Natural Sports Nutrition: Part 2

Vanessa Rodriguez is currently studying to become a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and blogs daily at Vanessa Runs. She is currently training to run her first ultra marathon this spring, and enjoys experimenting with natural sports nutrition.

Vitamin C

This vitamin is important for the formation of connective tissue and certain hormones like adrenaline, which are produced during exercise. It also plays a role in the formation of red blood cells, which enhances iron absorption. It is an antioxidant, protecting against exercise-related cellular damage. A vitamin C supplement may be useful for prolonged, high-intensity training for reducing muscle soreness and promoting quick recovery.

Most people only think of citrus fruits as vitamin C sources, but many vegetables are also an amazing source of this nutrient. For example, a red, raw bell pepper has more vitamin C than an orange. Broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and kale are also high in vitamin C.

Calcium

Calcium is an important mineral for bone formation, muscle growth, muscle contraction, and nerve transmission. Again, most people think of dairy such as cow’s milk for calcium sources, but other healthy sources include sardines, sesame seeds, spinach, collard greens, and turnip greens. Weight bearing exercises such as running and weight training help increase bone mass and calcium absorption. Extra calcium is usually recommended for female athletes with low estrogen levels.

Iron

For athletes, this is a crucial mineral because of its major function in the formation of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin transports oxygen in the blood and myoglobin transports oxygen in the muscle cells, fueling our exercise. Energy metabolism depends on iron, and athletes have higher requirements than sedentary individuals. Iron losses are common during exercises that involve the pounding of feet, such as running. Female athletes in particular tend to be deficient in iron.

Foods rich in iron include red meats, offal poultry (dark part of the meat), fish, whole grains, dark leafy vegetables, eggs, and fortified foods. Iron is more efficiently absorbed through animal sources, but absorption is improved if plant sources are accompanied by vitamin C-rich fruits or vegetables.

Next: Nutrition for Vegetarians

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