Running doesn’t need to spell an end to healthy joints. In fact, regular running strengthens the muscles surrounding your joints, tendons and ligaments, which can actually prevent injuries. Providing you avoid overtraining, schedule adequate recovery time into your training plan and eat a balanced diet, incorporating enough carbohydrate and protein to fuel your training and assist with muscle repair, your joints will hopefully stay happy and healthy.
There are also a few extra-special ingredients you can try, which have been shown to support the body’s healing process and reduce inflammation. So, if you’d rather be out running than nursing an injury, read on for our list of nutritional marvels that will help support your joints.
Staying hydrated during and after exercise helps to minimise inflammation in the body, which will improve your ability to recover from your training sessions. Dehydration places extra stress on the immune system as well as increasing your likelihood of developing tendon and ligament injuries, so make sure you drink up after your run. You should drink approximately 1L of water for every kilo you’ve lost whilst running. Weigh yourself before and after your run, to ensure adequate hydration. Add electrolytes (the salts you lose in sweat) to your drink if you’ve been running for 90 minutes or more.
2. Omega 3
Omega 3 essential fatty acids, found in oily fish, walnuts, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds, are great for keeping inflammation at bay. The Heart Foundation recommends that Australian adults consume about 500 milligrams of omega-3 every day.
To meet these recommendations the Heart Foundation suggests eating a combination of two to three 150 gram serves of oily fish every week (if you’re pregnant or planning to have a baby, remember not to eat more than two portions of oily fish each week). If you’re not getting enough from your diet each day, take a good quality omega 3 supplement.
3. Fresh fruit and vegetables
We all know fruit and vegetables are good for us, supplying plenty of vitamins and minerals. But brightly coloured fruit and vegetables also provide antioxidants and flavanols, known for their anti-inflammatory properties, so make sure you complement each of your meals with a plentiful supply.
Found in pineapples, bromelain has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect. If you’re clocking up the miles or have increased the intensity of your training, you may benefit from this food’s ability to control inflammation. Snack on pineapple alone in-between meals for the best effects.
This active ingredient, found in the skins of apples and red onions, has been shown to reduce inflammation. So it’s worth sticking to the old adage ‘an apple a day’, or simply add red onions when you’re cooking casseroles or stir fries.
When you damage tissue, your body reacts by producing glucosamine (which naturally occurs in tendons, ligaments and cartilage) to form new connective molecules. Glucosamine’s main function is to stimulate the growth of cartilage and hydrate tendons and ligaments, protecting them from injury. The body normally manufactures this miracle hydrator and protector, but as production levels diminish with age or due to excessive training, glucosamine levels can fall short of demand, leaving your joints, tendons and ligaments vulnerable. Taking a glucosamine supplement will increase the synthesis of a substance called chondroitin, which keeps your cartilage nourished, hydrated and strong. When looking for a glucosamine joint formula, select a product that combines glucosamine and chondroitin, which will restore synovial fluid and tissues in and around your joints, cushioning the bones, tendons and ligaments from damage. The ideal dose is 520mg of glucosamine and 300mg
of chondroitin per day, and suitable supplements can be found in all good health food shops.
If you want to avoid injury, improving your diet and including these foods can form part of your protective programme. Investing in regular massage and physiotherapy can help too, as will including core stability work and stretching in your training programme. Making time for these lifestyle changes, as well as factoring adequate rest into your programme and avoiding pushing yourself too far, too soon, will help you enjoy injury-free running all year round.
Words by Lynn Clan.