Whether you’re training with us for the Run From the Cops 5k next month or simply looking for ways to “up” your running game, proper nutrition is paramount for athletic performance. This week we want to share five essential nutrients you’ll need to refuel your body after a workout.
For: Healthy Bones
This mineral plays a crucial role in over 300 processes in the body! For runners specifically, magnesium supports bone health and helps process carbs and fats for fuel. Studies show many runners and non-runners alike have marginal magnesium intake. Eating too many refined grains (which lack magnesium) can contribute to the problem. Drinking alcohol routinely also leads to magnesium loss. Studies show that lifelong low magnesium levels may increase risk for poor bone health, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Get more magnesium with:
- Dark, leafy greens. The chlorophyll pigments in dark leafy greens, such as Swiss chard and kale, are high in magnesium.
- Buckwheat. Next time a recipe calls for rice, try buckwheat instead. It is gluten-free, a good source of fiber, and rich in magnesium!
- Tofu and cashews. Add a handful of tofu and cashews to any stir-fry and knock out 30% of your daily magnesium need.
For: Strong joints
Copper helps form collagen, a vital component of connective tissue. It also promotes the development of healthy red blood cells and aids in the prevention of anemia. Runners who take iron or zinc are prone to copper deficiency because high amounts of either mineral will block your body’s ability to properly absorb copper.
Get more Copper with:
- Beans. All runners should aim for at least five servings of beans or lentils each week.
- Clams. Just a few ounces of clams contains almost 30% of your daily copper need. Steam them in a simply, tasty broth of water and wine.
- Sunflower seeds. An ounce of sunflower seeds will provide a quarter of your daily copper need.
For: Muscle Movement
Choline relays information from your brain and nerves to your muscles, telling your muscles to contract. Some research suggests that endurance training may deplete choline levels and potentially contribute to fatigue. Your body makes some choline, but eating foods that contain it can help keep your levels high. Again, avoid supplements, which have been shown to cause GI distress.
Get more Choline with:
- Eggs. Egg yolks are one of the richest dietary sources of choline.
- Bison. Just 3oz of ground bison, which is a leaner choice than beef, provides 83 mg of choline.
- Peanuts. Eat a handful of peanuts or a spoonful of full-fat peanut butter with an apple for a great post-workout snack.
4. Vitamin B6
For: Protein Processing
When your training increases in intensity and your protein needs go up, so does your need for vitamin B6. This vitamin helps clear potentially harmful protein by-products, such as homocysteine. Researchers have noticed that levels of homocysteine rapidly increase after long runs, like full or half marathons. Homocysteine damages blood vessel walls and may be partially to blame for some sudden cardiac events seen in runners.
Get more vitamin B6 with:
- Acorn squash. Slice the squash in half, roast on high for 45 minutes, and stuff with rice pilaf for a good dose of vitamin B6.
- Bananas. Valuable for a variety of post-workout functions, bananas are also chock full of vitamin B6.
- Chicken. Use leftover grilled chicken in salads, sandwiches, or soup.
5. Vitamin E
For: Lung and Muscle Repair
Vitamin E acts as a potent antioxidant that protects cells (particularly lung and muscle cells) from microscopic oxidative damage that occurs during intense exercise. The key is to get the vitamin from whole food sources – not from supplements, which do not appear to offer the same protection and can be harmful in large doses.
Get more Vitamin E with:
- Avocado. The high doses of healthy monounsaturated fat in avocado allows for better vitamin E absorption.
- Almonds. Did you know that an ounce of almonds (23 nuts) packs 35% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin E?