Vitamins and Minerals for Runners
The stresses the body endures while running can be intense, especially for beginners. As metabolism burns at a higher rate than ever before, additional nutrients are required to maintain bone, muscle, and tissue health. Many runners are deficient in the most important vitamins and minerals, which can lead to loss in energy as well as injury. The following lists essential nutrients, why they are important, and how beginning runners can fit more of each item into their daily diet.
This vitamin is often overlooked because drinks like orange juice and milk are typically fortified with the substance, yet many runners are severely deficient. Vitamin D is essential because it helps the body absorb calcium. Without it, runners may be prone to stress fractures as well as extreme fatigue and loss of motivation. Adequate amounts of vitamin D also aid in recovery and endurance. Runners living in Canada are especially at risk, because the sun is not strong enough during the winter to produce an adequate amount of vitamin D for absorption. Besides through supplementation (2,000 IUD per day is recommended), this vitamin can be found in salmon, chia seeds, mushroom, dairy, egg yolks, and beef liver.
One of the most common disorders that runners face is anemia, which is the direct result of low ferritin and hemoglobin levels in the blood. An anemic runner will suffer extreme fatigue, loss of motivation, and the constant feeling of having “dead” legs during easy runs. Although many elite runners require iron supplementation, the average beginning runner can find an adequate amount of iron in his or her daily diet. Shellfish such as mussels and clams, as well as red meat, have the highest iron levels. Other sources include fortified cereal, potatoes, spinach, and seaweed.
As runners sweat, they lose important minerals through their pores, such as magnesium. This mineral is implicated in improved oxygen delivery to the muscles, as well as mood regulation. Without proper oxygen delivery, legs may feel weak or heavy during exercise. The best whole-food sources of magnesium are nuts, whole grains, molasses, spinach, kale, and dark chocolate.
Although zinc exists in relatively low amounts in the body, this mineral’s function should not be overlooked. Zinc supports a healthy immune system and also promotes numerous necessary functions in the body, such as metabolism. Increased exercise has been linked to decreased zinc stores in the body, so supplementation is important for maintaining general health. Food sources include shellfish like oyster and clams, as well as black eyed peas and wheat germ.
Runners who suffer from chronically sore muscles or a weak immune system could get a boost by taking 1 – 2 grams of L-Glutamine after a hard run. This amino acid is an important building block in the blood, and composes approximately 35% of the nitrogen found in the body. L-Glutamine rebuilds structural damage in the body, including damage sustained to muscles, organs, and mucous membranes. Besides supplementation, runners can acquire L-Glutamine from all red and white meat sources, as well as eggs, dairy, spinach, beans, and wheat.