As with any athletic pursuit, a solid foundational diet is a must! A solid foundation in nutrition provides you with the building blocks you need to support both short- and long-distance runs. Consuming a diet with adequate calories and varied carbohydrates, protein, fats and colorful fruits and vegetables supplies the energy and micronutrients needed for overall well-being and pushing your limits.
But did you know there are certain supplements that can give your runs an edge? Whether you’re going out for low-impact jogs, trail runs or marathons, supplements might help “fill the gaps” in your diet. Additionally, ergogenic aids, or performance-enhancement supplements, may also support your performance goals.
General supplements to consider
As a busy athlete, dedicating enough time to nutrition may be difficult. . What’s more, you may struggle to add diversity into your daily diet. Multivitamins are often recommended to athletes because they can help fill this gap. You may also consider a greens powder, which is an easy way to increase your daily micronutrients! Gnarly Performance Greens acts as a powdered-multivitamin and is a viable option since it contains zero proprietary blends, meaning what is listed on the nutrition panel and ingredients list is exactly what is in the bag.
Iron is an important mineral required for hemoglobin and myoglobin production, which carry oxygen to the body. The incidence of iron deficiency in the running community is increasing and affects both male and female athletes.1 Runners should routinely consult their doctors to monitor iron levels, especially if you run long distances, menstruate and/or consume a plant-based diet. If warranted, an iron supplement can help bring iron levels back up to normal and improve energy levels.
Vitamin D has several important functions for athletes, including maintaining bone health, cardiovascular function, mood support, anti-inflammation, immunity and more. The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is increasing in the general public and athletic populations, which suggests many athletes may benefit from its supplementation.2,3 Supplementing with vitamin D can also help prevent skeletal injuries incurred by intensive running bouts.4 Consult your doctor to assess your levels, and consider a supplement that provides bioavailable vitamin D3, such as Gnarly Baseline Vitamin D3.
Although magnesium deficiency is rare, many people don’t meet their daily recommended intake. But magnesium is important because it is a mineral required for 300+ reactions in the body, including those involved in regulating blood pressure, bone health and muscle function. As you increase training, you may consider taking a magnesium supplement, such as Gnarly Baseline MG Citrate.
Electrolytes are a valuable asset to runners, especially those who sweat a lot during training and/or long exercise bouts. When you sweat, you lose electrolytes. But electrolytes are essential for our nervous system, muscle function and for maintaining an optimal environment for our cells. Gnarly Hydrate can be added to water during your training sessions to maintain electrolyte status. If you’re looking for an additional performance edge, Gnarly Fuel2O contains electrolytes along with carbohydrates, which supplies your workout with more energy, and HMB, which sets your body up for recovery even while you’re still on the move.
Protein supplements are undeniably helpful for many athletes, especially those engaged in training.5 In order to meet a protein threshold that meets the needs of athletes in training, protein powders, like Gnarly Whey or Vegan, can be added to your supplement regimen.
Supplement for speed / short-distance runners
Creatine is generally used by power and strength athletes due to its effect on increasing creatine stores in muscles. However, intermittent sprinting may also benefit from creatine supplementation, likely due to enhanced training adaptations and high-intensity exercise capacity.6
Supplements for endurance / long-distance runners
Pre-workout that contains caffeine has been shown to enhance endurance exercise.7 Caffeine increases focus and reduces perception of pain, thereby improving performance.1 Additionally, ingredients, such as beta alanine and BCAAs support performance by acting as a pH buffer and reducing muscle soreness, respectively.8,9
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are also useful for endurance athletes. When consumed prior to exercise, BCAAs minimize muscle damage and prevent muscle glycogen depletion.10 This indicates that BCAAs may help improve performance while reducing muscle soreness.
Should all runners take supplements?
It depends, but many runners can benefit from supplements for both health or performance enhancement aids. However, younger athletes should avoid products with caffeine due to its impacts on growth and development.11 Older athletes would especially benefit from supplements, as micronutrients are often mal-absorbed as we age.
Consult your doctor before trying new supplements, especially if you are taking a prescription medication. Your doctor will be able to guide you in making the best decision for you.
- Coates, A, et al. 2017. Incidence of iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia in elite runners and triathletes. Clin J Sport Med., 27(5), 493-498. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27606953/
- Fishman, MP, et al. 2016. Vitamin D deficiency among professional basketball players. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 4(7). https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2325967116655742
- Close, GL, et al. 2013. The effects of vitamin D3 supplementation on serum total 25[OH]D concentration and physical performance: A randomized dose-response study. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 47(11). https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/47/11/692
- Zebrowska, A, et al. 2020. The effect of vitamin D supplementation on serum total 25(OH) levels and biochemical markers of skeletal muscles in runners. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 17(18). https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-020-00347-8
- Cintineo, HP, et al. 2018. Effects of protein supplementation on performance and recovery in resistance and endurance training. Front. Nutri. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2018.00083
- Kreider, RB, et al. 2017. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(18). https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
- Guest, NS, et al. 2021. International society of sports nutrition position stand: Caffeine and exercise performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 18(1). https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-020-00383-4
- Trexler, ET, et al. 2015. International society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-alanine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12 (30). https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-015-0090-y
- Howatson, G, et al. 2012. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Journal Of The International Society Of Sports Nutrition, 9, 20. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-9-20
- Kim, D.-H., Kim, S.-H., Jeong, W.-S., & Lee, H.-Y. (2013). Effect of BCAA intake during endurance exercises on fatigue substances, muscle damage substances, and energy metabolism substances. Journal Of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry, 17(4), 169–180. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4241904/