Runners can learn a lot from body builders.
Body builders have long known that to accomplish their goals there must be work in both the gym and kitchen. Specifically, nutrition is a vital component of building and maintaining muscle. And, nutrition is vital to keep the body healthy and recovered to continue pushing hard every single day – as a rest day for body builders means moving to another muscle group and pushing that new one to exhaustion.
Arguably, much of the innovation in the vitamin and supplement industry is due to body building. The proliferation of micro-nutrients (such as vitamins and minerals) and macro-nutrient enhancers (such as protein and BCAAs) have strong roots in helping body builders develop in their craft. A quick visit to your local GNC will be equal parts enlightening and overwhelming.
So, where should runners start? I think runners can learn from the Bodybuilding Playbook.*
First, audit your diet. Start small – for instance with your pre-workout snack. Does this snack fuel you for performance? Could it be better? Then, go to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Are there small changes you can make to eat cleaner? To eat a different mix of nutrients that will fuel the goals you are chasing?
Second, add a daily multivitamin. A deficiency in vitamins and minerals can hold you back from training, recovery, and competing at full potential. The reality is that most of us will fall into a routine of eating the same foods every day. It’s normal and it’s easier. For body builders, that may manifest as a lot of chicken breast and broccoli. A daily multivitamin helps you achieve a complete balance of the necessary micronutrients on top of a good diet – that’s supplementation.
Third, look at Omega-3s. The logic on this one is perhaps easiest. To achieve the recommended daily amount of Omega-3, you need to eat 3 servings of fish every week. Maybe you do, but I don’t know many people that do. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids with a lot of heart and inflammation benefits for runners.
Next, analyze your recovery. Successful training blocks are built on executing workouts and then RECOVERING to do it again the next day – execute and repeat. Are you re-fueling and re-hydrating after workouts? Are you stretching? During workouts you sweat and lose electrolytes and other water soluble vitamins. You also stretch and tear muscle fibers, which is a normal part of muscular growth. This is where post-workout electrolytes (without the calories of a sports drink), protein, and BCAAs are worth considering as the body replenishes and repairs.
Finally, consider your specific needs. Maybe you’re a vegetarian or vegan. Vitamin B12 is a top deficiency among these. Maybe you train early morning or late night with little sun exposure. If so, Vitamin D is a common deficiency. (Vitamin D is produced by your skin when exposed to sunlight). Maybe you’re in the midst of a hard training block. If so, your body is producing elevated amounts of free radicals. You might need extra Vitamin C or Zinc to help strength your immune system and neutralize free radicals. It is quite possible that each of these scenarios is not permanent, only brief periods during your training cycle. Therefore, consider every month where you’re at and then add supplementation as beneficial.
In the end, the goal is to achieve your maximum potential. Runners could learn a thing from bodybuilders – your next PR is only one rep away.
See you at the Finish Line,
*As always, please consult your doctor or medical professional before making diet changes or adding a supplement routine.