it varies from person to person, largely based on your genetics.

That's why we at Solpri developed this series of sports drinks called SYNC that deals with your particular genetic needs. There's varying levels of electrolytes for different people. So we have a short quiz you can take after this video or whatever down the link description below. You can click on a link, head over and take the quiz and we'll help sort you out and get you set up with the correct level of electrolytes.

But the thing is, you need hydration, number one, because 1) It is important in muscle function. So if you're dehydrated, your muscles are not going to function at full power, which means you let yourself down. That's obviously bad. The electrolytes are important because they help that muscle function. They play a role in the communication between your brain and your muscles. Again, very important if you want to go fast.

But beyond that, and this is probably the most critically important part of being hydrated the day before a critical race is that sweat helps cool you down. It's what makes us the best endurance athletes on the planet, or at least on land. Our ability to cool down or ability to sweat is what makes us better than other animals on land as endurance athletes. So when you reduce that ability, when you make your water reserves not as topped up as they should be, then you are hampering your ability both through muscle function and through critically being able to cool yourself down.

So let's get on to the next part of nutrition and getting ready for a cross country race. Now, this next part is kind of the the big crux of why I wanted to make this video, because when I started out in high school, there was a tendency to not really eat much of anything before race. This is where race, timing and eating is kind of crucial if you're new to the sport and you've worked very, very hard to work out, maybe doing track work or doing drills or whatever it is. If you're doing some kind of speed work, you or somebody you know has probably thrown up.

I know that I definitely have times where I recall grossly I'm sorry to describe this, tater tots coming out of my nose as I threw up at the end of a track workout. It is a little bit of mark of pride being like, "Oh, I work so hard", but obviously you don't want that to happen during the middle of a race.

So this is where, again, timing and nutrition come into play as to when your race is. And after high school, many of these races are going to be after school during the week. Sometimes you'll get a weekend race, but during cross-country season and track season is even tougher. That timing is critical. So if you're having lunch, your body is going to digest roughly, let's say, 300 calories an hour while you're working out.

I like to use that as a kind of maximum amount. It can do a little bit more than that at rest, but it's a good estimate. So if you say I'm having lunch at noon and the race is at four, then you can probably eat 900 to 1200 calories for lunch, which should hopefully be plenty and then be fine for the race. That being said, you don't really want to focus on like huge amounts of protein or really fatty foods because those things are going to take longer to digest.

So you want to focus on easier to digest things like carbs, which could be fruit, vegetables, some higher glycemic index, carb sources, which might be like, say, if you're having a burger for lunch, maybe you're not the best choice. But those tater tots I mentioned, starchy, kind of fits in a bun, breads, cookies, those kind of things.

Although maybe not the best nutritional choices sometimes right before a race, if that's the best source of, I'll say sugar, a quick source of carbs that you have, that can be good to kind of top up your glycogen reserves, which if you don't know, we take sugar, we break it down into glycogen, which is then stored in our muscles, and then that is used to create fuel and move us forward.

In cross-country or track, it's critically important to have your glycogen stores topped up because of the speed that you're going. You're going to be burning more glycogen than you are fat versus as you get older, many people go to half-marathon, marathon, ultra races. It's a much more fat, burning, intensive kind of race.

But for the shorter stuff, glycogen is much more critical. So again, that timing, I like to estimate again, I'll say, max 300 calories in an hour between when you're eating to when you're racing. But this is also something you have to experiment with. So it's a good thing to keep a log, keep a food log of this is what I have for lunch. This is how the workout went for your training week. And then you kind of know, okay, I can and can't eat certain things before a particular race.

So again, if you want to take that hydration quiz, click the link down in the description below. We will help set you up with the matching level of electrolytes that you need based on your genetics. In our experience, if you want to do the more involved test, we actually have a sweat test where we can measure your exact level of sodium loss in your sweat. But that's typically going to be for people who are a little bit more advanced in both their race distance and race caliber, I guess I would say.

But if you want to feel free but we use our estimate or quiz again down the description below. Click on that, check that out and hopefully I'll see you on the next episode of Runner's High.

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