8 Best Supplements For Runners

Looking for the best supplements for runners?

Most runners do not get the necessary nutrients they need to refuel their bodies either because they cannot fit in all their meals for the day, or because the food they eat does not have enough of these essential nutrients.

If we had the choice, we’d always choose to get our nutrition from diet rather than supplements. But it’s not always possible.

So that case, what are the most popular supplements for runners?

If you surveyed 100 runners for their supplements of choice, the results you’d get back would include these familiar options:

  1. Protein powder
  2. Electrolyte supplements
  3. Glutamine supplements
  4. Vitamin D supplements
  5. Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) supplements
  6. Iron supplements
  7. Omega-3 supplements
  8. Caffeine supplements

If you are a runner looking for supplements to help with your performance, muscle recovery, or muscle growth, you’ve come to the right place!

Let’s take a look at what supplements and formulas are all the rage in the running community…

8 Best Supplements For Runners

Best supplements for runners

Some people associate supplements with steroids, or some kind of dirty cheap hack. However, this is not true at all. In fact, there are many benefits of supplements for runners that can help improve your overall performance and health.

The secret is to eat healthily, too.

1. Protein Powder 

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Most runners always rush between work and workouts, leaving very little time left to focus on providing their bodies with adequate nutrition. During intense running sessions, athletes put their bodies under tremendous strain, and the fibers in their muscles break down. 

If you struggle to fit in all your meals during the day, using a protein supplement is the most convenient way to get the amino acids you need that form the building blocks of muscle fibers.  

The benefits of Protein supplements:

  • It helps with muscle recovery.
  • It keeps your body healthy.
  • It accelerates muscle growth.
  • It helps rebuild muscle fibers.
  • It protects runners from injuries as it helps their muscles to heal faster. 

 Best Protein supplements for runners:

When should you drink your protein shake?

  • Drink your protein shake after a run. Drinking a protein shake after a run is great for recovery as the amino acids are hydrolyzed, so your muscles can absorb them more quickly.  
  • Drink your protein shake before you go to bed. Drinking a protein shake before you go to bed enhances muscle growth and repair while you are sleeping. 

If you have a protein shake before a run, you might experience bloating, and GI disturbance as protein takes long to digest. 

Trust us! The moments leading up to a marathon are NOT the time to load up on your protein supplements – unless you are planning to bonk hard.

2. Electrolyte Supplements

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Electrolyte supplements are a great source of energy for long distance runners and are crucial for endurance athletes looking to fight against muscle fatigue and reduce muscle soreness during a hard workout. While you are running, electrolytes dissolve in your body fluid and exit the body through sweating. 

When a runner sweats, they lose a significant amount of these fluids, which contain the essential electrolytes such as sodium, chloride, potassium, and magnesium you need for optimal running performance. 

The benefits of Electrolyte supplements:

  • Electrolytes assist in activating impulses in the body, such as muscle contractions.
  • Electrolytes reduce muscle cramping and muscle fatigue.
  • Electrolytes help with hydration.

Best Electrolyte supplements for runners:

Electrolyte supplement for runners

When should you drink an Electrolyte supplement?

It is important to remember that your body is great at maintaining its own homeostasis. Therefore, you should only use an electrolyte supplement during an intense running session and if you sweat a lot. 

If you are running a long race (from a half marathon, to longer distances) it becomes increasingly important to fuel with electrolytes to replace the lost fluids. The same can be said for training in hot weather as this greatly compromises muscle health.

3. Glutamine Supplements

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Glutamine supplements are excellent for runners who are not recovering as quickly as they would like after long and intense running sessions. Long distance running can deplete your glutamine levels which often results in the breakdown of your muscles through a process known as catabolization. 

The benefits of Glutamine supplements:

  • It helps with muscle repair and recovery.
  • It keeps your cells hydrated.
  • It strengthens your immune system. 
  • Reduces muscle soreness after running sessions.

Best Glutamine supplements for runners:

When should you use a Glutamine supplement?

After a running session, your body needs plenty of amino acids to start the recovery process. The best time to take your Glutamine supplement is 30 minutes after your run, as your body will absorb it much quicker than before or during your run. 

4. Vitamin D Supplements

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Vitamin D supplements are the best supplements for promoting bone health, which has obvious advantages to a runner who is pounding the pavement every day. Vitamin D primarily assists in bone mineralization and regulating calcium.

Most runners put a lot of strain on their skeletal muscles during intense running sessions, and a lack of Vitamin D can have several major consequences. 

The benefits of Vitamin D supplements:

  • It helps prevent bone stress injuries.
  • It reduces the possibility of runners getting rickets, osteoporosis, and skeletal diseases.
  • It helps regulate electrolyte metabolism.
  • It helps regulate protein synthesis.

Best Vitamin D supplements for runners:

When should you have your Vitamin D supplement?

Runners should take their Vitamin D supplement in the morning as taking it later in the day might cause sleeping problems such as insomnia. 

5. Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) Supplements

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Branch Chain Amino Acids, also known as BCAA, are considered one of the best energy and muscle maintenance supplements for endurance athletes.

BCAA is made up of three amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which are extremely important for runners. However, the body does not produce them; they can only be found in BCAA supplements. 

The benefits of Branched Chain Amino Acid supplements:

  • It provides runners with the energy they need for intense running sessions.
  • It helps with muscle recovery.
  • It prevents muscle breakdown.
  • It helps with muscle building after running.
  • It increases a runner’s performance to have a better quality running session.

Best Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) supplements for runners:

When should you use your BCAA supplement?

  • Before a running session. BCAAs should be taken 15 minutes before a run, as they will give you the energy you need to push through your intense running session.
  • After a running session. You can also use it after a run to provide your muscles with the branched-amino acids they need for repair and recovery. 

6. Iron Supplements

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Runners lose much more iron than other athletes in many ways, such as through foot strike hemolysis, sweat, and the GI tract. Low iron levels significantly impact a runner’s ability to perform as it can lead to an overall lack of energy.

The benefits of Iron supplements:

  • It helps with a runner’s metabolism.
  • It assists with the transportation of oxygen to the muscles and tissues, which is important for any physical activity. 
  • It improves muscle functioning. 

Best Iron supplements for runners:

When should you take your Iron supplement?

Runners with low iron levels should take their iron supplement 30-60 minutes after their run as the body absorbs it much quicker post-run. The correct dosage will depend on your natural iron absorption levels.

Some iron supplements are designed to be slow release, which has the effect of being gentler to your system, and less likely to lead to gastro side-effects. We’d recommend the slow release tablets for long distance runners, but note that you will need to take them slightly longer before the start of your workout.

7. Omega-3 Supplements

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Omega-3 supplements are essential for runners, as not many of us consume enough of this fatty acid in our diets to get the sustained benefits… of which there are several:

The benefits of Omega-3 supplements:

  • The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 supplements help reduce muscle soreness after a run.
  • It increases blood flow to the muscles.
  • It protects the cells around muscle fibers.
  • It improves muscle function and performance.

Best Omega-3 supplements for runners:

When should you take your Omega-3 supplement?

A runner can take an Omega-3 supplement any time of the day. However, it helps to split the supplement into two smaller doses as it reduces acid reflux. 

8. Caffeine Supplements

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Now here’s a supplement that many of us couldn’t live without…

Many of us are so accustomed to its effects that we don’t even register when we’re feeling the benefits of it. Until we try running without it…

Caffeine supplements are great for runners who want to improve their athletic performance. However, consuming too much caffeine can negatively affect your health. A maximum of 200mg of caffeine is recommended, and every runner will need to experiment to find the right ‘balance’ between too much and too little.

The benefits of Caffeine supplements:

  • It improves mental focus.
  • It can increase a runner’s reaction time.
  • It improves neuromuscular coordination. 
  • Reduces perceived exertion.

Best Caffeine supplements for runners:

When should you take your caffeine supplement?

The best time to take your caffeine supplement is 30-60 minutes before your run. While you can use supplements, many runners opt for coffee instead.

We’d recommend stacking caffeine with L-Theanine to accentuate the positive effects whilst reducing some of the common ‘jitters’ that are associated with caffeine consumption.

Do Supplements Really Help For Running?

Many runners believe that supplements can help to improve their performance and endurance when running.

And it’s not just placebo.

In fact, there is a wide range of supplements that have been clinically shown to help with various aspects of running. The great thing about the options above is that they are generally widely tolerated and recommended as part of a healthy diet.

While the effects of caffeine and protein will vary dramatically from runner to runner, there is little debate over the importance of iron levels, Omega-3 fatty acids and electrolyte replenishment. If you neglect these areas of preparation, your performance is sure to suffer.

You’ll hear it said all the time though: supplements are no substitute for a healthy diet.

This is true. So if you’re looking at improving your diet, we’d advise checking out our guide to the best foods for improving your stamina. The correct fuel will go a long way on race day.

Don’t Experiment On Race Day

One golden piece of advice for any runner looking to experiment with supplements…

Don’t experiment on race day!

This is one of the cardinal sins of race day preparation. You don’t want to be testing how your body reacts to different vitamins and supplements in the hours leading up to a major race.

It never ceases to amaze us how many runners are willingly to sacrifice their best laid race plans by testing a brand new breakfast, energy drink, or supplement plan on the day of the event. This should be done days before, and preferably weeks before.

You can then judge how your body reacts and adjust accordingly.

Always aim to establish your stack of the best running supplements BEFORE race day.

Author Profile

Alex Randall

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Alex is the editor at Revel Sports. It was his idea to take our post-club-run chats and build a website out of them. He is responsible for dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s when any of us have something to post. (Basically: it’s all his fault). A ferocious 5K powerhouse on his day, Alex is known for not understanding the meaning of the term ‘negative split‘.
Alex Randall

Revel SPorts Contributor

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