As a runner and dietitian, we are always asked about the best supplements for runners. Below, we have broken down the top five supplements I recommend for runners. It is important to remember that supplements are there to supplement a good diet. If your diet is poor, supplements won’t magically fix that. Be certain you are including supplement routines to properly plan your meals!
This is a big one for runners. Iron is lost through sweat, pounding of the feet (breaks small blood capillaries that release iron), and during female menstrual cycles. Females are most susceptible to low iron because of their menstrual cycles. Low iron levels are one of the leading causes of poor performance in runners. Low iron can lead to chronic fatigue, tiredness, and poor recovery. Before supplementation, I would recommend getting an iron test in which a doctor can see your levels and how much iron to recommend. Some high-iron foods you can include in your diet would be red meat, liver and organ meat, spinach, legumes, and shellfish.
This has been a popular supplement for a while now. Your body breaks down beetroot into nitric oxide, a neurotransmitter that is important for nerve signaling and blood vessel dilatation. Both can help improve performance, but specifically, blood vessel dilatation helps improve the running economy by making it easier for you to get blood to your working muscles. You can take beetroot before your run or throughout the day.
Vitamin D is the most prevalent nutrient deficiency among adults. According to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, more than three-quarters of adults are Vitamin D deficient. Furthermore, a study at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas found that 75 percent of runners averaging 20 miles a week have low vitamin D levels. This is another nutrient I would recommend getting checked. From there you can include more things like dairy products and sunshine to naturally help your levels. A supplement can help year-round when the sun doesn’t shine as much and when we don’t get enough dairy products.
Believe it or not, endurance athletes need a lot of protein! A lot of calories get burned and muscle gets torn down during all the running. This can result in the loss of muscle over time, which has no positive health benefit. I recommend eating close to 1 gram per pound of body weight for a runner. So, if you are 150 lbs that means 150 grams of protein. To do this through food only can be difficult for the individual. This is when we would look into protein powder! Getting enough protein will help with muscle preservation and muscle recovery! This translates into better workouts and more fitness gained.
This is a great one for anybody who doesn’t eat 1-2 servings of fatty fish like salmon a week. Taking daily fish oil supplements can reduce muscle soreness, stiffness, and swelling and can improve range of motion, according to a study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Also, Omega 3 fatty acids in fish oils protect your muscle cells from inflammation!
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