Even a runner's "healthy" diet often lack the proper balance of key nutrients. Whether its from drinking filtered water (no electrolyte forming minerals) or consuming foods preserved, processed, or modified, nutrient deficiencies are common even among active individuals.
Nutrient deficiencies alter bodily functions and processes at the most basic cellular level,” says Tricia L. Psota, PhD, RDN, president-elect of the DC Metro Area Dietetic Association. “These processes include water balance, enzyme function, nerve signaling, digestion, and metabolism. Resolving these deficiencies is important for optimal growth, development, and function.”
Sports dietician, Molly Morgan, R.D. says "It's always best to eat whole foods, but taking certain supplements can help ensure runners get everything active people need."
Here's a list of some of the best supplements for runners:
Choose a multi-vitamin with 100% of the Daily Value for most vitamins and minerals, which include vitamins such as Vitamins B12, E, and Biotin. A liquid form of multi-vitamin increases the absorption rate upwards of 98% versus consuming vitamins and minerals in tablet or powder form, meaning more of the vitamins are absorbed into the body rather than passing unused.
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body accounting for more than 60% of the total intramuscular amino acid pool. Many cells in the body use glutamine as a fuel for growth and is synthesized in both skeletal muscle and in adipose tissue in addition to the lungs, liver, and brain.
Athletes at risk for inadequate stores of glutamine include those not eating enough calories, carbohydrates or protein, and those participating in strenuous endurance events, such as marathons. Therefore, the need for proper supplementation is important to help maintain normal glutamine levels in runners.
Branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs, have been the focus of several studies which suggest that supplemental BCAAs may improve your exercise performance and help athletes prevent the muscle damage.
Runner's World Nutrition Editor, Liz Applegate and author of Eat Smart, Play Hard, says "BCAAs are the building blocks that form all of the protein in your body. During 2 or more hours of exercise, your body breaks down these amino acids and burns them for energy. If this happens often enough, your muscle protein supply starts to dwindle." Taking a BCAA supplement can help your body replenish the amino acids lost during endurance training.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a naturally-occurring enzyme found in every cell of the body. CoQ10 is a participant in the metabolic chemical reactions that create energy within a cell. A medical study by the "Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition" found Ubiquinol (electron-rich form of CoQ10) supplementation enhances peak energy production in athletes. As a result, many athletes including endurance athletes, have supplemented their diets with CoQ10.
Electrolytes are important because they are what your cells (especially nerve, heart, muscle) use to maintain voltages across their cell membranes and to carry electrical impulses (nerve impulses, muscle contractions) across themselves and to other cells. An electrolyte imbalance, whether too much or too little, can be quite detrimental to your health. Muscle contraction, for example, requires calcium, potassium and sodium; deficiency may result in muscle weakness or severe cramping.
Electrolytes aren't the only minerals runners need to replenish during their runs. Specialist in Performance Nutrition, Nina Anderson also recommends replenishing trace minerals, which are also lost through sweat during exercise. Trace minerals, such as Zinc, Selenium, and Manganese (to name a few), play a vital role in energy productions, supporting immune system functions, and the repair of tissues.
Evidence has also shown that runners who follow a diet inclusive of key essential daily nutrients have show benefits to their endurance training and race day performance. The nutrients stored in the body will be utilized by the body to convert food into energy during your run. While a deficiency of nutrients in the body may negatively impact a number of the body's critical processes, and lead to declining performance.
We need to hydrate. But how can you hydrate and replace electrolytes without the harmful additives like sweeteners and artificial flavoring common in sports drinks that are harsh on your stomach?