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What Makes a Good Breakfast for a Cross-Country Runner?

By Michelle Kerns

No matter how much or how hard you train, you won't progress as a cross-country runner if you don't pay attention to your diet. A diet that supplies adequate energy and builds your muscles will help you succeed; a diet that fails to do so will hamper your performance, physically and mentally. A breakfast that contains the proper balance of nutrients is an essential part of this equation. If it is difficult to develop a diet plan that aids your growth as a runner, speak with your doctor or with a sports nutritionist.

It's High in Carbs

Typically, a cross-country runner should have a diet made up of approximately 55 to 60 percent of its calories from carbohydrates. This means that the bulk of each meal -- including breakfast -- should be carbohydrate-rich. Good choices for breakfast include low-sugar, whole-grain, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals; hot, cooked whole grains such as oats; fresh fruit, whole-grain bread and starchy vegetables such as potatoes. An easy way to ensure that you have enough carbohydrates at breakfast is to mentally divide your plate into thirds and aim to fill 1/3 with fresh fruit or vegetables and 1/3 with high-quality, fiber-rich foods.

Has Moderate Protein

The remaining 1/3 of a cross-country runner's breakfast should consist of lean protein, with 20 to 25 percent of the total daily caloric intake supplied by protein. Avoid full-fat dairy products and fatty, processed meats like bacon or ham. Instead, favor low- or nonfat milk, yogurt, cheese or cottage cheese; eggs, egg whites or egg substitutes; beans or legumes, and poultry sausage or lean cuts of beef or pork.

It's Low in Fat

Although it is important that a cross-country runner include fat in meals such as breakfast, fat should make up no more than 20 percent of the runner's daily calories. Steer clear of foods that are high in saturated fat, such as butter, lard or whole milk, in favor of sources such as unsalted almonds or walnuts, olive oil or avocados. In addition to providing a variety of essential vitamins and minerals, these foods are high in the mono- and polyunsaturated fats that may help lower your risk of high blood cholesterol and heart disease.

Has Plenty of Fluids

A cross-country runner should always drink plenty of fluid with breakfast. Each day, you should drink approximately half your body weight in fluid ounces. Your best choices are water, unsweetened tea, low- or nonfat cow's milk or plant milk and 100-percent fruit juice. At the very least, consume a cup of one with your breakfast and remember to drink fluid every hour throughout the day.

Sample Breakfasts

A typical breakfast for a female cross-country runner consuming about 2,500 calories a day could consist of two servings of unsweetened, instant oatmeal, prepared with nonfat milk and mixed with 1 cup of fresh fruit, such as strawberries. For a boost of protein and fats, she could include 1/4 cup of dry-roasted almonds. A male cross-country runner consuming 3,500 calories daily could have a scrambled egg with reduced-fat cheese on a whole-wheat English muffin, paired with 1 cup of low-fat milk and one whole grapefruit.

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