Training, mileage, targeted workouts, and rest are important as you chase your running goals. And, at some point, you are going to realize that nutrition is also important. How you fuel your body with macro and micro nutrients will also help you achieve your running goals.
The best source of nutrients is to eat a healthy, balanced diet of real food. Whether you are vegan, keto, paleo, organic, or whatever --- the best way to get the nutrients your body needs is from a healthy and balanced diet.
However, life is complicated and hard. It is not always easy to eat and cook healthy foods everyday. If you can, great! You probably are not reading this article. But, if you are like most people, it is hard to eat perfectly everyday. And, even if you are eating perfectly, there is a good chance you are eating the same type of meal everyday because it becomes familiar, habitual, and easy. We can fall into routines with our eating habits just like we do with running. The result is a diet that may consist of healthy foods, but lacks overall nutrient diversity.
Finally, runners are different from more typical adults that are less active. Runners expend more daily calories, sweat away more nutrients, and work their joints and muscles harder.
Running supplements can help add balance, ease, and flexibility to your running routine.
There are endless options of supplements for runners in the market. To help get your started, below is a list of the top supplements runners should consider.
Whole Foods Multivitamin
If you could only take one running supplement, take a Whole Food Multivitamin.
A good multivitamin contains key vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients. You may only be deficient in a few nutrients, but a multivitamin removes the guesswork by providing some of all.
Multivitamins come in different formats including tablets and gummies. Find which you prefer and make it a part of your daily routine.
Consider taking a Whole Food Multivitamin, which contains a blend of fruits & vegetables along with the vitamins and minerals. A whole food multivitamin will add food diversity to your diet and help the absorption of the vitamins by mimicking absorption as if eating whole foods.
Omega-3 Fish Oil
Numerous scientific studies support the use of Omega-3 Fish Oil to help heart health . Alternatively, a diet with three servings of fish per week provides the same benefit as daily Omega-3 supplementation --- but most people prefer not (or are not able) to eat three servings of fish per week. An Omega-3 Fish Oil supplement becomes a reasonable alternative.
Omega-3’s have an additional benefit for runners as a more natural method to counter inflammation in muscles and joints. Many runners use ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and soreness. However, due to the side effect profile of these drugs, there has been increased interest in finding more natural alternatives. Similar to ibuprofen, omega-3s counter the production of inflammatory substances by the creation of the natural anti-inflammatory prostaglandin E3, thus reducing the body's level of tissue and muscle inflammation.
Consider taking an Omega-3 supplement that is enteric coated, which encapsulates the fish oil and helps prevent fishy “burps”. Pay attention to the percentage of EPA and DHA in the supplement as a fraction of the total fish oil. EPA and DHA are the key Omega-3s you want in Fish Oil --- the remaining is “filler” and less active.
To maintain quality of life, adults need to take care of their joints, which typically involves staying active and maintaining a healthy weight. Runners must also take care of their joints, especially because of the increased demand for their activity.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin are two of the most studied and beneficial joint supplements. Both of these compounds are naturally produced by the body to develop cartilage that helps support joint health. As you age, the body naturally produces less Glucosamine and Chondroitin. The wearing away of cartilage begins to lead to joint pain and arthritis.
Runners could benefit from adding a joint supplement to their routine in order to help create cartilage to protect joints.
One of the most common vitamin deficiencies among adults is Vitamin D, especially if you live in mid- to northern latitudes of the country. Vitamin D is produced when sunlight interacts with your skin (7-dehydrocholestero molecule) -- very little is derived from dietary sources. Only a few foods contain sufficient Vitamin D, including salmon, tuna, sardines, and some mushrooms.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium to grow and repair bones. Without sufficient Vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen. Vitamin D can also help to reduce muscle inflammation.
For runners, Vitamin D deficiency can become more relevant because schedules often necessitate early, late night, or indoor training sessions where sunlight is low or unavailable. Seasonal variations in sunlight (e.g. winter) can also affect the amount of Vitamin D the body naturally creates.
Vitamin B12 – Special consideration for plant based runners
One last recommendation for runners that strictly follow a plant-based diet: consider supplementing with Vitamin B12 (even in addition to a good multivitamin).
Vitamin B12 is needed to produce red blood cells, which help carry oxygen throughout the body. This benefit is obviously important to runners, but also to less active adults to prevent anemia.
Vitamin B12 is obtained from red meat, fish, and eggs, to name a few foods. Unfortunately, there are not many vegan-compliant foods that contain biologically active and adequate amounts of Vitamin B12 --- with the exception of fortified cereals, plant milks, and nutritional yeast.
Supplementation with Vitamin B12 can help balance out any potential deficiencies.
Stay healthy and keep running. Best wishes chasing your running goals!