Recover and Energize with the 17 Best Supplements for Runners
Weightlifting, CrossFit, HIIT — each workout puts unique stress on your body.
Yes, it’s good stress, but stress nonetheless.
Endurance athletes are no different.
Whether you’re a distance runner or casual runner, you need the best supplements for runners to fuel your body.
Specifically, you need supplements for stamina, joint and bone health, and muscle recovery.
This list of supplements can help keep you energized, reduce joint pain, and avoid muscle damage so you can run faster and longer for years to come.
Best Supplements for Energy and Stamina
If you’re marathon training or just looking for an extra boost, these workout supplements give your nervous system and body what it needs to push to the extreme.
Your new running wingman.
Cordyceps contains high levels of adenosine which stimulates ATP in your body and boosts energy production.*
Furthermore, cordyceps can help to better transport oxygen to your brain, lung, and muscle cells.*
In the 1993 Olympics, the Chinese women’s track team managed to break three world records in a single event.
The accomplishment was so impressive that organizations and news outlets jumped to accuse the women of doping when their secret weapon was cordyceps all along!
You could fill your diet with nutritious whole foods and still never consume all the vitamins and minerals your body needs to support overall health.
While a healthy diet is important, runners also require higher levels of specific nutrients.
It’s especially important to find a multivitamin with B vitamins to protect your central nervous system and help your body absorb other nutrients more efficiently.
3. Magnesium, and 4. Zinc
Zinc and magnesium both play important roles in bone health.
For runners, however, their health benefits also include boosting endurance and athletic performance.
Magnesium is crucial for supporting healthy muscle contraction while zinc helps your body metabolize energy from food.
Long-distance running and endurance training deplete both of these nutrients and magnesium isn’t easy to find in food sources, so supplementing is important.
Creating is one of the most well-documented workout supplements for increasing muscle mass, improving athletic performance, and speeding up recovery time.
Like cordyceps, creatine boosts ATP production your body needs to power through workouts.
Muscle mass gains from creatine aren’t all water weight, and pump like the haters will tell you.
Creatine also helps you build lean muscle mass by supporting protein synthesis and building new muscle fibers.
To top it off, creatine can also reduce levels of myostatin: a substance that hampers muscle growth. (1)
6. Vitamin C, and 7. Vitamin E
Many people don’t realize that vitamin C and vitamin E are both antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties.
For runners, these workout supplements can reduce damage from free radicals, fight inflammation, and help your body process other amino acids and nutrients.
Vitamin E is an especially essential nutrient for supporting cardiovascular health and defending your heart against disease.
Best Supplements for Joints and Bone Health
Regular workout supplements aren’t enough. You need running supplements for keeping your joints and bones healthy.
Even casual running is a high-impact activity. Your knees, ankles, and hips put up with a lot of stress.
People tend to forget that their feet take quite a beating: Stress fractures and inflammation are common.
The list of supplements below can help reduce inflammation and keep your joints healthy — and they’re more effective than glucosamine.
Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in your entire body.
Sadly, collagen levels decrease with age, and as a result, tendons and ligaments start to stiffen, which puts you at a higher risk for injuries like bum knees and herniated discs.
Collagen’s most important health benefit for runners is its ability to reduce joint pain by reducing inflammation and keeping connective tissue flexible and healthy. (4)
Every runner needs to supplement calcium to prevent stress fractures.
Just like your muscles need protein to recover after a strength training workout, your bones need calcium from the high impact of running.
Calcium keeps your bones strong, and you need to consume at least 1000mg per day to replenish what your bones use.
10. Vitamin D (Especially Vitamin D3)
Have you noticed your eye twitching lately?
Feeling unusually depressed?
Your vitamin D levels are probably low (almost everyone’s are).
It’s impossible to get enough vitamin D3 through diet, so make sure to supplement this nutrient to support healthy bones, thyroid, and your nervous system. (5)
Best Supplements for Recovery and Muscle Soreness
Weightlifting gets a lot of attention for weight loss and burning calories, but running is no joke.
Running, whether marathon training or casual running of a few miles each day, takes a serious toll on your muscles.
If you don’t choose the best running supplements for recovery, expect to experience plenty of muscle soreness, and you may even lose lean muscle mass that you’ve worked hard to build.
To top it off, neglecting your post-workout recovery fuel could increase your chances of injury during future runs.
Yes, muscle recovery running supplements are that serious.
BCAAs are a favorite pre-workout supplement among runners and endurance athletes of all kinds due to their many health benefits.
BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids, are especially important for muscle recovery.
Numerous studies show that taking these special amino acids can reduce muscle soreness, prevent muscle deterioration, and speed up recovery time.
That’s not all. BCAAs can also reduce exercise fatigue so it will take longer for you to hit that wall where you’re ready to collapse from exhaustion.
12. Fish Oil and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
It’s impossible to fit all the essential benefits of omega-3s into this tiny section.
For runners, fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids function as an anti-inflammatory and prevent lactic acid build-up — both of which decrease muscle soreness.
Instead of glucosamine (which doesn’t seem particularly effective), turn to fish oil and other forms of omega-3s like krill oil for supporting joint health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also important for supporting brain health and warding away depression and anxiety.
13. Whey Protein or Vegan Protein Powder
Most experts recommend that endurance athletes and runners choose whey protein because it contains all the branched-chain amino acids your body needs for protein synthesis to build lean muscle mass.
If you’re sticking to a vegan diet, you can swap out whey protein for another complete protein like hemp or create a protein powder with a combination of vegan proteins to make sure you’re getting all nine of your essential amino acids needed for muscle growth.
Finally, vegans will also want to include a vegan-friendly BCAA powder to supercharge their muscle-building potential since most athletes rely on animal-based products for branched-chain amino acids.
Toss a scoop of your favorite protein powder along with some collagen into a smoothie for ultimate muscle-building power and joint health.
Glutamine is an amino acid that lives in your blood plasma and fuels your immune system.
Although glutamine is technically a non-essential amino acid, long-distance running and intense workouts can deplete your glutamine levels.
If your glutamine drops too low, your muscles will start breaking down through catabolization. (6)
Instead of relying on your body to produce its own supply, include glutamine in your stash of supplements for runners to keep your cells hydrated and support muscle recovery.
If weight loss is your goal, make sure to supplement this vital amino acid.
L-carnitine helps your body burn fat cells for ATP while building lean muscle mass.
Not only is it great for muscle recovery, but l-carnitine also improves performance by boosting energy production. (7)
16. Bonus: Probiotics
Probiotics don’t quite fit into any category here, but they’re important supplements for runners.
Imbalanced gut flora can lead to inflammation and a compromised immune system. (8)
As an endurance athlete, your immune system is already under plenty of stress.
Probiotics can keep your digestive system healthy, keep inflammation at bay, and protect your immune system.
17. Bonus: Iron
Frankly, it’s dangerous for average people to take an iron supplement.
Runners, however, tend to suffer from iron deficiencies from the high-impact activity, which leads to muscle loss and throws off red blood cell counts.
Iron deficiencies are surprisingly common too — especially in endurance athletes, bodybuilders, cyclists, swimmers, vegetarians, vegans, and pregnant women.
Symptoms of an iron deficiency or anemia include fatigue, feeling lightheaded, heart palpitations, brittle nails, and pallor.
See a doctor for bloodwork to find out if you’re suffering from an iron deficiency.
The Bottom Line
While most of your nutrients should come from whole foods, it’s also wise to fill nutritional gaps with extra amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Athletes put their bodies through significant strain and stress. When you’re dealing with a high-impact, energy-intensive activity like running, it’s very unwise to think that a healthy diet is all you need.
In fact, not supplementing your healthy diet for lost amino acids and nutrients can put you at risk for injuries.
The running supplements on this list should be all you need to stay healthy and push your body to the limit!