Looking for some of the best supplements for runners? Then you’ve come to the right place.
Here’s the truth.
But if this is your first time seriously considering supplements, it can be tough to figure out which products are worth your dime and time.
But fret no more.
In today’s article, I’ll be diving into some of the best supplements for runners to ensure that you keep their high-performance engines performing at optimal levels.
After all, maximizing your diet is one of the best—and easiest—ways to optimize your running performance and racing potential, which will result in becoming a faster, stronger, and better runner—and athlete. So why wouldn’t you want to do that?
But first things first, let’s explain the deal with fitness supplements and the few benefits—and drawbacks—that supplements hold for us runners.
Let’s get started.
Note – Today’s supplement list is by no means an exhaustive list, but as far as I can tell, it includes supplements with the most sound science. Remember that the supplement industry is a multi-billion dollar business, and its prime directive is to make more money. Runners often seek alternative nutrition options to perform at their best, but not everything on the market is a must.
What is A Supplement?
Fitness supplements have gathered a lot of steam over the last few decades, with athletes and active people alike taking them in the hope of improving performance, building muscle, losing weight, etc.
So what are they?
Sports supplements consist of performance-boosting compounds designed specifically for sports performance. Supplements may offer the human body many advantages, other than the advantages of following a typical diet plan.
Supplements include the following:
- Amino acids for muscular recovery
- Minerals and electrolyte-rich drinks
- Bone & joint supports compounds
- Other botanicals
Do supplements work?
That’s where things get murky.
Science suggests that some supplements may help with some forms of exercise, but experts advise that they’re not a good substitute for a healthy, well-rounded diet.
Most sports supplement companies claim to help athletes in some way or the other. But the current research warns us that only a few supplements have proven-and-test benefits for athletes.
It’s not always easy to tell if a given sports supplement is safe to use in the long term since extended studies into the effects of supplements are scarce.
Not only that, some supplements may contain harmful additives and artificial compounds not listed on the label.
That’s not the whole story.
Products classified as dietary supplements aren’t required to satisfy any Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules before they’re sold on the market.
Some might not even be checked for safety. They’re simply products ingested orally to support the diet.
For these reasons—and more—if you’re planning to take sports supplements, consult your doctor first. Don’t play dice with your health.
You’re better off sticking with only a few—and only the ones that have been proven to work with the least risk.
AND most importantly, DIET IS KING.
Do Runners Need Supplements?
The short answer is no.
I don’t think runners SHOULD be taking supplements unless prescribed by a doctor. For instance, if your performance is stalling or you aren’t feeling well, then you should consider getting your blood work done to check for any imbalances.
Otherwise, and as the name implies, supplements are designed to “supplement” your daily needs, especially if you’re not getting enough via your diet. In fact, it’s possible to get the needed daily nutrients through diet alone.
So what should you do then?
I’d recommend getting your blood levels checked. This is especially the case if you’re training hard or have undergone major lifestyle changes over the past few months. At the very least, get a full panel including vitamin B and D, hormones, iron levels, and cholesterol.
If your doctor finds you have an iron deficiency, consider booking an iron infusion in Austin. Treatments deliver iron directly to the bloodstream, allowing for a higher absorption rate. Also, if you also have a vitamin C deficiency, it can be added to your iron formula to ensure your body can obtain and process all the iron it needs.]
But I’m no physician, and I’m not here to tell you whether you should or shouldn’t supplement. At the end of the day, whether you decide to take a supplement should depend on your unique situation and profile.
Some of these factors include:
- Your training load. When you’re logging the miles within the high range, you’ll be more likely in a greater need for supplementation.
- Your level of competition. If you’re a competitive runner who trains at a higher level, supplementing can help.
- Your diet quality. If you tend to eat poorly or have limits to how much quality food you can consume, again, supplementing can help.
- Your blood work. If you show any deficits in certain nutrients, supplementing might be your fastest route out of it.
Now that you know a thing or two about the downsides of supplementing let’s get to the actual list.
The 9 Best Supplements For Runners
Without further ado, here are the 9 running supplements to add to your nutrition plan.
If you log serious miles, you should consider supplementing with protein even if you’re hitting all of your macronutrients right.
Let me explain why.
Running and other forms of exercise break down your muscles, which need to be repaired.
Consuming protein can help quickly repair muscle by providing your body with enough of the building blocks. Not having enough makes you prone to injury and suffer from DOMS—delayed muscle soreness and other unwanted symptoms.
And you don’t want that, right?
Ideally, consume around 0.8 to 1.1 grams of protein per pound—or 1-.1.6 grams per kilo—of body weight per day. That means for a 160-pound man; you’d want to get roughly 140 to 180 grams of protein per day.
Can’t include that much in your diet? That’s where protein supplements can come in handy.
One of the best options is Whey protein, especially hydrolyzed whey protein since it’s absorbed quickly into drained muscles.
High-quality Whey protein is made from the byproduct of cheese production and is considered good quality protein thanks to its high biological value.
And the stuff has plenty to offer.
Research has reported that whey protein helps in post-exercise recovery.
For example, this research has shown that not only can whey protein supports post-exercise recovery but also helps the next day by limiting overnight fasted-state protein breakdown and improving performance recovery.
Additional Resource – Here’s your guide to pre and post run nutrition
Running often in the heat? Then pay attention to your electrolyte levels.
Electrolytes consist of ions that are dissolved in water, creating either a positive or negative charge, and are key for optimal human body function.
Meeting electrolytes needs from the diet isn’t rocket science, but if you tend to sweat profusely during training—especially when running longer than an hour in hot weather—you can lose more than you’re taking in.
Tell-tale signs of a lack of electrolytes include:
- Muscle weakness
- More dire consequences in extreme cases such as blood pressure and heartbeat issues and an increased risk of stroke.
Fortunately, there are plenty of drink tablets designed to replace lost electrolytes, so you’ll feel rejuvenated after a workout rather than lethargic and tired.
These “drinkable” tablets contain electrolytes like potassium and sodium that your body needs to be adequately hydrated.
Sure, you can also find these electrolytes in the typical sports drinks, but often alongside a lot of sugars.
On the other hand, electrolyte tablets have nothing but electrolytes and are designed exclusively for hydration.
I’d recommend electrolyte tablets that can be either dissolved into water or swallowed in capsule form. You choose what works the best for you as long as it has a reasonable price per serving and is easy to use. The rest is just details.
At the very least, make sure your electrolyte supplement includes the following:
- Potassium and
Magnesium is a key micronutrient since it’s crucial for many a biological systems, and most people are probably deficient.
This coenzyme is in charge of roughly 300 reactions and is entangled in everything from bone health to blood pressure, nerve function, and muscle contraction.
But why do runners need more than the average joe?
Simple. It helps regulate heart rhythm, lowers blood pressure, allows the muscle to contract properly, and is key for ATP (the primary source of energy in our cells) production.
Of course, don’t take my word for it. For example, this research has suggested that magnesium might help improve aerobic exercise capacity.
Here’s the bad news.
Surveys have revealed that 85 percent of Americans are deficient. Since most people living in the developed world often lead a sedentary lifestyle, one can imagine the magnesium shortages in trained individuals, especially those that log serious miles every week.
Think of magnesium deficiencies as magnifiers. They make various vitamins and minerals losses worse due to the body’s inability to absorb nutrients in the gut.
Some of the best magnesium-rich foods include leafy vegetables, such as spinach, nuts, whole grains, and seeds such as Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, cashews, legumes, and bananas.
There are also many ways to supplement with magnesium, including magnesium oxide, citrate, glycinate, malate, and chloride.
Just make sure to read the labels properly. As a rule, avoid supplements based on amino acid oxides, such as Mg carbonate and Mg glycinate, if you’re prone to stomach problems.
On the other hand, Mg malate and Mg glycinate chelates have a better digestive health record and are much more absorbable by the body.
Your daily intake of magnesium will depend on your needs. As a rough guideline, if your doctor prescribes magnesium supplements to fix a magnesium deficiency, you should take more than 250 mg of the stuff daily. This is because too much magnesium in your body can act as a natural laxative, causing diarrhea and other digestive issues.
So be careful about the dosage.
Keep in mind that the daily allowance for the general population is around 450 mg for men and 350. For women. Research suggests that athletes—especially runners—can safely take 600 to 800 mg daily.
4. Vitamin B12
If you often feel fatigued or lethargic or want to improve your running performance, consider upping your vitamin B12 intake.
Vitamin B12 performs many vital functions, such as:
- Aiding in protein absorption
- Ensuring the release of dietary folate into the body.
- Keeping blood cells healthy
- Keeping the muscles strong
- Lowering fatigue and tiredness
A Vitamin B12 deficiency may cause neurological issues and other unwanted symptoms. You might also struggle with weak muscles and fatigue due to your body’s inability to produce enough red blood cells that provide oxygen and nutrients to working muscles while running.
Extreme deficiency cases can hinder your balance, make you more prone to falling, and leave your mouth with ulcers.
I can go on and on, but you get it.
Vegans are especially prone to B12 deficiency, but anyone can be at risk too if they don’t consume enough foods high in B12.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but vitamins should always be sourced from a natural diet whenever possible. B12 can be easily found in healthy foods such as whole grains, leafy greens, eggs, nuts, and dairy products.
But if you feel like you’re not getting enough, supplementing with a B-complex should be safe as long it’s taken as instructed, preferably under the care of a certified physician.
Regarding supplements, B12 is found in the form of methylcobalamin or cyanocobalamin.
The latter costs less, but it’s less absorbed, thus may not correct your deficiency.
Check the supplement label and look for vitamin B12 in the form of methylcobalamin.
If you’re dealing with bouts of tiredness and don’t know the culprit, low iron levels could be to blame.
Runners should supplement with iron at least as an insurance policy.
Even if you supplement, factors such as gut health and inflammation may put you at risk for deficiency.
How come it’s so important?
Iron is a mineral in charge of oxygen transportation throughout your body, especially in working muscles.
Iron is crucial for runners as its plays a major role in energy production and oxygen transportation around your body through red blood cells. Low levels of iron may limit athletic performance on a variety of different levels.
Here’s the bad news.
Research has reported that over 56 percent of runners suffer from an iron deficiency that drastically limits performance.
Runners are more prone to iron deficiency due to several factors such as excessive sweating, GI tract, and a process known as strike hemolysis.
The latter is a more insidious form of iron loss that’s often referred to as runners anemia. This happens when red blood cells are damaged as they through the feet from the repetitive stresses of running.
Female runners are more at risk for iron deficiency (thanks to menstruation) and thus may require additional supplementation.
Great sources of iron include red meats, grains, and black beans.
Regarding supplements, most experts recommend getting a blood test to figure out your current iron levels.
This is not only key for checking whether you’re low or not but also provides a baseline for your iron levels and how much supplementation are improving them. Of course, you cannot improve on what you can’t measure.
You should also increase your intake of Vitamin C if you want your body to absorb as much iron as possible.
Runners are prone to dealing with stress fractures, knee problems, and
It’s not just about the bones, you know.
Although we usually think of bone health when we hear the word calcium, the latter is vital for the proper function of various organ systems. Calcium also helps with never signal transmission and heartbeat and muscle contraction.
Runners have greater calcium needs compared to the average person. But the exact daily intake can vary depending on many factors such as your age, training level, weight, etc.
A younger runner may need as much as 1,300 mg daily, whereas an older one may get away with about 1,000 mg.
Besides supplements, the best way to get calcium is by consuming dairy products, leafy green vegetables, and salmon.
Calcium-fortified drinks such as soy and almond milk are also good options, especially dairy products that are out of the question.
To ensure optimal calcium absorption, you must have vitamin D as well.
7. Vitamin D
Research from the Archives of Internal Medicine revealed that about 75 percent of adults are Vitamin D deficient.
Another study at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas reported that three-quarters of runners averaging 20 miles a week had low vitamin D levels.
Other than supporting bone health, vitamin D also improves cardiovascular health, enhances your mood, and revs up your immune system.
That’s why, as a runner, you should pay special attention to meeting your daily vitamin D needs. Otherwise, you’ll be in a world of trouble.
Are you worried about having extremely low Vitamin D?
Then get your status tested by measuring your blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Only your doctor can decide whether you’re at risk of a deficiency or already are. Then recommend the right dietary or supplement plan.
Most of these blood tests are cheap—costing around 30 to 50 bucks—and can be combined with other tests for a full blood panel profile.
Overall, the best way to get Vitamin D is through direct exposure to sunlight. The nutrient can be produced by your skin from cholesterol and exposure to UVB rays;
But, even if you spend a lot of time outdoors, factors such as sun protection, skin color, and genetics can influence how much vitamin D you generate from UVB light.
Unlike other nutrients, not a lot of foods contain vitamin D, which makes supplements the best option—sometimes the only option—for many.
Considering these variables, many runners, especially those who are deficient, will require around 5000 IU of Vitamin D per day for eight weeks to reach 40 ng/mL.
Keep in mind that Vitamin D is fat-soluble. That’s why consuming a dietary vitamin D alongside a source of fat can help improve absorption.
Are you prone to gastrointestinal issues while running? Then keeping your GI tract healthy is one way to dodge these problems.
Probiotics refer to the good bacteria found in some foods and supplements that help improve digestion and gut health.
Consuming probiotic-rich foods helps balance the friendly bacteria in your digestive system, which in turn helps lower the risk of some digestive disorders, keep your heart healthy, improve immunity, etc.
On the other hand, imbalanced levels can increase inflammation in your body, contributing to all sorts of problems.
That’s why if you’re serious about reducing the number of times you skip a run because you feel rundown or don’t feel good, or you have stomach problems, probiotics can help.
Probiotics can be found in certain foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, miso, kimchi, tempeh, and kombucha.
You can also take a supplement. Just be wary of your choices, as the label “probiotic” doesn’t inherently mean this option will suit your microbiome.
The best probiotics for runners are chosen case by case to enhance recovery, performance, immunity, and gut health. So, consult a professional for the most suitable probiotic options for your training goals, fitness, and health conditions.
Also known as fish oil, Omega-3 fish fatty acids offer a range of health benefits. Research suggests that the stuff helps inflammation and limits lactic acid build in the muscles. This, in turn, means longer runs, less soreness, and faster recovery.
Research suggests that these healthy fats can also improve immunity and soothe inflammation. Fish oil may also limit workout-induced muscle damage and delayed onset muscles soreness, which makes it a must for runners.
I cannot say enough good things about omega-3 fish fatty acids, but that’s a subject for another day.
The human body cannot synthesize Omega-3 fatty acids, so we should consume the stuff via diet or other supplements.
Most experts recommend consuming around 250 mg to 600 mg of DHA and Epa omega-3 fatty acids mixed daily—that’s the equivalent of two to three seafood meals a week, according to Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020 WHO.
The recommended amount of Ala omega-3 is around 1600 mg for men and 1100 mg for women daily.
Where and how To buy Running Supplements
I hate to sound like a broken record, but getting a high-quality supplement is non-negotiable. You can buy sports supplements at health food shops, pharmacies, grocery stores, and online retailers, making it too easy to start incorporating them into your daily nutrition plan.
Here are a few tips to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.
- Always buys from a reputable and trusting retailer
- Choose supplements with the least extra ingredients and no added fillers
- Look for third-party resource settings and reviews, such as Consumer Labs, to help you evaluate the quality of a given product
- Cheaper isn’t always the best choice. If a given product is half the price of other similar products, there might be a (bad) reason.
- The most expensive product on the market doesn’t inherently make it the best for you.
The 9 Best Supplements For Runners – The Conclusion
There you have it! Today’s article should get started on getting to know the most important supplements for runners.
Remember that when your body is running low on essential nutrients, you might be causing more harm than good.