The Wavelength

The 10 Best Supplements for Runners: A Comprehensive Guide

If you're a runner, you might wonder which supplements to take to enhance your performance and overall well-being. Whether you run marathons or jog in your neighborhood, there are certain vitamins, minerals, joint support agents, and herbal extracts that may be beneficial. Here is a comprehensive guide to the 10 best supplements for runners, so you can make an informed decision about which ones are right for you.

Runner lacing up

1. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient that may help runners enhance performance, muscle strength and recovery.

One study found that taking 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily contributed to better endurance in 30 healthy adults who ran on a treadmill for a period of two weeks.

Vitamin D may also support optimal blood flow during aerobic exercise. One study showed that people who are deficient in this vitamin may experience reduced athletic performance and increased fatigue during exercise.

Studies have also shown that vitamin D supplementation can help support a healthy inflammation response after exercise, which may help combat that post-run muscle soreness.

Taking vitamin D can also help support bone health and calcium absorption for strong bones.

2. Magnesium

Magnesium has been studied extensively in regards to its potential benefits for athletes. It has been linked with enhanced endurance capacity, muscle strength, and coordination during physical activity.

Magnesium is an important mineral for athletes as it helps to regulate energy levels and muscle contractions. Studies have shown that supplementing with magnesium may help boost running speed, VO2max (a measure of aerobic capacity), and time to exhaustion when running at different speeds.

Taking a quality magnesium supplement may also support the body's response to inflammation caused by vigorous exercise, helping runners recover faster after long runs or races.

3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for whole body health and may be especially important for runners due to their ability to support a healthy inflammation response after exercise, which could result in faster recovery times.

Studies indicate that omega-3 supplementation may boost exercise performance through healthy oxidative stress management and mitochondrial biogenesis (production of new muscles).

One study found that omega-3 supplementation may enhance running economy (the amount of oxygen used at a given intensity) in trained distance runners, compared to the placebo group.

Omega 3s are found naturally in certain foods, such as salmon and flaxseed, but it can be difficult to obtain meaningful doses through food alone. Therefore, some athletes choose to supplement with fish oil or other quality sources of omega-3s to reap these benefits for optimal performance and recovery.

4. Calcium

Calcium is well known for its role in supporting strong bones and teeth. This important mineral is especially important for runners who need to maintain strong bones to withstand the impact of running on hard surfaces or trails, and to help avoid potential injuries like stress fractures.

According to one study, calcium supplementation was associated with healthy bone density among adult female runners who were participating in long distance races such as marathons or ultramarathons.

Additionally, research indicates that calcium supplementation may help support optimal hip bone density which may lead to enhanced overall running performance.

Supplementing with calcium, especially in combination with other bone support nutrients, may be beneficial to protect your long-term bone health and continue enjoying your training or racing.

5. Joint Support

The high impact nature of running can create inflammation and joint discomfort, as well as wear and tear on key joints like knees, ankles, hips and shoulders over time if proper joint support isn't taken into account.

Curcumin, the main bioactive compound in turmeric, is known for its powerful antioxidant properties which is incredibly beneficial for runners. Turmeric supports a healthy inflammatory response in the body which can help promote joint comfort and mobility, allowing runners to stay active for longer periods of time. With regular use, turmeric can also promote healthy cartilage growth to further protect your joints against damage. 

Joint support agents, such as glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate, are also popular among athletes looking for natural ways to manage occasional joint pain associated with vigorous training sessions or competitions. Research suggests that taking these supplements regularly can also help maintain healthy joints over time.

A meta analysis published in The American Journal Of Sports Medicine found that glucosamine sulfate is one effective supplement used by athletes who run long distances to support healthy joint function and protect cartilage over time.

Research also suggests that glucosamine supplementation could help soothe joints for runners who regularly engage in high intensity training regimens.

As we age, our joints can become more vulnerable due to wear-and-tear from years of high impact activities such as running. Therefore, taking a high-quality joint support supplement can play an important role in maintaining joint mobility, flexibility, and comfort.

6. Glutamine

Glutamine is an amino acid found naturally in foods like meat and dairy products. It is thought to play a role in muscle growth and repair after intense workouts.

Glutamine has been studied in Sports Nutrition for its potential anti-fatigue and recovery benefits. Supplementation appears to be beneficial for athletes looking to recover faster after strenuous exercise or competition. Some ways glutamine may support post-workout recovery include helping to replenish glycogen stores, stimulate protein synthesis, soothe muscle soreness, and enhance growth hormone production.

Research suggests that glutamine may also support healthy immune system function. This may be particularly important for runners, as immune system function can be weakened during intense physical activity due to elevated cortisol levels (stress hormone).

Adding a quality source of glutamine into your post workout recovery routine can be an easy and effective way to support your running performance & recovery.

7. L-Carnitine

L-carnitine is an amino acid found naturally in red meat. It transports fatty acids into cells and is used by the body to convert fat into energy, making it a great pre-workout supplement for runners looking for an extra boost of energy before or during a run.

L-Carnitine plays a vital role in how our body produces ATP energy from fat stores during exercise. When taken before training or racing events, L-Carnitine may support enhanced stamina, endurance, and peak performance by encouraging healthy fat burning while also mitigating lactic acid buildup.

It has also been studied for its potential ability to delay fatigue during prolonged periods of exercise. This makes it especially useful for endurance athletes like long-distance runners who train often over extended periods of time.

Research indicates L-Carnitine supplementation may even support cell membrane fluidity, allowing healthy oxygen delivery throughout cells to further support athletic performance.

L-Carnitine can be taken on its own, or combined with other fitness supporting nutrients in a quality pre-workout supplement. This ultra-clean, low-stim Pre-Workout blend contains 250 mg of L-Carnitine and is ideal for runners and other cardio/endurance athletes due to its heart-healthy low caffeine content (only 50mg).

8. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha has been used for centuries for its many health benefits, including its ability to support healthy cognitive function, sleep quality, a healthy inflammation response, and healthy cortisol levels (the stress hormone).

Recent studies indicate that ashwagandha may also benefit runners by helping them manage stress better while building strength, endurance, alertness and reaction time.

Ashwagandha's potential beneficial effects on muscle strength and power, cardiorespiratory fitness, and fatigue/recovery, make it another important supplement for any athlete, especially those participating in endurance events such as marathons or ultra marathons.

This particular pre-workout supplement features KSM-66 Ashwagandha, a powerful ashwagandha extract that's been evaluated in 24 published clinical trials. One such study demonstrated that KSM-66 supplementation has the potential to increase the rate of improvement in VO2max, the key metric for cardiovascular endurance.

9. Probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that exist within the gut microbiome and help keep your digestive system functioning properly. Numerous studies have linked probiotic supplementation with many aspects of overall wellness, including gastrointestinal health, a healthy immune system, healthy cholesterol levels, and a positive mood.

Your gut microbiome plays an incredibly vital role not only when it comes to your overall health but even fitness related goals such as achieving peak athletic performance. Having a balanced gut flora supports healthy metabolism absorption rates, enabling you to extract maximum nutrients from the food you eat and providing your body with the necessary fuel required for prolonged exercise such as distance running.

For runners looking to enhance their performance and recovery, probiotics can also play a role in post-run recovery rates, energy and endurance levels, sleep quality, and overall performance during physical activities.

Probiotics are found naturally in some food sources, like yogurt or sauerkraut, but can also be taken as a supplement to ensure adequate intake. When selecting a probiotic supplement, it is important to look for one with both a high CFU count, as well as diverse probiotic strains. This delicious, shelf-stable probiotic drink has 50 billion CFUs of 10 of the most beneficial strains, plus clinically-proven PreForPro® to help fight bad bacteria and feed good bacteria.

10. Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

BCAAs refer to three specific amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These essential amino acids are found naturally in some foods, like eggs, and are used by our body's cells for energy production during strenuous activities such as running long distances.

BCAAs have become popular among athletes because they're believed to help soothe occasional muscle soreness after strenuous exercise, making them ideal supplements to take not only after training sessions but also on race day.

Studies also suggest BCAA supplementation may boost endurance during prolonged exercise while also helping to minimize fatigue after intense physical activity such as marathons.

BCAAs also play a role in the body's ability to build and maintain lean muscle mass, as well providing a natural energy boost before and after exercise. This makes a high-quality BCAA supplement a great choice for runners looking to enhance their performance naturally without relying on artificial stimulants or chemicals found in some popular pre-workout drinks available today.

The Bottom Line

If you're a runner, taking the right supplements can be an important part of your overall performance and health. The 10 best supplements for runners mentioned above – vitamin D, magnesium, omega 3s, calcium, joint support, glutamine, l-carnitine, ashwagandha, probiotics, and branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) – call all be beneficial in different ways, such as supporting endurance, strength, recovery, and managing the risk of injury.

It's important to take into consideration your overall diet, lifestyle, and running style to decide which supplements to incorporate into your routine to support your body and reach your goals.

Runners completing race