As a runner, you need the exact same types of daily vitamins as nonrunners. However, because you have an increased risk of oxidative stress and a need for nutrients that play a role in oxygen transportation and bone strength, focus on meeting your daily recommendations of key vitamins that support your athletic performance.
Your body produces reactive oxygen species, or ROS, on a daily basis. They’re created from the way humans metabolize oxygen. During endurance exercise such as long-distance running, your body uses up to 200 times more oxygen in muscles than when you are sedentary, explains Dr. Angela Mastaloudis from the Linus Pauling Institute. Thus, because you’re metabolizing more oxygen, it’s likely that you have high levels of ROS in your body. These compounds cling to healthy cells, resulting in cell and tissue damage throughout your body. Ultimately, high amounts of ROS can increase your risk of chronic diseases. Taking vitamin E each day can help combat these highly reactive compounds, lessening their damaging effects. To meet the recommended dietary allowance, all adults need 15 milligrams, or 22.5 international units, of daily vitamin E.
Vitamin C further helps protect cells from damaging compounds that roam through your body, much like vitamin E. But you also need it to improve nonheme iron absorption -- this effect is greater when the two are taken together. Nonheme iron is the form that comes from supplements and plant foods. Because this mineral is the primary component of hemoglobin, improving oxygen absorption is critical for runners. This specialized protein is responsible for carrying around oxygen, transferring it from your lungs to tissues to get you through your run. Each day, get 90 milligrams, if you are male. As a woman, your required amount is 75 milligrams daily.
B-6 and B-12
Both B-6 and B-12 are essential for oxygen functions. These vitamins help synthesize hemoglobin, which further improves oxygen delivery to cells as you run. B-6 and B-12 go a step further and aid in metabolizing proteins into smaller more manageable molecules called amino acids. Everything from your brain to tiny cell walls use amino acids. Plus if need be, your body converts proteins to energy when your glycogen stores run out during an extensive run. However, this effect isn’t desirable because you don’t want to lose muscle tissue. Men have a recommendation of 1.7 milligrams of B-6 daily, while women need 1.5 milligrams. Adults of both genders should get 2.4 micrograms of B-12.
Running puts a tremendous amount of stress on your skeleton, possibly increasing your risk of fractures. For optimal bone health, focus on getting plenty of vitamin D every day. Vitamin D’s role in allowing bones to absorb calcium is critical for bone strength. Look for a supplement that contains vitamin D-3, rather than D-2. While both are beneficial, D-2 supplements are generally less effective for fracture prevention, the Linus Pauling Institute reports. Aim for 15 micrograms, or 600 international units, per day, no matter your gender.