Top 5 Supplements To Enhance Your Performance Naturally
Updated: Jan 29, 2019
Runners are always looking to level up their performance. Whether it’s to increase endurance, shorten recovery or bolster your overall nutrition, there are several supplements that can help. But browsing the aisles of a nutrition store can be overwhelming. So, here’s a quick run-down on the top five supplements for runners, so that you can spend less time in-store and get back to logging miles.
A deficiency in vitamin D could impact stress injuries and decrease your overall performance. Runners with a deficiency also typically experience muscle weakness and some pain. Vitamin D is converted into an active form by your liver and kidneys. From there, it regulates calcium in your body; promotes bone mineralization; and influences cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function.
Depending on your activity level, runners will require between 30 and 50 ng/mL of vitamin D, dosed at 600 IU (15 micrograms) per day, for individuals under the age of 70. However this is best prescribed by your physician as too much vitamin D (especially when supplemented with pills, drops or chews) can result in toxicity and several adverse effects.
Foods naturally high in vitamin D include fish, egg yolks, milk (including soy and almond milk), orange juice, many cereals and beef.
You can also absorb it naturally from sun exposure, which is especially critical in colder months when we tend to spend less time outdoors. About 15 to 30 min. of sun exposure can naturally produce 1,000 IU of vitamin D.
Curcumin is the primary compound found in turmeric. This powerful antioxidant decreases inflammation in your body, which is especially important in high-impact sports such as running. While there are several ways to reduce inflammation in our bodies, turmeric is a simple and natural solution. When taken daily as part of a regular training regiment, many runners will report reduced stiffness and soreness.
About 500 mg of curcumin per day can help runners to keep inflammation away. Each teaspoon of ground turmeric will typically contain about 200 mg of curcumin.
Incorporating turmeric into your everyday nutrition is fairly easy -- consider using it to season savoury dishes such as soups, salads and sauces, or sprinkle it on roasted vegetables. Though its taste is slightly bitter, many will also blend it into breakfast smoothies and oatmeal. If you’re not a fan of the flavour, many supplement companies now sell turmeric tablets, which are typically more potent than what’s in your spice rack.
Every footstrike a runner make carries two to seven times of his/her body weight. Protein can help to rebuild the fibres that are stressed during a run by accelerating muscle recovery and rebuilding. Without a sufficient amount of protein helping your muscles to heal, runners can find themselves at a higher risk of injury. In addition, after a run, your immune system will remain in a weakened state for up to five hours. Protein intake will stimulate the white blood cells that shield against upper-respiratory issues.
While the recommended protein intake levels will vary depending on a runner’s body weight and activity level, about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass is sufficient, with elite runners consuming up to double that amount.
Several foods pack a punch of protein including lean meats, eggs and milk. Vegetable-based sources include beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, quinoa and soy. Depending on your diet, it may not be easy to intake all of your protein from natural sources. This is why many runners will supplement with protein powders in a shake post run, from either whey or plant sources.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) make up the building blocks that form protein in your body. After your longer runs, or about two or more hours of exercise, your body will break down amino acids and burn them for energy. Over the course of several long runs, your muscles’ protein supply could start to dwindle. This is why many runners will turn to a BCAA supplement during and after their run.
As your body breaks down proteins on a run, ammonia is released into your body. A buildup of ammonia can contribute to muscle fatigue, but BCAAs can encourage your muscles to endure longer bouts of running. They will also speed up the rate in which your body absorbs and uses glucose, which is a primary fuel source. This is important because once your glucose stores are depleted, your body will turn to burning fat as fuel. While this is a good sign for your waistline, it takes significantly more time and energy for your body to metabolize its fat stores.
If you’re hitting your protein intake each day, you’ll likely also be meeting your quota of BCAAs, and supplementing with extra won’t make a significant difference to your performance.
For runners who need to supplement BCAAs to enhance the energy efficiency of their muscles, the amino acids can be incorporated during and post run with either tablets or flavoured powders that can be mixed into your water.
Chia seeds pack a real punch as a running supplement. Their list of nutritional benefits is a long one, and includes a healthy dose of Omega-3s, antioxidants, protein, calcium, iron and potassium, along with vitamins A, B, E, and D. Chia seeds are truly one of the most nutrient-dense superfoods. Just two tablespoons contains 10 grams of fibre, 6 grams of protein, more calcium than milk, more Omega-3s than salmon, more iron than spinach and more antioxidants than blueberries.
When soaked in water, chia seeds will expand and take on a gel-like consistency. This enables them to slow the conversion of carbs into sugar, meaning the carbs you ingest will fuel your body longer. The water they absorb in your system can also play a role in prolonging your hydration.
The possibilities for consuming chia seeds are endless. Adding them to your smoothies, cereal, yogurt, pasta or salads is a quick and easy way to get two tablespoons in. A quick Google search will also reveal several recipes for puddings, cookies, muffins, bread and other tasty treats that are built around this superfood.
The list of supplements for runners could be a long one, but the five mentioned here are key. Not only will they help you to more efficiently run faster and longer, they also play a key role in your post-run recovery.