As with any form of training, it is key that you nourish your body with the essential nutrients and vitamins its needs. We are so used to taking vitamins in supplement form, however it’s actually easier for our bodies to absorb vitamins from food! Plus, it encourages you to opt for more nutritious food. Here are the core vitamins you need as a runner and the ways you can get them through your diet.
B12 is essential to keep your immune system functioning properly, plus it reduces fatigue. It also helps your body break down the fat and protein you need for your run. Vegans are at a higher risk of developing Vitamin B12 deficiency, as it is naturally found in animal foods like beef, tuna, and salmon. Alternatively, dairy products like yoghurt and cheese can be a great source, as studies have shown that the body absorbs B12 in dairy products better than through beef or fish.
Iron aids with the production of energy and is important for transporting oxygen around the body. Low levels of iron can impair muscle function, so as you can guess, it is an essential vitamin for runners. Red meat is probably the easiest source of iron available, but if you are veggie or vegan, legumes, lentils and chickpeas are all rich in iron. Iron can also be found in spinach, which is easy to add to any meal – plus it contains antioxidants!
Magnesium contributes to the normal function of the nervous system and healthy bones. Signs of magnesium deficiency include muscle spasms and cramping – so your muscle cramping could be due to magnesium deficiency rather than training! You’ll be happy to know that dark chocolate is a food rich in magnesium, along with avocado, which has also been shown to reduce inflammation. You can find magnesium in seeds like flax, pumpkin and chia, which are easy to throw on top of a soup or salad.
Zinc is great for the immune system. It keeps your skin healthy and helps to break down carbs. Half a cup of hummus contains 15% of your recommended daily value – the perfect dip! Eggs also contain zinc and are a great source of protein when training.
Vitamin D contributes to bone health and is a fat-soluble vitamin. Sunlight is a great source of Vitamin D, but if you’re living somewhere that isn’t blessed with sunshine year-round, here are the foods you can get it from. A lot of fish contain Vitamin D, you can get it from salmon, herring sardines or canned tuna. Though if you’re vegan, mushroom is the best source of Vitamin D, as similarly to humans, mushrooms are able to synthesize the vitamin when exposed to UV light.
Potassium. Great for hydration as it balances the fluid in your body and in maintaining muscle function, helping the muscles to contract and relax. It’s a widely known fact that bananas are high in potassium and are a great way to fuel for a run. However, if you are not so keen on bananas, watermelon or pomegranates are a great alternative. Sweet potatoes are also rich in potassium, plus they are delicious, low in fat and contain Vitamin A!
So, there you have it! See if you can work some of these vitamins into your diet this week if you don’t already – it could be through a pre run snack, some extra veg added to your lunch, or even in a smoothie. The possibilities are endless!