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5 Nutrition Tips for Runners to Reduce Risk of Stress Fractures

More people are getting back into the swing of running, or choosing to run for exercise with the warm weather. The pandemic is lessening - yay vaccines! Races are back on, running programs and groups are meeting, it's so exciting!

Are you looking to start running for the first time? Are you putting a half or full marathon on your calendar? Bone stress injuries are very prevalent in runners, you will want to combine a solid training and nutrition plan to minimize your risk of developing a stress injury. A nutrition strategy that prioritizes optimal recovery and bone health can assist you minimize the chance of being side-lined before you reach your goals.

I want to emphasize - there is no magic diet or food that will help you avoid injury. Injuries are multifactorial. Fueling properly is one piece of the puzzle. With that being said...

Here are my top nutrition tips to minimize risk of injury.

1. Eat Enough to Fuel Training

Did you know that even just 5 days of poor energy intake will start to negatively impact your bones? Not eating enough to fuel training has a myriad of consequences, one including your ability to stay injury free. If you want to run faster, longer, and injury-free you have to fuel your body with the nutrition it needs. Some signs that you may not be eating enough;

  • For those assigned female at birth; losing your menstrual cycle or if you develop abnormal cycles

  • Constant fatigue

  • Difficulty sleeping/poor sleep quality

  • Constantly thinking about food

  • Constantly craving sugar

  • Poor energy during runs/training sessions

2. Hydrate Right

Staying hydrated is such an important, yet easily overlooked aspect of recovery. Adequate hydration helps your body to work like a well oiled machine by maintaining proper core temperature, improving cardiovascular function, and ultimately improving running capability. As the weather heats up, it will be even more important to ensure you are drinking enough for happy and healthy running. Want to nail your hydration? Click here to get my free downloadable handout all about hydration! Not a "plain" water person? No sweat! There are many ways you can stay hydrated without relying on plain water.

  • Seltzer waters or naturally flavored powders/liquids

  • Add fruit/herbs to your water

  • Eat whole fruits and vegetables - these are made up of water and will contribute to your hydration

  • Milk, juice, coffee and tea

  • Smoothies

3. Choose a Carb + High-Quality Protein ASAP Post-Run

Post-run recovery nutrition is essential for minimizing injury and optimizing training. The components of your post-run snack or meal should at a minimum include a carbohydrate and protein. Carbs are important for replenishing energy stores used up in your run, and protein is important for repairing muscles. Some examples are;

  • oatmeal with peanut butter, topped with fruit and seeds

  • whole wheat toast with avocado and a fried egg

  • brown rice with rotisserie chicken

  • whole wheat pasta with baked salmon

4. Get enough Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium and vitamin D play a huge role in bone health. Not getting enough of these nutrients could be setting your body up for injury. The trends in dairy alternatives and avoidance of dairy in general can put you at risk of deficiency in these bone supporting nutrients. In addition, vitamin D is difficult to obtain solely from the diet. Most vitamin D is synthesized from the sun, however this will vary depending on things like; time of year, location, skin color, and how often you are outside.

Foods high in calcium:

  • Dairy Products

  • Calcium-fortified beverages (soy, orange juice)

  • Salmon and/or Sardines (with bones)

  • Tofu (made w/calcium)

  • Almonds

  • Greens (kale, spinach, collard greens)

Foods high in vitamin D:

  • Vitamin D fortified beverages (milk, soy, orange juice, almond, rice)

  • Fatty fish (salmon, sardines, tuna)

5. Include Green Leafy Vegetables

Green leafy vegetables are packed with nutrients that support bone health, some include calcium, vitamin K, vitamin A and vitamin C. Some foods to include are; spinach, kale, collard greens, cabbage and broccoli. Don't limit yourself to "boring" salads when considering how to add these into your diet. There are so many ways you can add these foods into your fueling strategy. One of my favorite ways is to add spinach to a big ol' salad bowl with roasted sweet potatoes, chicken or tofu, sliced red onions, avocado and some sort of salad dressing.


Do you have a history of chronic injuries? You may benefit from personalized nutrition strategies to stay injury free. Click HERE to schedule your free 15 minute consultation with me.


Written by Maddi Osburn RDN LD

Want to learn more about Flexible Nutrition services? Click here.

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Areta, José L et al. “Low energy availability: history, definition and evidence of its endocrine, metabolic and physiological effects in prospective studies in females and males.” European journal of applied physiology vol. 121,1 (2021): 1-21. doi:10.1007/s00421-020-04516-0

Close, Graeme L., et al. “Nutrition for the Prevention and Treatment of Injuries in Track and Field Athletes.” International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, vol. 29, no. 2, Mar. 2019, pp. 189–197. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1123/ijsnem.2018-0290.

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