While the average, moderately-active person may never need to add certain vitamins, minerals, or other supplements to their daily diet, serious runners may find benefit in manipulating their intake of the below nutritional at various times during the year.
Dietary iron comes in many forms, but the most bio available form of this mineral comes from red meat. This is a “heme” iron which will aid in the development of oxygen-rich red blood cells more efficiently than a supplement. However, sometimes eating red meat occasionally isn’t enough to repair all of the destroyed red blood cells we lose when running long-distance through all of the pounding and sweat.
You may need to supplement a quality form of iron (Ferrous Gluconate or Fumarate are great choices) if you often feel lethargic, recover slowly between runs, and are generally tired for no apparent reason. Female runners and vegetarians are at risk of anemia if iron stores become too low, so supplementation can also be used as a precautionary tool rather than a curative one.
Zinc is known as a “healer” among minerals because it works to repair damaged tissue, protect the immune system, and enhance cellular regeneration. A little goes a long way with zinc, however, so avoid taking mega-doses of this supplement on a daily basis. Consider taking zinc if you contract frequent colds, are very sore on a daily basis, and or if you are injured more often than not. Natural food sources of zinc include most meats, nuts, and certain shellfish.
Note: Avoid taking zinc on an empty stomach, as this may cause feelings of nausea in some people.
Magnesium serves as a mild muscle relaxer and is involved in proper neuromuscular function during daily activities. It is also essential for healthy heart function. Take magnesium before bed if you have a hard time falling asleep, and use it intermittently in supplement form to avoid muscle cramping and chronic tightness. Taking magnesium after running can aid in recovery by relaxing the muscles back to their pre-run state more efficiently than without this dietary aid.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral found in the body, but it isn’t just used for strong bones and teeth. Calcium is also extremely important to proper muscle function, strong muscular contractions while running, and the prevention of serious injuries to bone. Calcium containing foods include dairy (of course), fortified soy, rice, and almond milks, and dark leafy greens. The best calcium supplements for maximum absorption are citrate and coral calcium. Avoid calcium carbonate, because you are basically buying an expensive anti-acid.
Note: Never take your iron and calcium at the same meal, as the two buffer each other’s absorption value.
Vitamin C from whole food sources (fruits, vegetables, etc.) or from a quality supplement can be a potent antioxidant in the body. If you are sore, lethargic, or suffer from frequent colds, you may need a boost from Vitamin C from time to time. This vitamin can be taken in larger doses (around 1000mg) when you need some extra cell protection during periods of hard training, flu season, and/or stressed from work.
Note: Taking vitamin C and iron together will vastly aid in the absorption of the latter essential mineral in the body.
This is a non-essential amino acid found mostly in meat, eggs, dairy, and fish that is produced by the body in appropriate amounts for general well-being. It can also be purchased in capsule or powder form, and is found in many protein recovery drinks available on the market.
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid the body, aids in tissue repair, protein synthesis, normal brain function, and healing. Glutamine has long been given to post-operative patients and those with cancer in hospitals in the US due to its documented properties of accelerated healing. Use glutamine to recover faster from running injuries, expedite cold symptoms, and naturally boost growth hormone following your most strenuous workouts and races.
Tropical Power Post-Run Smoothie
The below recipe combines many of the minerals and vitamins listed above into one potent post-workout shake. All you need are a few ingredients and a blender. Here’s to a speedy recovery and a great subsequent workout!
1c Low-Fat Vanilla Greek Yogurt (calcium and protein)
1c 100% Fruit Juice of Choice (I like pineapple for its anti-inflammatory properties)
1-2tsp Powdered Glutamine (4-8g)
3/4c Frozen Fruit of Choice (strawberries, blueberries, peaches, etc. are all packed with vitamin C and other antioxidants)
2tsp Coconut Oil (a healthy fat to protect cells and speed tissue recovery)
Blend until smooth. Drink it all by yourself or share it with a training partner. Each full recipe contains approximately 450kcals from very wholesome sources with a good blend of macro/micro nutrients.