Supplement Guide for Runners
If you’re a runner, you likely already know the importance of proper nutrition and taking care of your body. After all, when you head out for a run you’re putting your body through significant stress. When supported by a proper diet and supplement regimen, a regular running schedule can be incredibly helpful for maintaining proper health – but without the proper nutrition and supplements, you can end up doing more harm than good.
When it comes to bringing your A-game to the table on your runs, following a proper diet for runners is important. You should strive to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, protein, and whole grains. But beyond following a proper diet, you should also focus on adding some supplements to your diet. In this guide, we’ll go over the best supplements for runners, and how taking them can help you maintain optimal health while maximizing your performance and enjoyment during your runs.
How Can Supplements Help Runners?
There are all kinds of supplements out there, ranging from protein powders to multivitamins to weight-loss aids and beyond. There are some very effective supplements for runners, and other which may or may not be necessary depending on your diet and exercise habits. We’ll talk about all the top supplements for runners in this guide, all of which offer slightly different benefits. Below, find a list of just a few of the key benefits that good supplements for running can provide:
- Faster recovery time
- Decreased muscle soreness
- Reduced inflammation
- Increased energy
- Increased endurance
- Improved athletic performance
- Improved motivation and focus
- Better post-run muscle recovery
- Improved bone and cartilage strength
- Improved sleep quality
- Better overall health
As you can see, effective supplements for running can provide a wide range of benefits. Really, these products can help you run faster, better, and longer, while simultaneously helping you to recover faster and more completely. They also help to support overall health and wellbeing, which can create a snowball effect, leading to better athletic performance, better sleep, and more fulfilling runs!
Why Should Runners Take Supplements?
Let’s face it – as runners, we put our bodies through some significant strain and stress. Particularly for long-distance runners or anyone who pounds the pavement on a regular basis, our bodies are pressed to the limit. In order to stay healthy and fit, we must support or bodies with the nutrients that they need to thrive. In short, runners should take supplements because:
- Runners are more prone to long-term joint and muscle pain
- Runners often experience muscle pain and stiffness post-workout
- Runners need to have adequate energy, focus and motivation in order to perform at their best
- Runners need time to recover – and supplements can help speed up that process
- Runners may be prone to nutrient deficiencies caused by excessive sweating
- Runners must work hard to maintain proper health and fitness – and supplements can help!
After running, many people experience joint or muscle pain. Muscle soreness after exercise is completely normal, but nonetheless, it’s a hinderance and can prevent you from exercising as often as you’d like to. Good supplements for runners can help reduce muscle soreness, speed recovery time, and improve the quality of your recovery.
We all know that running is a very healthy activity that can help us stay in shape, maintain better mental health, and more. But, unfortunately, running can also have some long-term negative effects, such as joint pain, muscle pain, chafing, etc. The top supplements for runners can help combat and prevent these negative effects by strengthening the body’s defenses.
10 Best Supplements For Running
What Are Multivitamins?
Multivitamins don’t need a whole lot of explaining, as you likely take one already. Simply put, these are supplements designed to deliver a solid dose of the majority of the most important vitamins and minerals needed for overall health. They don’t target any specific problem or health concern, but rather, provide a sort of safety net, ensuring you get adequate nutrition by filling in any gaps from your diet. Multivitamins are strong supplements for running for a variety of reasons.
How Multivitamins Help Runners
Multivitamins are good supplements for running because they support overall health and wellbeing. They can help your body run at its best, ensuring you stay healthy, fit and happy. As for running-specific benefits, multivitamins contain calcium to strengthen bones, B vitamins to support energy, and a potent blend of other nutrients to support your overall health.
How to Take Multivitamins
Multivitamins should be a daily part of your routine. Most of these supplements are taken once a day, and are best taken with food. Other than that, just make sure that you don’t take more than the recommended amount. Also, keep in mind the other vitamins/minerals you take as separate supplements (i.e. calcium, b vitamins) and compare that with the amount of those ingredients found in your multivitamin.
Multivitamin Side Effects
As long as they are taken as directed, side effects from multivitamins are uncommon and typically mild. Some people experience upset stomach, headaches, or an unpleasant taste in their mouth. As always, more severe side effects are possible.
9.) Fish Oil/Omega 3
What Is Fish Oil?
Fish oil is, well, what it sounds like – an oil extracted from the fatty tissues of certain types of fish; typically salmon, herring, or mackerel. Fish oil offers an impressive array of benefits, thanks to its high concentration of omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3’s are essential fats, which means the body needs them to function properly, but cannot make them naturally. Omega 3 fatty acids serve many roles in the body, such as aiding in hormone production, preventing blood clotting, reducing inflammation, improving skin health, and preventing serious conditions including cancer.
How Fish Oil Helps Runners
When considering strong supplements for runners that are also natural and gentle, fish oil is a top choice. Derived from the tissue of fish, fish oil is an all-natural way to improve your health. For runners, perhaps the biggest benefit is its ability to reduce inflammation. Any runner who has gone more than a mile or two knows the muscle pain and stiffness that often follow long runs; pain which is often accompanied by inflammation. Fish oil can help to reduce or even prevent post-run inflammation, while reducing pain as well.
Fish oil can also have some great long-term benefits, as well, such as helping to reduce the risk of serious diseases including certain types of cancer. And unlike many supplements, fish oil is safe to take long-term, so long as you don’t consume too much each day. Unless you eat a ton of fish (which is not necessarily a good idea, considering the high amounts of mercury in fish nowadays), you likely don’t get enough omega 3 fatty acids in your diet; and fish oil can help!
How to Take Fish Oil
Fish oil should be taken daily, and added to your regular supplement routine. Timing is not important, although it is best to take it with meals. As for dosage, that depends on your reasons for taking it. For general health, as little as 250mg a day may be sufficient – although the American Heart Association recommends 1g/day. For runners wishing to reduce inflammation and muscle soreness, up to 6g/day, spread out over several doses, is best.
Fish Oil Side Effects
The most commonly reported side effect of fish oil is not harmful, but simply an annoyance. It’s the dreaded “fish burps” which strike after taking your dose. Some people report having fishy breath, and if/when you burp, you’ll likely notice a fishy taste. To help reduce or avoid this effect, take fish oil with a meal. You can also freeze the capsules to help. Some people also report feeling stomach upset, nausea, etc.
What Is Calcium?
Calcium is a mineral found naturally in dairy and in some other foods. The mineral plays a key role in bone and tooth health, helping to strengthen and improve bone health and density. Calcium deficiency is quite common nowadays, and can lead to a lot of health problems down the road. By ensuring you get enough calcium in your diet and/or by using supplements, you can improve the strength of your bones and support overall health.
How Calcium Helps Runners
Calcium was an easy choice for this list of the best supplements for runners, because it helps protect something very important in runners’ bodies: their bones! When you run on a regular basis, you put your muscles and bones under significant strain. This is particularly true when running on pavement and other hard surfaces. Calcium is an important nutrient for runners because it can help to strengthen your bones, prevent injuries, and decrease the risk of long-term conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis.
In addition to the obvious benefit of better bone health, calcium can help you maintain a healthy weight, protect your heart, help control blood pressure, and more. Also, calcium is essential for proper nutrient movement across cell membranes. In other words, calcium supplements can help your body make better use of other key nutrients.
How to Take Calcium
Typically, calcium supplements come in pill or capsule form. Timing is not particularly important, although you should try to take your dose with a meal to aid in absorption. The RDA for calcium is 1000mg per day for most adults, although that amount goes up to 1200mg for older people (women over 50, men over 70). Keep in mind that this amount includes calcium from all sources – and you likely already consume a decent amount from dairy products and other foods. If you’re vegan, lactose intolerant, or have an otherwise limited diet, you are more prone to calcium deficiency and should most likely be taking a supplement.
Calcium Side Effects
Calcium is an essential nutrient for human health, and when taken as described, shouldn’t cause any negative side effects. People with hypercalcemia (excess calcium in your bloodstream) should avoid calcium supplements, as they can worsen the condition. Other than that, there are few potential side effects, although some people may notice minor stomach discomfort (take calcium with a meal to prevent this).
7.) Coenzyme Q10
What Is Coenzyme Q10?
Coenzyme Q10 is a molecule that is naturally produced in the body. It is essential for survival, due to its role in energy production. The coenzyme aids mitochondria during energy production, among several other roles. It’s produced naturally in our bodies, so if you’re a healthy individual with a balanced diet, you may not need to supplement with coenzyme Q10.
With that being said, many diseases, conditions and even medications can lead to a deficiency in this nutrient. Heart attack survivors and anyone suffering from conditions such as fibromyalgia, depression, male infertility, migraines, or Parkinson’s should consider coenzyme Q10 supplementation, as they are more likely to be deficient in the nutrient. Some pharmaceutical drugs also can lower levels of this molecule in the body.
How Coenzyme Q10 Helps Runners
As mentioned, many people have enough of this enzyme in their body and therefore will not need to supplement. But for many others, supplementation can help keep energy levels up, enhance blood flow, protect blood vessels, reduce plaque buildup in arteries, and more. For runners, the benefit of increased energy is the clear winner in this group of benefits, but coenzyme Q10 can also do a lot to support your general health and wellbeing.
How to Take Coenzyme Q10
For those taking Q10 in supplement form, you’ll want to take it daily, with food. Doses typically range from 90mg to 200mg. For most folks, a smaller dose of 100mg or less will do the job. It’s important to take your dose with food, as coenzyme Q10 is a fat-soluble molecule. It’s best to take it with your biggest meal of the day.
Coenzyme Q10 Side Effects
For healthy individuals, Q10 doesn’t have many significant side effects, but it can cause nausea, stomach upset, etc. Some people also report headaches upon taking this supplement. Certain groups of people, such as folks with skin disorders, stomach disorders, and bleeding disorders should avoid taking this supplement. Read more about coenzyme Q10 side effects here, or speak with your doctor.
6.) Vitamin B
What is Vitamin B?
Vitamin B actually refers to a class of vitamins, known as “B vitamins”. The most talked about B vitamin is B12, but others include B6, B7, folic acid, and others. B vitamins play many key roles in the body, particularly in regards to energy maintenance and production, and deficiencies in any of these nutrients can cause some noticeable symptoms. B vitamins also help aid in the absorption and use of other nutrients, which can be key to supporting overall health.
How B Vitamins Help Runners
We added B-vitamins to our top supplements for running list for many reasons. First off, as mentioned above, B vitamins help increase the efficacy of other nutrients in the body. Since runners put their body through intense strain, they require more nutrients, and in general are more prone to micronutrient deficiencies than the typical person. B vitamins, and particularly B12, can help your body make better use of other key nutrients, which helps to prevent deficiencies and support overall health.
Another key benefit of B vitamins, and B12 in particular, is their role in energy maintenance. In simple terms, B vitamins help your body convert food into energy. Folks who already have ample stores of B vitamins in their body may not notice any difference in energy levels upon taking B vitamin supplements, but anyone with even a slight deficiency will likely experience a significant, sustained energy boost. Additionally, B12 plays a role in proper blood flow and heart function.
How to Take B Vitamins
When it comes to B vitamin supplements, there are several different routes to take. First off, you may already be getting a decent amount from your multivitamin and/or diet, so check the label of your multivitamin to see how much is included. Next, you’ll need to determine whether you need an overall B-vitamin blend, containing many of the most important b vitamins, or an individual nutrient containing just B12, or just B6, etc. You may need to speak to your doctor to determine what would be best to take.
For dosage, you can check ConsumerLab to see the RDA’s for each individual nutrient. As far as when/how you take it, B vitamins are generally in pill or capsule form, and timing is not important – simply take the servings daily, whenever is convenient for you.
B Vitamin Side Effects
When taken as directed, B vitamins generally do not cause side effects. However, some people do report stomach upset, nausea, and mild diarrhea. As with anything, more severe reactions are possible in the case of an allergic reaction or drug interaction – check with your doctor if you’re concerned.
5.) Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
What Is Conjugated Linoleic Acid?
Conjugated linoleic acid, otherwise known as CLA, is a fatty acid found naturally in beef and dairy (particularly in grass-fed beef) When you think “fatty acid” you may not initially think “healthy”, but CLA is a so-called “good fat”. In actuality, CLA can help you lose weight, which is quite the opposite of what you may initially think.
How Conjugated Linoleic Acid Helps Runners
CLA made our list of the best supplements for running for many reasons. First off, conjugated linoleic acid helps to increase the metabolic rate, which can lead to a higher calorie burn and therefore more weight loss. If you’re running to stay fit and in shape, CLA can help you by allowing you to shed more pounds with the same amount of effort.
CLA can also help to enhance muscle growth, lower cholesterol levels, and enhance the immune system – all great benefits for runners and everyday people alike.
How to Take Conjugated Linoleic Acid
For weight loss, CLA should generally be taken daily. The dosage recommendations vary from 3-6 grams per day. Most CLA supplements come in capsule form, so it’s easy enough to just add them to your daily supplement/vitamin routine. Timing of your dose is not very important in most situations.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid Side Effects
CLA found naturally in foods has no known side effects. However, CLA supplements do sometimes cause side effects, particularly when consumed at high doses. Minor side effects like diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain are relatively common, while more severe side effects include increased inflammation, insulin resistance, and increased liver fat. Although, to be fair, human trials on the side effects of CLA supplementation are fairly limited, as most trials that recorded these side effects have only been conducted on animals.
4.) Whey Protein
What Is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is a very popular supplement used by millions of people every day. Basically, it’s a powdered form of pure whey protein, which is a protein derived from dairy products. In supplement form, whey protein is used for a wide variety of purposes. The reason we included it in our list of good supplements for runners is primarily because of its ability to speed up recovery time.
How Whey Protein Helps Runners
Whey protein supplements provide a super-easy way to get enough protein in your diet. Everyone needs protein in their diet, but athletes in particular need quite a bit of protein on a daily basis in order to maintain optimal health. Now, protein is found in tons of different foods, and even in the supplement industry there are many different choices when it comes to types of protein – so why whey?
Well, first off, whey protein has an excellent amino acid profile, packed with tons of branched chain amino acids which are key to many different functions in the body. Second, whey protein digests and absorbs very quickly. For athletes and runners, that fast absorption rate means that your tired, aching muscles will get a much-needed boost of protein and amino acids almost immediately after your run.
Whey protein was an easy choice for this guide to effective supplements for running because it provides many noteworthy benefits. Primarily, it’s a powerful tool to reduce recovery time after your runs. Whey is also great for decreasing muscle soreness post-workout. It can also be very useful to throw in your shakes, to use as a meal replacement or healthy, nutrient-rich snack.
How to Take Whey Protein
Unlike most of the supplements we’ve discussed so far, when it comes to whey protein, timing is important. Ideally, you’ll want to consume whey protein immediately following your run. The faster you take it the faster it will digest, replenishing your body’s supply of key amino acids and helping your muscles recover, while limiting lactic acid buildup and muscle soreness.
Whey protein supplements typically come in powdered form. Most are flavored, while some are plain/unflavored. To take them, you’ll just need to mix the powder with water, milk, or juice, or throw it in a smoothy. A typically serving size of whey protein will be around 20-30g of protein, which is equivalent to around a 4oz serving of beef.
Whey Protein Side Effects
When taken as directed, whey protein should not cause any significant side effects. You can easily take 1-3 servings a day without noticing any significant side effects. With that being said, large doses can lead to nausea, thirst, bloating, reduced appetite, and a few others.
What Is L-Carnitine?
L-carnitine is an amino acid that is naturally produced in the body, and is also found in some foods. It plays a key role in energy metabolism and mitochondrial protection, among other roles in the body. Amino acids serve as the building blocks of protein, and L-carnitine is a key amino acid for athletes. Although this acid is naturally produced in the human body, often times runners and other athletes can greatly benefit from adding an L-carnitine supplement to their diets.
How L-Carnitine Helps Runners
L-carnitine has many notable benefits for athletes, including the ability to reduce fatigue, improve energy levels, increase fat loss, and more. For more long-term benefits, L-carnitine has also been shown to improve bone mass, support brain health, and support the immune system. All of these benefits combined make L-carnitine a shoe-in for our list of the top supplements for running.
L-carnitine can also be very useful to vegetarians and others on strict diets, because the primary food sources of this amino acid are red meat. Vegetarians are more prone to be low on this important nutrient, and can therefore find more benefit from using these supplements.
How to Take L-Carnitine
L-carnitine is a supplement that is generally best taken daily. The typical dose is between 500mg and 2g per serving, depending on your needs and diet. Some experts recommend taking up to 4g a day. Timing is not overly important when it comes to L-carnitine supplements. The amino acid builds up in your body, so as long as you take it daily you won’t need to worry about taking it right before a run or anything like that.
L-Carnitine Side Effects
L-carnitine is a substance that is naturally produced in your body, so for most people, no noticeable side effects will be caused by adding a carnitine supplement to your diet. With that being said, some people do experience some minor stomach discomfort/nausea, heartburn, and a few other minor side effects. As with any supplement, do not take more than the recommended amount and you’ll be fine!
What Is Caffeine?
This one doesn’t need too much explaining: caffeine is that magical substance that wakes you up every morning. It seems that modern man runs on caffeine, whether it’s from coffee, tea, or caffeine supplements. And, unsurprisingly, caffeine is one of the many effective supplements for runners, because of its energy-boosting benefits.
How Caffeine Helps Runners
The main benefits of caffeine are immediately and noticeably felt: a boost in energy, a sharpened focus, and perhaps an increase in motivation. It’s not too difficult to understand why this would be beneficial for runners: caffeine helps give you the focus, energy and drive to get out there and have a great run!
Beyond the obvious energy boost, caffeine can also be helpful for runners for several other reasons. First off, caffeine helps to decrease the perception of effort, meaning those long runs won’t feel quite as long. Caffeine also helps to put you in a better, more focused mood, which can be instrumental for getting out there for a run on days where you may not really want to. Additionally, caffeine can help to increase the metabolic rate, which helps to burn more calories and drop more unwanted weight.
How to Take Caffeine
You probably already drink a cup of coffee or tea in the morning. If you run in the mornings, you can simply stick to that routine and you’ll likely experience the benefits. On the other hand, caffeine pills can be quite handy as well, particularly if you run mid-day or when you don’t have access to coffee. Caffeine pills do have some advantages over coffee, as well – namely, they’re much cheaper, and you can know exactly how much caffeine you’re consuming.
Whether you’re consuming caffeine via a cup of Joe or via a caffeine supplement, you’ll want to consume it about 20-40 minutes before taking a run. This will give enough time for the caffeine to take effect in your system. Caffeine is one of those strong supplements for runners that can really help you have a great, energetic run.
Caffeine Side Effects
Caffeine is a relatively safe substance to consume, so long as you don’t take too much of it. The MayoClinic recommends no more than 400mg of caffeine per day, which is equivalent to 3-4 8oz cups of coffee or 2 caffeine pills. If you stay under this limit, you shouldn’t experience any major side effects.
More than half of the US population drinks coffee every day, and even more consume caffeine in other various forms. Most people will not notice any harmful side effects. With that being said, there are some notable caffeine side effects, the most significant of which is trouble sleeping. Caffeine can prevent you from falling asleep, and since it takes many hours to metabolise and leave your system, you should avoid consuming caffeine within 6-8 hours of going to bed. Other common caffeine side effects include dehydration, nervousness, stomach irritation, etc.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a natural organic compound that is produced naturally in the liver, and also found in many food products, including meats. It’s made up of three amino acids; L-arginine, L-methionine and glycine. Creatine is used in the body to help deliver vital energy to the muscles and brain. Creatine is one of the most popular workout supplements out there – it’s particularly popular amongst weightlifters, but it’s also very commonly used by runners.
How Creatine Helps Runners
Creatine makes it to the top of our list of the best supplements for runners because it helps to deliver a boost of energy to where it is most needed. Creatine can help to improve athletic performance, increase muscle endurance, increase energy levels, and more. Creatine can also help to build more muscle and increasing lean body mass. Overall, it’s widely considered to be the best supplement for runners, and really, the best supplement for active people in general.
For runners, creatine can help you run faster, for longer, and may even reduce your recovery time by improving ATP resynthesis. Do note that creatine will not necessarily help to reduce muscle soreness, but it can help you recover faster and renew energy stores more rapidly for your next run.
How to Take Creatine
Generally, creatine comes in powdered form. It’s usually tasteless, and can be mixed into water, protein shakes, etc. It tends to dissolve better in lukewarm to warm water, rather than cold water. Creatine is also included in many popular pre-workout supplements, so you may already be taking it if you take a pre-workout.
Creatine is generally best taken daily – whether you plan to run that day or not. For runners, the timing of your dose is not overly important, as creatine builds up stores in your body. So, don’t worry about taking it immediately before your run – just make sure you get a dose every day, regardless of your exercise plans for that day. 5g is the typical creatine dose, although that may vary based on your diet and exercise habits.
Creatine Side Effects
Like most supplements, there are a few side effects to be aware of when taking creatine powder. Perhaps the most common complaint is bloating/weight gain due to water weight. Creatine pushes more water into your muscles, which is helpful for muscle performance and recovery, but can also leave you feeling a bit bloated and/or cause you to gain a few pounds. The good news is this is just temporary; the bloat/extra weight is simply water, so almost immediately after you stop taking creatine this will go away. Also, many people do not experience any of the bloating side effects that some report. There are also many myths surrounding creatine, which have largely been debunked.
In summary, all of these top supplements for runners can do help you improve your health and fitness in a variety of ways. Of course, certain supplements will be better choices for certain people. When deciding which supplements to try, keep in mind the individual benefits of these products, as well as your diet and how much of a given ingredient you get naturally from the foods you eat.
With the exception of coenzyme Q10, which can be pricey, these supplements are pretty affordable. So, if necessary, you’ll be able to try a few in order to find one that works for you. Many runners end up taking a variety of health and fitness supplements. For you, finding the perfect combination is just a matter of trial and error.
There you have it! We hope you enjoyed our list of the best supplements for running, and we hope that this information helps you reach your health and fitness goals faster! Keep in mind that the supplement industry changes quickly, and we regularly update our guides. To stay informed, bookmark this page and check back later.