As runners we are always trying to get better, be faster, meet new goals and PR’s, and recover faster. Our workouts, strength training, distances, and training are only part of the picture in becoming the best runner we are able to be. Nutrition also needs to be incorporated into our lives in order to use our talents to be a better runner and a healthier person.
I find that certain supplements should be incorporated into our diets on a regular basis in order to improve our running performance and overall health. This post mainly focuses on supplements that are important to runners. I never fell for the “supplement” craze, thus I would never suggest taking supplements without consulting your doctor first or wasting money on many new supplements. Taking too many supplements can be detrimental to one’s health, especially if taking certain prescription medications.
As I nutritionist my health and the health of those around me is important. I am always researching supplements and our health, and how they may help benefit us. I hope this information can benefit you as well. I have found these supplements to be important to running and overall performance.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) – Also known as Omega-3’s. EFA’s are helpful in treating inflammation and aiding recovery. Inflammation prolongs recovery time, and can cause muscle soreness. My favorite brands of fish oils are Barleans, Nordic Naturals, and Source Naturals. Barleans makes great Omega Swirls that even kids will like. I could eat it by the spoonfuls. If you are a vegetarian and would rather not take Omega-3 fish oil, you can find EFA’s in Flaxseed oil as well, but flaxseed lacks the important EFA’s such as EPA and DHA, making fish oil superior.
MSM – Methylsulfonylmethane, a mouthful for sure. MSM provides sulfur which is a building block for hair, cartilage, joints, skin and nails. MSM is commonly combined with glucosamine chondroitin, and has been shown to be effective in treating arthritis and is safe for use in increasing joint comfort. Many athletes have found it effective in recovery of soft tissue and joint injuries. The older population of runners may find it more effective in treating joint pains. I personally take 1000 mg of MSM every day. It has helped provide a lubrication to my joints. MSM can also help with inflammation from injuries. I like Source Naturals, NOW, and Solgar.
Iron – Iron is great for runners as it can help with blood cell production. It is especially important to female runners, as we have a menstrual cycle to contend with, thus we need more iron then male. And even more important if you are a vegetarian athlete. An iron deficiency can cause fatigue, something we as runners don’t need nor want to deal with. Endurance athletes tend to have lower iron levels compared to the general population. I recommend having blood work done to test iron levels. Iron in Ferrochel form is best, as it’s easier on the stomach, more easily absorbable and not likely to cause constipation.
Multi-vitamin – Honestly, I think that nearly everyone should invest in a good multi-vitamin. It’s hard to get all of our nutritional requirements from our diet, even if we are always taking care to eat healthy and a balanced diet. I consider it a insurance for our bodies. Our food is not as nutritious as it was hundreds of years ago. Our soil lacks the nutrients it once did, making our fruits and vegetables less nutritious than they used to be, thus lacking in important vitamins and minerals. I always take a multi-vitamin, and since I am nursing I still take a Prenatal supplement. A multi-vitamin ensures we are getting the recommended amount of vital nutrients our body needs to recover from intense workouts and to help repair any damage in our bodies. My favorite are Garden of Life, Deva, and New Chapter.
B-12 – As a vegetarian, and semi-vegan I take care to take a B12 supplement, as meat products are a significant source of vitamin B12, and I don’t eat meat. I recommend a B12 supplement if you are vegetarian. B12 provides us with more energy, is needed for normal formation of blood and our brain and nervous systems. Obviously energy is what our muscles need to fire properly. I take B12 in its methylcobolamin form, as it is easily absorbable and remains in your body for longer periods of time.
CoQ10 – This has been shown to help aid recovery in runners, and it’s also important to aging runners as our CoQ10 levels decline with age. CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radical damage which can cause inflammation. It aids in speeding muscle recovery, preventing DNA damage, and increases immune function. It is made by the body, and not found in food sources, so a supplement may be wise for older runners.
Vitamin D – A deficiency of vitamin D can cause reduced athletic performance. I recommend taking a vitamin D supplement, in the form of D3, especially if you live in the Northern climates where sun exposure is minimal during the late fall, winter and early spring. It’s needed for calcium absorption and bone formation and development. I like the brands Nordic Naturals, Seeking Health, and Carlsons. I prefer drops over pill form.
A word to the wise, don’t buy cheap supplements. Quality is important when it comes to supplements. Most cheap supplements are filled with synthetic fillers, preservatives, and chemical additives. These are nothing but trouble for our health.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. The information I provided is for educational purposes only. I do not treat or cure patients. Please consult your doctor before taking any supplements.
Until Next Time Be Whole and Be Fit
What supplements do you find beneficial to runners? Any recommendations? Do you take a regular Multi-vitamin or fish oil?