A well-balanced diet is vital for the runner as the efficiency of running performance depends on nutrition. While running, the body is going through significant stress. Therefore, in order to be successful, you should follow a proper diet and add supplements for being healthy, maximizing athletic performance and enjoying the runs.
Here is the guide of types of supplements for runners, vitamins for runners and their benefits.
What Are Supplements And How Can They Help Runners?
Runners always need a competitive edge, which can be achieved not only with a proper diet and training but with the help of additional ingredients. These ingredients in the form of supplements enhance performance and endurance, providing that they are taken within the rules. There are different forms of the supplements:
- Sports drinks
- Carbohydrate bars and gels
- Protein powders, drinks, and bars
- Liquid meal supplements
- Vitamin and mineral supplements
- Ergogenic aids (substances that affect energy, alertness, or body composition).
These supplements can help runners to run faster, longer and recover faster. They provide numerous benefits:
- Decrease muscle soreness;
- Increase recovery time;
- Reduce inflammation;
- Boost energy;
- Improve endurance;
- Promote post-run muscle recovery;
- Improve bone strength;
- Food sources are depleted of nutrients, whereas supplements give enough amount of nutrients;
- Help to digest food better and absorb nutrients quicker;
- Promote better sleep.
Why Do Runners Need Them?
Runners push their bodies to the limit on a regular basis, so they may experience joint or muscle pain, muscle soreness, the lack of qualitative sleep and poor recovery. Thus, the runner needs the support of supplements. The reasons why runners require these supplements are the following:
- They are prone to nutrient deficiencies (magnesium, potassium, sodium) due to excessive perspiration;
- They are prone to long-term joint and muscle pain;
- They experience muscle stiffness after the workout;
- They need adequate energy to perform well;
- They require a qualitative post-recovery time;
- During strenuous workouts, runners tend to develop micro tears in their muscles and tissues which supplements can mend.
Best Supplements For Runners
An adequate amount of vitamins and minerals promotes a good health for any human. Each training should meet energy requirements and the necessary level of energy is provided by vitamins and minerals. However, numerous studies have proved that taking more vitamins and minerals than you need may actually harm you. So, in terms of using supplements, you should be very careful as any extreme is harmful.
There are certain vitamins for runners:
The term “Vitamin B” refers to the group of vitamins. The most important for runners are B12, B6, B7. They play a key role in supporting overall health.
- Increase The Efficacy Of Other Nutrients
The group of these vitamins improves the absorption of other nutrients and their effectiveness. It speeds up recovery.
- Maintains The Energy Level
The group of these vitamins helps the body to convert food into energy. Besides, these vitamins enhance blood flow, which delivers nutrients and oxygen to the tissues. Also, it improves the heart function, which is important for endurance and energy.
How To Take
Before taking them, decide whether you need the whole group of vitamins or an individual nutrient. The recommended dosage is the following:
- Thiamin—1.5 mg/day
- Riboflavin—1.7 mg/day
- Niacin—20 mg/day
- Pantothenic acid—10 mg/day
- Pyridoxine—2 mg/day
- Biotin —300 mcg/day
- Folic acid—400 mcg/day
- Vitamin B12—6 mcg/day
This vitamin is vital for any athlete as the research has proved that it has the potential to optimize athletic performance. According to a 2008 study by the Dallas-based Cooper Clinic, 75 percent of runners have vitamin D deficiencies. So, any runner should incorporate it into the diet. However, its excessive intake may be toxic.
- Increased Endurance
Studies show that vitamin D may increase the maximum oxygen uptake, which is an indicator of endurance capacity. So, sufficient amount of this vitamin promotes longer runs.
- Improved Muscle Recovery
Recovery is crucial for runners as they should be able to recover quickly in order to train for longer periods of time. It’s been scientifically proven that vitamin D reduces inflammatory markers. Therefore, recovery is improved.
- Increased Muscle Force
Strength is important for runners, so they focus on strong muscles. Vitamin D can increase muscle force in vitamin D-deficient individuals. The deficiency is characterized by bone disorders and muscle weakness. To prevent the deficiency, it is recommended to take 600 IU. But before taking the vitamin, test the level of this vitamin in your body. The optimal serum levels fall between 50 to 100 nmol/L.
How To Take
The daily intake shouldn’t exceed 4,000 IU.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fish oil aids in hormone production and it improves skin health, prevents blood clotting, prevents health-hazard conditions.
- Acts As A Natural Painkiller
Several clinical studies have proven that fish oil was effective at easing the arthritis-related joint pain and muscle soreness. It is relevant for runners.
- Eliminates Inflammation
These polyunsaturated fats promote heart health but based on recent studies, they have anti-inflammatory properties. So, they relieve joint pain after the exercise.
In fact, “scientific evidence is leading us to believe that omega-3s may not only alleviate joint pain but may also prevent it,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., a dietitian with Northwestern Memorial Hospital Wellness Institute in Chicago and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
How To Take
It should be taken daily with the meals. For general health, take 250mg a day. If you want to reduce inflammation, take 6g/day.
- Coenzyme Q10
This is a molecule, which is naturally produced by the body. It plays a crucial role in energy production. The deficiency of Coenzyme Q10 leads to fibromyalgia, depression, male infertility, migraines.
- Boosts Up Energy Levels
During the exercise, muscle cells consume particularly large quantities of Q10. It increases energy levels, whereas its deficiency leads to the quick onset of fatigue.
- Enhances Recovery
The regular intake of Coenzyme Q10 decreases sensations of fatigue and improves recovery.
- Reduces Plaque Buildup In Arteries
This antioxidant is connected to heart health as it reduces plaque buildup in arteries, which leads to their hardening.
- Protects The Heart
It influences the ability of the heart to deliver oxygen and the capacity of the cells to absorb oxygen.
How To Take
It should be taken daily with food. The dosage is 90mg to 200mg.
- Conjugated Linoleic Acid
This fatty acid is known as CLA, which is found in beef and dairy. It is also known as “good fat.”
- Increases The Metabolic Rate
The boosted metabolic rate leads to a higher calorie burn, which promotes weight loss. So, runners, who are focused on weight loss, should take this supplement.
- Prevents Bone Loss
CLA regulates bone metabolism, which prevents bone loss.
- Offers Antioxidant Properties
CLA has a tocopherol-sparing (conserving) effect, which leaves more vitamin E available for antioxidant protection.
- Improves Muscle/Fat Ratio
CLA enhances insulin sensitivity so that fatty acids and glucose pass easier through muscle-cell membranes. It improves muscle/fat ratio.
- Enhances Heart Health
CLA improves the efficiency of fat transport and fat metabolism in the cardiac mitochondria. Eventually, the heart becomes stronger and more resistant to damage from stress. It is especially relevant for runners.
How To Take
It should be taken daily and the recommended dosage is 3-6 grams per day.
- Mineral Supplements
Mineral supplements in conjunction with vitamins, make bones, joints, muscles healthier and stronger. There are certain minerals, which are vital for runners:
Calcium is the mineral, which is known for its ability to reduce stress-fracture risk by strengthening the bones.
- Promotes Bone Density
Running on different surfaces puts the muscles and bones under strain. So, calcium strengthens the bones and keeps the bones into their shapes. Therefore, the risk of injury is eliminated and such conditions as osteoporosis and arthritis are prevented.
- Protects Cardiac Muscles
Calcium helps cardiac muscles to contract and relax properly. Besides, it helps to maintain a proper pressure in arteries.
- Controls Blood Pressure
Numerous studies prove that calcium helps to decrease high blood pressure and keep it at a balanced level.
How To Take
The RDA for calcium is 1000mg per day. The dose should be taken with the meal to aid absorption.
Iron plays an important role in producing hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to muscles. If the level of iron is low, energy sags and it affects athletic performance. Scientists state that anemia occurs among endurance runners due to iron loses through sweating.
- Improves Muscle Function
It provides oxygen, which is needed for contraction of muscles. A proper contraction keeps the muscles toned and elastic, which is vital for runners.
- Regulates The Body Temperature
A stable body temperature ensures that metabolic and enzymatic functions happen in their most optimal and efficient environment. Iron, in its turn, keeps the body temperature stable.
- Eliminates Fatigue
As an important component of hemoglobin, it eliminates fatigue. This may increase endurance and performance will be more effective.
- Improves Concentration
Running, especially on uneven terrain, requires concentration and alertness. Iron, consumed in small amounts, boosts cognitive and mental performance and improves concentration.
How To Take
The recommended daily intake is 8mg.
This mineral plays a key role in endurance performance. Approximately 50% of the body’s magnesium is found in the bones, the rest is in cells and body tissues. Besides, it is found in blood and body fluids. It affects the insulin metabolism, energy production, and protein synthesis. Therefore, it’s number one mineral for runners in their diet.
- Enhances Performance
This mineral is vital of the conversion of glycogen to glucose as glucose is the body’s fuel during the exercise. If the level of magnesium is low, then you may experience the lack of energy. So, enough magnesium amount improves athletic performance.
- Promotes Strong Bones And Muscles
Magnesium activates the cellular enzyme activity. It allows the body to convert vitamin D into its active form to help with calcium absorption and bone building.
- Improves Recovery
Magnesium ensures healthy muscle contraction, which optimizes the muscle function. The deficiency may lead to spasms, cramping, and fatigue. Whereas the sufficient amount may speed up recovery.
- Supports Cardiovascular System
Energy molecules that fuel your heart are called ATP: Adenosine Triphosphate. Each molecule should be attached to the magnesium for your heart to be biologically active (be fueled with energy). Providing that the heart works properly, running becomes less exhausting and the heart is more enduring.
How To Take
Magnesium should be taken daily with food. The standard dose is 200-400mg.
Zinc is an essential mineral, which encourages protein synthesis, wound healing, and proper growth. Therefore, zinc is vital for the runners.
- Strengthens The Muscles
Zinc supplementation increases the testosterone level. This is a muscle-building hormone, which helps to make the running effective and develop strong legs.
- Promotes Protein Synthesis
Zinc stimulates protein synthesis, which enhances muscle recovery. Eventually, the runner has smaller periods between the training.
How To Take
The recommended daily intake is 11 milligrams for men and 8 milligrams for women.
Creatine is considered to be a nutritional supplement for strength and power. It is a natural organic compound, which is produced in the liver. It is made of three amino acids: L-arginine, L-methionine, and glycine. Therefore, it is beneficial for distance runners as it increases muscle stores of creatine phosphate, which is the source of energy for the body. Also, it boosts performance in interval workouts as it promotes better recovery.
- Improves The Sweat And Heart Rates
Long runs in hot condition become more efficient due to the ability of creatine to improve cardio performance. The reason for it is that creatine promotes water distribution in the body.
- Enhances Recovery
Creatine has muscle regeneration properties. It reduces the markers of cell damage and inflammation.
- Improves Bone Healing
Bones are important for runners. Creatine enhances the activity of ALP (a marker for bone growth). Besides, it enhances cellular energy production, which is important for bone development.
- Reduces Fatigue
Studies show that creatine reduces fatigue and boosts up energy levels.
How To Take
It should be taken daily. It comes in the powder form, so it may be mixed with protein shakes, water, etc. The typical dose is 5g.
- Whey Protein
Protein is an essential nutrient, which makes up approximately 17 percent of the average body weight. It helps to maintain the fluid level, cellular repair, and hydration. It is a powdered form of pure whey protein (protein, derived from dairy products).
According to the research, protein increases strength and helps to build lean body mass. The major advantage of protein is that it is quickly absorbed by the body, which speeds up the recovery period. This feature is especially relevant for runners.
- Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s response to damage. Whey protein reduces C-reactive negative protein, which is the key marker of inflammation of the body. When inflammation is reduced, recovery time is enhanced.
- Improves Immunity
After running, many athletes may suffer from reduced glutathione levels, which affect nervous and immune systems. The intake of whey protein shows a lesser reduction in glutathione levels.
How To Take
It should be consumed immediately after your run. The faster you take it, the faster it digests, the faster it replenishes the supply of key amino acids, the faster muscle soreness is eliminated and recovery is improved. The daily norm is about 0.36 grams for every pound of weight.
L-Carnitine is an amino acid, which serves as the building block of protein. L-carnitine is formed in the liver and kidneys from the amino acids lysine and methionine. It promotes energy metabolism and plays a key role in mitochondrial protection.
- Increases Muscle Oxygen Supply
The increased oxygen supply to the muscles, ensured by L-Carnitine, provides better recovery. Also, it reduces muscle soreness in running body before and after, so muscles recover faster.
- Improves Energy Levels
L-Carnitine delivers additional energy as it turns body fat into ATP. So, it helps the body to produce maximal oxygen consumption by creating more red blood cells.
It enhances blood flow to the muscles, so more nutrients, which give energy, go to the muscles.
- Fights Fatigue
L-carnitine helps the body to burn fat while preserving muscle glycogen. So, the runner may perform longer.
How To Take
It should be taken daily the typical dosage is between 500mg and 2g per serving.
Therefore, nutritional supplements are extremely useful as they improve overall health and athletic performance. But if you want these supplements to be beneficial, you should evaluate your diet, the condition of health, and the intensity of your training. The training should be functional and comfortable, so you should wear proper shoes (search for top crossfit shoes for men in 2017). Then, you’ll be able to choose the supplement, which will work exactly for you.
Alexa Bauer has a Master’s degree in nutrition from the University of Maryland and works as a full-time researcher at Swol Headquarters. Alexa Bauer spends her spare time blogging about cardiovascular health and nutrition. She’s specialized in weight loss.