Too little of these nutrients could be the culprits
Even when you’re following the workout-diet rules to the letter—fueling up the right way before exercise and eating well afterwards—if you’re not focusing on key nutrients, you still might feel sluggish and ready for a nap post routine.
These three nutrients can help you build a leaner, fitter figure. Here’s what they are, how they work in your body and how to incorporate them into your diet:
Magnesium, the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, is key for optimal health and athletic performance. We need magnesium to maintain muscle and nerve function, blood pressure, heart rhythm and blood sugar regulation, as well as to make DNA. And new research from Indiana University suggests the mineral may reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer.
For athletes, a higher intake of magnesium improves strength, energy production, oxygen uptake and electrolyte balance. Even marginally low levels can interfere with sleep, necessary for exercise recovery. Yet 75 percent of us get less than the recommended intake of magnesium. That means you’re probably not getting enough, either.
Signs of a serious deficiency: Nausea, poor appetite, numbness, tingling, abnormal heart rhythm. Subtle shortage symptoms can be harder to pin down, but include fatigue and too little sleep.
How to get enough: Good food sources of magnesium include almonds, avocado, beans, beets, brown rice, buckwheat, cashews, dark chocolate, lentils, millet, peas, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, sesame seeds, spinach and sunflower seeds. So you should include these foods as part of a healthy and varied diet. Too much sugar, caffeine and alcohol can reduce magnesium absorption, so limit the three of them. If you prefer to take a supplement, take one that’s no higher than 350 milligrams a day, unless your physician prescribes a higher dose. You can’t overdose on magnesium through food, but a high supplemental intake can lead to an excess, and trigger side effects, including abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea or, in extremely high doses, dangerous toxicity.
Vitamin D has been the subject of much discussion over the past few years. You probably know it helps your body use the calcium in your diet, so it’s essential for strong bones. A number of studies have found that the sunshine vitamin reduces the risk of injury and improves muscle function. One study found athletes with sufficient vitamin D levels fared better on tests related to muscle force and velocity than those with a deficiency. Another study found supplemental vitamin D reduces the amount of time cells need to replenish energy after muscle contractions, which leads to less fatigue.
Signs of a deficiency: Bone pain and muscle weakness could signal a vitamin D deficiency, but most symptoms are subtle. Even without symptoms, too little vitamin D has been linked to increased risk of death from heart disease, severe asthma in children and cognitive decline in older adults.
How to get enough: Exposure to the sun’s UV rays triggers the production of vitamin D in our bodies. But where you live, the time of year and day, cloud cover, sunscreen and clothing all have an effect on UV exposure and vitamin D production. And research suggests black folks are more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency than people of other races, possibly because darker-colored skin limits the production of it in our bodies. So the sun can’t be your sole source. The top food sources include eggs (vitamin D is in the yolk), salmon, tuna and mushrooms. If you don’t eat enough of these foods to meet your needs, you may need to take a supplement. Just be cautious. Too much vitamin D from supplements has been linked to high blood calcium levels, which can cause kidney and heart damage. And recent research found excess vitamin D increased the risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke. So talk to your doctor about supplements before you start popping them on your own.
Vitamin C has long been touted as having immune supporting properties. But this essential nutrient also supports exercise endurance and recovery. A higher blood level of vitamin C boosts fat burn, both at rest and during exercise, which can delay fatigue and let you work out for longer periods. The vitamin also is required to make tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bones, and it plays an important role in healing the wear and tear exercise puts on your body.
Signs of a deficiency: Too little vitamin C may cause anemia, bleeding gums, inability to fight infection, dry hair, nosebleeds, scaly skin and weakened tooth enamel. A severe deficiency, known as scurvy, mainly affects malnourished older adults.
How to get enough: Find vitamin C in bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, citrus fruits, kiwi and strawberries. Five servings of these foods each a day is enough to get the recommended amount. Though your body excretes too much vitamin C, some people experience bloating, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, heartburn and kidney stones.