Food is medicine. Or can be. What you eat (or don’t eat) can have a significant affect on your good health – and, of course, your running.
Many of the minor health issues runners have are the body’s way of sending a signal that you must eat differently. More specifically, you aren’t getting enough of a certain food, nutriment or vitamin.
Here are seven common health issues runners have – and the cure.
Poor sleep: You can’t sleep. You’re tired from all the running you do, but instead of falling asleep, you spend an hour tossing and turning. A couple of hours later, you’re up again.
Cure: Eat a high-carbohydrate dinner and when if you snack afterward, make sure you get some more carbs in your system. Carbohydrates influence the production of the brain chemical serotonin which produces a calming, soothing effect which allows you to fall asleep easier. Eat early, giving yourself at least two or three hours before bed. Also avoid caffeine for at least six or seven hours before bedtime. Alcohol also disrupts sleep.
Headaches: After your run, you are plagued by headaches.
Cure: Headaches are often a result of dehydration (the brain is 75 percent water). After you run, drink several cups of water or sports drinks. Your body will continue to lose fluids throughout the day so continue drinking. You can tell whether youâ€™re properly hydrated if you need to urinate four or five times during the day. Your urine should be pale yellow or clear. Also, certain drinks, such as coffee and tea, can trigger headaches. (Sorry, don’t have a cure for cedar pollen-induced headaches.)
Postrun fatigue: After a normal, easy run, you’re so wasted you can barely stay awake.
Cure: Being exhausted from a run that isn’t particularly hard can result from not eating enough afterward or eating too much. Following your run, you will need to replenish your muscles and maintain blood-sugar levels but without pigging out. If you eat too much right afterward, you’ll be woozy as your system will drain blood from other parts of the body to aid in digesting all that food you ate. Many runners aren’t hungry at all after running, but then gorge to excess. Best bet is 30 minutes after your run eat a moderate size meal which has some carbs and protein. Then, a couple of hours later, have a small snack.
The runs: Thirty minutes into a run, you have “the runs” and have to make a beeline for the nearest bathroom – or the bushes.
Cure: Many runners suffer from some type of gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, stomach cramping or diarrhea. The mere act of running inhibits GI function. One solution is to switch the time of day when you run. Usually that means going from an early-morning run to later in the day to give you more time for a complete bowel movement (or two) before running. But you can also avoid GI problems by limiting your fiber intake the day before. Bran and other high-fiber foods bulk up in your intestines and cause loose stools. Also reduce your caffeine intake just before you run as it can irritate the intestines and precipitate a bowel movement. Clearly, the best solution is to go before you run, rather during it.
Sore joints: It is not uncommon for runners’ joints to ache after a workout. This is especially true for older runners.
Cure: Sore joints bother older runners more than younger ones because age-related degeneration can cause the cartilage in joints to wear away. This results in soreness. There are two joint nutrients that can combat this – chondroitin and glucosamine. Frequently chondroitin and glucosamine come in the same capsule supplement. Taking 1000-1500 milligrams every day will lessen joint pain, improve joint function and build new cartilage. In addition, these supplements have an anti-inflammatory effect and are considered safe and will not irritate the stomach lining. Aspirin and other over-the-counter anti-inflammatories will also alleviate some post-run soreness, but they can upset the stomach and irritate the stomach’s lining.
Leg cramps: During runs, you are continually bothered with painful leg cramps.
Cure: Muscle cramping or spasms often occur near the end of a run, especially in runners with a history of cramping. The cause of muscle cramping is often simple muscle fatigue. Coupled with dehydration and electrolyte depletion, cramping can be a chronic problem for some runners. The best way to prevent cramping is to prevent muscular fatigue. You may be overdoing it or may have increased your mileage too quickly. Cut back and only increase the distance of your long runs and weekly mileage gradually. Drink and keep your body properly fueled with carbs and electrolytes on long, hot runs. If you sweat excessively, try eating some salted crackers or pretzels on your long runs.
Frequent colds: You catch each and every cold that goes around your school, work, office or home.
Cure: Your immune system is probably low. Build up your diet with protein from soy, fish, lean meats, eggs and nuts. Essential fats from nuts, flaxseed and fish will strengthen your immune system. Eat plenty of fruits and veggies as well as whole grains which will also boost your immunity system.