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. Most 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 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.
Whey 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 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!
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 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. Without 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 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 is a natural pre-workout drink that contains an incredible number 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 has become very popular the past few years as a natural remedy for inflammation 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 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.