What Actually Makes You Stronger

By Kathleen Leninger, DPT

Everyone knows that  “core and glutes” are the secret to making a runner stronger, right?  We go to yoga, spin, HIIT classes, and Bread and Butter to make us strong. The real answer is much more complicated.  Strength classes are important, but it is just practicing muscle memory. So what actually allows your body to keep functioning and to stay strong?  There are 3 main functions we need the body to have to run (and to live):

1 – Bones to stay upright and move around

2 – Muscle to move the bones and get from A to B

3 – Signals to determine what to move and where to move

There are 3 important nutrients that carry out these functions: calcium (builds bone), protein (builds muscle), potassium (fires signals).

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently looked at dietary patterns rich in these 3 nutrients and their association to bone mineral density.  401 subjects from the military recorded their diet. These military members were new recruits, so they were all going through basic training. Researchers found that there was higher bone density and strength in the recruits that recorded higher levels of potassium, protein, and calcium.  The interesting point is the bone density was on the lower side of normal even for the recruits that ate the recommended dietary allowance by the USDA. The researchers concluded that the USDA standard may not be applicable for active people. Unfortunately, the optimal time for absorption is in adolescence in order to prevent osteoporotic break down. If you are late to the good nutrition game, it is even more important to make sure you are getting these 3 things.

So before you go for a run or to a strength class, it’s worth taking a minute to ask yourself if you have enough nutrients in you to support the task you are about to perform. Just some food for thought.

Nakayama A., et. al. A dietary pattern rich in calcium, potassium and protein is associated with tibial bone mineral content and strength in young adults entering initial military training.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2019;108:1-11.