Essential Nutrients for Runners
Due to the high amounts of stress and strain that runners put on their bodies, their nutritional needs vary from that of the average individual. There are a number of vitamins and minerals that runners should incorporate into their daily diets in order to improve recovery, strengthen the immune system, and promote muscle and bone strength.
It is not uncommon for an endurance athlete to complain of low motivation, fatigue, and muscle soreness. After all, high volume training is the main culprit of feeling tired and sore. However, what many runners do not know is that Vitamin D deficiency may be to blame, especially during colder months. This vitamin, which is found in dairy, eggs, mushrooms, and fish, is necessary in order to sustain muscle and bone health, as well as optimal oxygen uptake.
An often overlooked nutrient, Vitamin E is essential for muscle repair and recovery. Found in squash, nuts, fish, oils, seeds, and avocado, runners who avoid fatty foods are often deficient for this important antioxidant.
Without a doubt, iron is one of the most common nutrients that runners find themselves lacking. Low iron levels affect fatigue, motivation, muscle recovery, and endurance. Foods that are high in iron include red meat, shellfish, dark leafy greens, and beans.
Magnesium is especially important for endurance athletes because it aids in muscle contractions and metabolism. When athletes are deficient in this mineral they have decreased endurance and decreased aerobic capacity. Magnesium is from the body lost via sweat, so drinking an electrolyte sports drink immediately after a hot run and eating dark leafy greens, seeds, nuts, fish, dark chocolate, or bananas is recommended.
Calcium is crucial for strong bones, so it should be no surprise that runners need more of this essential nutrient in order to keep stress fractures and stress reactions at bay. Dairy (and dairy substitutes), yogurt, fish, beans, greens, and some melons are all great sources of calcium.
Running can weaken the immune system, which leaves the body susceptible to injury and illness. Zinc is a necessary nutrient that can provide immune system support, especially when logging high mileage. In addition, zinc is a cofactor for many processes in the body, which means not having enough of this mineral can lead to many improperly functioning systems in the body. Foods that naturally contain high levels of zinc include shellfish, liver, wheat germ, and black-eyed peas.