When you’re training to run in an upcoming race, it can be easy to forget about planning nutrition and supplements in favor of just getting out there and running as often as possible. Running is the most important part of your training program, after all! But running without the right support is a recipe for cramps, fatigue, and a slower pace, both in your training and on race day. The truth is that there are some great supplements that can help you run better on training days, help your body recover after hard workouts, keep your sleep cycles regulated to recover and energize, and maintain healthy joints so you don’t injure yourself or have pain after long distances.
It's important to remember never to try anything new on race day. Make sure to incorporate these supplements daily beginning at least a couple of weeks before your race, preferably as soon as you start your training program. They not only help you on race day, but improve your training runs and support optimal health and well-being. The "nothing new on race day" goes for everything else, too: no new shoes, clothes, hair styles, body care product, and anything else. Make sure everything you use that morning is comfortable and familiar, because there's nothing worse than your big race being spoiled by an uncomfortable surprise.
If you are training for a race and running more than 3 hours per week, or 30 minutes per day, replenishing electrolytes with a mix that's balanced for what your body needs is an essential step in running well, both in training and in a race. Electrolytes are important for maintaining healthy fluid levels between the water that's inside cells and the water that's in circulation, and this helps to avoid dehydration.
Electrolytes also help regulate blood sugar levels and support muscle and nerve function, especially during long runs when carbohydrate stores run low. Electrolyte drinks are an easy way to ensure you get enough of these minerals that we're not getting enough of in our food supply anyway. You can choose the electrolyte jar mixes when you'll have time to mix it in a sport bottle at home or at the gym, or grab the travel packets that are perfect to add to any bottle of water. They mix easily and contain no sugar or artificial ingredients, so you can be sure you're doing the healthiest thing for your body. You can even mix them in drinks other than water, like flavored seltzer or smoothies.
Omega 3 Supplements
Running, like all forms of training and sports, causes microscopic tears in your muscles. These micro-tears take some time to heal, and some experts believe they heal as slowly as burns. As with any injury, deliberate or not, you need the right support for your tissues to heal quickly and cleanly. In terms of running, you want your muscles to heal with greater strength and endurance.
Omega-3 fatty acids, which are abundant in cold-water fish, aid in the repair of these tears and the subsequent strengthening of the muscle during the recovery process. Constant training without adequate recovery can lead to muscular damage because the tiny tears in the muscle fibers don't have time to repair. Muscle recovery is aided by enough rest between workouts and a diet rich in marine omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, you can maintain your usual exercise routine with less concern for harm if you ensure adequate intake of either fish that's high in Omega-3 oils, or take a high quality Omega-3 supplement.
Omega-3s help runners in more ways than one due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Muscle soreness is caused by the body's inflammatory response to the minute muscle tears that occur during exercise. In essence, omega-3s prevent the release of markers that signal for an inflammatory reaction, which in turn reduces the inflammation and pain signals given to your muscles after exercise.
Runners can benefit from increasing collagen production for more than just the structural benefits, such as the stability of connective tissue: it also helps prevent injuries and speeds up recovery time. Two of the major ways sports physicians and physical therapists are utilizing collagen in their athletes is to help generate more damage-resistant connective tissue as well as to assist in the healing process after an injury.
The possibility of avoiding injury is a major selling point for runners. Collagen supplementation with vitamin C taken within an hour of exercise benefits tendons and ligaments. Collagen is a large molecule that is difficult to absorb on its own. Taken with Vitamin C, collagen is shown to be more effectively incorporated into a person’s own tissues. Runners who use this form of reinforcement are less likely to suffer the kind of musculoskeletal damage that could sideline them for weeks or months.
Small studies in some groups of runners found that collagen peptides improved bone mineral density. Researchers acknowledge that further work is needed to find the best dosage, but the research that’s already been concluded is reason for optimism.
Incorporating Multi-Collagen or Collagen Creamer into your plan after suffering an injury may hasten the healing process, and taking collagen on a daily basis can help you to avoid those runner’s injuries in the first place. Due to its role in maintaining cartilage's structural integrity, collagen has shown promise in alleviating athletes' joint pain as well as helping to strengthen tissues.
MCT Oil, Ketones, and Nut Butter are excellent sources of fuel for running. They're all healthy fats, which provide a quick source of energy when you need it most. MCT Oil is especially good for endurance athletes because it's metabolized quickly in your liver, which makes it a great choice for anyone on the keto diet. This is why marathon runners often use MCT Oil as their primary energy source before training. MCT oil gets a special note about starting slowly, several weeks before your race. Because it goes straight to the liver to be turned into energy, some people experience altered digestion until their liver is used to it. Take 1/4 serving for a few days, then 1/2, then a full serving. Whatever you do, do not try MCT oil for the first time on the morning of your race.
Ketones are also a good option for endurance athletes because they act almost like an energy drink before a run. Ketones are metabolized from fatty acids released from your own fat stores, and then burned for energy. They can also be taken as a supplement and used as fast fuel before you get out the door, so you feel great during the hardest part of your run. Both MCT Oil and ketones are best used before going out on your run.
Nut Butter is perfect for quick energy during your runs. Since it comes in convenient packets that can fit in your pockets or hydration pack, you can keep up your energy without bonking on longer runs or on race day. Nut butter has healthy fats and protein to keep you running strong all the way to the finish line.
None of these options contain added sugars or artificial ingredients, so you aren't spiking your blood glucose leading to a crash later, nor are you filling yourself with chemicals that your body doesn't know what to do with. These all-natural fuels will help you to keep running and reach your new personal best.
Sleep is critical for optimal training, a great race and a healthy lifestyle. There are some great sleep aids that can help you get better sleep including Melatonin, GABA, 5-HTP and valerian. Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your circadian rhythm so when you start taking it around bedtime your body will naturally produce more of it at night which will help you fall asleep. GABA is an amino acid found in every cell in our body that helps control many important functions such as blood pressure, anxiety, muscle tension, and pain sensitivity. GABA works by boosting melatonin levels which induces a calming effect on the brain. GABA also helps increase serotonin levels in the brain which improves mood and increases focus. 5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin production and is another natural sleep aid. Valerian has been used for centuries for inducing relaxation, improving sleep quality and decreasing stress hormones. It's most effective when taken about 30 minutes before bedtime because it needs time to work its way into the system.
Try Lights Out. It contains a small amount of melatonin to help you fall asleep and stay asleep, even when you're nervous for a big race. It also includes optimal quantities of GABA, 5-HTP, and valerian to support deep, restful, restorative sleep so you can recover from your training quickly and completely.
Athletes of all levels, from weekend warrior to elite competitor, can benefit from a smart supplementation strategy to train and run races. While the training is the most important part, supplementing with essential nutrients and supportive molecules can help your body adapt to the demands of running more quickly. More than that, these nutrients can help you avoid injuries, experience less fatigue, recover faster from workouts, and run faster on race day. Start your supplements at minimum 2 weeks before your race, but ideally you’ll start them as soon as you start your training program. Remember, nothing new on race day!