Top 9 Supplements For Runners
Running, like any sport, can put a lot of pressure on you and your body. Our bodies require energy all the time. Therefore, runners need to make sure that they take the proper nutrients.
However, there are many supplements on the market that claim that they enhance performance. So, the question now is what supplements are the best for runners. Also, some runners wonder how to choose the best supplement for preparing for long races, recovery to get ready for the next race, or increasing their endurance during running.
Do Runners Even Need Supplements?
No, runners do not need supplements. It is possible to get the daily intake of any supplement’s ingredients through diet. However, they become necessary if you do not get enough of certain requirements through your diet.
Notice that most runners do not eat well all the time due to many factors including stress, family, work, and training. Their diets usually are low in many vitamins, minerals, and important micro and macronutrients that can improve their performance significantly.
Here is a list of the highly recommended supplements for runners.
What Are Electrolytes?
Electrolyte means any particles that carry a positive or negative electric charge (1) When it comes to nutrition, electrolytes refer to the essential elements that are usually found in our cells, blood, sweat, urine, and other body parts and fluids.
Once these minerals dissolve in any fluid, they create electrolytes, which are essential for many metabolic and bodily processes including proper nerve and muscle function, maintaining the body’s pH levels, and hydration. (2, 3, 4, 5)
The most important electrolytes found in our bodies include:
- Sodium (Na)
- Potassium (K)
- Chloride (Cl)
- Calcium (C)
- Magnesium (Mg)
- Bicarbonate (HCO3)
Why Do Runners Need Electrolytes?
One of the main concerns for runners is that they lose many electrolytes via sweat. Sodium and potassium in particular play a crucial role in maintaining the body’s water balance during running and exercises. Maintaining the right balance of these electrolytes allows the cells, especially muscle cells, to retain the necessary water amount.
During running, the body loses many electrolytes via sweating, especially sodium, which is why sweating tastes salty.
In short races, electrolyte loss is not a serious problem, even in hot weather. However, in long races, electrolyte loss can impair performance.
Even if the runner tries to stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water, failing to meet the body’s electrolyte requirements can disturb the electrolyte balance in the blood. The most common symptoms of electrolyte imbalance include muscle cramps, muscle weakness, and fatigue.
What is even worse, drinking a lot of water on long races on a hot day can lead to a condition called hyponatremia, which means too low levels of sodium in the blood.
Therefore, it is essential to keep your electrolytes balances for your performance and general health.
Taking electrolyte supplements can ensure the proper performance, hydration, and energy levels.
Dragon Fuel Amino Acids & Electrolyte by Red Dragon Nutritionals is highly recommended for runners. It contains 950 mg Electrolyte Complex to help your body maintain electrolyte balance and refuel during both short and long races.
- BCAAS (Branched-Chain Amino Acids)
What Are BCAAS?
The proteins in our human bodies are formed by 20 different amino acids. 9 of the 20 amino acids are essential amino acids that must be obtained through diet because our bodies cannot make them. 3 of the 9 essential amino acids are branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs, which are leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
They are called branched-chain due to their unique chemical structure. Also, they are usually found in protein-rich foods such as eggs and meat. Besides, they are sold as dietary supplements in powder forms mostly.
Why Do Runners Need BCAAS?
- Enhance Muscle Growth
One of the most common causes of using BCAAS is that they enhance muscle growth. Leucine in particular is responsible for activating a pathway that stimulates muscle protein synthesis, which is essential for making muscles. (6, 7)
A study was done on people who consumed a 5.6 grams BCAAs drink after a resistance workout. The researchers found a 22% more increase in their muscle protein synthesis, compared to a placebo drink. (8)
Runners need to increase their muscle growth, especially in their legs to be able to run longer distances.
- Decrease Muscle Soreness
Some studies suggest that BCAAs can enhance muscle recovery and decrease muscle soreness after working out and running. Muscle soreness is common among runners and it is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). It usually begins 12 to 24 hours after running and can last up to 72 hours. (9)
BCAAs decrease muscle damage, which reduces the severity and length of DOMS.
BCAAs have been shown to decrease muscle damage, which may help reduce the length and severity of DOMS.
A study was done on people who consumed BCAAs before a squat exercise, which is essential for runners, found a reduction in DOMS and muscle exhaustion, compared to a placebo group. (14)
- Reduce Running Fatigue
BCAAs can decrease exercise-induced fatigue.
While exercising, fatigue and exhaustion are expected. This fatigue depends on many factors such as exercise intensity and duration, nutrition, fitness level, and environmental conditions. (17)
While running or exercising, your muscles consume BCAAS, which decreases their levels in the blood. In the meanwhile, the levels of another essential amino acid, tryptophan, increases in the brain. (18)
- Prevent Muscle Wasting or Breakdown
BCAAs can reduce the risk of muscle wasting or breakdown for runners.
The breakdown and synthesis processes of muscle proteins are constant. The amount of muscle proteins is determined by the balance between the breakdown and synthesis processes. (26)
Muscle wasting happens when the breakdown process exceeds the synthesis process. It is one of the most common signs of malnutrition. It can also occur with other conditions such as chronic infections, long fasting periods, and aging. (27)
In our bodies, BCAAs represent 35% of the essential amino acids found in our muscle proteins and 40% of the total amino acids needed by our bodies. (28)
Therefore, BCAAs and other essential amino acids must be taken regularly, especially for high-risk athletes who can experience muscle wasting such as runners if they did not meet their bodies’ requirements of amino acids.
Many studies show that BCAA supplements can inhibit muscle protein breakdown and improve the quality of life and health results for many people, especially athletes, the elderly, and patients with wasting diseases such as cancers. (29, 30, 31)
- Ghost BCAA
Ghost BCAA is one of the best and most recommended BCAA supplements on the market. It can be taken during workouts, intense training sessions, and even around the clock as an alternative to sports drinks and juices.
It provides the body with 3500 mg of leucine, 1750 mg of isoleucine, and 1750 mg of valine per scoop, which is more than enough to help you build your muscles and run like a machine. Also, Astragin improves the ability of the body to absorb amino acids, proteins, and glucose to make sure that you will get the best of every Ghost BCAA scoop.
- Xtend Original BCAA
Runners who are looking for a supplement to enhance their recovery should consider Xtend Original BCAA. It includes 7 grams of BCAAs to enhance muscle growth and recovery in addition to hydrating electrolytes and other performance ingredients to help runners and other athletes refuel and recover faster.
- Amino Switch BCAA & EAA Recovery Matrix
Amino Switch is highly recommended for vegan runners since it is a highly absorbed, vegan-friendly, lactose and dairy-free, essential amino acid supplement.
This supplement provides the body with the 9 essential amino acids, not just the 3 branched-chain amino acids. It is well-designed to contain all the essential amino acids in the most perfect ratios.
Also, it is loaded with other incredible ingredients such as balanced electrolytes and vitamins to support all the body’s systems during running and working out.
- EHP Labs BEYOND BCAA+EAA INTRA-WORKOUT
The reinvented BEYOND BCAA + EAA is another potent supplement that is designed perfectly to boost athletic performance and enhance recovery. It contains all essential amino acids in addition to a great blend of ingredients that make it one of the best supplements for runners and athletes on the market.
Runners who want to train harder, increase their recovery, hydration, and performance should try this supplement.
- Protein Powders
What Are Protein Powders?
Protein powders are concentrated proteins either from animal or plant sources such as dairy, eggs, or rice.
The most common forms of protein powders include:
- Protein Concentrates: They are produced by extracting proteins from whole foods. The extraction process is usually done using heat and acids or certain enzymes. Protein concentrates usually provide the body with 60 to 80% proteins and 20 to 40% fats and carbs.
- Proteins Isolates: These are more concentrated forms of protein powders. While making them, an extra filtering process is used to remove more fat and carbs. They provide the body with 90 to 95% of proteins and 5 to 10% of fats and carbs.
- Protein Hydrolysates: These protein powders are absorbed faster by the body and muscles. During making them, more heating with acids or enzymes is used to break the bonds between amino acids.
Protein hydrolysates increase insulin levels more than other protein powders, especially whey protein, which enhances muscle growth after exercise. (31)
Besides, some protein powders are fortified with vitamins, minerals, and trace elements, especially calcium.
Why Do Runners Need Protein Powders?
As a cardiovascular exercise, runners, especially professional athletes who participate in marathons and various runs, must keep their bodies fueled with the necessary nutrients to be able to run well.
One of the most reasons why some runners cannot complete the predetermined distance is the failure of eating well. They usually eat too close to the race, forget to eat at all or choose the wrong food items.
Also, most runners focus on fueling their bodies before the runs and forget about refueling their bodies after the runs to help their muscles recover.
Before running, your body needs energy; that is why you should focus on eating carbs. After running, your body needs proteins to start muscle recovery and increase muscle strength.
Therefore, the best time to consume protein powders is after the run to help your body recover and start rebuilding your exhausted muscles. If consumed before the run, protein powders may make you feel heavier than usual.
Running is hard on the muscles. Protein powders are usually absorbed fast, which helps your muscles recover quicker, which is very beneficial for runners’ exercises and marathons.
Also, a stable nitrogen base is important for healthy muscle growth. Protein powders help with that. Runners who take whey protein powders usually notice that their muscles are not sore as they used to be and that their energy levels remain high.
Also, protein powders help runners to stay in shape since they provide the body with high protein but low carbs and calories. They prevent runners from overeating and suppress appetite significantly. (32, 33, 34, 35)
- Rule 1 Whey Protein Blend Protein Powder
Rule 1 Whey Protein Blend Protein Powder is a rapidly digesting, complete protein, low in lactose, and easy to digest. It is formulated of high-quality whey protein from different sources and designed perfectly to provide all athletes including runners with all their requirements.
It is highly recommended to take it after workouts or runs. Also, it is available in many flavors for all tastes.
- Rule 1 Isolate Protein Powder
Rule 1 Isolate Protein Powder is the perfect combination between whey protein isolate and whey protein hydrolysate with added BCAA and glutamine. It is the perfect way for ultimate recovery and muscle repair after running or exercise.
This protein powder is well-formulated. The manufacturers sourced the finest and purest raw materials and all the proteins used are instantized to ensure that they will mix easily, even when cold liquids are used. It does not contain any fat, carbs, or cholesterol, which makes it one of the purest premium isolated products on the market.
With virtually no fat, carbs, or cholesterol – and ZERO added creamers or gums that other protein products tend to use as thickeners – you’re getting one of the purest premium isolated products on the market.
- Rule 1 Casein Protein Powder
Rule 1 Casein Protein Powder is the perfect bedtime supplement for overnight muscle recovery. With 25 grams of protein per serving, this supplement will support muscular development and recovery. It is also rich in BCAAs to boost your energy, metabolism, and recovery.
- CMBT Reload Wholefood Protein Powder
CMBT Reload Wholefood Protein Powder is designed for people who want the highest quality, highly absorbed, and bioavailable, low-calorie protein powder that also contains additional ingredients to help reduce inflammation post-training, assists gut health, cognitive performance, and electrolytes for hydration.
It is trusted by the best athletes in the world since it includes everything the body needs to recover as fast as possible.
- EHP Labs Oxywhey Lean Protein Powder
EHP Labs Oxywhey Lean Protein Powder is one of the best, most innovative, science-based protein powders that is made from 100% pure, lean, non-GMO whey protein.
It contains the super-probiotic, L. Rhamnosus to promote gut health and microbiome balance, skin health, immunity, and decreased inflammation and chromium picolinate to assist with appetite control along with helping to curb sweet cravings.
Also, it contains B vitamins and minerals to boost your body’s functions.
This protein powder is used by many athletes and runners because it prevents lactic acid build-up due to exercise and helps in building more muscles.
What Is Magnesium?
Magnesium is an essential mineral in our bodies. It participates in more than 300 enzyme reactions in our bodies and has many functions including helping with muscle and nerve functions.
The adult body contains about 25 grams of magnesium. 50 to 60% of it is stored in the skeletal system and the rest is found in muscles, soft tissues, and body fluids. (36)
Magnesium deficiency is common and has many negative health effects including muscle spasms and low athletic performance.
Why Do Runners Need Magnesium?
Magnesium is essential for energy production, bone health, and muscle recovery. Besides, it protects the body from oxidative damage, which increases due to the high level of energy produced during running.
Also, magnesium prevents mental stress and works as a smooth-muscle relaxant.
Adequate magnesium intake and optimal magnesium levels can reduce fatigue, maintain normal blood pressure, and protect your body’s chemical structure. Also, for runners, it reduces the accumulation of lactic acid during exercises and races.
If you are always exhausted and have muscle spasms and cramps along with other symptoms, you might have a magnesium deficiency. Chronic magnesium deficiency can lead to many health issues including osteoporosis and poor athletic performance.
Adrenal Switch Adrenal Control Formula is the most popular supplement for people looking for reaching optimal magnesium levels. Its blend of ingredients includes standardized Ashwagandha, bio-available Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin B6, Naturally Occurring L-Theanine, L-Leucine, and L-Glycine to help support your nutrient recovery.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are a family of polyunsaturated fats that must be obtained through diet. They are essential fatty acids since our bodies cannot produce them, yet they are important for our health.
There are many types of omega-3 fatty acids. The most important types are EPA, DHA, and ALA.
Why Do Runners Need Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
EPA and DHA are required for maintaining normal brain and heart functions. These types of fatty acids are great for runners because they have anti-inflammatory properties.
Omega-3 fatty acids prevent and reduce the production of molecules and many substances that are linked to inflammation including inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines. (37, 38)
Many studies show that there is a direct connection between high omega-3 intake and preventing inflammation. (39, 40, 41)
Besides, they can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and enhance blood flow to the muscles during and after running. (42)
Emarld Labs- Fish Oils supplement is packed with omega-3 fatty acids to enhance your overall health. Fish oil has many health benefits including heart and brain health in addition to boosting athletic performance for runners. The supplement has sourced the purest form of omega-3 fatty acids to help you get the maximum benefits.
What Is L-Glutamine?
L-Glutamine is one of 20 different essential and non-essential amino acids that synthesize proteins. It is a non-essential amino acid, which means that our bodies can synthesize it under normal circumstances. However, runners and athletes should consume more.
Why Do Runners Need L-Glutamine?
L-glutamine plays a role as a building block of protein. Many studies have shown that l-glutamine supplements improve muscle gain and athletic performance.
A study was done on 31 bodybuilders who received either glutamine or a placebo for 6 weeks. Researchers found that there was no difference in muscle gain between the two groups. On the other hand, they found that glutamine can reduce muscle soreness and improve muscle recovery after intense exercises. (43, 44, 45, 46)
Another study found that glutamine alone or glutamine and carbohydrates can reduce fatigue blood markers significantly during and after running for 2 hours. (47)
It is uncommon to suffer from low glutamine levels. Yet, it is recommended for runners to enhance muscle recovery.
- Switch Nutrition Glutamine
Switch Nutrition Glutamine will provide you with your body’s needs of glutamine, which becomes essential under certain conditions such as stress or trauma. This supplement will support your immunity and gut health, enhance your muscle recovery, and boost your lean muscle gain.
- Rule 1 Glutamine
Rule 1 Glutamine is designed to support post-workout muscle soreness. After running or working out, your muscles need more glutamine to recover faster. Besides, it prevents muscles breakdown.
- APS Glutamine 500g
APS Glutamine is one of the best glutamine supplements for athletes, especially runners and bodybuilders. It enhances muscle growth and strength by boosting protein synthesis and speeding up recovery after long runs and intense workouts. In addition, it promotes nitrogen retention & muscle cell volumizing, optimizes glucose & insulin function, and improves immune system function.
- Acetyl L-Carnitine
What Is Acetyl L-Carnitine?
L-carnitine is an important nutrient and dietary supplement that plays a crucial role in energy production since it is responsible for transporting fatty acids into the mitochondria of the cells. (51, 52, 53)
Acetyl-L-carnitine, which is often called ALCAR, is made from L-carnitine in our bodies and is considered the most effective form of l-carnitine type for our brains. They are both used to turn fat into energy.
Acetyl-L-carnitine is essential for many processes in the body including energy production.
Why Do Runners Need Acetyl L-Carnitine?
The benefits of Acetyl L-Carnitine are usually indirect and take a longer time to appear, unlike caffeine or creatine supplements’ benefits that are usually direct and boost sports performance immediately. However, Acetyl L-Carnitine benefits last more than other supplements.
The benefits for runners include improving muscle recovery and increasing oxygen supply to the muscles. (57, 58, 59) Besides, it increases blood flow and nitric oxide production, which reduce muscle fatigue and reduce muscle soreness after long runs or exercises. (60, 61)
In addition, it can increase RBCs production, which are responsible for transporting oxygen to the body tissues including muscles. (62, 63)
- Switch Acetyl L-Carnitine 100 serve
Switch Acetyl L-Carnitine is one of the best additions to runners’ supplements. It supports the transport of fatty acids, increases energy, supports mental health, improves stamina, and reduces muscle soreness.
- ALCAR (L- Carnitine) 60 Capsules
ALCAR (L- Carnitine) supplement by Emrald Labs is usually marketed as a weight-loss supplement that can burn any extra fat you have in your body. In addition to weight loss, this supplement can improve your mood and focus, help the mitochondria in your muscle cells to burn more fat, increase mental energy, strength, and endurance, build muscles, and reduce fatigue.
What Is Calcium?
Calcium is an important nutrient for humans and it is essential for a lot of bodily functions, especially bone health.
99% of the calcium in our bodies is stored in our bones and teeth. Therefore, it is vital for building and maintaining strong bones. Besides, it is necessary for the proper communication between the brain and other body parts, cardiovascular health and function, and muscle movement. (64)
Why Do Runners Need Calcium?
Runners must have strong bones and calcium is necessary for the proper development, growth, and maintenance of bones.
Runners usually deal with problems such as stress fractures, knee problems, and many other injuries, which are caused by bones in the first place.
If you do not get enough calcium, your bones will start losing it to compensate for this loss in your bloodstream.
Also, calcium is essential for the regulation of muscle contractions. When the muscle is stimulated by nerves, your body releases calcium to help muscle proteins contract properly.
If your muscles do not have enough calcium, your muscles will not contract properly.
Our bodies do not produce calcium. That is why it is important to get enough calcium from food and supplements.
Herbs Of Gold Vitamin D3 is one of the essential supplements for bone health since Vitamin D is vital to the absorption of calcium and phosphorus which play a very vital role in body density/strength.
Vitamin D increases calcium absorption to increase its utilization and maximize the effects and benefits.
Getting adequate amounts of vitamin D improves the general sense of well-being, bone density, and strength for runners.
Symptoms of low levels of vitamin D and/or calcium include fatigue, bone/muscle weakness, and stress fractures.
What Are Multi-Vitamins?
Multivitamins are supplements containing different vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and other ingredients. It is the perfect way to provide your body with all elements it needs and maybe lacking in your diet. (65)
The ingredients of multivitamins vary according to the brand. However, they usually contain water-soluble vitamins vitamin B and C, fat-soluble vitamins A, E D, and K, and minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and iron.
Also, they are available in many forms such as capsules, tablets, powders, and liquids.
Why Do Runners Need Multi-Vitamins?
Athletes and runners need more nutrients than other people. Most of them take multivitamins as a form of nutritional insurance to make sure that they meet all their bodies ’ requirements.
- Emrald Labs- Multivitamin Gummies
Emrald Labs Multivitamin Gummies are packed with essential nutrients to help support your health and well-being. They can improve memory and mood, support a healthy immune system, and increased energy. These gummies contain a full range of B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin D3, vitamin E, vitamin K, iodine, zinc, and selenium.
Gummies are easier to take, especially for people who have trouble swallowing tablets, and are easily absorbed than vitamins in tablets.
- Women's Multi +
Women’s Multi + is a one-a-day, vegan-friendly multivitamin containing 25 important vitamins and minerals, plus herbs to support women’s health. It contains the active form of folate (methylfolate) and vitamin B12 (co-methylcobalamin) to maintain brain health and function, and support cognitive function and memory, B vitamins to support energy production, assist sugar metabolism and maintain nervous system health, vitamins C & E and zinc, key nutrients to support skin health, collagen formation, connective tissue health and wound healing.
Also, it contains iodine and selenium, minerals to support healthy thyroid function, vitamin D to support bone health, and chromium to assist sugar metabolism.
It is one of the best multivitamins for women.
- Men's Multi
Men’s Multi contains nearly the same ingredients as Women’s Multi +. It provides the same general benefits in addition to supporting sperm motility and health and increasing muscle strength and functions.
The Bottom Line
Nutrition is as important as a suitable training plan for runners. Most runners get everything they need from having a healthy balanced diet. Yet, supplements can provide more benefits and help them to reach their fitness goals faster. If you are not using any supplements, perhaps it is time to consider adding a supplement or two to your diet plan!