Finding the right supplements for runners can be overwhelming when you are first starting out but it does not have to be! You can be on an easy and effective supplement routine in a matter of minutes and I want to help you get there! You will find that taking these supplements will enhance your running and your health and help you feel better, stay strong and keep your energy levels up!
Just in case we are not clear….What are supplements?
Supplements are as the word suggests, a supplement to your main diet or as Google Dictionary states: “something that completes or enhances something else when added to it”.
Wikipedia defines a dietary supplement: “A dietary supplement is a manufactured product intended to supplement the diet when taken by mouth as a pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid.”
Usually they are taken with a meal or at a set time during the day but they never should replace your regular meals. They are meant to keep you functioning at optimal health levels.
(Disclaimer: I’m not a medical doctor, just sharing my experience as a runner and kinesiologist.)
What supplements for runners you take will be dependent on your goals and your health and priorities. I am merely going to share what some of the best supplements for runners are to keep your running strong and your energy levels high enough to sustain your running especially if you are training for a marathon or half marathon.
Also, I want to add that theoretically if you are eating nutrient dense foods then you might not need any supplements at all. That is definitely the ideal but most people are not getting enough nutrient dense foods due to our highly processed food industry and so supplementation is necessary.
Vitamin C - you know that Vitamin C would be at the top of my list! It is a powerhouse of goodness and so essential for your body. It’s great to take every single day but especially on days following a long run or race when your immunity is lower. If you are able to get on a daily schedule of taking Vitamin C then I would increase your dosage on those days when you running longer or trying to recover. This is the crystalline Vitamin C that I take. It is highly absorbable (meaning it is extremely effective) unlike some others that are not absorbed as easily.
My recommendation: take a ¼ teaspoon of the crystalline Vitamin C listed above daily, bump it up to ½ teaspoon or more on long running days. If you are taking Vitamin C tablets then aim for about 500mg daily and up to 1000mg on long running days.
Vitamin B - there are a slew of different B vitamins which play important roles in so many different areas. One of the most beneficial perks of taking a B Vitamin for a runner is that they enhance your energy production and aren’t we always looking to keep our energy levels up with our running routine? If you have a problem with feeling fatigued and tired every time you go on a run then taking a Vitamin B supplement may be the key for you. (If feeling tired after every run though is a problem for you then I would first make sure that you are eating as a runner should.) However, most people are extremely deficient in Vitamin B and so absolutely need to take a supplement. If you are a vegetarian, taking a B Vitamin is highly important since most sources of Vitamin B comes from select sources of meat, eggs, and fish.I recommend: taking one of these Super B energy vitamins before one meal daily.
Probiotics - One of the important supplements for runners. These should be an essential for everyone whether a runner or not which is why it is on the list! Keeping your gut happy and healthy is extremely important in our overall health. Dr. Mercola (check out his amazing website and resources!) gives these reasons as to why we all need to be taking probiotics:
As runners, we definitely want all of these benefits but especially in synthesizing our B vitamins (which aid in energy production!) and boosting our immunity after our long distance runs.
My recommendation: take at least 30 billion probiotics daily.
Digestive Enzymes - As Sports physiologist, William McArdle states, digestive enzymes help to break down your food for storage in your liver and muscles for energy and to construct new muscle tissue. This is exactly what we want as a runner especially if you are going out on a long run or race day coming up on the schedule. When you are preparing for a long run you want to have enough carbohydrates stored in your muscles and liver so that you are able to go the distance! Digestive enzymes will help you do this! The other benefit though is that since so many foods that Americans eat are processed and can be very hard on our bodies, digestive enzymes will help to soften the blow. I recommend taking: these digestive enzymes before a long run (after your pre-long run meal), while carbo-loading before a marathon, or after eating out at a restaurant or having alcohol.
Glutamine - Glutamine is an amino acid but is not an essential amino acid. It is many fitness buff’s best friend and as a runner you will find that it is definitely your friend! Glutamine is best used either during or after a long run or long distance race as it enhances glycogen replacement in your muscles and liver. Remember, glycogen is stored carbohydrates in the body and our goal after a long run or marathon (when our supplies are depleted) is to replenish those stores rapidly in order to promote recovery. It also provides an anti catabolic effect in the muscles which stops muscles from breaking down. It can be a problem for many distance runners running higher mileage to go through catabolism in the muscles (your body breaks down muscle for fuel) but taking a glutamine supplement will stop this from happening. Therefore, I highly recommend it if you are concerned about your muscle mass as a runner or are training for a half or a full marathon.I recommend consuming your glutamine either during or after your long run (+10 miles) or within 30 minutes following your long run or long distance race. If you prefer to make a post-run glutamine shake then get the glutamine powder.
If you are having a hard time staying on top of supplements for runners then I suggest setting timers and reminders in your phone. If you are taking supplements more sporadically such as before or after your long runs only then you may want to look ahead at your training schedule and put reminders on your phone specifically for those days to go off and remind you to take them.
Katch, Frank I., et al. Sports and Exercise Nutrition. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2012.
Mercola. “Beginner Plan: Supplements.” Mercola.com, British Medical Journal, www.mercola.com/nutritionplan/beginner_supplements.htm.
Weil, Andrew. “B Vitamins | Dr. Weil's Guide To B Vitamins | Andrew Weil, M.D.” DrWeil.com, DrWeil.com, 11 June 2018, www.drweil.com/vitamins-supplements-herbs/vitamins/dr-weils-guide-to-b-vitamins/.