Distance runners have to be more aware of their health and take better care of their bodies than most other athletes. As we know, distance running is a preparation sport that involves endurance running, speed training, strength training, etc. To be able to support this work, you need to take special interest in being healthy.
I often get asked about the best supplements to take and the answer is "none". In fact, if a coach is telling you to take supplements, get on your shoes and run away as fast as you can! Supplements aren't reThe most effective, research-based tools to improve performance are things you already have access to: food, water and a bed.
SO, WHAT WORKS?
1. Nutrition. You perform on fuel (carbohydrates + fats) and recover to do it all again on protein. YOU. NEED.TO.EAT. Period. Breakfast, lunch, dinner + post-workout snacks. Pick mostly foods on the edges of the grocery store and eat a variety off nutrients; there are no magic foods, including pasta. If you didn't eat lunch, I'm not going to let you practice.
2. Hydration. Improve your ability to move blood/oxygen and avoid heat stroke/illness. Sounds smart, right. Hydrate throughout the day. 2-3 liters is likely enough + drinking at meals.
3. Iron. There was just a study out that 40% of females the ages of 12-25 were iron deficient. If you're a runner, that number is even higher due to the natural loss of red blood cells through training. Don't guess with iron supplementation, get your iron tested via a complete blood count and let the medical professionals guide you. Ferritin is also a good marker to get tested as you'll be able to see where your iron stores are trending.
4. Sleep. 7-10 hours of sleep is the most effective tool for performance outside of training. Adjust your life to get 7-10 hours. More is better.
5. General Running Safety.
Run facing traffic.
Run with people.
Have a place on your route to go for inclement weather.
Always be aware of what's going on
Iron deficiency is a major nutritional concern for runners. The Athlete Blood Test is a service that tests your blood content and offers nutritional interventions if needed. It's important that you check for iron deficiency and don't blindly take iron supplements, which can be dangerous. We have had athletes send in their results to the medical professionals at ABT and get very detailed dietary recommendations.
Here's a note I received from Exercise Physiologist/Coach, Dr. Jack Daniels explaining the effect of low hemoglobin.
It's no secret that 7-10 hours of sleep per night is essential for athletes. There are plenty of studies that tout sleep's performance benefits.
You'll recovery better, get sick less frequently and perform better.