What supplements should I be using? I often get this question and it can refer to so many different things that they key one I want to focus on right now are vitamins and minerals!
I try to hit my freggie (yes that’s fruits and veggies) goal of 7-9 servings daily.
I try to limit my processed foods.
I try to keep it whole, healthy and clean.
But even if I were a perfect specimen of an eater, as an athlete I’d still be reaching for vitamins. Not only do our bodies require more because of the work they perform, but our foods simply aren’t what they used to be.
Because of soil depletion, crops grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins
and minerals than the varieties most of us get today.
– Scientific American
Even if you buy organic, the studies are continuing to show that they’re just as depleted in nutrients. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to get what you need from food alone and vitamins for athletes help cover the lack.
A breakdown of what we’ll cover:
- Why athletes need optimal vitamin levels
- How Vitamins Impact Performance
- Testing Your Vitamin Levels
Why do athletes need vitamins and supplements?
- Vitamins help turn food in to energy
- Low levels can mean fatigue and slowed recovery
- It doesn’t undo a bad diet, but supports good choices
- Provides some “insurance” that you’re meeting your needs
- Take with meals to improve absorption
- Those of us with food intolerances are often low in certain vitamins from removing food categories
- BONUS: Being low in specific nutrients can cause sugar or carb cravings
Great, now we see the benefits to adding some vitamins to all the great whole foods we’re eating.
What vitamins are good for runners?
You’ll note all of these necessary vitamins for runners are found in the quality option I mention below!
Don’t be fooled by a standard over the counter option, there are plenty of studies showing they don’t contain the levels stated and/or contain fillers and things that just aren’t doing you any favors.
- B Complex
- Folic Acid
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin D
Here’s a quick chart to breakdown down some vitamins and how they benefit you as a runner!
There are a few vitamins missing from the list below because they aren’t appropriate for everyone, but are incredibly important if you find yourself low!
Getting annual blood work as part of a check up or specifically for sports performance is key to knowing what you need. I’ll dive more in to that below, but first let’s cover a few of the common vitamins for athletes we need to be aware of.
Vitamin D for Runners
Though I’m outside daily, I find myself consistently low on Vitamin D which can me fatigue, lowered immune system, trouble sleeping and mood issues!
It turns out runners can easily still be low due to sunscreen, running early mornings and simply utilizing the vitamin as part of our training.
Iron Deficiency for Runners
Iron is actually a problem for many athletes, who often don’t even know it because all of our pounding does actually deplete iron.
When your iron is low, you feel fatigued, workouts that were easy become demanding, and performance falters. This is one that you need to be very careful when taking though! Talk to someone first!!!Do you know what vitamins runners need for better performance and recovery? Find out #runchat Click To Tweet
This was another I found through testing I wasn’t super low, but in terms of optimized runner nutrients I was low!
- I talked to a Registered Dietitian after that test
- We added in a low supplement
- I also started adding in a little red meat once or twice a week
- Checkout these plant based iron sources
Omega 3 Deficiency for Runners
The first test was eye opening for me as I saw that I wasn’t just low in Omega-3 I was SEVERELY depleted, which can impact all kinds of things as you saw above!
Research supports that omega–3 supplementation improves muscle building and for runners helps to counteract muscle loss from those long runs. Additionally, fish oil can help with DOMS because it serves anti-inflammatory purposes!
Unfortunately, I had tried different supplements over and over with no results, plus all kinds of stomach issues.
Choosing and Using the Right Vitamins
I’m not one who will quickly say yes to any vitamin. You’d be amazed at the number of companies who approach me every week with a new vitamin or supplement just for runners. Most of them do look great…but here’s where I start:
- What does my body actually need?
- What am I not able to get enough of through food?
- Am I in a heavy training period where my body needs more support?
- What fillers are in the vitamin? How was it created? If it has lots of fillers that often reduces absorption.
- How does my body react to this vitamin? Many of them give me a stomach ache, not thanks.
- If it’s not quality and I can’t absorb it, not worth it! I’m open to paying more to get benefits.
In other words, stop taking a generic that isn’t formulated for your needs!
Get Tested To Find Out What Runner Vitamins You Need
We don’t all need the same things, which is why I often talk about using bloodwork to help us make the best choices. But it’s also really important to pay attention to how you feel!!
- Checkout my InsideTracker Review for how to get tested (and a discount)
- Ask your Dr for a blood work up during your yearly check up
- Don’t think that MORE is better with supplements, that’s not often the case
- Understand that as an athlete your needs are HIGHER because of what your body is going through
How to pick a high quality supplement for athletes?
I’m not sure how many more ways to say it, but if you’re taking a cheap multivitamin there’s a good chance fillers are in there or things you don’t need or you simply are able to absorb it.
You want to look for something that is:
- GMO Free
- Gluten Free
- Lactose Free
- No artificial colors
- Has been tested to prove it contains what it says.
Important Vitamin Timing Information
Vitamins are often fat or water soluble. I didn’t pay much attention to this until I realized that the curcumin I so adored for fighting inflammation was only semi-working because I was taking it on a empty stomach and it actually needed fat to really get in to my body!
Don’t waste your running vitamins! Use this chart to get the most from timing.
Healthspan did a ton of great research to create many of the graphics provided throughout this post that include important details on timing!
Now that you know all about your sad veggies and what vitamins do, it’s time to make a choice. How are you going to support your mind and body to keep pushing forward?
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