Two Supplements Runners Should Consider Taking

Nutrition for runners is best found by eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, carbs and protein. Sometimes, unfortunately, you can’t get everything you need with real food. That’s when supplements are a helpful addition to your nutrition plan.

Supplements for runners can be a heavy topic. Sure, they can make you heavy by adding bulk to your figure, but the information can be heavy as well. I could do loads of research and get very contradictory answers. That being said, there are a few things I know from personal experience that I can share with you.

I’m not a doctor, so don’t use this as a prescription to take to your local pharmacist. I recommend doing your own research and talking to your doctor to see what might be right for you. Three things I know:

Supplements are Unbelievable, but…

I don’t mean they are some magic beans that will turn you from a joe jogger to an Olympian. I actually mean quite the opposite. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not have any regulations on supplements. Supplement companies can make any claim on their labels with no scientific backing. In simplest terms, don’t believe all you read.

A bottle of whey protein could claim to help you lose 10 pounds in 10 days. Come on, really?! I recommend caution when it comes to these types of supplements. They can be great to add to your diet if you are struggling to get proper nutrition from foods, but like I said, talk to your doctor!

Runners May Need to Pump More Iron

Many runners are iron deficient. High miles and a tendency to avoid lots of red meat (yes I make a huge generalization, don’t shoot me) equals lower iron. The best way to decide whether you are iron deficient is to do a ferritin test. Ferritin is the stored iron in your blood. If your storage is low, this means you are running low.

Iron is  tricky because “normal levels” can range from 18-200+ mcg/L. That’s huge! You need to find out what “normal” is for you. Unfortunately, ferritin tests are expensive and not done very often (contact your Dr. to learn more). If you do need to take iron, I would recommend taking a liquid form. It can be hard on your stomach at first, but eventually you will adapt.

I’ve had my battles with liquid iron, but once I was acclimated to it, I noticed a huge increase in energy levels. Take it with orange juice or some form of vitamin C to allow better absorption into your system. Calcium inhibits the absorption, so never with milk, and usually take 30 minutes prior to a meal or 2 hours after a meal.

We Need Vitamin D!

I was once told by my doctor that he assumes all Minnesotans are Vitamin D deficient, especially in the winter. We don’t see the sun enough, don’t absorb enough of it even when we are outside, and many foods are not nutrient dense in Vitamin D. Some foods are enriched with vitamin D, but unless you’re chugging milk like you own the gallon challenge, you’re not getting enough. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel are among the best natural sources.

I take a vitamin D supplement to help with Calcium absorption. I’ve struggled with stress fractures, and low vitamin D could attribute to that. Without calcium absorption, my bones aren’t rebuilding after being broken down run by run. Take a look at how much vitamin D you are consuming and consider the benefits of supplementing. We Minnesotans are tough, but sometimes we need “uff” to add to our “da.”

Supplements and You

I could go on and on about supplements and get really technical with terms, but these are just two quick tips I have accumulated over time. I’m not Doctor Dani, and I can’t tell you what you should and shouldn’t take. Hopefully this information stirs some of your own questions. I encourage you to take a look at your diet. Is there any room for improvement?

Maybe you could benefit from taking a supplement if there is no way you can add it into your diet. Our Vitamin D supply (the sun) is on hiatus right now, but in just a few short months we will be soaking it up again with smiles on our faces!

What supplements (if any) do you take?

Dani Stack

Dani Stack recently moved to the twin cities to pursue a post collegiate professional running career with Team USA MN and Oiselle. She graduated last spring with a degree in Dietetics and a minor in Journalism. Along with running and writing, she enjoys camping, hiking, yoga, music, and spending time with family and friends. She is loving her new chapter in the twin cities and can't wait to see what the future holds!

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