Runners are pros when it comes to knowing how to run 5k and 10k marathons, but do you know what it takes to fuel your body? Do you enter a nutritional supplement store and feel completely lost? You’re not alone. Many runners just like you are confused when it comes to things beyond gel packs and loading carbs.
However, if you’re training hard for your next race and want to maintain your body for many more miles, you need to know what supplements are best for runners. According to Albert Matheny RD and certified strength and conditioning specialist and train at SoHo Strength Lab in NYC, “The more you run, the more attention you need to pay to your nutrition status, including any gaps that might exist in your vitamin and mineral intake.”
So, here’s what you need to know when it comes to the supplements that will help your running routine:
The best option for getting the required vitamins and minerals you need for a better, longer run would be a standard multivitamin supplement. When you pick up a multivitamin at the pharmacy or store, look for a broad spectrum that includes at least 100% of the Recommended Daily Value (RDA) of essential vitamins and minerals for immunity and health support. Minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, and selenium should all be present—because most of these minerals are required for athletic performance, recovery, and oxygen transport.
Make sure that if you are grabbing something high potency, as in over 500% of the RDA, do be careful of overdosing. Very high dosages of vitamins and minerals can counteract any positive benefits and even become toxic. Also, check the label thoroughly to make sure you are only getting the non-oxide form of minerals. Usually, the body absorbs minerals best when they are non-oxide.
If you don’t want to take a multivitamin, then make sure you are taking supplements that cover a broad range of vitamins, including B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
2. Branched Chain Amino Acids
Running often and hard means you are ending up with a lot of calorie deficits—and that’s great if you have been trying to lose weight. That said, if you’re an athlete who’s training to go a great distance, you need to start thinking about how consuming an inadequate amount of calories is going to negatively impact your muscle mass. This is where branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) come in. BCAAs help with maintaining muscles, because the amino acids contained in the formula add in protein synthesis.
Amino acids also provide extra energy to the muscles, reduce fatigue, and are great for enhancing your muscular endurance. For runners who also lift, BCAAs can help you keep your hard gained muscle from catabolizing during long runs, as well.
Glutamine is found in the blood plasma and muscles. Being that it is a nonessential amino acid, the body does synthesize it in small amounts. But if you are running all the time, the body cannot keep up with producing enough glutamine to keep it at a normal level within plasma and the muscles. When that happens, your muscles can atrophy.
By taking a 20 mg glutamine supplement, you can aid in muscle recovery and growth, promote healthier digestion, and enhance your overall endurance.
First, let’s clear the myth that protein is only for bodybuilders, not endurance athletes. Everyone needs protein to survive. In fact, distance runners require the same amount of protein as someone who weight trains. Sometimes, runners need even more protein. The reason is that long runs put more stress on the body and can cause the muscle to break down. If you want to build lean muscle, you are going to need about 1.2-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. In other words, if you’re about 150 pounds, you need 82-136 grams of protein to help keep your body strong.
You also need protein for immune support, too. No one wants to get sick before a big race.
Most athletes who eat a lot of lean protein can reach their recommended protein amount, but if you are finding it difficult, a protein supplement is ideal. You can find whey protein and vegan protein powders available. Make sure you are buying a complete blend with essential amino acids, too.
Similar to BCAAs and protein, calcium is essential for muscle contractions and protecting your bones from the repetitive stress of running. By supplementing with calcium, you are reducing your risk of fractures and osteoporosis. A study was done by the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation found that for every additional cup a female runner drank per day, the risk of suffering a stress fracture was reduced by 62%.
In order to get enough calcium, which is about 1,000 mg or more, make sure you are eating calcium-rich foods like fortified bread and cereals, leafy greens like spinach, and dairy or fortified dairy substitutes. Also, a 500 mg calcium citrate supplement once a day will help. Multivitamins usually do not contain enough calcium to help you meet the 1,000 mg mark.
Another vitamin that helps with a muscular function within the body is magnesium. What does it do exactly? Magnesium, much like sodium and potassium, work within muscle contractions. You also need magnesium for the formation of strong bones and optimized functioning of the heart and nerves.
Since females need about 300-350 mg and men need around 400 mg of magnesium a day, opt for magnesium-rich foods and a high absorption magnesium pill around 200-300mg per dose. Take it before bedtime, since it can also help you get quality shut-eye.
While L-carnitine is often used to help accelerate weight loss, runners should use the amino acid for another reason. L-carnitine can help build muscle while breaking down body fat for the production of ATP. Furthermore, it can help transport long-chain fatty acids to the mitochondria for even more energy. In other words, an L-carnitine supplement can be an excellent energizer and help you maximize your oxygen consumption, because it also helps create more red blood cells.
Aim for a supplement that has about 1500 mg. You can take this in the morning on an empty stomach or with food.
Runners need supplements—that goes without saying. Knowing which ones are most beneficial to you will give you a leg up in the next race! Remember, you need more than just hydration, you need fuel to keep moving. By supplementing with protein, minerals, and vitamins, you are ensuring that your body can repair, rebuild, and come back stronger than ever.
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