Important Vitamins for Runners

It is important to eat a diet that is rich in the 13 essential vitamins for a variety of health reasons but today I want to focus on how vitamins keep your body in tip top shape for running. It is best to get vitamins from a food source rather than taking supplements because they are more readily absorbed by the body. There are some vitamins that are especially important to runners.

Runners need healthy/strong bones and eating the rights foods should reduce your risk of stress fractures. Bone is alive and is constantly being broken down and replaced in your body. Good news is that running actually helps to strengthen your bones. The vitamins that specifically help create healthy and strong bones are Vitamin A, Biotin (Vitamin H), Vitamin D and Vitamin K.

  • Vitamin A: yellow and orange fruits and vegetables and dark leafy greens
  • Biotin: avocados, beans, nuts and seeds
  • Vitamin D: mushrooms, fortified grains and sunlight (many people need to supplement Vitamin D)
  • Vitamin K: cabbage family, dark leafy greens, sprouts and oils

In our training program we work on our aerobic capacity by continuously adding time to our runs. We physically train the lungs to work more efficiently. Looking for a food boost that will help with aerobic capacity and aerobic endurance? Eat foods that contain Thiamin (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Vitamin C and Vitamin E.

  • Thiamin: melons, acorn squash, beans, lentils and nuts/seeds
  • Riboflavin: dark leafy greens and almonds
  • Folic Acid: apricots, melons, dark leafy greens, red/orange vegetables, legumes, lentils and nuts/seeds
  • Vitamin C: citrus fruits, bell peppers and cabbage family
  • Vitamin E: dark leafy greens, nuts/seeds and oils

Running is easier with a healthy heart. And while running, our heart works to pump blood to areas of the body where it is needed most. What is the best vitamin for a healthy heart? Vitamin A is the go to.

  • Vitamin A: yellow and orange fruits and vegetables and dark leafy greens

I am sure that you have noticed development of your muscles since you have been running. Big score for runners is that more muscle leads to higher fat burning. Looking to support muscle growth? Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12 fit the bill.

  • Vitamin B6: non-citrus fruits, dark leafy greens, legumes and tofu
  • Vitamin B12: fortified cereal, soymilk and nutritional yeast

Finally, let’s look at energy and endurance--this is especially important for long distance runners. If you want to boost your energy and endurance, focus on foods rich in Niacin (Vitamin B3), Vitamin C and Choline (not a true vitamin but an essential nutrient). Note: Endurance athletes are at risk of being deficient in choline, so load up.

  • Niacin: asparagus, mushrooms, potatoes and nuts
  • Vitamin C: citrus fruits, bell peppers and cabbage family
  • Choline: cooked broccoli and Brussels sprouts and peanuts

If you are eating a well-rounded diet that is mostly whole foods including lots of fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds, you should be getting the appropriate vitamins. If there is an area above where you feel you haven’t reached your optimum level in running, take some time to focus in on the vitamins that will enhance how you feel.