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3 Useful Supplements for Beginning Runners

By Jake Boly

In this article:


If you’re just starting on your running journey, then you’re likely a little overwhelmed with everything that comes along with the act of doing it regularly. Running infrequently is relatively easy to do and doesn’t require much thought. The moment we attach a goal to our running, however, we need to develop a strategy across the board. 

There needs to be a focus on running programming, the gear you’re using, how you’re eating and recovering, and even the supplements you’re taking. In this article, we’re going to discuss three supplements that can be useful for beginning runners.

‌‌‌‌Why Runners May Need to Consider Supplements

Instead of haphazardly picking up supplements that promise big returns, it’s a good idea to start with basic nutrients at the beginning, then explore more targeted supplement options as you progress as a runner and your goals become more narrow.

Supplements were included in this article to assist with two key metrics: recovery and performance. When starting out, beginners will need to prioritize recovery efforts since their bodies will be quickly adapting and acclimating to higher running frequencies and intensities.

Remember, improved running performance will be a byproduct of adequate recovery from sustained intent-focused workouts.

‌‌‌‌For Recovery after Running: Protein Powder

More than likely, you’ve had someone in your life tell you that you should consider consuming protein powder. Let’s be clear: there’s nothing magic about protein powder when it comes to improving running performance, however, it is an incredibly convenient source for a complete protein and that’s very important to consider for performance and recovery.

A complete protein contains an adequate amount of all of the nine essential amino acids. These amino acids are needed for many important biological processes including building proteins, synthesizing hormones, and much more.

As a beginning runner, you’re going to experience a build-up of fatigue, soreness, and feel run-down from time to time. This is normal, as a good running program will ebb and flow through timeframes of pushing yourself, scaling back intensity, then repeating the process.

During times when we feel sore and run-down, recovery should take a higher priority in our day-to-day lives—especially if we want to perform at our best for preceding running sessions. Incorporating protein powder is an easy way to ensure you’re reaching your protein goals for the day and supporting your recovery efforts. 

When to Consume Protein for Runners

Generally, protein powder can be consumed at any point during the day. That’s why it’s consistently made a staple by so many active individuals.

For beginning runners, specifically in the context of training, it can be useful to consume protein powder 30 minutes to an hour before a workout or within two hours after a session. Research has suggested that both can be beneficial for performance and recovery and spreading out protein intake throughout the day is a good strategy.

Before a run, consuming protein can be beneficial for energy levels and to ensure there’s no mid-run crash due to being excessively hungry. Post-run, consuming protein is useful for recovery purposes and to fuel our body with much-needed essential amino acids.

How Much Protein Should Beginning Runners Consume?

For runners, a good daily protein goal to aim for is said to be around 1.2-2.0g/kg/day. In layman’s terms, this would mean that if a runner weighs 68kg and they wanted to consume 1.5g of protein per kg of body weight, then they would take their body weight and multiply it by 1.5 which would equal 102 grams of protein. 

It’s important to remember that you should select a goal number within this range that applies to the context of your life and needs. For example, if you’re trying to put on muscle or you’re in a calorie deficit, then a number closer to 2.0g of protein or slightly above would likely benefit you best.

‌‌‌‌For Recovery and Performance: Electrolytes

For anyone that has contemplated running a half-marathon or a marathon, then you’ve likely heard something about making sure you consume enough electrolytes.

Electrolytes affect and benefit the body in many ways when it comes to supporting running performance. They play a vital role in hydration, nerve regulation, muscle function, balancing blood acidity, and pressure, and those are only naming a few. The electrolytes in the human body include sodium, potassium, magnesium, phosphate, chloride, calcium, and bicarbonate.

More specifically, the electrolytes sodium and potassium play large roles in regulating our body’s water balance as we exercise. When running, it’s common to sweat a lot and lose natural levels of water, so consuming electrolytes is a safe and smart bet for replenishing what we’ve likely lost in order to sustain performance.

When to Consume Electrolytes for Runners

For beginner runners that are starting to do long distances, consuming electrolytes during and after a run is usually a good bet for replenishing potentially lost electrolytes during the training session.

It’s important to note that the number of electrolytes during any training session can vary pretty greatly, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all rule when consuming electrolytes. Many electrolyte supplements are zero calories (or very low) and mix with water fairly well. Adding them into your recovery and intra-workout regimen is usually a safe bet and easy to do.

How Much Electrolytes Should Beginning Runners Consume?

As mentioned above, there are no clear guidelines for consumption for every runner, as every individual’s needs will vary. However, a good place to start is to ensure you’re covering your recommended dietary allowances, then scaling from there based on the activities you’ve performed and the settings you’ve performed them in.

For longer bouts of activity in hotter settings, then it might be worth increasing electrolyte consumption due to the body likely losing more fluid than usual.

‌‌‌‌For Recovery and Performance: BCAAs

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are commonly recommended for any active individual trying to improve their recovery and potentially increase their performance.

BCAAs play a vital role in providing the body with key amino acids that contribute to building protein which is useful for recovery purposes. For runners, BCAAs can be a nice addition to increasing daily amino acid levels in a passive way.

When to Consume BCAAs for Runners

Generally, you can consume BCAAs at any point during the day or following a workout. For runners who eat a balanced diet with an adequate amount of complete proteins, BCAAs can have little benefit for actual muscle growth and recovery, as you’re already receiving enough amino acids in your diet. 

However, if you are worried you’re falling short on your daily amino acid consumption or if you’re dieting while starting running, then adding BCAAs can be a smart passive move. Plus, they’re low-calorie and add flavor to water!

How Much BCAAs Should Beginning Runners Consume?

Much like electrolytes, the amount of BCAAs that could be consumed for benefit will vary greatly from runner to runner. Generally, one serving of a normal BCAA supplement will contain around 7g of BCAAs which is plenty for anyone eating enough protein throughout the day.

References:

  1. Vitale, K., & Getzin, A. (2019). Nutrition and Supplement Update for the Endurance Athlete: Review and Recommendations. Nutrients, 11(6), 1289. doi: 10.3390/nu11061289
  2. Heffernan, S., Horner, K., De Vito, G., & Conway, G. (2019). The Role of Mineral and Trace Element Supplementation in Exercise and Athletic Performance: A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 11(3), 696. doi: 10.3390/nu11030696

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