Running, for all its undeniable health benefits, is a notoriously draining physical activity. The energy needs, the exposure to elements, the impact, the muscular breakdown, the requisite hydration—running is a taxing endeavor by any measure, and is as nutrition-dependent as any exercise form; more so, in many cases.
Whether training for marathon distances or running sprints at the local track, the running body is a calorie-depleting engine which recruits strength and stability from muscle groups head-to-toe. Providing adequate fuel for such an engine is itself a component of the sport, and one not to be dismissed by those who hope to maintain the activity in a lifelong capacity.
While adequate rest, patient stretching, and proper breathing are undeniably important elements of a sustainable running regimen, what cannot be discounted are the 15 necessary nutrients for runners. These nutrients need not be taken in during every meal, nor even every day. However, they should be regarded as dietary fixtures by runners whose way of life revolves around the activity.
- Calcium—The bones of a runner are subjected to thousands of shocks throughout the course of even a middle-distance jaunt. Aggregated over the course of a month, a year, a decade, these shocks take their toll upon one’s skeleton in its entirety. Adequate calcium intake is one of the most essential 15 nutrients for runners.
- Protein—A body must comprise itself of good materials in order to function well and strongly. Runners, as much as any lifter, breakdown muscle mass rather rapidly and must replenish it through adequate meal management. Eggs are an ideal source.
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)—Necessary for proper cellular function and the proper producing of energy, riboflavin is among those vitamins of which runners are often at risk of being deficient. Distance runners in particular must monitor closely their Vitamin B2 intake.
- Folic Acid—A vital nutrient for purposes of cellular repair, runners are particularly likely to benefit from an adequate presence of folic acid in the daily diet. Blood health is also tied to the presence of folic acid.
- Iron—The athlete’s body requires efficient oxygen intake, particularly when the athlete in question is a runner. Iron contributes greatly to the health of red blood cells, themselves essential to effective oxygen delivery throughout the body.
- Potassium—Nerve and muscle function hinge heavily upon the presence of potassium in one’s organism. For this reason, potassium is among the most important of those 15 necessary nutrients for runners, as endurance athletes are often at risk of potassium deficiency.
- Sodium—In addition to maintaining fluidic balance within the body, sodium is also necessary for proper muscle contraction. Fortunately, few diets are sodium-deficient, though many run the opposite risk. Keep it balanced.
- Biotin—Food once ingested must subsequently converted into usable energy. Fats and carbohydrates are rendered thus when met with biotin. Make use of your every calorie.
- Vitamin C—A dietary cornerstone and yet another star among the 15 necessary nutrients for runners, Vitamin C counteracts the oxidizing impact of endurance-oriented activity while keeping strong the occasionally compromised immune system.
- Vitamin D—The aforementioned mineral of iron is best absorbed in the company of this essential vitamin. Take them as a pair and enjoy the compounded benefits of both.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids—Circulation and cardiovascular health are the two favorable effects most commonly associated with omega 3 intake. If a runner needs any more convincing than that…
- Selenium—An antioxidant and possible mood-lifter, selenium is a nutritional safeguard against the often draining impact of long-distance running.
- Zinc—Necessary for proper muscular recovery, zinc is a mineral which should be very present in the runner’s diet or supplementation lineup.
- Copper—Yes, copper. Aside from the host of functions this trace mineral facilitates within the body, it is also necessary for joint (tendon, specifically) health and recovery.
- Cobalamin (Vitamin B12)—Required for healthy blood generation, Vitamin B12 is also facilitates healthy muscle creation and recovery.
Many of the nutrients listed above are readily available within a reasonably balanced diet. Others, however, must be more actively sought out. A given runner’s performance, recovery, and even psychology will improve measurably should any deficiencies of these nutrients be consistently corrected. Not all need be present on every plate of every meal, but semi-daily inclusion of these vital nutrients will not go unutilized within a running organism.