Whether you're a casual runner or a marathoner, you've likely experienced achy, tired legs after a run. As a runner, you're likely no stranger to heavy legs and muscle cramps either. Over-the-counter remedies and self-help measures may relieve the symptoms, but heaviness can persist despite medication and rest when it's caused by a vitamin deficiency. Talk with your doctor if you're experiencing severe leg heaviness while running.
Marathoners take notice: Ask your doctor about having your iron checked on a regular basis. Low iron causes anemia -- a medical condition with symptoms including breathlessness, dizziness and fatigue. Low iron has been linked to restless leg syndrome, too, especially when levels are very low. Restless leg syndrome, a neurological condition, leaves your legs itching to move regardless of the time of day. If your legs have wiggled and twisted in bed all night, the chemical imbalance that drives restless leg syndrome will carry into your run. If that happens, heaviness and can hamper your performance on the track or road.
You know to drink milk. Ad campaigns and even mom reminds you of its bone-building benefits, but it can also help fight leg heaviness when coupled with vitamin D. Vitamin D helps your body use calcium. But when you're deficient in this vitamin, your legs may feel weak, achy or heavy. Since low vitamin D interferes with your body's ability to absorb calcium, your risk for bone-related injuries may increase.
A vitamin E deficiency, although rare, may be another reason your legs feel heavy after a run. Vitamin E deficiency has all the same hallmarks. If you're running to lose weight, you need to watch your diet. Dietary guidelines are meant to keep your health in check, and if your placing your body under stress with running and dieting, it's important to replace lost nutrients with nutritious foods. Starving yourself or not taking in enough calories, especially if you're a distance runner, can deplete Vitamin E stores. Some medical conditions can increase your chances of low vitamin E as well. Your doctor will watch you closely and test your blood often if you're at a high risk for Vitamin E deficiency.
Heavy, tired legs after your run can also be from a deficiency in Vitamin B1. Also known as Thiamine, B1 is in a variety of enriched foods. Eating a variety of thiamine-rich foods can prevent this deficiency. But when your levels are low, expect muscle cramps and odd sensations in your legs and feet on top of heaviness and fatigue. Like Vitamin E, if you're on a reduced-calorie diet, not eating enough calories and running, you may be susceptible to a Vitamin B1 deficiency.
Eat a protein-rich diet, full of thiamine sources like nuts, peas, egg and lean meats. Adult women should get between 1 and 1.1 mg a day, according to the New York Times.
- Mayo Clinic: Anemia
- American Medical Society for Sports Medicine; Nightime Muscle Cramps and Restless Leg Syndrome in Athletes; Glenn Klotz
- American Family Physician; Recognition and Management of Vitamin D Deficiency; Paula Bordelon, Maria V. Ghetu, and Robert Langan
- Cancer.org: Vitamin E
- MD Guidelines:Vitamin B1 Deficiency
- New York Times: Thiamin
Having studied at two top Midwestern universities, Catherine Field holds degrees in professional writing and patient safety. Writing since 2000, Field has worked with regional newspapers while publishing fiction online. She conducts medical communication research at a Midwestern medical institution and is slated to write a book based on her research findings.