I’m excited about a new winter running tip!

I picked it up this morning off of Barefoot Angie Bee’s wonderful blog. She credited it to her super-barefoot-kilt-and-loincloth running friend Forey Jacobson, but I think it’s a tip that could be useful to any runner trying to get through the upcoming winter months.

This will be my first barefoot winter in the Great White North. Only semi-insane runners go barefoot in Canada through the winter, and there aren’t many of us. Tips are hard to come by. So I was interested to learn that Forey takes Niacin to help him stay warm (in a loincloth nonetheless!).

When I read this, it was a forehead-slapping moment. Why didn’t I think of that?? Niacin is a vitamin that I often recommend to clients and I knew that it had a body-warming effect known as the Niacin flush. For non-runners though, this is seen as an inconvenient side effect and I often have to warn people about it. I never thought to actually use it to my advantage through the winter.

Niacin is vitamin B3. Almost all the clients that I have worked with are deficient in it. It has so many great uses that I will mention a bit later, but winter runners will be interested to know that it temporarily dilates the small blood vessels in the skin and promotes histamine release. So essentially it increases blood flow to the skin. This manifests itself in a feeling of warmth and a slight skin flushing.

How much niacin you need to achieve this body warmth varies, depending on how much niacin your body actually requires. I would recommend what I will be doing – starting with small doses and gradually increasing until I feel a mild flush. If you don’t feel a flush, chances are your body is using the niacin for more important functions (and you were likely deficient and need more). If you flush beet red for half an hour, you took too much.

A healthy niacin flush appears as a pinkness around the cheeks, ears, neck, forearms, and maybe other spots. It will occur after about 20 minutes and usually last for 15-20 minutes. Drinking water helps the flush pass more quickly. Having it with food delays the flush. Taking it on an empty stomach will bring it on more quickly.

To achieve an immediate flush, a niacin tablet can be powdered. This is done by crushing the tablet between two spoons. Taking the powder on an empty stomach can bring a flush on within minutes. Tablets are usually divided in the middle and easy to break in half to modify doses.

We do not yet know what amount of niacin would be toxic to humans because nobody has ever died from it. This is probably because the B vitamins all work together in your body for a large variety of functions, and one type of B vitamin will be used by the body in place of another B vitamin that you are more deficient in. However, the toxic dose for dogs is about 5,000 milligrams per 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) body weight.

Because the B vitamins work best in combination, I’m going to start taking a B complex vitamin (all the B vitamins together), and on top of that supplement niacin as a barefoot running tool.

Out of all the B vitamins, niacin is the one that your body needs the most of. The RDA is higher for niacin than all the other B vitamins, and even the RDA recommendation of 20 mg is thought to be too low for optimal health by many physicians.

Because niacin is a vitamin and not a drug, it is not habit forming. It would be extremely hard to “overdose” on niacin – you would have to consciously be trying to take too much. You would first achieve a feeling of nausea, and with further increased doses there would be vomiting. I don’t like to recommend time-released forms of niacin since they have been associated with toxic liver symptoms or liver inflammation.

You can purchase niacin in any pharmacy or health food store. It is also naturally found in many high protein foods such as meats, fish, poultry, beans, and nuts. Your body requires niacin for a healthy metabolism. It also has cholesterol-lowering effects. On top of that it is a natural relaxant and has an ability to greatly reduce anxiety and depression. Just in time for the stressful holiday season!

My niacin and other B vitamins are now sitting in my cupboard. I will document my results and post them in the next few days.


I just wanted to take a minute today to say thank you to all those heroes who have helped keep my country true, strong, and free.