Training for a marathon, especially doing so on your own, can be one of, if not the most challenging experiences of your life. Unfortunately, there’s a market for life challenges and supplement companies just love a marathon runner- some, not in a good way.
The beauty about running is that it is a minimalistic sport and while certain supplements are necessary for optimal performance, simplicity is the real key. Let’s take a look at some natural supplements to include in your marathon training routine.
When we talk about “natural supplements”, we’re referring to substances found naturally in the foods we eat. This is the main reason nutrition is a vital part of our well-being, That being said, even the most conscientious eaters still miss out on important vitamins and minerals through food alone. This is where the supplements come in.
Runners need five basic supplements to stay strong and endure long hours of intense activity. The supplements are as follows, nothing fancy, found in foods and safe for human consumption.
Runners sweat a lot and if you’ve been training for a marathon, you’ll know that not even winter training can keep you dry. The problem with sweating profusely, while great for fat loss, is that it depletes your body of iron. Female runners are especially susceptible to iron deficiency because menstruation takes an extra monthly portion of their stores.
While one of the most common side effects of iron deficiency is fatigue, to a runner this can be a debilitating symptom. How you take your iron is up to you, as long as it accounts to 10-15 grams a day.
Running is hard on your bones and a good runner looks out for his bones. Ironically, while running is good for strengthening them, the constant pounding (especially if you’re still sorting out your form) can really take a toll on your joints.
If you’ve ever been accused of being crazy for your choice of exercise, your accuser is not all that wrong- running is very exhaustive to your body and although it seems counterintuitive, a study by Cooper Clinic in Dallas showed that a staggering 75 percent of runners are deficient in vitamin D, a nutrient that helps with the absorption of calcium.
While many foods have calcium and it is absolutely possible to get all your nutritional requirements without adding a supplement, it is a good idea to take vitamin D. This will ensure that the natural calcium present in your diet is absorbed for use in your body.
Caffeine gets a bad rap because in all fairness, it does pull minerals from your body if you consume it excessively. That being said, caffeine is a natural stimulant and an excellent alternative to synthetic pre-workout drinks or energy boosters.
One cup of black coffee has such a dynamic range of benefits that over two-thirds of Olympic athletes use it to boost their performance. Not only does caffeine provide a clean surge of energy and an extra mental edge, it also serves as a catalyst for fat-burning while simultaneously improving reaction time and coordination. All of that combined makes for one heck of a great running experience.
People who use caffeine as a performance enhancer find that having one cup prior to heading for the gym or taking a run is enough to give them hours of athletic stamina. Caffeine does work quite quickly, so it is best to consume it pre-performance.
Caffeine intake isn’t limited to coffee and you are free to enjoy it however you like (dark chocolate, caffeinated tea, etc.) within the recommended dosage amount of 550 milligrams per day.
While there are caffeine supplements, it is far more cost effective and enjoyable to consume your caffeine through other means- remember, a day’s dose is up to five cups of joe. Just don’t overdo it on the sugar!
Protein is an essential nutrient for anyone, especially those demanding more of their muscles than the average person. A runner certainly falls into this category and the reason we recommend whey protein is for its convenience of consumption.
Despite popular belief, whey protein is a natural substance isolated from the liquid by-product of cheese production. Don’t get me wrong, there are hundreds of different formulas out there and most of them are loaded with chemicals. That being said, there are also organic brands of whey protein powder that most definitely make the cut.
While protein is associated with bodybuilders, runners have so much to gain from it and whey is recommended for its quick absorption rate and low calorie profile.
As far as dosage, runners should take 40-60 grams of whey protein daily, preferably after a run to ensure healthy muscle recovery.
Okay, this one’s gonna surprise you even more than the whey protein. While you would think that creatine should remain a supplement for bodybuilders, it is actually much better for runners. Here’s why:
Creatine is an amino acid and delivers phenomenal performance benefits to your muscles, especially during recovery, something a runner’s muscles face every single day during training.
Creatine’s bad rap comes from its ability to cause cellular damage, muscle inflammation, and bloating. The reason a runner is the best candidate to take creatine is because running is a cardio-intensive act which counteracts any possible negative side effects.
Not only is creatine great for muscle recovery (something runners tend to neglect), but it also optimizes your body’s utilization of oxygen, something a runner will definitely appreciate.