Key Supplement Recommendations for Runners and Endurance Athletes
If you have the discipline to be a runner, swimmer, triathlete, or otherwise engaged in endurance training, you likely take your health seriously. What I want to accomplish below is make a strong case for some supplements that I think are critical to support your health.
In the last couple of decades many Americans have discovered the benefits of nutritional and herbal supplements. Current estimates are that roughly 70% of adults in the U.S. regularly use dietary supplements. Unfortunately, the myth that diet alone can provide all the essential nutrition necessary for optimal health keeps getting pushed more and more. The reality is that following even the most healthful diet it is very difficult, if not impossible, to reach optimal intake for all nutrients. Add to that the stress of endurance exercise and you run the risk of eroding your nutrient status.
The U.S. government has sponsored a number of comprehensive studies (HANES I, II, and III, Ten State Nutrition Survey, USDA nationwide food consumption studies, etc.) that have shown marginal nutrient deficiencies exist in a substantial portion of the U.S. population (approximately 50%) and that for some selected nutrients in certain age groups more than 80% of the group consumed less than the recommended dietary allowance (RDA).
Taking a high potency multiple vitamin and mineral formula acts as a nutritional insurance policy. And that insurance is really important during this COVID-19 pandemic because our immune system requires a constant steady stream of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to function optimally. A deficiency of any single nutrient can mean the difference in winning or losing the battle for your health and life.
Vitamin and minerals function as components of enzymes, which are molecules that trigger and control chemical reactions. Since most enzymes in the body have both a vitamin portion and a mineral portion, it is vitally important to ensure optimal levels of both these nutrient classes by taking a high-potency formula that provides at least 100% of the RDA for all vitamins and minerals.
The specific formulas that I like to recommend are the MultiStart formulas that I developed for Natural Factors over twenty years ago. Whatever formula you select, just make sure the mineral portion is providing 100% of the RDA.
(see link to full list of supplements at the bottom of the article)
A huge and growing amount of research has now shown that vitamin D deficiency is very common (at least 50% of the general population and 80% in infants) and plays a major role in the development of many of the chronic degenerative diseases Vitamin D deficiency may be the most common medical condition in the world and vitamin D supplementation may be the most cost-effective strategy in improving health, reducing disease, and living longer. Human DNA contains more than 2,700 binding sites for vitamin D near genes involved in virtually every known aspect of health in humans.
Vitamin D3 has been shown to produce a wide range of immune enhancing effects and it is now well-established that it offers important in protection against upper respiratory infections. There is also a growing body of science that suggests low levels of vitamin D increase the risk for more severe COVID-19 infection and death from this viral infection.
Take at least 2,000 to 4,000 IU daily of vitamin D3.
Athletes need extra vitamin C. It is inexpensive, but packs a powerful punch of support. Not only for the immune system, but also the connective tissue in joints, muscles, and tendons.
Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world. The groups at highest risk for iron deficiency are infants under two years of age, teenage girls, pregnant women, the elderly, and (pay attention) female endurance athletes.
Iron is needed to carry oxygen. It is also needed in the production of energy. Anemia is the last stage of iron deficiency. Before it causes a lack of red blood cells, it produces fatigue, depression, cold hands and feet, and decreased physical capacity.
How common is iron deficiency in female endurance athletes? One study in swimmers found evidence of deficiency in 80% of the women. Other studies have found iron deficiency in the average range of as 30-60% in female endurance athletes. And there is more…. In order to prevent iron deficiency in these women it required an dosage of iron in the range of 120 to 180 mg daily.
To determine whether or not you need iron, please get a blood test known as serum ferritin. It measures your body’s iron stores. Ideally, your level should be at least 60 ng/ml. If it is not, you are literally running yourself into the ground.
The most popular iron supplements are ferrous sulfate and ferrous fumarate. However, the best forms appear to be ferric pyrophosphate and ferrous bisglycinate. Both are free from gastrointestinal side effects with a higher relative bioavailability especially if taken on an empty stomach.
For iron deficiency, the usual recommendation is 30 mg of iron twice daily between meals using these gentler forms. If this recommendation results in abdominal discomfort, take 30 mg with meals three to four times daily.
But as I mentioned above, the typical dosage for iron may not be enough for female endurance athletes. The dosage for these women to maintain iron levels is 120 mg daily.
I realize that a lot of people are opting for a plant-focused diet, but it may be worthwhile for women with low serum ferritin levels to not only take iron supplements, but also try to eat more iron-rich foods to augment your supplementation. Beef or chicken liver is very high in iron. One or two servings per week can really help boost iron levels in the body.
Many of the health benefits of the long-chain omega-3 oils from fish oils are now well known, but the benefits to endurance athletes is not. These benefits are significant. Fish oil supplementation has been shown to reduce muscle damage caused by the inflammation that occurs during exercise, reduce muscle soreness after exercise, and improve maximal oxygen uptake (which means that performance is improved).
For optimum benefit, take a dosage of fish oil sufficient to provide a combined total of 1,200 to 2,000 mg of EPA+DHA+DPA daily. Personally, I take the Aqua Biome Fish Oil with Meriva (Enzymedica). This product provides a very clean fish oil with a unique ratio of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA, EPA, and DPA (4:2:0.5 ratio), combined with Meriva—an enhanced form of curcumin for improved absorption. Curcumin has also been shown to produce a reduction in inflammation and muscle soreness. I take 4 capsules, which provides over 1,500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids and 2,000 mg of Meriva.
Quercetin has received a lot of attention recently because of its effects on immunity protection against respiratory tract infections. However, quercetin’s most well-documented use is in improving athletic performance. In a study in elite male cyclists, quercetin supplementation (1,000 mg per day for six weeks) was shown to improve a 30-kilometer time-trial by 3.1%. In elite athletes, this difference can be the difference between first place and last.
Another study in cyclists showed something. In this study, not only did the quercetin improve physical performance, it also showed an ability to prevent an upper respiratory tract infection. Ninety percent of the subjects on the placebo caught a cold versus only five percent in the quercetin group.
During this time of concern over COVID-19 and other respiratory infections, quercetin is a very important dietary supplement to support the immune system.
To get the best absorption of quercetin, take two capsules of Quercetin LipoMicel Matrix from Natural Factors. Preliminary data indicates a 10-fold greater absorption for this form of quercetin.
Wellmune is an all-natural compound (specifically a glucopolysachharide) isolated from the cell walls of a strain of baker’s yeast. Wellmune has tremendous scientific support showing an ability to boost immune function. Wellmune stimulates the body’s natural defenses against a wide range of challenges and has shown impressive beneficial effects in human clinical trials including studies in endurance athletes. For example, in runners completing a marathon, Wellmune significantly reduced symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection (e.g., sore throat, stuffy nose, etc.) in the test subjects. Furthermore, the Wellmune group reported 22% higher scores in vigor, 48% reduction in fatigue, 38% reduction in tension and a 38% reduction in confusion over the control groups.
Runners need to support their joint health. OsteoMove provides a “kitchen sink” collection of joint specific nutritional support including optimal levels of glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, MSM, and other key nutrients for cartilage and connective tissues. Dosage: two tablets daily.
NAC boosts antioxidant levels, supports detoxification reactions, and promotes the health of the respiratory tract lining. NAC is very important if you are a runner in an urban environment. A lot of dirty air is being inhaled. NAC offers protection. If you are swimmer, definitely take NAC to counteract all of that chlorine. Take 600 mg twice daily.
Athletes need sufficient quality sleep for optimal repair and rejuvenation. I like the combination of 3 to 5 mg of melatonin and 250 to 500 mg of magnesium to facilitate beneficial sleep. Melatonin has a sleep aid is well-known, but it also has some benefits in cell repair. And magnesium can also be helpful in promoting deep, restful sleep. Magnesium supplementation is super important for endurance athletes to replace the magnesium lost in sweat.
For Melatonin, I use the Tranquil Sleep formula from Natural Factors. Either two chewable tablets or softgels about 30 minutes before bed. For magnesium, I like the powdered Magnesium Citrate drink mix from Natural Factors.
Endurance athletes need to boost their potassium intake because it too is also lost in sweat. For years I have been using and recommending potassium chloride salt substitutes to boost potassium intake. But the taste of these products was less than ideal. So, I developed PerfeKt Sea Salt™, my own high potassium, low sodium salt substitute. It provides a ratio of potassium to sodium of roughly 2:1 and it tastes like clean salt with no metallic aftertaste. Give it a try, I think you will like it.
To make it easy for you to grab these items I recommend, I have created a shopping list at iHerb along with a discount for you. Click here to get to this list. You can choose the products to put in your cart from the shopping list.
Also, as I mentioned in the email linking you to this article, my friend, Michelle Knafla, created a fun video of our interview for the Fuelmyrun YouTube channel, click here to enjoy it!