Supplements are best taken to fill nutritional gaps for people who have special needs or lifestyles. Because runners have specific needs to maintain optimum performance, taking supplements is a good way to complement diet and exercise. Here are some of the best supplements for runners of all skill levels.
According to sports dietitian Pamela Bede, caffeine increases the circulation of free fatty acids and reduces perceived exertion. Long-distance runners may benefit from as little as 25mg of caffeine. Keep in mind that a Starbucks espresso has 75mg of caffeine per shot, while an 8oz bottle of green tea can contain 35-60mg of caffeine. It is best to limit your intake to 25-60mg of caffeine per day, especially in the days before a big run.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)
When we run, our body breaks up molecules to use as energy, and our body’s default fuel tank is our fat deposit. However, intense workouts can sometimes lead to a calorie deficit. If you’re also on a low-calorie diet, your body can run out of energy fast and will start breaking down muscle. This is where Branched Chain Amino Acids are useful. BCAA prevent your body from disturbing protein synthesis (muscle building) by providing amino acids for extra energy. Long-distance runners, endurance athletes, and weightlifters all benefit greatly from BCAA.
Glutamine in the blood powers up cells which are responsible for immunity. Physical stress and strenuous exercise deplete glutamine from your blood and make you more susceptible to illness. Glutamine can help your body recover through glycogen synthesis. While the Running Dietitian Blog indicated that glycogen synthesis can be also done with a post-exercise meal of carbohydrates and protein, glutamine supplements can help those who are in low-carb diets. Of course, remember that it should never be considered as a replacement for rest and proper nutrition. JustRunLah!’s previous post on what to eat on the week of your marathon can be a good start on this topic.
Best known as an ingredient in many weight loss supplements, L-carnitine is actually produced by the body naturally. Its primary task is to transport fatty acids into the cells for energy. This biological compound is known to enhance sports performance by improving exercise recovery and increasing oxygen supply to the muscles. A US study revealed that L-carnitine helps delay the ‘burn’ or muscle fatigue which is crucial for runners. It also boosts metabolism, allowing you to digest food faster and convert it to energy. This is especially vital for runners who have slow metabolism. Pretty Me suggests that there are people “blessed with a crazy fast metabolism” while others are not. It’s mainly because each person has a different body type. Of course, remember to regulate your intake because L-carnitine may cause side effects like irregular bowel movement. It’s better to use it in the training stage and not as a pre-run supplement.
Supplements might help you go the extra mile, but remember that there are no shortcuts to your peak running performance. Consult your doctor and use these supplements according to your needs. Most of all, enjoy your run! Nothing can help you push yourself better than pure excitement and love for the sport.