Diet & NutritionNutrition: Now for your body. Racing competitively taps into all of the energy systems in the body. In order to perform, your body needs the proper fuels to support these energy systems. Diet is very simple to plan for the young cross-country athlete. Athletes should eat three balanced meals a day that consist of 60% carbohydrates, 25% proteins, and 15% fats. Carbohydrates should be complex, as found in whole grain foods. A perfect example of a dish with these percentages is spaghetti with a meat sauce. These percentages, some of you might notice, are the exact opposite of the now popular Atkins diet. THE ATKINS DIET SHOULD NOT BE USED WITH ATHLETES! Carbohydrates are absolutely necessary in refueling the energy systems of runners. Vitamins and minerals are also important in an athlete’s diet. They help keep the body’s immune system, bones, and muscles strong. Most vitamins that you need can be found in green and colorful vegetables or fruit. But some runners might consider taking a multivitamin. One-a-day multi-vitamins are a good way to ensure that the body is getting the vitamins and minerals it needs every day. Make sure, however that you take the vitamin with a meal so that it is absorbed into the body. VITAMINS SHOULD NEVER REPLACE A MEAL! Female athletes should make sure that they take a multi-vitamin to keep a regulated level of iron in the bloodstream. Because of the female’s biological constitution, some female runners are at risk of anemia (lack of iron in the blood). Making sure that there is a source of iron in the blood with a multi-vitamin is a good method for prevention. The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “the sage should live with the belly, not with the eyes.” In other words, eat healthy food until you are not hungry and then stop. Don’t worry about the appearances or images that you see on TV of how people should look or how people say you should look. Focus instead on how YOU feel. If you have any doubts about yourself and your eating habits, tell your coaches. They will do your best to point you in the right direction. If you notice poor eating habits in your teammates and friends, simply encourage better eating habits and let your coaches know what you’ve noticed. Eat in a healthy manner, exercise in a healthy manner, and you will live in a healthy manner. Hydrate: The human body is made up of 70% water. When you exercise, your body sweats to regulate body temperature. It is imperative that you STAY WELL HYDRATED. The first months of the season are often quite warm. It is important that you keep fluids in your body. Water and sports drinks are the two best ways to stay hydrated. Athletes should always bring a bottle of either one to every practice and meet. You place yourself in a potentially dangerous situation if you are severely dehydrated. Prevent problems through constant hydration.