While getting your training in is very important for runners, getting your nutrition on track is too. A healthy and balanced diet should be the cornerstone for your nutrition. However, there are certain supplements that are worth taking. Not because you then can neglegt your diet, but to get even better results.
I’ve been taking these 5 supplements for a long time now nearly every day, and I really find them worth the money. For most of them, there are different alternatives in different price ranges.
Disclaimer: I have not been paid for by the brands that I list. Instead I pay for them with my own money, which sometimes is a lot. So you can be sure, that I will write an honest review.
A basic multivitamin should make sure that you get all of the important nutrients. It should not be an excuse to binge on junk foods every day. Most of your daily vitamin intake should come from fruits and vegetables anyway. A multivitamin should just be the insurance policy, that you are not missing out on anything, in case you are having a stressful day and your nutrition is not 100% perfect.
I generally take a multivitamin by a brand called Orthomol (either the Sport or Immune version). It is really good nutrition wise, however it is quite expensive and the little bottles create a lot of waste.
2) Fish Oil
Fish Oil has a lot of benefits for the body. It contains essential omega 3 fatty acids thst your body can’t produce but has to take in. It also anti-inflammatory properties and boosts the immune system. I use the cod liver oil with glucosamine sulfate from Boots. Glucosamine is naturally found in the cartilages of the joints. It is one of the best supplements for joint health, and as a runner healthy joints are absolutely essential.
The advantage is that it is quite cheap, but only available in the UK.
3) Amino Acids
Amino acids are chemical molecules that form various important things in our bodies, for example our DNA, neurotransmitters in our brain, but for runners most importantly the protein our muscles. There are various types of amino acids important for our muscles, like essential and non essential amino acids, as well as branched chain amino acids. We need to take in protein to build our muscles, but also to repair the damage we are doing to them when we run. While protein should generally come from a healthy and balanced diet, taking in amino acid supplements can help with muscle repair and recovery.
How do I consume my amino acids? I either make myself a protein shake, that contains a good amino acid profile like whey protein, or I take BCAAs or Glutamine directly. One of my favorites is actually the Foodspring Energy and Recovery aminos.
4) Proteolytic enzymes
Enzyms are molecules that accelerate chemical reactions. There are more than 50,000 different types of enzymes in your body. For example they are essential for breaking down proteins, fats and starches during digestion.
Proteolytic enzymes are the ones that break down proteins. While it has been known that taking these enzymes can help with digestion it was also discovered that they can help against inflammation. This is because enzymes are also important for breaking down inflammatory proteins. The difference is, that to help with digestion you need to take the enzymes with the food, whereas to fight inflammation you have to take them on an empty stomach. This ensures that the enzymes pass the stomach quickly without being destroyed by the stomach acid and actually reach the intestines.
The advantages of enzyme supplements are that they can help fight off inflammation more naturally and long term compared to conventional drugs like ibuprofen. They also work as a blood thinner which helps to prevent blood clots.
I take a German supplement called Wobenzym that contains Bromelain and Trypsin. I have experienced great results with it while treating injuries and joint pain. But it is very expensive and also not vegan. And it also causes more and bigger bruises because of the blood thinning properties. (Which you only notice if you are a pole dacer or obstacle course racer like me)
Your intestines are full of important and friendly bacteria that help with digestion and are important for our immune system. An imbalance in these bacteria can weaken your immune system and can be the rood for various illnesses, like diarrhea or a yeast infection. Probiotics are basically friendly bacteria that you consume to help (re)populate you gut flora.
So whenever I need to boost my natural gut army, like before an obstacle race (hello to swallowing muddy water), a trip to an exotic holiday destination, or after I’ve taken antibiotics, I take a probiotic supplement.
Currently I take the ones from Omnibiotic.
6) Other supplements that I do or do not take
There are also other supplements that I take not because I run or work out, but because I need them. I would not recommend them for everyone. However I would recommend to get a blood check done regularly to identify individual needs.
Additional supplements I take or that I recommend:
- Iron because I suffer from iron deficiency
- Vitamin D because I try to stay away from the sun and use high levels of SPF and therefore am vitamin D deficient.
- Folic Acid for women that want to conceive. You can read more about the reasons why in this blogpost.
Supplements I don’t take (because they did not work for me or I did not see any effects)
Creatine, Magnesium, L-Carnitine, Beets, Ashwaganda, Adaptogenic Herbs etc.
7) Timing of supplements
You need to make sure that you take your supplements at the right time and with or without the right foods to ensure proper absorbtion. Here are some rules I learnt:
- Multivitamins with vitamin rich foods
- Iron with Vitamin C
- Fat soluble vitamins A, D, E with fat
- Proteins with Carbs (1:4 ratio)
- Proteolytic enzymes (for digestion) with food
- Iron with coffee
- Coffee with calcium (milk)
- Proteolytic enzymes (for inflammation) with food
Do you have other great supplements that you use? Let me know in the comments below.