As you sit outside in the early morning, getting your daily dose of natural vitamin D from the sun, while sipping your perfectly blended green monster and planning your protein packed lunch salad, you might be pondering why you’d ever bother with running supplements.
Do runners need supplements?
No. Yes. Maybe.
Can we eat a well-balanced diet, meditate, sleep and probably be just fine without them, yes.
Are we likely doing all of those things every day to offset the stress that exercise creates within the body, no.
So is it worth adding them in, maybe.
Because I tend to eat massive amounts of veggies, I often get a few eyebrow raises when I explain I also still use running supplements. If you’ve been wary or simply don’t understand why, I hope you’ll give this a read. I’ll talk about why I use them, which one’s are most beneficial and what to look for so it’s worth your hard earned cha-ching.
Why Use Running Supplements
As the name implies, supplements are just that, designed to supplement our healthy choices.
I’ve tinkered off and on over the years with a variety of things to see what actually works and what was worthy my time, but I haven’t talked about it here in awhile, so I thought it might be a good time to dive in to the why and what supplements for runners.
We don’t need cabinets full of pills and powders, but if you are looking for certain benefits like energy, anti-inflammatory or digestion then let’s talk about what I use and why.
10 quick reasons why I use supplements:
- Smarter people than I take them
- I push my body hard, a lot and I want to help it recover
- Our food sources are depleted of nutrients
- They help me digest food to better absorb nutrients
- They can improve my sleep for better recovery
- I can tell I feel better using them
- They help reduce inflammation from all the workouts
- A perfect diet is really hard to create and would require us to eat lbs and lbs of veggies to truly get the nutrients needed (can you say runner’s trots)
- I’ve found them to be effective in enhancing a workout or speeding recovery
- Extra helpful when traveling and we might not hit our great veggie goals
What Supplements Do I Need For Running?
A few that I use regularly to keep me on the go, no matter the miles or workouts I’m putting in! I’ve talked in depth about many of the other things I use, so I’ll just highlight them here and you can read more on what you need.
A lot of our health starts in the gut and we know that running can mess with our digestion, so a probiotic is at the top of my list. Read all about the benefits of probiotics.
Life is stressful, running is stressful…so why not help our body out with an adaptogenic herb. An adaptogen works in the body many different ways by working with the body to help it minimize the impacts of stress (physical, emotional and mental).
This herb is designed for calming, so unlike the rev of ginseng, this is perfect for helping your body absorb the stress of a workout or to promote restful sleep.
✅Ashadrene from North American Herb and Spice is a great way to add this in. No powders, just a quick capsule with a post run meal. Bonus points because this also contains royal jelly which supports a healthy anti-inflammatory response, again great for post run to help kick our immune system back up a notch!
They also report Ashadrene supports healthy testosterone and cortisol maintenance.
It’s easy to be low due to all the sweating and pavement pounding, but this essential nutrient is hugely important to prevent muscle cramps and indeed to help with weight loss. Read all about the benefits of magnesium.
This goes along with making sure overall your vitamin and nutrient levels are on point. Hard to bounce back from fatigue with low iron or low Vitamin D.
While we don’t want to tamp down all inflammation because that stress response is part of what helps the body to build back stronger, we also don’t want it to get out of control. When life is crazy and the miles are adding up or there’s something starting to ache, I rotate through a couple of options:
- ChagaMax a capsule which contains chaga mushroom that is reported to support anti-inflammation, lower blood sugar levels and reduce blood pressure
- Oregano oil has long been on my list for when I travel due to it’s anti-bacterial properties which seem to truly help support my immune system while traveling. Luckily, it’s included in ChagaMax so a two for one.
- Turmeric is promoted as a natural pain killer, immunity booster and even good for digestion too.
- CBD Oil is part of helping to calm me down and promote a good night of sleep, which is our NUMBER 1 tool for recovery.
“Preventing muscle tissue damage during exercise training may help optimize the training effect and eventual competitive sports performance. Numerous studies have evaluated the potential of antioxidant vitamin supplementation to prevent exercise-induced muscle tissue damage…and recommend vitamin supplementation to individuals performing regular heavy exercise.”
A great way to keep my intakes levels high enough to prevent muscle wasting.
Pre-run a little can give me fuel without loading down my stomach for a hot summer run and on days where I lift it’s going to help me hit enough protein to help build muscle that I may be losing during all those long runs. Read about all the other reasons and how to pick the right protein powder for runners.
A secondary option is collagen powder, which I really leaned on heavily after knee surgery to help give my body all the extra tools I could for repair!
What about supplements for female runners?
Are there specific things that females need to look at? Truly, everything that I’ve mentioned above matters to both male and female runners, but yes women have additional hormonal needs to consider.
- Step 1 is to ensure you’re eating enough food. Too low of an intake is the fastest way to throw things out of whack.
- Step 2 is to ensure you’re eating high nutrient meals to keep all your vitamin levels on point. (i.e. low vitamin D can mess with energy levels)
- Step 3 is to support all your activities with something like ActiFem, designed to help balance estrogen, support thyroid function and the immune system.
What supplements help with endurance?
While some may promote themselves as increasing endurance, the biggest thing comes down to those that boost your immune system keeping you healthy and able to train. The things above are a big part of that process for distance runners.
In the end these are what will help:
- Things to improve recovery (i.e. those anti-inflammatory tools)
- Pre-workout supplements for running (use with care to not burn yourself out)
Important Supplement Notes
A few other things about supplements for endurance which I want to make really clear…one of the reasons I’ve mentioned a number of things from North American Herbs and Spices above is I can TRUST them to follow these guidelines.
If a cheaper vitamin says it has quadruple the values…you should question it. Things don’t have to be more expensive, but the source and the quality matter. A synthetic supplement is much harder for your body to absorb.
Look for Additives
Take a second to see what the label includes as added…could be milk or soy or gluten or other weird chemicals, yes all things you wouldn’t expect! You won’t find that or GMO’s in the recommendations above.
Pay Attention to Your Body
If you start taking something, pay attention to how you feel!! Just because it works for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for you. I had to stop taking things a nutritionist recommended because it made my stomach hurt horribly, unfortunately it took me awhile to realize that was the cause and then a bit longer to trust myself versus their advice.
Nutrition for runners is a huge topic with many more facets. Keep reading to find more and keep your body working at optimal levels.
Do you regularly take any supplements?
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This post is sponsored by NAHS, but all opinions are my own.