Gear-obsessed editors choose every product we review. We may earn commission if you buy from a link. How we test gear.

The 15 Vitamins and Nutrients You Need for Better Running

Here’s what you should be eating to make sure your body is in tip-top shape.

roasted asparagus and potatoes
Carlo AGetty Images

When you want to run strong, your diet can play an important role in reaching your goals.

Food is your fuel, and what you eat can impact everything from your energy levels to how your stomach feels while you’re running. To give yourself the best chance of success, you should pump up your meals with wholesome, fresh foods, such as fruits, vegetables, meats, whole grains, and legumes.

Here are 15 nutrients and vitamins that runners should pay attention to, along with information on how to get more of them in your diet.

One note for vegan and plant-based athletes: Monitor your Vitamin B12 intake, since it’s primarily found in animal-based foods.

Vitamin A

simple roasted sweet potato with butter
cislanderGetty Images

What it does: Keeps your skin strong, bolsters eyesight so you can maintain sharp vision when running in the dark.

How much do you need? Men need 900 micrograms/day; women need 700 micrograms/day

How to get it: Sweet potatoes (one baked sweet potato packs more than 150 percent of your daily value), spinach, carrots, kale, cantaloupe.

Vitamin B12

Mitch Mandel

What it does: Helps your body break down the fat and protein you eat into energy; assists in forming new red blood cells, which carry oxygen through the body.

How much do you need? 2.4 micrograms/day for adult men and women

How to get it: Salmon, beef, milk, yogurt, fortified breakfast cereals, nutritional yeast.

Calcium

yogurt in dish
ATU ImagesGetty Images

What it does: Supports bone and teeth health—almost all of the calcium in your body is stored in your bones and teeth.

How much do you need? Adults 50 years or younger need 1,000 milligrams/day. Adult women 51 years or older and adult men 71 years or older need 1,200 milligrams/day.

How to get it: Plain yogurt, calcium-fortified orange juice, part-skim mozzarella, milk, soy milk, tofu, salmon.

Choline

hard boiled eggs
Laurie AmbroseGetty Images

What it does: Regulates your memory, mood, muscle control, focus, and metabolism. Sufficient choline can increase your time to fatigue as well, says Lisa Dorfman, M.S., R.D., author of Legally Lean: Sports Nutrition Strategies for Optimal Health & Performance.

How much do you need? Men need 550 milligrams/day; women need 425 milligrams/day.

How to get it: Hard-boiled eggs, soybeans, ground beef, chicken breast, wheat germ, cod, red potatoes.

Vitamin C

fresh sweet red pepper on old wooden background
smykalova NataliiaGetty Images

What it does: Protects our bodies against free radicals in the environment, such as pollution, cigarette smoke, and UV rays. Also, builds collagen in your skin to keep it plump and smooth.

How much do you need? Men need 90 milligrams/day; women need 75 milligrams/day.

How to get it: Red peppers, oranges, orange juice, grapefruit juice, kiwis, green peppers, broccoli, strawberries.

Vitamin D

salmon steak with spinach and tomatoes
Joff LeeGetty Images

What it does: Absorbs calcium in your bones, helps your muscles move better, and fights off bacteria and viruses. Additionally, it reduces injuries in athletes; a 2020 study found that athletes with low vitamin D could have an increased risk of stress fractures, illness, and suboptimal muscle function.

How much do you need? 15 mcg/day for men and women.

How to get it: Trout, salmon, white mushrooms, milk, egg yolks.

Vitamin E

What it does: Steels your immune system against bacteria and viruses, acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant, and keeps blood vessels wide and pliable.

How much do you need? 15 mg/day for men and women.

How to get it: Almonds (one ounce provides 45 percent of your daily value), sunflower seeds, olive oil.

Fiber

lentils soup with vegetables
Cris CantónGetty Images

What it does: Helps the body maintain a healthy weight, regulates blood sugar, and lowers cholesterol.

How much do you need? Men need 38 grams/day; women need 25 grams/day. Though prior to a race, go easy on the fiber-rich foods, which can cause GI trouble.

How to get it: Raspberries (1 cup offers 8 grams of fiber), green peas, lentils, beans, whole grains.

Iron

overhead view of bowl of white cannellini beans on wooden table
Westend61Getty Images

What it does: Transports oxygen in the blood to the muscles.“ If you experience a decline in performance and feel exhausted more than usual, get a blood test to check your iron levels,” sports dietitian Linda Samuels, M.S., R.D., says.

How much do you need? Men need 8 milligrams/day; women need 18 milligrams/day. If your doctor finds you have low iron levels, he or she will put you on the appropriate supplement. (Translation: don't take supplements on your own.)

How to get it: White beans, lentils, spinach, tofu, kidney beans, fortified cereal

Magnesium

pumpkin seeds on table
Michelle Arnold / EyeEmGetty Images

What it does: Regulates muscle function, nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure levels; aids in making protein, bone, and DNA. One of its most important functions: its role in energy metabolism, says Samuels. “Magnesium is particularly important during a strenuous training session.”

How much do you need? Men need 400 mg/day; women need 310 mg/day.

How to get it: Pumpkin seeds (one ounce provides 37 percent of your daily value), chia seeds, almonds, spinach, black beans.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

open sardine can, studio shot
Jeffrey CoolidgeGetty Images
Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega-D3
$28.95
$24.61 (15% off)

What it does: Reducing inflammation after exercise, which can improve tissue repair and reduce muscle pain.

How much do you need? Men need 1.6 g/day; women need 1.1 g/day. If you don’t often hit that mark, consider supplementing with a fish oil supplement or algae-based supplement if you are vegetarian or vegan, Samuels advises. Remember, omega-3s are an essential fatty acid, meaning the body cannot make it naturally.

How to get it: Flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, sardines (one can packs nearly 1,400 milligrams of omega-3s), salmon, mackerel, trout.

Potassium

a pile of ripe apricots, one halved
Rosemary CalvertGetty Images

What it does: Helps maintain hydration and proper muscle function. “Along with sodium, this is the most important electrolyte. Potassium helps your muscles contract and relax, and contributes to fluid balance in your body,” Samuels says.

How much do you need? Men need 3,400 mg/day; women need 2,600 mg/day.

How to get it: Apricots, lentils, prunes, squash, raisins, baked potato (one offers 13 percent of your daily value), bananas.

Selenium

brazil nuts
mikroman6Getty Images

What it does: An antioxidant that may ease postexercise oxidative cell damage, maintains thyroid function (low thyroid levels can usher in fatigue), regulates metabolism.

How much do you need? Men and women need 55 mcgs/day.

How to get it: Brazil nuts (one nut supplies 137 percent of your daily value), tuna, halibut, ham, shrimp, turkey, chicken, cottage cheese.

Sodium

Joshua Scott

What it does: Helps your body maintain proper fluid and electrolyte balance. “It will also prevent muscle cramps if you are a heavy sweater or out on a hot run,” Dorfman says.

How much do you need? Men and women should limit intake to 2,300 milligrams/day; 1,500 milligrams/day or less if you have high blood pressure.

How to get it: Typically you don’t need to seek out sodium since most of us get more than enough in our diet. But after a particularly sweaty run, it’s good to eat (or drink) foods higher in sodium to replenish losses. Bread, cheese, chicken, and sports drinks all contain sodium; three ounces of deli turkey can pack up to 1,050 milligrams.

Zinc

Mitch Mandel

What it does: Keep your immune system run in tip-top shape, keeps your skin resilient and healthy, enables proper wound healing, and breaks down carbs (likely your primary fuel source). Deficiency can put you at risk for overtraining syndrome, says Dorfman.

How much do you need? Men need 11 milligrams/day; women need 8 milligrams/day.

How to get it: Oysters, crab, grass-fed beef, lobster, hummus (a half-cup supplies 12 percent of your daily value).

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below