This summer, sport is on everyone’s mind. Childhood memories of spending hours in front of the television, celebrating as Donavon Bailey won gold and weeping as Perdita Felicien fell in hurdles. With the track events starting to heat up, I continue to be amazed by the physical feats achieved in 2016. To us mere mortals, August marks the peak of running season. It is an opportunity for each of us can get a glimpse of the personal triumph and mental fortitude these amazing athletes have been demonstrating so far. For this 2-part article, I’ve teamed up with Shirley Srubiski (the Darou Wellness kinesiologist & personal trainer), to share with you some tips that may not get you to the pinnacle of sporting competition, but should have you posting some personal bests!
The nutritional demands of marathon runners are considered higher than other individuals based on two concepts: inadequate intake and increased expenditure. A lot of emphasis is placed on eating the right diet and consuming an optimal balance of macronutrients (water, protein, carbohydrates and fats). The concept of carb-loading has been discussed by every major running magazine, so we’ll leave that to them – but information about micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are often forgotten, confusing or both. Vitamins and minerals are necessary to utilize macronutrients as fuel in the body and therefore are key regulators of health and function. While clinical nutrient deficiencies are rare, marginal deficiencies can impact training as well as race day performance. Below I highlight 3 key nutrients that are important for injury-prevention and improving physical performance: Vitamin C, Magnesium and Iron.
Vita (more please) C
Exercise is a stressor that can increase Vitamin C needs. The physiologic properties of Vitamin C target some key issues specific to the sport. One study found that men who took 500mg of Vitamin C for 10 days had better temperature regulation than those taking placebo. Other research has found that it’s activity as a potent antioxidant helps reduce oxidative stress in skeletal muscle fibres and reduce inflammation. It’s role in connective tissue repair additionally aids in recovery during intense training. By staying injury-free and maintaining muscle integrity, performance is promoted during the training phase as well as on race day. Last but not least, Vitamin C supplementation during training has been shown to reduce illness (especially upper respiratory infections) for up to 14-days post-race. While you may not cut your time from Vitamin C supplementation alone, the increased physiologic functioning can allow you maintain momentum and make the most of each training session.
Mag (NEED) sium
A friend of many-an-athlete, Magnesium hit the main stage when 500mg were shown to relieve muscle spasms in tennis players. Then came news of improved cellular function, decreased oxygen consumption and reduced lactic acid concentrations that had the endurance world begging for more. Plus in addition to these findings, magnesium has been shown to improve muscle strength and reduce glycogen metabolism by improving energy efficiency. Sounds a little too good to be true? Well, research specifically in marathon runners found that those with adequate magnesium status did not benefit as much as those with suboptimal stores in running performance, resistance to muscle damage nor improved skeletal muscle function. So while many marathon runners will benefit, one-size does not fill all.
Iron is an important oxygen-delivery nutrient and plays a critical role in energy use during exercise. It is important for both men and women, but the challenge for female athletes is two-fold. They tend to consume less meat products and more fibre, which decreases absorption of iron to approximately 10%, plus they have increased loss due to menstruation (about 0.9mg). Where do men lose iron? GI bleeds are commonly referenced, but 0.3-0.5mg is lost in sweat! So with inadequate intake or absorption, you can see how an imbalance can occur. Most of us understand that anemia reduces the oxygen delivery to the tissues and thus decreases endurance. The interesting thing about iron is that supplementation in non-anemic women (but with reduced ferritin levels) show the most benefit for athletes: increased endurance, improved exercise performance and reduced muscle fatigue. Iron sharpens iron – and apparently marathon runners as well!
So now that you know what you need, how do you get it? The old fashioned way of a balanced diet establishes the basis, but as I mentioned above, is often not adequate for runners. Oral supplements do a pretty good job filling in nutritional gaps; however, the impact of running on the digestive system may limit their absorption. Today, more and more athletes and runners are realizing the benefits of IV Nutrient Therapy. The Recovery IV provides key nutrients, like Vitamin C and Magnesium, to aid with muscle recovery, rehydration and improved performance. A good time to try it would be after a long run in your training schedule or if you are hesitant to alter you program mid-season, try it after your last race. Who knows, you may be adding a new trick to your training regime next year and breaking some of your own race-day records!