A new study from running-and-immunity expert David Nieman, Ph.D., points to a helpful approach. And in doing so, the same study may have uncovered a novel explanation for the health benefits of regular exercise.
Nieman and colleagues asked an experienced group of runners to jump from their normal average of 4.5 miles a day to 15 miles/day on three successive days. Some of the runners received a pill containing blueberries and green tea extract, while the others got a placebo.
The test produced surprising results:
“[Our] results indicate that polyphenol complexes containing blueberry and green tea have the potential to protect athletes from virus infections following rigorous exercise,” the researchers concluded. Back in the 1980s, Nieman was the first to show that marathoners often come down with a cold after their race, due to a short period of reduced immunity.
Nieman went on to say, “The runners on the blueberry plus [green tea extract] product, versus the placebo runners, had higher levels of gut-derived polyphenols in their blood.” This basically means that the runners who took the combination of blueberry and green tea had improved immune systems post-race, which steered them clear of the after marathon cold. In effect, regular exercisers get more bang for their buck when it comes to fruit and vegetable metabolites.
In short: the answer to the question of "Do Runners Need Vitamins?" is no, but evidence suggest they can make the recovery process of a marathon a whole lot easier. A balanced intake of vitamins and minerals before, during and after a big race can make reaching the finish line that much more satisfying by relieving post-race soreness and sickness.
Recent accounts from endurance athletes of all levels have supported this research. Pro, elites, and amateur endurance athletes have seen a difference in performance and recovery when incorporating a daily system of vitamin and mineral supplements. You can read more about how endurance athletes have seen improvement in their recovery through a daily system of amino acids here.