Words: Lucy FryGoing that extra mile requires more than simple determination. Supplements can make the difference between a new PB or just making the finish, MR picks ten of the best.Sometimes we think that all we need to do in order to run better is train harder. But watching what you put into your body before, during and after running is almost as important as the training itself. Since running is one of the most cost efficient and natural sports known to man, it’s understandable that lots of runners are suspicious of manufactured pills, bars and shakes. But according to Matt Lovell, nutritionist for Athletics UK and ambassador for sports nutrition products, Kinetica, (kinetica-sports.com): “It’s actually very difficult to get all the macronutrients you need if you’re in any kind of high intensity training regime. You need additional support.”
THE 10 BEST SUPPLEMENTS FOR RUNNERS:1. Fish oilsWhen we talk about fish oils we are primarily talking about Omega 3 fatty acids. These used to be a lot more prevalent in our ancestors’ diets than they are in ours. As such, even if you eat enough oily fish like mackerel and salmon, you still need some extra support, usually in pill form. Fish oils are important for joint support. They can also help keep skin healthy and prevent coronary heart disease and strokes. To ensure you’re getting the best quality, look for ‘Pharmaceutical Grade’ fish oils.2. Rehydration drinks Sweating is the way the body maintains its core temperature of 37ºC, which is good, but the bad thing is you lose fluid and electrolytes (valuable minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium). When you finish a hard training session you need to replace both carbohydrates and electrolytes; try an isotonic drink over water for this. Expert nutritionist and founder of the website Nutrition Rocks (nutrition-rocks.co.uk) Hala El-Safie says: “Save yourself money and make your own isotonic drink with some cordial like Ribena (the full sugar version) and a teaspoon of salt.” 3. Carbogels These are small packets of gel containing simple and complex carbohydrates and are really best used when on the move. They are essentially like sports drinks but without water, and are best absorbed by the body when taken with liquid. They are portable and light, and you can usually ingest them while still running without a problem. Try and take a gel when you’re starting to flag on a long run. Never use them for the first time during a race though. 4. ZMAThis is a combination of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6. Zinc is an essential mineral and antioxidant and is important for helping your muscles rebuild and grow). Magnesium is good for bone health and your metabolism. The jury’s still out on whether or not these supplements increase testosterone, but they are widely believed to help you repair after exercise and stress. It also helps with sleeping, so try taking it half and hour before bed, but beware… it’s rumoured to cause strange dreams. 5. Multivitamins Yes, eating lots of green leafy vegetables and lean proteins is a great way to stay healthy but even then you might need a little more when under stress. Lovell recommends Solgar and Biocare as two of the most reliable brands of multivitamin. You might like to think of this particular supplement as a safety net, which could catch any fallout from overtraining or a bad day’s eating here and there. 6. Glutamine The most abundant amino acid in the body. Your body can usually make enough glutamine itself for its daily needs, but once you start training heavily, it craves more than normal. You can buy pots of the stuff in any specialist store or online - take a spoonful post training to help your muscles recover. Also, runners who train for endurance events like marathons may find that as a side effect of such lengthy training, their levels of the hormone cortisol increase. When this occurs, levels of glutamine decrease and supplementation is necessary. 7. Whey proteinAlthough not always as tasty as meat or tofu, pure whey protein shakes are a convenient way to ensure you’re getting enough protein in your diet and a great post-run snack. Derived from milk, this protein has a very good amino acid profile and is digested very quickly. As such, it builds and repairs muscles fast. But don’t overdo it - there’s nothing like real food to fuel your body, so wherever possible try to eat rather than drink your protein.8. Protein/carb bar Another convenient way to ensure you put the right things in your body before or after training. Clif bars are good for endurance runners as they are heavy and slowly absorbed by the body - and any protein bar is better than a chocolate bar post-race/run, although they can have as much sugar in them.9. B vitamins Used to convert proteins and carbohydrates into energy and also used for cell repair as well as being important in the production of red blood cells. Athletes lacking B vitamins have reduced high-intensity exercise performance and are less able to repair damaged muscles or build muscle mass than those who do eat a diet rich with B vitamins. Even a slight B vitamin deficiency can result in reduced performance and recovery. Individual requirements vary dependent on type and intensity of exercise, the amount of nutrients lost through sweat, and urine, and individual differences in diet.10. Caffeine Not strictly speaking a supplement, but caffeine, either in the form of a double espresso, or a couple of caffeine pills, is something that some runners swear by. Others, however, consider it an unhealthy and unnecessary addition to their training, though the evidence seems to suggest caffeine can enhance performance, whereas caffeine dependency is likely to decrease it. Finding the balance can be hard, but generally speaking, try and have your caffeine pre-training.