For lung and muscle repair
Get more: Vitamin E
Eat it: Almonds, frozen spinach, avocado
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 food sources – not from supplements, which do not appear to offer the same protection and can be harmful in large doses.
For healthy bones
Get more: Magnesium
Eat it: Swiss chard, tofu, cashews
This mineral plays a crucial role in processing carbs and fats for fuel, and supports bone health. Studies show many runners have marginal magnesium intake. Eating refined grains (which lack the mineral) can contribute to the problem. Regularly drinking alcohol also leads to magnesium loss. In the long term, low magnesium levels may increase your risk of poor bone health, heart disease and high blood pressure.
For stronger joints
Get more: Copper
Eat it: Clams, sunflower seeds, beans
Copper plays a role in forming collagen, a component of connective tissue. It also promotes healthy red blood cells and helps prevent anaemia. Runners who take iron or zinc supplements are prone to copper deficiency because high amounts of either mineral block copper absorption.
For muscle movement
Get more: Choline
Eat it: Eggs, peanuts
Choline helps relay information from your brain and nerves to your muscles, telling them to contract. Some research suggests 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).
For protein processing
Get more: Vitamin B6
Eat it: Bananas, chicken, acorn squash
When your training increases in intensity, your need for protein goes up and so does your vitamin B6 requirement. 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 cardiac events suffered by runners.