5 Under-the-Radar Nutrients Runners Need

If your training and times have been falling short lately, look to your fridge. Many runners fall short on these five essential nutrients needed for performance. Here’s how to eat what you need.

Get More: Magnesium

For: Healthy Bones

This mineral plays a crucial role in processing carbs and fats for fuel, and supports bone health. Studies show many runners and nonrunners alike have marginal magnesium intake. Eating refined grains (which lack the mineral) 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.

Where to get it: Tofu and Cashews are high in magnesium. Add ½ cup tofu and 1 ounce cashews to a stir-fry for 30 percent of your daily magnesium need. The chlorophyll pigments in dark leafy greens, such as Swiss chard and kale, are also high in magnesium.

Get More: 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.

Where to get it:  An 30g of almonds (23 nuts) packs 37 percent of your daily vitamin E need. The fat in avocado allows for better vitamin E absorption.

Get More: Choline

For: Muscle Movement

Choline helps relay information from your brain and nerves to your muscles, letting them know to contract. Some research suggests that endurance training and intense running 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 (avoid supplements, which may cause GI distress).

Where to get it:Egg yolks are one of the richest dietary sources of choline.

Get More: Copper

For: Strong joints

Copper plays a role in forming collagen, a component of connective tissue. It also promotes healthy red blood cells and helps prevent anemia. Runners who take iron or zinc are prone to copper deficiency because high amounts of either mineral block copper absorption.

Where to get it: 90g of cockles contain 29 percent of your daily copper need. Steam in a broth of water and wine.

Similary, 30g of sunflower seeds can provide a quarter of your daily need.

Get More: 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 nutrient helps clear potentially harmful protein by-products, such as homocysteine. Researchers have noticed that levels of this compound rapidly increase after hard runs, such as marathons. Homocysteine damages blood vessel walls and may be partially to blame for some sudden cardiac events seen in runners.

Where to get it: One banana packs 22 percent of your daily vitamin B6 need.


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