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 may also consider adding some supplements to your diet.
How Can Supplements Support Runners?
There are all kinds of supplements out there, ranging from protein powders to multivitamins 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.
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.
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.
10 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, helping you ensure that you get adequate nutrition by filling in any gaps from your diet.
How Multivitamins May Help Runners
Multivitamins are good supplements for running because they support overall health and wellbeing. As for running-specific benefits, multivitamins contain calcium for bones, B vitamins for 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.
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.
How Fish Oil May Help Runners
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 help 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. 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, it’s best to follow the label instructions.
Fish Oil Side Effects
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 role in bone and tooth health. 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 give yourself a better chance at avoiding deficiency.
How Calcium May Help Runners
Calcium was an easy choice for this list of the best supplements for runners, because it supports 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.
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 can most likely benefit from 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.
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.
How Coenzyme Q10 May Help 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 may help energy.
How to Take Coenzyme Q10
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 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, and speak with your doctor before taking coenzyme q10 supplements.
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 May Help Runners
First off, as mentioned above, B vitamins may work to help 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, may help your body make better use of other key nutrients, which can possibly help you to avoid deficiencies. 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.
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 should 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 first.
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.
How to Take Conjugated Linoleic Acid
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 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.
What Is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is a very popular supplement used by tons 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 help recovery efforts.
How Whey Protein May Help 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.
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.
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. 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 May Help Runners
L-carnitine has many notable benefits for athletes. 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.
L-Carnitine Side Effects
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.
What Is Caffeine?
This one doesn’t need too much explaining: caffeine is that worldly popular 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 May Help Runners
The main benefits of caffeine are immediately and noticeably felt: a boost in energy. It’s not too difficult to understand why this would be beneficial for runners.
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.
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 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.
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 May Help Runners
Creatine can possibly help to improve athletic performance in the short term.
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 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.