The Best Workout Supplements for Women and Runners

If you are trying to build muscle or increase your endurance and you need an extra boost of energy or easier recovery without sacrificing your gains, the right supplements will help get you there.

The best workout supplements for women, and runners in general, are intended to be supplemental to your nutrition as the name suggests. I would like to point out that you can get all the vitamins, minerals, proteins, and amino acids that I will discuss in this article through a well-balanced diet and from your body’s natural production of such nutrients.

Pre-Workout vs. Post-Workout Supplements

All workout supplements have a purpose and it is important to know which supplements will help you reap the most benefits. CrunchesMost pre-workout supplements contain ingredients to give you an energy boost, so you can exercise harder and longer but they may also contain a lot of sugar. Read labels!

Post-workout supplements are intended to grow or repair muscles and facilitate muscular recovery.

The Best Workout Supplements

Protein Powder

Protein powder is the most common workout supplement. There are a handful of protein options on the market to accommodate diet restrictions, including: whey, soy, egg white, and plant based. Protein supplements are important for muscle repair, growth, and recovery.

Protein ShakeWhey protein is vegetarian and lactose-free but it is not vegan. Whey digests quickly to facilitate muscle build and recovery. In addition, whey contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) known to prevent cancer and improve heart health.

Plant-based protein powders are great for people with food sensitivities because they are gluten and dairy free. Pea and brown rice proteins have many of the same benefits as whey; however, the plant protein to carb ratio in the powder is much higher which is great for building muscle and managing your blood sugar.

After a long run, it is critical to eat within 30 minutes and a protein drink is a convenient option. Try to aim for a 1:3 protein-to-carb ratio so you get the muscle repair and recovery as well as the energy replenishment. For example, if your protein powder has 20 grams of protein, add another 60 grams of carbs through almond milk or half a banana to get the correct ratio.

Keep in mind that your body is only able to process and absorb 30 grams of protein at a time. There is no benefit to extra scoops of protein in your drink. It will only break your wallet and make your kidneys work longer.

Creatine

Creatine is commonly associated with building strength, but it is also known for increasing speed and power. In addition, creatine has been shown to improve anaerobic threshold which means your muscles can perform longer than normal before lactic acid builds and fatigue sets in. Also, creatine has shown to reduce muscle damage and preserve lean muscle. This is all great for long distance runners!Planking

Creatine is an acid that is naturally produced by the human body, but it works much differently in women than in men simple because a woman’s body produces more. This higher volume of creatine produced in women make them more accustomed to its effects. Women will not have the same weight gain experience that men might but will still benefit from the performance boost and be able to train at a high intensity for longer.

Creatine can be taken in pill or powder form prior to working out. The supplement will stay in your system for about 90 minutes.

BCAAs

BCAAs stands for branched-chain amino acids and include a combination of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These amino acids are essential for your body to restore glycogen lost during a workout or a run because this is your main source of fuel. PreworkoutWithout glycogen, you may experience fatigue, muscle and stomach cramping, or nausea.

BCAAs have many benefits. These amino acids are not broken down in the liver but mostly within the muscle which helps to decrease muscle loss, reduce muscle soreness, and enhance performance.

Since your body cannot produce these amino acids, they must be obtained from food sources such as meat, poultry, fish, milk, beans and eggs, or from supplements.

Collagen

Broth

Collagen is a structural protein that is one of the main components in bones, tendons, and ligaments. The human body makes collagen by combining amino acids with vitamin C, copper, and zinc. You can consume collagen by eating animal products such as bone broth, chicken broth, beef broth, fish, and other protein rich foods.

Athletes supplementing collagen to improve joints and connective tissues is still being studied. However, scientists have found evidence to support that collagen supplements do work as an anti-inflammatory, so you could possibly feel some recovery relief after a hard workout.

Other Dietary Supplements for all Runners

Beet Juice

Beet juice is a natural pre-workout drink that contains an incredible Beet Juicenumber of nitrates. The nitrates from the beet juice penetrate the blood stream and convert to nitric acid. This increases your blood flow and ignites oxygen consumption. The more efficient use of oxygen equals more energy and stamina for your run.

Turmeric

Turmeric has become very popular the past few years as a natural remedy for Tumericinflammation to ease joint pain and sore muscles. The reason it works is that turmeric contains curcumin which is an amazingly powerful antioxidant. Many people add turmeric powder to a smoothie or cup of tea, but you can also get the supplement in capsule form.

Magnesium

Magnesium is essential for muscle function and it depletes quickly during intense workouts. A deficiency of this mineral could cause severe muscles cramps, heart palpitations, or migraines. In addition to muscle function, other benefits of magnesium include better quality sleep and bone health. A multi-vitamin will most likely contain some magnesium; however, you will get a better quality ingredient and more nutrient absorption from a separate supplement.

Are Supplements Necessary for Runners?

Like all athletes, runners require and expend a great amount of energy and need to fuel their bodies with nutrients. If a runner is eating a healthy diet and the ideal macros for their body, then they probably do not need supplements. However, most runners expend a lot more nutrients than they take in which can lead to soreness, fatigue, cramping, or injury.

Choose supplements made with high quality ingredients and stick to well-known brands because the product was most likely manufactured in an FDA regulated facility.

The most difficult part of supplementing your nutrition is finding out what you need for your body and goals. Incorporating the correct amount will improve your overall performance.

Glute Strengthening Exercises for Runners: The Importance of a Strong Butt

When I first started running, my focus was distance. I started with a 5k and built up my race distances until I completed my first marathon. That was a huge Speed Trainingaccomplishment for me to just finish 26.2 miles and all the time and miles I put into training for such a distance. However, my body took a beating through the years of endurance training so when my next goal was to complete distances faster, it was extremely difficult and frustrating.

I was able to get a 2-mile distance at my desired pace but as I increased the mileage, I strained muscles or felt joint pain in my legs and I had to take a few days off running. After some research and discussions with trainers, I realized my Hamstring Stretchtraining routine was unbalanced and strength training was needed. Right away during my strength workouts I found that my hamstrings and calves were much weaker than my quadriceps. This explained why I could not increase my pace because my muscles were not firing and working together in the most efficient way.

Being out of balance in my strength also had caused issues with my hips, knees, and ankles. One day I mentioned to a coworker that I needed to strengthen my hamstrings so I could run faster and he told me that I should concentrate on strengthening my glutes because they support my pelvis and hamstrings. I completed a few exercises to test my glute strength and sure enough my butt was very weak.

The Forgotten Muscle Group

Let’s face it, we spend most of our day sitting on our butts. When we sit those gluteal muscles get stretched out and weak which causes other muscle groups to overcompensate and get stronger. This makes contraction of the glute muscles more difficult.

Women Yoga

When we perform an exercise involving several muscles, the strongest muscles will do most of the work.
While running, the glutes keep the core of the body aligned with the lower body and the hips level. So, if the glute muscles are weak, the hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves will have no stability and therefore need to work harder to generate a forward motion.

Gluteal Muscles Defined

There are three gluteal muscles that are considered your “butt” and that work simultaneously.

  1. The gluteus minimus is the smallest butt muscle directly beneath the gluteus medius. The glute min helps with hip rotation and abduction.
  2. The gluteus medius is the medium-sized butt muscle that sits mostly underneath the gluteus maximus. The glute med helps to stabilize the pelvis while assisting the glute min to flex, extend, and rotate the hip.
  3. The gluteus maximus is the largest butt muscle that gives your butt its shape. The glute max moves your hips and thighs while supporting your legs.

Why Runners Need to Strengthen Their Glutes

Most of our daily activities do not naturally involve the glute muscles so when we do a workout, we need to spend someKnee Pain time focusing on this muscle group to prevent injury and improve performance.

Many running injuries have been linked to weak glute muscles, including: shin splints, IT band issues, runner’s knee, and tendonitis. Strong glutes are fundamental to support your lower back, spinal alignment, proper leg and hip body mechanics, and ultimately preventing injury. Without support around the hips your back and knees try to compensate, and they take on more stress.

Sprinting StairsRunners get some stride power from their quads and calves but most of the power comes from the glutes and hamstrings, especially on an incline. The glutes and hamstrings work together to extend the hip flexor, so you can drive your leg back after it touches ground and push your body forward. Strong glute muscles are essential to speed and max performance.

Glute Strengthening Exercises

While running, the glutes stabilize and facilitate movement, but they don’t activate enough to build strength. So, you need to focus on strengthening your glutes at least once a week by doing exercises that induce your glute muscles to fire. The best glute strengthening exercises are performed with light weights or light resistance. Initially, start with no weights then add in exercise bands or weights to gradually build the glute muscles.

Squat ExerciseSquats: Squats are one of the best exercises for building a strong booty and give you a nice round shape. Stand with feet hip-width apart. With your back straight and head aligned, squat to a sitting position until your hamstrings are parallel to the floor. Push from your heels to stand up straight and squeeze your glutes.

Single-Leg Dead Lifts: Dead lifts may be performed with both feet on the floor but doing single leg dead lifts will strengthen your balance. Stand on one leg with your knee slightly bent. With core tight, bend forward and swing back the free-standing straight leg for balance until your torso is parallel to the ground. Return to an upright standing position. Be sure to work both sides. As you get stronger, incorporate an exercise band, medicine ball or kettle bell.

Lunges: Lunges are a great exercise for runners because they strengthen your glutes and stretch your hip flexors. Woman StretchingFrom a standing position, take a big step forward with either leg. Simultaneously, lower the back knee almost to the floor and bend the front knee until your hips, knee and ankle make a 90-degree angle. Your front knee should not extend over your front toe. Press off your front heel back to a standing position and repeat on the other side.

Clamshells: The clamshell exercise is great for stabilizing your hips and targeting the glute medius. Lie on your side with both your knees bent and slightly in front of you. With your feet or shoes touching, lift your top knee to open Exercise Bandsyour legs to resemble a clamshell opening and squeeze your glute muscles, then close. Repeat on both sides. You can rest a free weight or kettle bell on the top leg or wrap an exercise band around your thighs to get more resistance.

Glute Bridge: There are many versions of a glute bridge to target all angles of the butt, hamstrings, hips, and lower back. To complete the standard glute bridge, lie on your back with your knees bents and feet flat on the floor hip-width apart. Push into your heels to raise your hips and squeeze your glutes. Lower your hips back to the floor. Other variations include adding in a clamshell from the raised position or even single-leg glute bridges. Again, feel free to incorporate weights and exercise loops for added resistance.

Work that Booty

Your glute muscles will make or break your running performance. Strong glutes will not only make you look great in your running shorts, but they will help you run faster and more efficiently! Of course, the most important incentive of strong and powerful glute muscles is injury prevention.

Uphill Run

So, go work that booty!

Benefits of Strength Training for Runners

There is a consensus that strength training has many benefits for all athletes and strength training for runners is no exception. However, in the running community, there is a bit of skepticism about lifting weights to improve running.

Strength Training for Runners

I used to be a non-believer myself. Runners don’t want to lift weights because they don’t want to bulk up or gain weight. These are common misconceptions that will be discussed in this article. The reality is that strength training will improve a runner’s mobility, strength, flexibility and balance. From my perspective, that means running will be even more fun!

Why Runners Need Strength Training

The number one reason that runners need to supplement their running workouts with some strength training is to bring their body to balance. Running is a full body workout; therefore, one needs full body strength from all the muscles and joints to provide support and power to the movement. In other words, your body cannot run at its full potential unless you take a comprehensive approach to your training.

Workout Balance

Running is also a high impact sport of repetitive motions. Your ankles, knees and hips can take a beating from the stress of long runs or sprints week after week. Strengthening these areas and the surrounding muscles will increase your running efficiency and prevent injury. Nothing is more detrimental to a runner when they are training for a race than to take time off for an injury. So, it is super important to make sure your body is strong enough to take on the miles and terrain during your training.

Benefits of Strength Training for Runners

Your goals and approach to strength training will reap a variety of benefits. I will list some of the most common.

Weight Loss—As you build muscle, your metabolism will increase. This means that you will burn more calories throughout the entire day not just during your workout but even while you sleep.

Increased Endurance and Reduced Fatigue—Stronger muscles will be able to facilitate oxygen at a steady rate which means the muscles can work harder and longer. This will help your body handle the stress of running while maintaining proper form and persevering much longer distances.Marathon Woman

Faster Pace—As your form improves, so will your speed and efficiency. Strength training forces your body to push, pull, press, and lift a weight of resistance and support the weight. Over time and continued training, your body will adapt, and this will translate into more speed and improvement in your running mechanics

Reduced Risk of Injury—Runners are always moving in one direction—forward. The muscles that propel you forward as you run obviously get worked much more that the muscles used when moving sideways or backwards. The body becomes out of balance and susceptible to injuries, especially knee and hip injuries.

Bulk Up vs. Tone Up

If one could simply add weight training to their workout routine and bulk up from that alone, we would never hear about the struggles and sacrifices that body builders experience. There is a definite science to building a lot of muscle that involves diet, amount of weight to repetitions, rest between sets and workouts, supplements, etc. In other words, bulking up must be intentional.

Weight Training Women

A runner does not need to worry about bulking up from a few weight training sessions a week and rather focus on toning their muscles. While toning, a runner may gain more muscle during weight training, but it will doubtfully increase body mass due to all the calories burned during a run. If you do put on a little weight from strength training, you probably need it to support your metabolism.

Types of Strength Training

Strength training is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. The best types of strength training for runners include endurance training, functional training and plyometrics.

Endurance Training

Endurance Training—This type of training involves lifting light to medium weight but performing more repetitions in a set to enhance muscular endurance. Circuit training is a popular type of workout where the exercises are completed in groups with little to no rest between exercises.

Functional Training—This type of training focuses on balance and muscle coordination. The target is to have groups of muscles working together as they would during a daily activity, such as sitting down. For example, the same groups of muscles used to sit down are also used in lunges and squats.

Plyometrics—This type of training involves explosive movements and jumping Plyometrics Workoutwhich is extremely beneficial for runners since running is considered a plyometric exercise. This training can be done with little to no weights.

 

Training Mistakes

Running is one of the best forms of cardiovascular fitness; however, strength training can be a beast of its own. Adding too much weight training or too much weight too soon is a very common mistake for runners.

It is also important to choose a strength training program that is in line with your level of fitness. Endurance training and functional training exercises can be modified, as needed, so they are great for all fitness levels. Plyometric movements are more advanced. Therefore, your body is at more risk for injury so ensure you have the balance developed and the strength to minimize the stress to your joints and ligaments before adding too much plyo to your workouts. Hamstring Injury

Starting a weight training routine but only sticking to it sporadically may not affect your running too much but it could put you at risk for injury or lost days of running because of soreness. Start a program that you can maintain 2-3 times per week for 30 minutes depending on the intensity of your training schedule.

Train with Purpose

Add strength training workouts to your schedule that compliment your current goals. If you are training for a marathon, focus on endurance training so you can finish the 26.2 miles without injury and still have energy in the tank. If you are training for a PR, plyometrics could enhance your speed and agility.

Run with Purpose

Not only are there many benefits of strength training for runners but in turn, running will feel easier because you will be stronger.