A healthy and nutritive diet is an indispensable element for any sportsperson who needs to obtain as much strength to carry out a proper physical performance and to be able to fully recover.
Why do Runners need Supplements?
Physical activity increases our nutrients requirements, which is why we need to provide the necessary amounts of calories, minerals, and vitamins. A lot of times, we are not able to provide our body with what it needs, which is why we need to use sport supplements to:
- Combat fatigue,
- Increase our energy and vitality, and
- Solve nutritional deficiencies in the diet and complete the needs and demands of micronutrients
In other circumstances, the type of diet can condition and produce some type of deficit. For example, we can mention the vegan diet, where the supply of vitamin B12 must be external since the sources that exist come from animals. Another peculiarity would be how to obtain the omega-3 fatty acids, Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). The vegetable sources add the ALA or Alpha-Linoleic Acid, such as chestnuts or linseed, but it is not completely effective when it transformed into EPA and DHA, as it has been shown in this study.
Mind you, I am not going against vegan/vegetarian diets, I am just showing all the aspects that anyone should know if they are planning to follow this type of lifestyle…
The importance and benefits of vitamin B are practically known by everyone, however, it gains more relevance for sportspeople, due to the physical wear, which is why the RDA (Recommended Daily Amounts) may fall short since the measures are designed for the general population (which is obviously sedentary…). In such cases, we can take a multivitamin to solve said deficiencies, and make sure that we are providing a proper supply of micronutrients.
Another factor that should also be taken into account is the amount of proteins that a runner should consume daily. Resistance activities have always been related to the need of having to consume plenty of carbohydrates. This is partly true. Said physical effort will also produce the wear and breakdown of proteins. In this sense, without an optimal recovery we will not be able to assimilate the workout properly and move toward new improvements, and obviously we will not be ready to face a workout session in “good conditions”.
Each sportsperson needs to meet certain nutritional requirements
Which are the Supplements that a Runner should consume?
First, we need to establish our aim as sportspeople, our objective when it comes to running:
- Improve our physical composition
- Keep a good physical shape
- Run just because we like it
- Compete in amateur trials
- Compete at higher levels
No matter which one you choose, we need to keep in mind that we will need certain elements when it comes to improving our athletic capacities, encouraging a better recovery, or just maintaining our health, as long as this activity is not harmful in the long term.
In such case, and according to my own opinion, we are going to make a classification in which we show those supplements that any runner should take depending on the objective and the type of activity
In this sense, there are a series of supplements that are advised for runners, where their use will coincide with the needs of each athlete depending on their objective, such as running as a hobby or a wider goal, such as competing or even prepare and finish a marathon.
Regardless of this situation, any runner, no matter how high or how low their frequency and intensity of workouts is, will need to consider certain important aspects in order to avoid any health problem that result from practising this sport, unlike the general population that tends to be more sedentary.
The purposes will change if you are an amateur runner or if you truly want to devote yourself to competitions
Supplement Guide for Runners
We have already talked about the need of multivitamin supplements for sportspeople, and moreover, we can also understand why we do not need to explain why this happens. This type of product provides a higher amount of essential vitamins and minerals that are necessary to maintain an optimal state of health.
How can Multivitamins help Runners?
Vitamins and minerals supplement perform a simple task: solve the possible nutritional deficiencies of the diet of a runner, because, unlike anyone else who will have less energy and nutritional demands, runners should not ignore this fact both for their wellness as well as for the relation that it has with sport performance.
How to take Multivitamins?
They can be taken as part of the daily diet of a runner. These supplements tend to be taken once a day, along with a meal to favor their absorption. It is advisable to perform a discontinuous use during the intensification phase of the season to prepare for a competition. You can also reduce the servings during the “off-season” or any other part of the season without events nor specific preparation.
This supplement is highly relevant, not only for runners, but also for the rest of the population, due to the fact that we are dealing with essential nutrients (essential fatty acids) that tend to be taken from few sources due to the lifestyle and type of diet. Omega-3 can be found mainly in fatty dish (salmon, tuna, trout, or sword fish). The term “essential” emphasizes the value that it has for the organism and its proper functioning, which allows a series of tasks such as: hormone production, cholesterol and triglycerides regulation, reduction of the inflammation, maintenance of the health of the skin,…
How can Fish Oil/Omega-3 help Runners?
One of its main benefits is the ability to reduce the inflammation. Let’s not forget that this sport discipline has a high impact on the joints, and certain elements of the body can be harmed. It is actually quite normal to experience pain and/or muscle rigidity after a long running session. Omega-3 can reduce or mitigate this type of pain.
How to take Fish Oil/Omega-3?
This supplement corresponds to a nutrient that can be obtain through the diet, but which tends to be scarce. Therefore, we can take it with any meal that we want. There is no need to stop using it at any time of the year. Adding omega-3 fatty acids, specially those with a high EPA content, can help to reduce inflammatory processes, which equals the effectiveness even to medicines like NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
Glucosamine + MSM + Chondroitin
Running is an activity that has a high impact in the joints, which is one of the possible consequences of a continuous wear of the connective tissue and the system that is involved, such as the cartilage or ligaments, that in the worst cases can result in pathologies like osteoarthritis.
Adding elements that can help with the regeneration of the joints, as well as offering support to lubricate the joints, which can counter the harmful consequences of this activity. In this sense, those supplements that have ingredients like Glucosamine, MSM, and/or Chondroitin, will facilitate this task.
How can Glucosamine + MSM + Chondroitin help runners?
A supplement that gathers these ingredients can offer “protection” for the knees of a runner. Like any other type of similar activity, there is a risk related to physical wear. Moreover, running in places that are not adequate for this activity (asphalt…) along with shoes that are not the most appropriate ones, can quickly lead to injuries. Using supplementation as a remedy is the best way to avoid this after solving the former aspects. However, even when all these factors are correct, running will always have an impact on our health. Using Glucosamine supplementation, for example, can help to reduce the pain and the rigidity of the joints.
How to take Glucosamine + MSM + Chondroitin?
When we think about the importance of calcium, both for sportspeople as well as for the general population, we tend to increase the intake of sources of this mineral, however, we do not deepen into another important aspect: its absorption and use by the organism.
It is advisable to consume these two vitamins together, since they do not only work in synergy (once enhances the effect of the other) but we will avoid any related problem. Some of the functions that are carried out by both of them is the preservation of health, the main objective of its supplementation is to support the bone system. Generally speaking:
- Vitamin D3 helps with the absorption of calcium
- Vitamin K2 helps to fix calcium to the bones
Calcium would spread to areas where it is not needed with a vitamin K deficiency, which would lead to the formation of calcifications or even renal problems, like kidney stones. In order to prevent this, we could also add Magnesium to obtain more benefits.
On the other hand, vitamin D3, which acts as a hormone, is synthesized by our organism after being exposed to the sun. So if you do not sunbathe daily you run the risk of suffering a vitamin D deficiency.
How do vitamin D3 and K2 help Runners?
An inadequate intake of calcium encourages bone demineralization, and increases the risk of suffering fractures in case of an accident, apart from mitigating more serious diseases like osteoporosis. Moreover, as it has been previously mentioned, running itself can accelerate the wear and premature deterioration of the joint tissue. This is why, when it comes to strengthening our bone system and reduce the risk of this pathology, the D3 and K2 duo is a must in the supplements arsenal of the athlete (although it can be used by anyone).
How to take vitamin D3 and K2?
Before anything, it is advisable to carry out blood test periodically in order to observe the levels of vitamins in general. With this, we can link the consumption of these supplements to those times of the year when, due to several factors (lack of time, climate…) we run the risk of suffering a deficit. As a general advise, the dose of vitamin D3 moves between 20000-30000IU per week.
The Coenzyme Q10 is a molecule that is produced by our own body, and which is found in each of the cells that make up the tissues of the entire organism. Its main role is to intervene in the production of cell energy. More specifically, it helps during the process of energy production inside the cell, in the mitochondria, apart from participating in the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the necessary molecule to produce the contraction of the muscle. In normal circumstances, following a healthy diet, it would not be necessary to use supplementation, but there are many factors that we should take into account. In this specific case, the use of certain medicines can weaker or lower the levels of this coenzyme inside our organism, which could lead to a deficit.
How can Coenzyme Q10 help Runners?
Q10 supplementation can increase the energy levels of the runner, enhance their energy state. Moreover, this molecule has a series of properties to maintain the optimal state of the functioning of the body and the heart. In this way, it will also benefit all the elements of the cardiovascular system, improve the blood flow, protect the walls of the blood vessels, reduce the accumulation of platelets in the arteries… If we suffer from a continuous state of fatigue, the solution may lie on consuming this supplement.
How to take Coenzyme Q10?
The recommended daily dose of Q10 is around 90-200mg. It is advisable to take it with a meal, since it is absorbed and transported through the lipids.
The main aim of beta alanine supplementation will be to increase the deposits of muscle carnosine, which will improve our endurance or resistance capacity. It is also interesting due to the fact that it can buffer lactate, which will be an excellent tool in certain periods of a race or predefined workouts. It can be taken alone or combined with creatine, which will provide extraordinary results.
How can Beta-Alanine help Runners?
The feeling of an improved performance can be experienced by the runners when they maintain a high intensity for a longer period of time, delaying the accumulated fatigue that is caused by lactate. There is another important benefit related to this substances: an anti-aging effect.
How to take Beta-Alanine?
The recommended daily dose of beta-alanine moves between 2-6g. It is not necessary to take before the workout, you can administer the dose throughout the day. If we use a dose that is higher than 800-1000mg in one sitting, it can lead to paresthesia, even though the effects tend to disappear as we consume the supplement after several days.
Citrulline Malate is a substance made from the combination of the L-Citrulline amino acid and the Malate salt. It is involved in the urea cycle along with L-Arginine and L-Ornithine. In fact, it is transformed into arginine when we consume it, which drastically increases its levels in the organism. This lead to a more effective recycling process of ammonia, along with the metabolism of nitric oxide.
How does Citrulline Malate help Runners?
Citrulline malate will help runners in 3 ways:
- Helps with the resynthesis of ATP, the cell exchange energy that will have to be available to attend the energy demand
- Reduces the toxic metabolic waste products, like the ammonia
- Facilitates the production of nitric oxide to the organism, which will enhance the distribution of nutrients and the oxygenation of muscle tissues
How to take Citrulline Malate?
The most advisable way would be taking 6-8g before beginning the physical activity (45min before).
From my perspective, hydration is the main priority of a runner or any other sportsperson that practices an intense physical activity for a long period of time. In the case of a race, the fact that it is practised “outdoor” is a handicap: heat in the summer and cold in the winter (even though we still sweat during the winter, maybe more than what you think…). In this sense, our body has sophisticated autoregulation mechanisms to reduce the heat and keep the brain refrigerated. This process can lead to a loss of water, apart from other important substances, like mineral salts or electrolytes.
How do Electrolytes help Runners?
The electrolytes are a group of minerals (sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, magnesium) that have an electric charge, and they are necessary for the proper function of the digestive, cardiovascular, muscle, and nervous system. For a runner, maintaining and electrolyte balance will be the key for an optimal performance. As we lose them, either through excessive sweating or by the exercise itself, we will be increasing the chances of suffering cramps or muscle fatigue. Stomach cramps, pain on the sides, or muscle stiffness are some of the symptoms that can occur due to a mineral unbalance, and the most serious cases are: spams and muscle weakness, somnolence, fatigue, nausea, dryness of the mouth, bad breath, stiffness, joint pain, change of color of the urine (darker)…
One of the electrolytes that we tend to lose more is potassium. This allows the exchange of fluids and nutrients through the cell membrane and, therefore, it supports the physiological activities, like muscle contraction. Without enough potassium, the cells of the muscle tissues could not generate the corresponding electric impulse.
How to take Electrolytes?
The electrolytes must be recharged during and/or after a sport session of a certain intensity and duration to facilitate the recovery.
Whey Protein is a Protein obtained from Whey and, in this sense, we can directly speak about “food”. Whey Protein is a source of proteins that provides a series of benefits for athletes, and recovery is one of the most important ones.
How does Whey Protein help Runners?
A runner, like any other sportsperson or athletes, has higher requirements when it comes to maintaining an optimal physiological functioning and health. The protein contributes to the regeneration and repair of tissues, which can accelerate the recovery process. When it comes to purchasing a protein, we have to observe its aminogram, where it generally remarks the amount of BCAAs, Glutamine, and EAAs (Essential Amino Acids). A very good choice is to purchase the Whey Protein Isolate, which is very low in calories, and with traces of fats and lactose.
Runners think that their main source are carbohydrates, which is why they do not consume protein supplements as much as others. But the truth is that they can gain enormous benefits, like in the case of consuming a hydrolyzed protein for a long distance runner.
How to take Whey Protein?
The amount of proteins will depend on the needs of each athlete, therefore, we will need to start measuring our requirements. In general, they tend to advise between 1-3 servings per day, which can coincide with the following moments: breakfast, before and/or after the workout.
Caffeine is a substances that stimulates the brain and the nervous system, which results in a series of physiological effects after its intake, such as an increase of the heartbeat, body temperature, blood pressure… Moreover, it mobilizes the fatty acids so that they are released in the bloodstream, ready to be used as an energy source (saving glucose). If we use it carefully, and saving it for our best workouts or competitions, it can provide a huge help.
How does Caffeine help Runners?
The effects of caffeine on runners can be seen in:
- Energy increase
- Focus and Increase of alertness
- Feeling of euphoria and motivation
- Reduction of the perception of fatigue
This means that its effect will promote an improved performance.
How to take Caffeine?
There are several sources of caffeine, from coffee to tea, including caffeine supplements. Unlike coffee, taking caffeine tablets will avoid a possible stomach discomfort for some people, something that could entail certain complications if it happened during a race. The dose will depend on certain subjective parameters: sensitivity and tolerance, but it can change from 200-600mg daily, but if we one to make a single serving we can adjust it to: 3-6mg per kilo of body weight. You should not consume it regularly and reserve it for certain moments.
Creatine is possibly the supplement that has more scientific evidence that proves its ergogenic effects, which means that it has the ability to improve the performance of sportspeople. It is a substance that is formed by a trio of amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine. Its main task consists on regenerating the energy that is demanded by the pace and intensity of the workout, in this aspect, it can change when it overlaps with one or more energy substrates (fosfagen, glycolitic, or oxidative).
How can Creatine help Runners?
Even though it can be linked to other activities which are more explosive, creatine can also be used for running. On the one hand, it can reduce the Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS, apart from reducing the damage to the muscle and inflammation, which has been tested through markers like kinase creatine, among others. Another mechanism that improves the performance is the fact that it keeps the muscle cells “hyperhydrated”, which allows to reduce thermal and cardiovascular tension during the workout with heat. However, it will not reduce the performance in the sense of running economy in spite of the weight that is gained due to the water retention.
How to take Creatine?
When it comes to taking creatine, we can either carry out a loading phase or take the dose according to the body weight. In the first case, you will perform 4 servings of 5g for consecutive 5-7 days, then you will perform a maintenance dose of 5-10g for 3-4 weeks. Then, we will stop using it for 2 weeks. The other method would be to take 1g of creatine per 10kg of body weight. The best moment to do so would be the post-workout.
Now that you know which are the best supplements, you can add what you see fit, depending on your needs. Now you just have to follow your plan!
Carbohydrates Supplements for Runners
The energy substrates that we will use during the race will depend on its intensity and duration. It will not be the same to do a sprint of 100mts than a marathon. In the first case, we will use the phosphate system or phosphocreatine, due to the fact that we will need the highest intensity and the shortest period of time. On the other hand, for longer distance, the intensity will be obviously lower and, therefore, the alternative use of carbs and fats (aerobic system) will be used.
To this, we can add another variable, and it will be the level of experience and workout of the person, as well as his or her mitochondrial facility and flexibility to be more efficient in the use of these energy systems.
The supply of carbs will be something that will have to be studied in depth in order to maintain our energy reserves or muscle glycogen, at appropriate levels that will allow us to maintain a determined intensity during the planned distance. A very interesting strategy will be to provide these carbs but without producing remarkable changes in the glycemia, which can trigger energy ups and downs.
It does not matter if you train alone or in a group, the aim is always the same, enjoying what you do