Eat to Run for Life - Page 3
Boost Immunity With Zinc
Zinc is required for cell reproduction, tissue growth and repair and aids in converting food to fuel. By grace of running's wear and tear and calories burned, runners deplete zinc stores more rapidly than their less active peers. And recent studies link zinc depletion in endurance athletes with a compromised ability to fight off illness and infection.
This is especially true as we age, when certain cellular processes, such as antibody production, tend to be less efficient, particularly after age 70. A basic multivitamin containing about 15 mg of zinc will satisfy your zinc needs.
Keep Up the Calcium
While running's high-impact stress strengthens bones, it also puts them at risk. Like iron, traces of calcium, which is crucial for bone building and strengthening, can be lost in sweat. Intense training can lead to hormone declines that increase susceptibility to osteoporosis, or a frequent precursor—milder, age-related declines in bone mineral density known as osteopenia.
While it's primarily associated with women, studies show that male endurance athletes of any age may experience testosterone deficits that make them prone to the disease. Maintain healthy testosterone levels by getting enough calcium and calories for your activity level. While the RDA is 1000 mg per day for adults, athletes should aim for between 1000 and 1500 mg, says Roberta Anding, RD, a nutritionist at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. "Milk, yogurt and cheese are top calcium sources," says Anding. But if dairy is not your thing, fortified juices, tofu and cereals are another way to get your calcium quota.
Get Your Bs
As you age, you produce less stomach acid, making the absorption of certain vitamins, particularly vitamin B12, more difficult. Known to play an essential role in energy production, B12 is also integral in maintaining a healthy nervous system and forming red blood cells. Sandon recommends beef, salmon, eggs and dairy products as the best sources of B12, and suggests that people over 50 and vegetarians take B12 supplements.
Fight Inflammation With Omega-3s
"Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation," says Gidus. That's great news for runners, who are frequently exposed to exercise-induced inflammation. Omega-3-rich foods reduce post-run joint tenderness, asthma symptoms and stiffness. Ironman triathlete Joseph Maroon, MD, a neurosurgeon at the University of Pittsburgh, concluded from several clinical studies that omega-3s are as effective as prescription medication in relieving arthritic pain.
"Fatty fishes like herring and salmon are the best sources," says Gidus. "If you can't fit that in your diet, look for a supplement from fish (preferable) or flax-seed oil."
This article appeared in our April 2009 issue.
Wendy McMillan is a runner and writer living in Boulder, Colorado.