There are a million type of different runners, some run for recreation, others for social purposes and then there are those people who run to test their athletic abilities. This guide on the best supplements for runners will mostly be helpful for the latter group, although other type of runners (and cyclists, hikers) can also benefit from taking some of the supplements below.
If up until this point you have only been drinking water to get your strength back after those gruelling long runs, you have been doing it all wrong. We are here to tell you: taking certain supplements is not cheating, on the contrary, the right running supplements in the right time can help you reduce pain, improve recovery and even push your endurance level higher.
The supplements on this guide can be used in conjunction with other endurance sports too, like cycling or trail running, and some could help non-runners and even dieters, people who would like to lose weight fast or just want to get rid of that pesky belly fat.
To clarify, we aren't saying there is a magic pill to get better at running and no running supplement will help you improve your half marathon PB in itself, without you putting the work in. However, the right supplements can improve your performance for sure by optimising your bodily functions and making you a more efficient running machine.
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What is the best supplement for runners?
What is the best running supplement for your needs depends on your running goals. One product can be wholeheartedly recommended for all types of runners: protein powder. The best protein powders can aid recovery and given its convenient powder form, protein shakes are easily digestible and can get into your bloodstream faster.
Put protein powder and water/milk/milk substitute in a protein shake blender and have a shake within half an hour after you're done with your run for the best results.
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The best supplements for runners
Bulk Powders' Complete Recovery powder has been designed specifically for recovery – in case the name wasn't a giveaway already. A 100-gram serving contains contains around 50% carbs and a generous 30 grams of protein.
The sources of carbohydrate in the Complete Recovery powder come from Maltodextrin and Waxy Maize Starch, both of which are fast dissolving carbs to help the digestion of those muscle-repairing proteins quicker.
The Bulk Powders Complete Recovery contains a bunch of amino acids like L Glutamine and Leucine too as well as tart cherry powder – popular recovery additive – and electrolyte powder. There is even some vitamins in the mix, for good measure.
Once you started taking Xendurance tablets for a few days (maybe a week), you can't help but notice the lack of soreness in the legs as you do your daily 10K. It is subtle but still noticeable: you will feel less tired and capable of doing the same distance with less effort.
It is not easy to get info on how does Xendurance Tablet work and even the official website is vague about the actual performance stats. To be fair, even if the brand claimed the tablet improves performance by 5%, it would be quite hard to prove/disprove that claim.
Based on user reviews and my own experience, the tablets work, in their mysterious ways. You could say it's just placebo but does it matter if you can actually feel the difference? To clarify, I don't think it is just the placebo effect but at the same time, it's difficult to put my finger on the exact thing that works with Xendurance. As long as it does I don't mind.
Pre-workout solutions have long been associated with gym workouts, but the Ei8ht Energy from Avrox – developed with Oxford University – changed that for sure. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of pre-workout powders and solutions, these concoctions contain a bunch of active ingredients that will get your metabolic system ready for workout, regardless of the time of the day or the mood you are in.
One of the main active ingredients in pre-workout powders is caffeine and it is the case here too, but the Ei8ht Energy differs from other run-of-the-mill solutions in a way that it enhances your blood's oxygen carrying capacity as well as waking your body up, something every runner and cyclist yearns for. The ability supply the muscles with more oxygen means you can run harder for longer without felling fatigued.
The Ei8ht Energy doesn't contain any sugar (virtually sugar-free) or food colourants and rely only on natural ingredients to help boost performance. And it does it fast: once the sachet is mixed with water (and drank, of course) the effect is almost instantaneous. You will be itching to go and exercise within a matter of minutes and won't want to stop anytime soon either.
Although there isn't a huge amount of caffeine in any one sachet (80 mg), we recommend not taking it later on the day, but for the same reason, it could work exceptionally well for early morning runs and even for races where you need that extra push. Better still, having a sachet covers 20% of B3 and B12 vitamin RDA as an added bonus.
Drinking plenty of water is essential for a lot of reasons and if you are a keen runner, you should drink even more. As well as water, we lose minerals too when we sweat and these should be replenished afterward to avoid cramps and other side effects of mineral deficiency.
Enter ONE PRO Nutrition Ultra Hydration Electrolyte Tablets: these water-soluble tablets contain no artificial flavours, sweeteners or preservatives a balanced mix of electrolytes – sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium – as well as eight vitamins and amino acids too.
There is additional zinc and natural binders – inulin and starch sourced from plant fibres – in the tablets which as also gluten free and suitable for vegetarians and vegans too. And, you know, having a lemon flavoured drink is just more fun than having plain water.
Science in Sport is probably one of the best known supplement brand among cyclists and runners alike. The GO Energy gel contains a decent amount of carbs to keep you going as well as electrolytes to help reduce muscle fatigue during longer runs.
To put a label on those ingredients: in each gel-pouch you get 22 grams of easily digestible carbohydrates, 118 mg sodium, 9.5mg potassium and 1.5mg magnesium. The SiS Go Energy Gel comes in some pretty exciting flavours too (for an energy gel anyway): choose from Salted Caramel, Raspberry or Lemon & Mint. Good vibes only.
The Protein Works Thermopro is much like a cool uncle of regular caffeine tablets: it looks cooler, delivers more and happy to play football with you in the garden at any point during the day.
The list of active ingredients in the Thermopro tablets are rather long: there is plenty of caffeine in each tablet as well as green tea extract, chromium, L-carnitine and a range of vitamins to give your body and mind a boost. It works best when taken before workout, although given the relative high amount of caffeine in the Thermopro, we recommend not taking it too late in the day so it won't disturb your sleep.