Any runner who’s gone through a stress fracture at some point of time knows how interruptive and painful it can be. Like most other running injuries, stress fractures are the result of overuse of resources; our bones, just like our muscles, break down and rebuild themselves in response to the tension undergone by the body during training. If we train at a greater rate than the bones can repair themselves, the additional stress causes them to be more susceptible to injuries and fractures. One way to prevent this is to, therefore, pace your training carefully and make sure you aren’t pushing too hard.
However, as a runner, your long-term goal should also be to build overall bone strength and nutrition can play a big role in that. Taking in enough calcium is a prerequisite towards bone health; you need 1000-1300 mg/day to ensure that calcium reserves from your bone are not used up by your body to make up for a deficit. But apart from the daily dose of calcium, there are some other nutrients which can contribute towards bone strength and prevent stress fractures. Here’s how you can add them to your diet.
Magnesium: Along with calcium and phosphorus, magnesium is an important element that goes into our bone structure. It also triggers calcitonin hormone, which protects the bone when there’s a deficit in the body by pulling calcium back to the bone from the blood and tissues. Magnesium is also an important catalyst in transforming vitamin D2 to D3 in its active form, which helps increase the rate of calcium absorption.
Find it in: Broccoli, bananas, avocados, lentils, whole grains, flax, pumpkin and sesame seeds, almonds, dark chocolate, molasses and dried herbs.
Potassium: Besides reducing muscles soreness, the potassium in our diets also helps in building healthy bone structure. Our body often tends to use bones an alkaline source and depletes alkalizing minerals from them once other sources have run out. The inclusion of potassium in the diet adds more alkali sources to our body and keeps the bone tissues free from breakdown.
Find it in: Bananas, sweet potatoes, dried apricots, pistachios, pumpkin, sunflower and squash seeds, salmon, halibut and tuna, beans.
Vitamin K: The protein Osteocalcin in our body plays a significant role in repairing and rebuilding bone tissue. Vitamin K is essential for the synthesis of osteocalcin, and for it to function properly within the tissue.
Find it in: Kale, collard greens, spinach, scallions, brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, prunes.
Folacin: Essential for producing healthy red blood cells, folacin or folic acid, also contributes to overall bone strength. Low amounts of folacin in the blood often results in underlying weaknesses in the bone tissues and makes them more prone to injury and fractures.
Find it in: Lentils, asparagus, orange juice, spinach and broccoli.
Vitamin B12: The B12 helps in red blood cell development and the processing of folic acid. This vitamin can be found naturally in several animal foods, though vegetarian runners may need supplements to get their required dosage.
Vitamin D: Not only does Vitamin D help in calcium absorption, it also balances the calcium and phosphate levels in the blood, leading to healthy mineralization in the bone. Besides, cells such as osteoblasts and osteoclasts, that help rebuild our bones require vitamin D to process properly. This is an important prerequisite in all lifestyles, as without enough Vitamin D, bones become easily brittle.
Find it in: Fish, cod liver oil, oysters, sardines (with bones), mushrooms.