Adding miles? Maybe you need to add some extra vitamins and minerals...
For some ultra runners, the more miles means the more unhealthy they can eat. Don’t get me wrong, we work hard and we should indulge sometimes. However, with the added miles, many of us need some added vitamins, minerals, and protein from supplements and some power foods.
I will separate this subject into two posts. The first will be on vitamin and mineral supplements and protein, and the second (to be posted about a week or two later) will be on some “super” foods I sometimes add to my diet.
In this post I will list a few things I have added to my diet to keep me going. When picking out supplements, read the label! I have started getting all of my vitamins from a natural food store so I can pick out products that are completely plant based. Too many companies put additives in vitamins that really aren't good for you. It just makes it cheaper for the company to make them. I have made the mistake of taking a cheap B vitamin for years that contained gluten. I’m allergic to gluten! I never thought vitamins and other supplements contained things like that. I would also suggest avoiding gelatin capsules since that is made from animals and it’s gross. PLEASE remember, this is just research I have done and I am not a doctor.
VITAMINS and MINERALS
I know as trail runners we get in more Vitamin D from the sun than the average person, but many runners still don’t get enough of it. Runner’s World did a great article on how Deena Kastor’s Vitamin D deficiency may have led to her breaking her foot in the 2008 Olympics: http://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-runners/running-d . Vitamin D can help fight certain illnesses and running injuries while helping athletic performance so taking in a little extra might be just what a runner needs!
Vitamin B (especially b12):
This is another easy vitamin to be deficient in and is very important to runners. Being deficient in vitamin B can lead to low energy and depression among other things. We need to have energy to keep us running and making sure we are getting enough B vitamins is a simple way to help our bodies out. Unlike some vitamins and minerals like iron, it is very hard to overdose on vitamin B.
This is really important for runners to get checked out! I dedicated an entire post to iron. Just scroll down on my health page and you’ll find it.
Magnesium Potassium Asporotates with Bromelain (This is in all one bottle by Solaray):
Do not take with iron as it hinders absorption!
Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in your body…
“Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis [2-3].” –Office of Dietary Supplements.
If you’re like me and have trouble absorbing iron, Vitamin C is really helpful. When taking non-heme (plant based) iron, Vitamin C is a great thing to take with it. It’s also a great antioxidant and helps the immune system in addition to helping prevent cardiovascular disease, eye disease, and even wrinkles. While the RDA suggest taking 75-90 milligrams of Vitamin C a day, some studies show that you get the best effects from Vitamin C a day when taking 500 milligrams in addition to eating fruits and veggies with Vitamin C.
I know… most runners know protein is important and many of us have a favorite protein drink to drink up after hard workouts and long runs. Still, just to be thorough, I wanted to talk about my two favorite protein drinks by Hammer Nutrition and why I think they are vital to my recovery after runs.
Before I get to that here’s a little reminder about protein. For best results, a recovery drink needs to be taken as soon as possible after a workout. In order to gain the best results from a run, we need to make sure we do everything we can to recover and a good protein drink is an extremely important step.
“Recoverite supplies your body with the proper 3:1 ratio of complex carbohydrates and the highest quality whey protein isolate, along with generous amounts of multi-beneficial glutamine (a whopping three grams per serving!), the potent antioxidant l-carnosine, and a full-spectrum electrolyte profile. The result is rapid and enhanced recovery, allowing you to obtain the maximum value from all your hard workouts and ideally prepping your body for your next workout or race.” –Hammer Nutrition The glutamine in Recoverite also helps the immune system, digestive track, and side effects of overtraining (though overtraining is never good).
After finding Recoverite, I never thought I would try another recovery drink again. Then I saw that Hammer came out with a vegan protein and I had to try it. After one drink of it I decided I would switch between using Recoverite and Vegan Protein. I normally use Recoverite after my hardest runs, and use the vegan protein after runs that are a good length, but aren’t quite as hard. This is just my personal preference as I’m sure just using the vegan protein would be fine.
What I really like about this product is that it is “virtually carbohydrate-free and contains no added simple sugars or artificial sweeteners. Only healthy natural ingredients and organic stevia extract are used to flavor and sweeten the product.”- Hammer Nutrition This is wonderful to me as MANY recovery drinks contain things I really don’t want to be putting in my body.
Hammer makes its Vegan Protein from a few different sources that include:
-Pea Protein -Organic Brown Rice Protein –Organic Spirulina -Chlorella -Alfalfa
All of these sources have great purposes, but it would be a lot for me to type all the benefits when you can just check out Hammer Nutrition’s website: http://www.hammernutrition.com/products/vegan-protein.vw.html?navcat=recovery
That’s all till Part 2 of this post but if you have anything to add please let me know!
Run Wild, Run Happy,
An Ultra- Runner's Enemy: The Iron Deficiency
Struggling with an iron deficiency can be as frustrating as an injury for a runner. It can easily erase all your hard work and have you running slower and slower. This has been my battle for over a year now.
In this post I will share with you my personal battle with this as well as what I have learned to help try and defeat it.
First some basics:
“What is iron and why do we need it?
Iron is a mineral needed by our bodies. Iron is a part of all cells and does many things in our bodies. For example, iron (as part of the protein hemoglobin) carries oxygen from our lungs throughout our bodies. Having too little hemoglobin is called anemia. Iron also helps our muscles store and use oxygen. Iron is a part of many enzymes and is used in many cell functions. Enzymes help our bodies digest foods and also help with many other important reactions that occur within our bodies. When our bodies don't have enough iron, many parts of our bodies are affected.” CDC
Common Symptoms: ***The ones I’ve experienced
· Weakness, fatigue, or lack of stamina. (This is just wonderful for someone who likes to run far and up mountains!!!) ***
· Shortness of breath during exercise. ***
· Trouble concentrating. ***
· Irritability. ***
· Dizziness. ***
· Pale skin.
· Craving substances that are not food. In particular, a craving for ice can be a sign of iron deficiency anemia. ***
I have known for a while that my iron can get low. In high school I tried to give blood but I couldn’t because my iron was low. I didn’t know anything about iron deficiencies, and never put much thought into it until after I became an ultra-runner and my twin sister Rachel had a deficiency. I started taking pretty much the cheapest iron I could find once or twice a day and thought that would be fine.
Well over a year ago now, I started getting tired all day long. I never felt like I ever had any extra energy. I was having trouble keeping up with the people I trained with and I knew my speed was going downhill. Unfortunately, I just told myself it was because I was running so much and then I was on my feet all day chasing kids around at the B&GC. I remember I did consider an iron deficiency one or twice, but then decided that couldn’t be it because I was already taking an iron pill and I ate food with iron in it.
Finally, at the beginning of August, I went to get a blood test done.
Here are my results from 8/1/12:
Iron: 46 Range: 35-150 (uG/dL)
TIBC (binding capacity): 249 Low Range: 250-450 (uG/dL)
% Saturation: 18 Low Range: 25-55 (%)
Unfortunately my ferritin wasn’t taken for this test.
No wonder why I didn't feel good! Even though I had been taking iron, my body wasn’t absorbing it. This was especially annoying because I was to run the Pikes Peak Marathon soon after and iron takes a month or more to build up.
My results from 11/6/12:
% Saturation: 27
Ferritin: 40 Range 3 -105
For this test it was nice to see things going up, but it was also frustrating to see how slow things were going up. While the TIBC and % Saturation were in range, everything was still on the low side. The range for ferritin* I find a little ridiculous to me because as my doctor explained to me last week “In order to be feeling at your best , you should really be above 50, closer to 60.” If you have a ferritin level of 3, you will most likely feel like crap. However, everyone is different and some people may be okay at 40. I am not one of those people.
*Ferritin: is a protein in the body that binds to iron; most of the iron stored in the body is bound to ferritin.
My results from February:
I also got a CBC and my %Neut and %Lymphs were high and low respectively, but that can easily be caused by exercise.
I also didn’t know this till after I got the blood test but DO NOT run right before you get it done. I had already done a long run right before and that could have made my numbers better than they actually were because I was dehydrated, making my blood thicker.
I was stoked to see my iron was better but was bummed that my ferritin wasn't going up. This is where I’m probably a little different from most people. It’s kind of unusual to have iron go up and not ferritin. This also troubled my doctor and she had me come in for a visit. She again reminded me that experts are now saying ferritin should be above 50 and that I needed to do a test to make sure I’m not bleeding from somewhere I shouldn't be inside of my body. (Results haven’t come back yet but I will try and update this when they do.) However, I am taking the low ferritin more of a sign that I have true celiac’s disease as it makes iron and other vitamins hard to absorb. That also means I could very well be deficient in other vitamins even though I eat very healthy. While my energy is up from last year, I still know I’m not feeling my best.
What I’ve learned on how to deal with this. (Thanks to everyone who has given me advice!!!)
Probably the most important thing I’m taking right now is Proferrin ES. It’s heme iron which is supposed to absorb the best. I have trouble taking it for two reasons: 1) it’s expensive and currently breaking the bank right now and 2) I’m a vegetarian. I feel guilty taking it but I’m afraid to take something else and have my iron go down instead of up.
Calcium, caffeine, cocoa, and a few other things such as other vitamins can make it harder for iron to absorb. Of course you need calcium and other vitamins, cocoa can be a great anti-oxidant, and caffeine can be quite nice when you’re fatigued from an iron deficiency. Thus, try your best to wait an hour or more before you have one of these things after taking an iron pill. I’d only take vitamin C (helps absorption) when you take your iron pill. My friend David told me that it also helps to take in some protein a bit after taking an iron pill. Currently I’m taking 2 Proferrin ES pills and one cheap iron pill a day along with Vitamin C for at least one of the pills. (This would be way too much for some people!) I will most likely replace the cheap iron with iron from a company called Garden of Life.
Most people can get away with just taking one cheap iron pill a day. However, runners are definitely prone to iron deficiencies. I really suggest that ALL endurance athletes get a CBC and their iron checked. If you’re already feeling great, it’s good to know the numbers of your results so you know at what levels you feel best at in case things change. If you’re not feeling great, you need to know what the cause is. REMEMBER, even if something on your blood test says it’s in range, it doesn't necessarily mean it’s good!!! Also everyone is different. For example, someone with a ferritin level of 45 might still be able to run great, but for another person it might mean they’re running slower than they should be.
I’m also thinking about asking my doctor about IV iron but that can be dangerous and I doubt my doctor will go for it. I do wish I could though because it is said to speed up the process.
Maybe living at 8,000 feet is too high for me when I lived at sea level for over 22 years?
Lastly, I already have a rough draft of a healthy eating/ vitamins post in my head that will again touch on this, but adding things like molasses, nutritional yeast, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, leafy greens like kale, etc. are some good sources of iron as well.
Run Wild, Run Happy
Curry Squash Surprise
-gluten free –vegan
I wasn’t sure what to call this dish and I know the “surprise” part makes it sound like a bad school lunch, but I went with it because the main two ingredients are curry and butternut squash soup. Everything else is up to you.
Not long ago, Sage and I were hungry and I didn’t have much food in my apartment. I looked in my cupboard and saw the butternut squash soup. I immediately remembered a great dish I had at the Asian Palate, a cool little restaurant here in Buena Vista. I pulled out the few ingredients I had and came up with a new go-to, easy, gluten-free, vegetarian dish.
Ingredients: (You be the judge of how much you want of everything. You can definitely get away without any specific measurements for this recipe.)
· Butternut Squash Soup (you can pretty much find this pre-maid soup in any grocery store)
· Brown rice
· Curry powder
Ingredients of your choice (what I added to mine)
· Coconut oil or olive oil (to sauté ingredients)
· Almonds (my dish at the Asian Palate used peanuts)
· Red pepper
· Whatever else sounds good to you!
*Make sure you use organic tofu. Regular tofu has soybeans which have been genetically modified which make tofu a lot less healthy.
To make it all you have to do is warm up the squash soup, cook some rice, and dice and sauté the other ingredients you want to add. Add the curry to the soup and the red pepper if you would like.
To serve, you can choose if you want to use a lot of the squash soup and use a bowl, or use the soup more of a dressing and use a plate. Basically, I put the amount of rice I wanted on my plate, added the sautéed ingredients, and then poured on the soup.
That’s it for any easy gluten free and vegetarian meal that covers all the important food groups!
Vegetarian Gluten Free EASY Dinner:
A big change in my diet this year has been becoming a vegetarian and eating gluten free. People may view this as a challenge, but honestly, it's really not too bad with all the gluten free food now available. That's good for me because as much as I wish I liked cooking, I just can't make myself truly enjoy it unless I'm cooking with someone else. Despite my lack of enjoyment for cooking, I'm still not about to compromise eating healthy food that still tastes good.
So here is an EASY dinner I cooked with Sage to get ready a grueling effort the following morning:
Gluten Free Veggie Burgers and Sweet Potatoes with Broccoli
|How to pretend your actually good at cooking|
|Sweet potatoes and broccoli seasoned with some pepper and herbs|
|Sauteed kale, mushrooms, and garlic|
|First time I tried these! Good, but you definitely need to put some good toppings on for flavor.|
Most veggie burgers aren't gluten free. Thankfully, Nature's Pantry in Buena Vista has two gluten free veggie burgers for me to choose from.
Veggie burger on gluten free buns! Yes, they have gluten free burger buns now!
Burger toppings: Sauteed kale and mushrooms, cheese of choice, and Wholly Molly Spicy Guacamole (this was key)!
Overcoming Vitamin Deficiencies
My first winter of racing in the snow and doing "short" races