Americans spend a LOT of money on supplements. Over $28 billion a year, to be exact. The appeal is strong. Why eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables when you can pop a pill instead? Runners in particular are susceptible to bullshit claims from companies. You mean to tell me I can run faster and increase my VO2max and create more ATP just by taking this very expensive pill three times a day? I’m sold! I’ll take any advantage I can get.
It’s pretty well known now that most supplements are full of garbage. At worst, you are ingesting cheap filler with potentially allergy-causing ingredients not listed on the label. At best, you’ll have very expensive neon pee.
Don’t get me wrong, I take plenty of supplements. But I’ve done my research and found some good tried and true products that improve my running, energy, and recovery. I try to eat a varied diet with lots of organic veggies, fruits, and meat but sometimes you just don’t want to snack on carrot sticks in the middle of a 20 miler.
Coffee: It’s become so routine that I feel crappy without it. Addiction? Pssh. I could totally quit coffee if I wanted to. (That’s a lie. I’ve tried before and lasted just 3 miserable days.) Plus it’s really good for you. Science says so.
Vega Pre-Workout Energizer: I use this before races and hard workouts/long runs. It has a lot of ingredients that I’m not sure actually do anything, but I do feel a boost and it sits well in my stomach, so I keep using it.
Tailwind: an electrolyte and carbohydrate drink mix that is super easy on my stomach. They claim it’s all you need on long runs, and I can vouch for that. I have caffeinated and non-caffeine versions, but save the caffeine for races or extra long runs.
Coca Cola: I consider this a supplement because I only use it during races. All that caffeine and sugar gives me an instant boost! Plus the carbonation can settle a cranky stomach.
GU Electrolyte pills: if I drink too much water my stomach gets sloshy. Salt pills make it stop. I’m also a very salty sweater (crusted salt on my face after every run) so these help replace some of what I’m losing. Also great to have around in case you need to salt some food in an emergency. Yeah, it’s happened on multiple occasions.
Vega Sport Protein bars: I can’t eat gluten or nuts, so finding a decent bar that doesn’t taste like cardboard was a challenge. Vega does a great job with these. 15 grams of easy-to-digest vegan protein (no whey! yay!) and 30 grams of carbs. Perfect to tide me over on the drive home from the trails. But if I could eat nuts, I’d be consuming enough Picky Bars to single-handedly keep them in business.
Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega-3: Omega-3s are a natural anti-inflammatory. Our body doesn’t produce it and I don’t eat enough fish, so I supplement. Added bonus: my nails actually grow kinda long now!
Natural Calm Magnesium: after hard workouts or races my muscles used to ache so bad I had a hard time sleeping. Sitting in a car for more than 20 minutes without my hamstrings screaming was impossible. But then my massage therapist gave me a sample of magnesium powder. And just like that, my achy bedtime muscles were gone. This one was a game changer for me.
Women’s Gummy multivitamin: multivitamins are generally useless if you have a decent diet, but I keep these around in case I have a candy craving attack. A few gummy vitamins is a whole lot better than an entire bar of chocolate. Come on, I can’t be the only one…
One thing that’s NOT on my list: NSAIDs (ibuprofen, Aleve). I used to pop this stuff like candy. Then I learned how it could actually reduce the beneficial effects of training because, get this, your body knows what it’s doing with inflammation. And then I read how it can wreck your gastrointestinal system. My doctor thinks my overuse of ibuprofen is a possible cause of all my GI issues, so I don’t touch the stuff now. I let my body do its thing. I get extra sleep and eat well to aid in recovery. And it works!
What do you guys supplement with? What has worked/didn’t work in the past? I’d love to hear!