female athletes run outdoors through bushes

Photo courtesy of Nevada Athletics.
Nevada women’s cross country member Hiley Dobbs (pink) emphasizes her nutrition to improve her physical performance.

Spring sports are underway for the Nevada Wolf Pack, and two programs in particular are training more than ever to recover from a lost 2020 season. 

The Nevada women’s track and field team and men’s and women’s cross country teams are in the midst of a busy 2021 campaign. Barring any unforeseen setbacks, womens’ track and field will compete in two indoor championships followed by seven meets throughout the outdoor season. The men’s and women’s cross country teams finished their first meets of the season Friday, Feb. 19 and are set to compete at the Mountain West Championships Friday, March 5 in Las Vegas, Nev. 

Both cross country teams run more than 1,000 miles during the season, while members of the women’s track and field team compete in several high-intensity competitions. 

That begs the question: What fuels a Nevada cross country or track and field athlete to train at such a high level?

Take fifth-year student Hiley Dobbs for example. Dobbs has logged personal bests and high place finishes with the Nevada women’s cross country team since 2016, and nutrition has remained a key component in sustaining her performance. 

“I wouldn’t be able to sustain anything if it wasn’t for how I fuel my body,” she said. “Our diets play into our endurance across the season. It’s not getting through that one run or workout, fueling yourself each day propels your recovery.”

Dobbs isn’t alone in her focus on properly fueling her body in order to maximize her skill set. Eating nutritious meals at certain times is a common theme for certain members of the track and field and cross country sports at Nevada. 

It keeps me going throughout my training’

Eating before each meet, workouts, events or training sessions are a helpful technique for certain Nevada student-athletes. Kyle Elias, a freshman and men’s cross country member, makes sure to eat lighter meals and foods beforehand for sustained energy. 

“It keeps me going throughout my training,” Elias said. “I’ve been into something like a bagel and cream cheese lately that’s quick and easy. I like going lighter because it keeps me on my toes a bit more, that’s why I eat so close to my training. ” 

Complex carbohydrates remain front and center before any physical exercise to help maximize the body’s use of glycogen before short-and-high intensity workouts. Endurance is just one of the many requirements needed from a track and field or cross country athlete, and carbs are a beneficial source to sustain energy. 

During her tenure at Nevada, Dobbs has found a liking for meals before a run or training session. A staple of hers is a “supercharged” bowl of oatmeal loaded with protein powder, hemp, chia and flax seeds to power her through the day. 

“Oats are a great thing for me before my runs or workouts,” she said. “It settles well with me. I’ll add some protein powder to it for more high endurance workouts for the day, or even mix in chocolate chips, hemp, chia and flax seeds. It’s supercharged for me through those sessions.”

Heading into her senior year on the Nevada women’s track and field team, five-time All-American winner Nicola Ader has incorporated recipes from her home country of Affolterbach, Germany. 

Ader’s pre-workout foods include a heavy dose of carbohydrates and vegetables to help add to her decorated Wolf Pack career. 

“I grew up having lots of nutritious food back home from my grandmother and that’s stayed with me,” she said. “I’ve incorporated some of those recipes to make sure I eat things like rice, potatoes, quinoa and pasta all with vegetables before events. Those were staples for me.”

‘Recovery is everything’ 

After a heavy amount of physical activity, recovery is crucial with a bevy of nutritious meals to choose from high in protein. 

Dobbs praises the university for its post-workout protein shakes. She aims for more protein through eggs and cheese in her post-workout meals. 

“Getting those protein shakes in for me is a great resource the university offers to us,” she said. “Recovery is everything, so I’ll get home and make some scrambled eggs with cheese and veggies, which are one of my favorite easy sources of protein.”

As a first-year college student, Elias is adjusting to his new surroundings. That translates to his meals, where he uses The Den, the student dining facility at the University of Nevada, Reno, to his advantage. 

Following a training session, Elias gets his necessary caloric intake through a variety of proteins and vegetables. 

“That place is kind of like my hub,” he said. “I try to use it to my advantage right now to get those veggies and proteins in after my sessions … I just try to get in as many calories as I can there through different meats and stuff. It’s something new,  and it’s been going well.”

Ader applies the same approach to her diet after workouts, aiming for substantial proteins and fats during and after events. 

“After weights I try to get something more substantial,” Ader said. “Getting protein and fats will benefit my recovery. I try to plan those things up and eat.” 

‘It’s a balance’ 

Maintaining your physical health through nutrition takes dedication and discipline. Life takes place outside of sports, and student-athletes must balance their eating habits with jobs, class and other activities or responsibilities. 

Dobbs takes the time to prepare her meals throughout the week in order to sustain her healthy lifestyle. 

“I’ve learned it takes discipline to plan my meals before I’m hungry,” Dobbs said. “The will to cook and prepare nutritious meals for my workouts isn’t there when I’m hungry. I want that immediate satisfaction, so being prepared is key for me.”

Ader said she has learned to listen to her body, and the results will follow. 

“I rely on my gut instinct more than anything,” Ader said. “It’s a balance. If you pay attention to your body and what it needs, I think it helps you fulfill those physical goals you want to achieve.” 

Regardless of the circumstances, nutrition is at the forefront of their performance. It aids and athletes energy storage before training and recovery afterwards. To be at your physical best, a balanced nutritional palate is required. It will have a substantial role throughout the track and field and cross country seasons at Nevada. 

“I try to listen to my body a lot and one of those ways is through my diet,” Elias said. “I think that goes for everyone else too.”

Isaiah Burrows can be reached at iburrows@sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter @IsaiahBurrows_.