Do Runners Need Vitamins?
A healthy, balanced diet of whole foods is the best source of nutrients. However, life is complicated and challenging. It is not easy to eat and cook healthy foods every day. If you can, you probably are not reading this article! Even if you are eating healthy, there is a good chance you are eating the same foods every day because it becomes familiar, habitual, and comfortable. We can fall into routines with our eating as we do with running. The result is a diet that may consist of healthy foods but lack nutrient diversity.
Moreover, runners are different from average adults Runners expend more daily calories, sweat away more nutrients, and work their joints and muscles harder.Vitamins for runners can add balance, ease, and flexibility to your diet.
There are endless options of vitamins for runners from which to choose. Here are the top five vitamins’ runners should take.
1. Whole Foods Multivitamin for Runners
If only take one vitamin for runners, take a Whole Food Multivitamin. A multivitamin contains essential vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients. You may only be deficient in a few nutrients, but a multivitamin removes the guesswork acting as a “diet insurance” policy. A multivitamin for runners will contain a blend of Vitamin B, C, D, E, and A and critical minerals.
Multivitamins come in different formats, including tablets and gummies. Find your preferred form make it a part of your daily routine.
A whole food multivitamin contains a blend of fruits & vegetables along with vitamins and minerals. This type of vitamin adds nutrient diversity to your diet. It also helps the body better absorb the multivitamin by mimicking absorption as if eating whole foods.
Overall, a runner multivitamin should be your first step in building a supplement routine. A multivitamin for runners will contain the essential vitamins and minerals to complement your diet and training routine.
2. Vitamin D for Runners
If you live north of Tennessee, there is a high chance you are deficient in Vitamin D. Low Vitamin D is the common vitamin deficiency among runners. Your skin produces Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. During the Fall and Winter months, the sun’s angle prevents adequate UVB radiation from reaching latitudes higher than 37 degrees in the U.S. (an imaginary east-west line running approximately along Tennessee’s northern border).
Runners are susceptible to low Vitamin D because runners often run early morning, late night, or indoors where sunlight is less available, especially in the Fall and Winter. As such, Vitamin D is a valuable vitamin for runners to add to their supplement routine.
Your body uses Vitamin D to absorb calcium to grow and repair bones. If a runner is deficient in Vitam D, her bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen. Vitamin D also helps reduce muscle inflammation.
By itself, the diet is a poor source of Vitamin D. Only a few foods contain sufficient Vitamin D, such as salmon, tuna, mushrooms, and fortified dairy and cereals. Therefore, a Vitamin D supplement, notably in the Fall and Winter with low sunlight, can help be a helpful vitamin for runners.
3. Vitamin B Complex for Runners
If you do not take a multivitamin, the next best runner vitamin is a Vitamin B-Complex that contains the full suite of Vitamin B1 through B12.
Vitamin B’s were the first vitamins discovered. Their discovery has resulted in several Nobel Prizes because of the compound’s importance in the human body. The name “vitamin” is derived from “vital” “amines,” a type of chemical structure contained in the early B-vitamins.
The “12” vitamin B’s have unique properties, but all are responsible for cellular energy production. ATP is well known to runners and endurance athletes. ATP is the energy molecule produced within the mitochondria of cells by cellular respiration. The Vitamin B complex of compounds unlocks specific steps within cellular respiration. Without Vitamin B or insufficient Vitamin B, the body cannot create the energy required for primary cell function, let alone high-energy activities such as running. Vitamin B is so essential that most United Nations countries fortify cereals and grains with the vitamin to ensure sufficiency in the population.
The “12” Vitamin B’s include Thiamin (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Niacin (Vitamin B3), Choline (Vitamin B4), Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5), Vitamin B6, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Inositol (Vitamin B8), Folate (Vitamin B9), PABA (Vitamin B10), Salicylic Acid (Vitamin B11), and Vitamin B12. Thiamine and Pantothenic Acid are essential vitamins for runners that enable the breakdown of glucose. Riboflavin and Niacin are important runner vitamins that catalyze ATP creation through the synthesis of carrier molecules. Choline is another runner vitamin that is the precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which enables muscular contractions. Vitamin B6 and Inositol are favorite vitamins for endurance runners because it allows for the breakdown of glycogen reserves for energy to help avoid the dreaded “wall.” Biotin is another favorite vitamin for endurance runners that helps remove lactic acid produced while running. Red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body require the runner vitamins B12, PABA, and Folic Acid for synthesis.
Vitamin B’s are essential vitamins for runners to power ATP creation and red blood cell synthesis. Supplementation helps replace Vitamin B’s lost by runners through sweat and urine. The higher level and sustained activity of runners creates an increased demand for Vitamin B than less active adults.
4. Vitamin C for Runners
Vitamin C is your next best vitamin for runners if you are not taking a multivitamin.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that promotes health, immunity, and recovery by neutralizing free radicals. Free radicals are naturally produced from activities such as running. Free radicals are unstable molecules with an unpaired electron that will attack and damage other molecules in muscles, proteins, and fats to reclaim an electron and reach a more stable state. Antioxidants, like Vitamin C, neutralize excess free radicals.
Runners produce 10-20x more free radicals than the average adult because of their level of metabolic activity. Consequently, runners need more antioxidants to neutralize free radicals promoting lower inflammation, better recovery, and stronger immunity. Vitamin C’s antioxidant properties make it an ideal vitamin for runners.
5. Vitamin B12 – Special consideration for Plant-Based Runners
The last runner vitamin is for runners that follow a plant-based diet: supplement with Vitamin B12 (in addition to a multivitamin).
Vitamin B12 is needed to produce red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. This benefit is obviously of use to runners.
Vitamin B12 is obtained from red meat, fish, and eggs, to name a few foods. Unfortunately, there are not many vegan-compliant foods containing biologically active and sufficient quantities of Vitamin B12. The best sources are fortified cereals, plant milk, and nutritional yeast.
Supplementation with Vitamin B12 can help balance out any potential deficiencies.
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