Minerals and Vitamins For Runners
- All your minerals and vitamins can come from healthy nutritious eating habits.
- Supplementation is often necessary due to endurance overexertion, excess sweating and illness.
- The following minerals and vitamins are not exhaustive and have been summarized specifically for you, the runner.
Most of your necessary mineral and vitamins, collectively called ‘salts’, are gained through eating a healthy mixed and varied diet. Illness, excess coffee or alcohol, excess exercise intensity and over-training plus other sources can deplete or leach salts from your body leaving you lacking energy. In extreme cases this can create a ‘Catch 22’ situation where you can’t climb out of the hole and due to hormonal imbalances sink into depression. So, let’s not go there, let’s be proactive.
Minerals – Function and Deficiencies
There are three basic minerals that allow muscles to contract, and those same minerals are necessary in the right proportions to allow muscles to relax, preventing spasms and cramps. Those minerals are Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium and should be present in correct proportions for the body to work optimally, along with all the others.
Calcium is readily available in numerous forms of foods but is not easily absorbed in the gut. Vitamin D and amino acid Lysine help with calcium absorption. The level of electrolyte (salts) in the body also affects calcium absorption. Calcium aids in bone strength, muscle gains and overall recovery. Deficiencies may include weakened bones, stress related fractures, excess muscle tension, spasms and cramps.
Magnesium barely exists in the soils worldwide these days due to over farming and is not getting into the food supply with effective strength. Lack of magnesium is a safe bet that restless legs and muscle cramps are your nightly companion. Magnesium aids with energy production, muscle contraction / release, muscle gains and recovery, endurance, cognition and immune system resilience. Deficiencies may include neurological muscular tremor, spasm, cramps, weakness, fatigue, calcification of soft tissues and muscles.
Potassium is readily available in the food supply chain and easily absorbed in the gut. It works hand in hand with sodium to balance the fluid and electrolyte (salts) levels in your body. Caffeine reduces potassium’s absorption in the gut. Potassium is depleted when you sweat. Potassium aids in energy production, endurance, muscle gains and recovery. Deficiencies may include increased blood pressure, muscle weakness, muscle pain and cramps.
Sodium is readily available in all foods and easily absorbed in the gut. It is lost by sweating. Sodium aids in balancing electrolyte levels in the body (in conjunction with potassium), is a powerful neurotransmitter and ensures that nutrients are passed into the body’s cells. Deficiencies may include overheating through lack of sweating (dangerous), dehydration, fatigue, exhaustion, muscle weakness, spasms and cramps.
Iron is best available from meat, fish and poultry and is the carrier of oxygen as part of hemoglobin within blood, and myoglobin within muscles. Your muscles need both nutrients and oxygen to ‘fire’ and do work – contract. [Aerobic exercise is oxygenated. Anaerobic exercise is where your muscles are functioning for a short time, under extreme stress, burning more oxygen than they are being supplied with. Anaerobic exercise creates Lactic acid which dissipates immediately on return of oxygen to the cells. Exercise related muscle soreness is not Lactic acid buildup but un-cleared cellular waste and a myriad of micro tears awaiting protein and recovery.] Deficiencies may include weakness, fatigue, decreased blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath during exercise and lowered immunity.
Zinc is available in high protein foods, nuts, whole grains, legumes and yeast. Zinc is lost in sweat. Zinc is needed for cellular growth and division, wound healing, breakdown of carbohydrates for energy metabolism and immune system support. Deficiencies may include skin sores, wounds that take a long time to heal, weakened immunity especially to colds and flu and a wasting of body tissues.
Vitamins – Functions and Deficiencies
- Vitamins do not supply energy.
- Small supplementation excesses of vitamins are not harmful and tend to be removed in your pee.
Vitamin A helps the body heal and recover. It is critical to the maintenance and healing of bones and stress fracture prevention. Deficiencies may include dry skin, dry hair, inability to fight infection and poor visual adaptation to darkness.
Vitamin C stimulates the effects of healing by reducing mild pain and stiffness – ideal after a good long run. Deficiencies may include general and muscle weakness, weariness or lassitude.
Vitamin D is supplied by exposure to sunlight (sorely lacking in Western Washington!!) and works in conjunction with Calcium to support healthy bones. Vitamin D also can increase reaction time, speed, balance, muscle mass and strength. Deficiencies may include weakened bones, fatigue, depression, backache and high blood pressure.
Vitamin E reduces muscle tissue damage, combats restless leg syndrome and night cramps of legs and feet. Deficiencies may include muscle weakness, degenerative neurologic conditions and visual field restrictions.
Vitamin K protects cartilage, ligaments and bone. Deficiencies may include easy bruising and bleeding.
Vitamin Glucosamine/Chondroitin with MSM. Glucosamine helps support healthy cartilage formation. Chondroitin is a naturally occurring nutrient found in connective tissue. MSM is an organic source of Sulfur and plays an important role in the maintenance of joint cartilage. This combination of vitamins fights inflammation whilst relieving joint pain and repairs injured joints.
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Google ‘vitamins in the septic tank’ for more stories about throwing money down the drain.