My marathon training is getting harder.

This is exacerbated by the fact that this entire week isn’t going below 30 degrees, complete with smog warnings. Today was the hottest day of the year so far.

Besides keeping cool, I’ve been forced to think through many other long distance running issues. Like paying attention to my toenails. Paying very close attention to my running form. And doing everything I can to reduce running-related inflammation.

Inflammation is nothing new for seasoned long distance runners. It is often the culprit behind knee and leg injuries, as well as foot and ankle pain. Some of us take anti-inflammatory medications to help us along, or we’ll use icing and compression. There are tons of tips about these widely used solutions, but very little is said about the dietary link between running and inflammation.

Depending on what we eat, our diet will either promote or prevent inflammation in our joints.  Every single cell in our body is capable of producing something called a prostaglandin from the fat of its membrane. A prostaglandin is a very potent and short lived messenger than gives the body one of two messages: lower inflammation, or increase inflammation. The message that it transmits is directly related to the quality of food that we eat, specifically the quality of our fats.

THREE ANTI-INFLAMMATORY NUTRIENTS FOR RUNNERS

1. EFAs.

These are our Essential Fatty Acids: the only fats that our body requires. There are three types of fats that we consume: Animal fats, Omega 6, and Omega 3.

Animal fats in our bodies are converted to Arachidonic acid, which is then converted to Prostaglandin 2, which transmits a message to increase inflammation.

Omega 6 can go one of two ways. It can either behave like an animal fat, converting to arachidonic acid and then prostaglandin 2 (inflammatory), or it may convert to prostaglandin 1, which carries a message to reduce inflammation.

Omega 3 is what runners should aim to increase. Omega 3s will convert to prostaglandin 3, which is always anti-inflammatory. The best Omega 3 sources include flax oil, hemp oil, and fish oil. Remember that these oils are sensitive to heat, light, and oxygen, so they are best stored in cool places and in dark, sealed containers. If they are heated for cooking, they become unstable and lose their benefits.

Essential fatty acids will also lubricate our joints and promote their integrity.

2. Vitamin C.

This vitamin has two functions: it plays a role in both our immune system and in collage formation.

Collagen is a group of naturally occurring proteins. It is the main component of our connective tissue and is mostly found in our tendons, ligaments, cartilage, bone, and intervertebral disc. Vitamin C is essential in maintaining, healing, and rebuilding all of these parts.

Vitamin C make most people think of citrus fruits, but other equally excellent sources include:

  • broccoli
  • bell peppers
  • kale
  • cauliflower
  • strawberries
  • brussel sprouts
  • chard
  • cabbage
  • spinach
  • snow peas
  • cantaloupe
  • tomatoes
  • zucchini
  • raspberries
  • asparagus
  • celery
  • lettuce
  • watermelon
  • peppermind
  • parsley

Vitamin C is also a very important antioxidant. This is crucial for long distance runners because the type of training we do creates a build up of free radicals in our body. Free radicals are foreign invaders that can cause harm if they are not taking in an adequate amount of antioxidants. You can read more about free radicals and antioxidants here.

3. Tumeric.

This is an amazing and potent spice for reducing inflammation. Results are usually seen in a couple of days. As far as potency, it has been compared to cortisone and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). It also protects the liver and helps lower cholesterol levels. On top of that it’s an antioxidant comparable to Vitamins C and E. It has also been linked to cancer prevention.

Turmeric powder should kept in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place. Be careful when handling – its deep colour will easily stain. This is a great spice to add to an egg salad, or any other salad. You can also cut cauliflower florets in half and healthy sauté with a generous spoonful of turmeric for five minutes. Remove from the heat and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!