As runners we usually focus on how food can fuel us for our running and exercise regimes. However, food is much more than just fuel – it provides us with the essential vitamins and minerals that we need. They help us convert the food we consume into energy, promote bone strength, boost our immunity and help repair and rebuild our muscle tissue. Overeating or over consumption of foods (nutrients) can affect our running goals, but so can deprivation and deficiencies of vitamins and minerals.
Here are some of the most important nutrients I think every runner needs…
- Iron – Iron gives us energy and promotes muscle function. If we become deficient in iron, as runners we may feel fatigued and will likely ‘hit a wall’ quicker. The best sources (in terms of absorption) come from animal products such as red meat. Other non-animal sources include legumes, nuts, cereals and dark green leafy vegetables.
- Calcium – We get calcium from eating dairy products, with the most common being yoghurt, milk and cheese. We can also get calcium from foods such as dark green vegetables. Calcium is important for our bone health and maintaining strong and healthy bones is definitely a priority for most, if not all runners.
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D and calcium are usually partnered together as we need sufficient amounts of Vitamin D to be able to absorb calcium. Vitamin D helps keep our bones strong. Food sources of Vitamin D are predominantly dairy foods too.
- B-group Vitamin – As a runner the B-group vitamins are very important. They contribute to the metabolic processes related to exercise. The B-group vitamins include Thiamine, B6, B12, Folate and Niacin (just to name a few). Food sources of the B-group vitamins include red meat, dairy foods, nuts, lentils, legumes and dark green vegetables.
Female runners are sometimes at higher risk of deficiencies, specifically in the vitamins mentioned here, and especially those who are vegetarian. It is important to make sure that we consume a well-balanced healthy diet to ensure adequate consumption of vitamins and minerals.