Running is taxing on the body. It can increase the depletion of nutrients within the body, which can result in a greater risk of nutrient deficiencies. In order for a runner to maintain optimal performance, the runner’s diet needs to include a variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. By making sure a well-balanced intake of these important nutrients are consumed, a runner can improve recovery, reduce pain, and boost performance!
Why it is important: Calcium is important for bone health. Runners have a higher tendency to get injuries from bone stress due to the pressure and impact running has on the body. Calcium can help prevent stress-related bone injuries as it supports the mineralization of the bones to keep them strong.
How much you need: Taking more calcium than needed will not result in extra bone protection. Just take the daily recommended amount (if you choose to supplement). Calcium citrate is more easily absorbed by the body. A daily dose of 800 milligrams may be beneficial for runners.
Foods that contain calcium: Dairy products, like milk, yogurt, and cheese, kefir, salmon, tofu, calcium-fortified cereals, black-eyed peas, dark leafy greens, like spinach and kale, and broccoli
Why it is important: Vitamin D is also important for bone health and assists the body with the absorption of calcium. Recent research has suggested runners may also benefit from vitamin D through a reduction in inflammation post-run.
How much you need: Per the studies, athletes who consume 4,000 International Units (IU) daily is a tolerable upper limit for supplementation.
Foods that contain vitamin D: Milk, yogurt, kefir, egg yolks, salmon, tuna, and vitamin D fortified cereals.
Why it is important: Iron brings oxygen to the blood and muscles and helps maintain energy levels, which is important while you are running and breathing heavily.
How much you need: 8 milligrams of iron per day for men and 18 milligrams of iron per day for women is the recommended intake.
Foods that contain iron: Red meat, fish, beans, like lentils and black beans, dark leafy greens, like spinach, apricots, raisins, and iron-fortified cereals.
*Consuming vitamin C-rich foods with iron-rich foods will help with the absorption of iron. Vitamin C foods are strawberries, oranges, papaya, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, and cooked cabbage.
***Always check with your doctor before taking any supplement. Have your doctor check your calcium, vitamin D, and iron levels first before jumping in and supplementing. If your levels are low, you may consider taking a supplement. But have your doctor confirm, first. In addition, real food sources are always preferred for vitamins, minerals, and nutrients before considering supplementation.