5 Key Vitamins and Minerals for Runners


1. Magnesium 

Studies show that lots of us have a marginal magnesium intake, but for runners it’s especially key since this magic mineral helps to turn the carbs and fat we eat into energy for running. Eating refined grains such as white pasta and drinking alcohol regularly can contribute to a reduced intake so lower your booze and up your greens to get the most from magnesium.

Starring role in runners:
Turns the food we eat into energy and supports bone health.

Recommended daily allowance (RDA):
300mg a day for men; 270mg a day for women - all possible through diet.

Five foods rich in magnesium:

  • Kale, spinach and other dark leafy greens
  • Nuts
  • Tofu
  • Brown rice
  • Wholegrain bread

2. Copper

Copper has myriad roles to play in the body, but for runners its job in producing collagen - a component of connective tissue - will help to keep your joints healthy (and keep you looking younger to boot – bonus). It’s thought that its anti-inflammatory actions can also assist in reducing the symptoms of arthritis. If you take iron or zinc be wary of copper deficiency since high amounts of either can block copper absorption.

Starring role in runners:
Forms collagen, aiding strong joints. Triggers the release of iron to form haemoglobin, which carries oxygen around the body.

Recommended daily allowance (RDA):
1.2mg of copper a day – all possible through your diet.

Five foods rich in copper:

  • Shellfish
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Offal 

3. Potassium

Electrolytes help the muscles to contract and potassium is one of the most important of the bunch. You lose the mineral when you sweat, so if you mop your brow more than others when you run or find yourself prone to muscle cramps, you might want to pay attention to your intake or see a sports nutritionist.

Starring role in runners:
Helps your muscles, nerves and heart to function properly.

Recommended daily allowance (RDA):
3,500mg of potassium a day – all possible through your diet.

Five foods rich in potassium:

  • Bananas and other fruit
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Broccoli
  • Chicken and turkey 

4. Calcium

Besides building strong bones and teeth, calcium aids muscle contraction and blood clotting. It’s essential for runners since it builds bone strength, preventing stress fractures. If you eat dairy, it’s pretty easy to get your RDA, but for anyone dairy-intolerant or following a diet such as paleo, it’s important to get your intake from other sources – and possibly consider supplementation if you’re struggling. A sports nutritionist will be able to advise.

Starring role in runners:
Strong bones

Recommended daily allowance (RDA):
700mg of calcium a day – all possible through your diet.

Five foods rich in calcium:

  • Milk, yoghurt, cheese and other dairy foods
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Soya beans
  • Fish where you eat the bones, such as sardines 

5. Vitamin D

Vitamin D and calcium go hand in hand in building healthy bones since the vitamin aids the absorption of the mineral. In the same way as a diet low in calcium, a vitamin D deficiency could increase the risk of stress fractures in runners. While you can get the vitamin in some foods, most of our supply comes from sunlight on the skin so running outdoors will not only boost your fitness but your vitamin D supply too. Love mushrooms? Leave them in the summer sun for an hour and they’ll go into vitamin D production overdrive - making a great food source if your skin is particularly sensitive to the sun’s rays.

Starring role in runners:
Healthy bones

Recommended daily allowance (RDA):
You should be able to get all the vitamin D you need by eating a healthy balanced diet and getting outdoors in the sunshine.

Five foods rich in Vitamin D

  • Oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel
  • Eggs
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Sun-soaked mushrooms (see above)
  • Some powdered milks

Find out about other nutrients key for exercise on the NHS website.

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