6 Common deficiencies in runners

I used to avoid supplements, confident that I could get everything I needed from food.  But eventually my body told me otherwise and I realized I needed to pay a little more attention, especially after a stress fracture 5 years ago, thinning hair and poor sleep quality.

There is some research to show that 100 years ago, yes, we could have gotten everything we need from food.  But now, due to hybrid seeds, lack of crop rotation, poor soil quality and more, even our vegetables often contain less then half the nutrients that they used to.

100 years ago food

Even when our diet is perfect, it’s nearly impossible to get everything we need.  A number of my running friends (blogging and real life) have been testing their nutrient levels and learning where their deficiencies lie.  I’ve brought mine back to healthy levels and I really feel the difference in everything from my steady energy in the afternoon to my faster recovery from hard workouts.

These are the nutrients that are most often missing in runners (especially women):

Vitamin D

The sunshine vitamin is hard to get in the north more than half of the year.

What’s it do? Vitamin D is important to regulate calcium and phosphate in the body and to support good bone health.

Signs of deficiency? Low energy, mild depression/mood swing

Where can I get it? Oily fish and eggs, sun exposure and a D3 supplement


B vitamins, especially B12

What’s it do? B vitamins are essential for cell repair, especially keeping nerve and blood cells healthy.  It affects our energy as well.

Signs of deficiency? Low energy, fatigue, weakness, depression

Where can I get it? Animal products: salmon, meat, cheese, eggs and milk as well as a B complex vitamin with a quality source of biotin (helps the body metabolize carbohydrates and fat … also key for healthy hair and skin!)


What’s it do? Iron helps red blood cells transport oxygen (key for athletes!)

Signs of deficiency? fatigue, shortness of breath

Where can I get it? red meat, dark green leafy vegetables, beans and nuts and as part of a pharmaceutical grade multi -vitamin


What’s it do? Magnesium is key for healthy bones and for using food for energy.

Signs of deficiency? cramping, anxiety, dizziness

Where can I get it? green leafy vegetables, brown rice, fish, nuts, dairy and as part of a pharmacuetical grade vitamin


What’s it do? Zinc helps the body process carbohydrates, fat and protein and is key for good immunity.

Signs of deficiency? hair loss, weak immune system, poor appetite

Where can I get it? meat, fish, dairy, by cooking with cast iron pans and as part of a pharmaceutical grade multi vitamin


Omega 3 fatty acids

While not often recognized as a deficiency, Omega 3 fatty acids are rarely in the correct ratio balance with Omega 6 fatty acids which can lead to chronic illness and inflammation. (These are the most highly linked to disease of all nutrient deficiencies.)

What’s it do? A powerful anti-inflammatory for the body for recovery and long term health and disease prevention

Signs of deficiency? Weak skin, hair and nails; skin issues; thirst; depression or anxiety

Where can I get it? Oily fish like salmon, flaxseed, walnuts, chia and a supplement with AHA and DHA from pure sustainable water

A lot of my health clients are either iron deficient or low in Vitamin D and I’m really careful with which supplements I recommend as vitamins are not regulated by the FDA.  Many don’t contain what they say they do or have some contaminants (even if they claim to be organic/natural, I’ve seen so many recalls.)

This is why I’m really picky about pure vitamins that are well absorbed and only recommend those to my clients.

I know it can be a little overwhelming where to begin.  Here’s what I usually suggest:

At minimum: A quality multi vitamin and Omega 3 supplement

Better: Add in a probiotic

Best: Add in B complex, D3 and extra C

If you have questions about any of this, I’m always happy to chat… just send me an email!

Have you tested for nutrient deficiencies?

What do you currently take?

Linking up with the Coaches Corner.

36 thoughts on “6 Common deficiencies in runners

  1. I’ve never been tested but have thought about doing a more in depth test lately. A new cardiologist in our area has been recommending probiotics to all his patients. Most cardiologists don’t go there but it goes to prove how important it is.
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted..LatelyMy Profile

    • Me too- I used to avoid vitamins until my body finally told me otherwise. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I haven’t been injured since, either!

      Yes! Let’s chat when you get your results- that’s awesome that you’re doing the test!
      Laura recently posted..6 Common deficiencies in runnersMy Profile

  2. This is interesting and I appreciate you sharing. I always enjoy reading your posts because they are some knowledgeable. I remember when I got blood taken a while ago, they mentioned I needed more Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
    Hollie recently posted..Newport 10k (37:59)My Profile

  3. Thank you for sharing. I have had very low ferritin levels and am on prescription iron. My d3 has also been low, which surprises me, as I live in Florida and there is usually plenty of sunshine. I also suffer from acid reflux, which can cause malabsorption of many needed vitamins and minerals, so that presents another challenge. It’s like a big puzzle!

  4. I’ve only been tested for iron, b vitamins, and vitamin D. Vitamin D is supposed to be close to 30. When I was first tested, mine was 7. My doc says some people just don’t absorb it like they should. So I’ve been on a supplement for it for forever.

  5. I’m right there with you! I struggle with adequate vitamin D levels despite my constant time in the sun. Sometimes a supplement is necessary!

    • Kale and spinach are great. Do you have a cast iron pan? Sounds strange but that’s another great way to get extra iron into your diet, by cooking in cast iron- especially some acidic foods like tomatoes.

  6. I’m not surprised by this list of most common deficiencies – I don’t think there is anyone who gets enough vitamin D and with the rise in vegetarian diets the other nutrients aren’t surprising. This is such a good rundown of why these nutrients are important, where to get them, and signs of deficiency.

  7. Thanks Laura – great post! I wrote a post very similar to this a couple of months ago because it is such an important topic. In my nutrition degree we learn a lot about vitamins/deficiencies and it was great to apply the topic to running!
    Laura recently posted..Peanut Butter Banana CookiesMy Profile

    • Oh awesome! I agree- it’s such an important topic, and often overlooked. We tend to think we’re fine until our body proves otherwise… but I think prevention is key!

  8. Right now I take D3, Iron, Calcium and a multi vitamin. I need to add a probiotic!! I’m on it 🙂
    I feel like I should have my blood taken and tested just to make sure I am not missing anything important.
    I am really good about eating the foods you have mentioned (we had salmon tonight!). There is so much to learn, right? Thank you for this great post!
    Natalie recently posted..Life Lately + 18 Weeks!!My Profile

  9. This is great information! I know have major issues absorbing iron, but I really should get tested for the others.

  10. I think I need to look into this and get tested or try adding in a multi and vit B and probiotic and see if there are any changes. I know I am not myself at the moment, facing some challenges but I feel like it is having a flow on a effect physiologically and maybe some supplements might help!
    Jess recently posted..Happy 2nd Birthday Summer!My Profile

  11. I take vit D, C, iron, calcium, and Omega-3 when I remember. But I do try to get as many vitamins and minerals from food as I can. I do eat seasonally, though, so I know it comes and goes which is why I usually supplement.

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