Stress fractures are one of the most common issues we treat in runners. They occur most frequently in the legs, feet, and hip bones.
What is a stress fracture?
A stress fracture is a very small crack in the bone. It can be caused by any number of things like exercise, everyday physical activities, and excess body weight. All of these put pressure and stress on joints and bones, especially the lower extremities.
The repetitive pounding on the hard pavement or a bumpy trail when running sends shocks all the way up the feet into the legs and hips sometimes unfortunately resulting in a fracture.
Can a vegetarian or vegan diet lead to stress fractures in runners?
One other factor that could make runners even more susceptible to stress fractures is vegetarian or vegan diets. While there are many benefits to a plant-based diet, bones can suffer from a lack of calcium and protein that are most commonly found in meat and dairy products. If your bones aren’t fortified with enough calcium, they can become weak and brittle, and prone to cracking or even snapping under intense pressure—like running.
To minimize risk of stress fractures, it’s important that all runners should ensure they have adequate calcium and protein in their diets.
Stress Fracture Protection
Orthopedic experts say that vegetarians can gain essential calcium nutrients from milk, cottage cheese, other cheeses, yogurt, and canned fish. Vegans who do not eat dairy or meat should rely on nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens, and fortified whole grains and cereals. Both could benefit from calcium and Vitamin D supplements though to strengthen bones for the demands of running.
The National Institutes of Health recommends 1,000-1,300 IU daily of calcium for active adults.
Other ways our board-certified orthopedic surgeons suggest protecting yourself against stress fractures is by stretching and warming up before each run, changing up your running surfaces and routes, and resting in between runs every few days.
(Adapted from The New York Times-Well)