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My son is a 13 year old 8th grader who will be running xc in the fall

Answered By Monica Walker Nutritionist


My son is a 13 year old 8th grader who will be running cross country in the fall at his high school. As he plays baseball in the spring, he is not running track but is still running 20 miles/week. My question is what nutrition advice would you give a young aspiring cross country runner? What should he and should he not eat and is there a calorie intake that he should be focused on? He is 13 and weighs approximately 85 pounds. Thank you for your help.


The first bit of advice that I would offer your son is to fuel the tank with as much unprocessed "clean" food as possible. It is a common belief of athletes, but especially runners, that the body just needs calories and that as long as it is getting enough calories or energy, it will run just fine. This is very far from the reality. The body needs fuel, yes, but for the body to perform at its best, it needs the best fuel. He may not love all the veggies, the whole grain bread that you swapped the white bread with, or even the nuts and seeds, but he sure will love how is body performs when he's eating these foods! The second bit of advice that I would offer your son is to take hydration and liquids seriously. Often, coffee consumption and soda consumption increases in high school, but water intake may not increase. The caffeine in coffee and soda will cause an increase in urination which leads to an increased elimination of nutrients. The combination of more caffeine and not enough water can also mean that the body is constantly trying to train and perform in a dehydrated state which is going to hinder performance and potentially lead to stints of muscle cramping and increased necessary recovery time. As far as the calorie intake for your son, an important piece that is missing from your inquiry is his height. Nevertheless, it is important that your son not skip meals, snack on nutrient-dense foods when hungry, refuel with a healthy snack after workouts, runs, and practices, and drink at least 50oz of water daily, more in the warmer months.

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