My diet is hit or miss. I like to think most days I eat healthy, but there are days in the week when I indulge a little too much on the bad stuff: McDonald’s, Long’s donuts, beer, anything deep-fried, most things from The Sinking Ship. To cover my bases nutritionally and support my active lifestyle I supplement with a number of pills: spirulina, fish oil, BioAstin (astaxanthin), iron, and B-12.
The supplements I take are specific in helping me stay healthy as a runner. They help reduce and prevent inflammation; create and maintain energy; form and maintain red blood cells; prevent muscle damage; prevent sun damage; support urinary and digestive health; support skeletal and muscular systems; and strengthen cardiovascular health.
I believe every serious athlete needs to supplement with something they feel is lacking. For me, those are usually the vitamins, minerals, and proteins vegetarians lack in their diet (80% of my diet is vegetarian). Ideally whole food sources should be targeted as primary sources for our daily vitamin needs, but as athletes our nutritional needs are more demanding which require us to eat more food to meet those needs; not ideal for an athlete with time demands and looking to maintain a competitive weight. Supplementation, then, becomes necessary.
What I’m sharing below is specific to my needs and what I have found to work for me. I’m no expert, yo!
I usually add iron in the weeks leading up to a race, and only in limited doses, usually 1 pill every other day. I don’t eat much red meat or fish, if any, and have found that cycling iron doses helps stave off fatigue during hard races.
I pop a B-12 lozenge 2 hours before a hard run to help keep my energy level up. It also helps maintain red blood cells as our body processes blood at a higher rate for energy production during intense exercise.
I take two doses of fish oil pills to help with reducing inflammation that occurs after exercise. By keeping this daily regimen I feel that I’ve been able to train hard on consecutive days with little aches and pains. Recovery from long runs have been shortened.
BioAstin is a name brand astaxanthin product produced by Nutrex-Hawaii. I started taking this supplement in 2008 when I first started training for marathons on the Big Island of Hawaii. I remember watching a commercial featuring Tim Marr and was intrigued enough to try it for myself. Five years later I’m still supplementing with BioAstin, although it’s become harder to find in the midwest and have resorted to stock-piling during my trips to Hawaii and California.
Astaxanthin helps with joint and muscle health, but where it helps most is during the summer while training under the hot sun. It helps to repair tissue damage caused by heat and UV rays. I often up my dosage during this time to prevent fatigue and the ill effects on my skin due to sun damage. It’s helped me stave off cramping when taken after my pre-race breakfast.
I started taking spirulina while living in Hilo. Back then I ingested it in powder form, usually in smoothies. I took it because a runner friend recommended it and said it was a super food that can provide all the nutrients I would need as a runner and paddler. It got too expensive and when I moved back to California I stopped taking it. A few months back I started taking it again, this time in pill form. It’s really a kind of multi-vitamin, but with a complete protein compound! — Thanks to Nutrex-Hawaii (and my brother from another mother, Eddie O!) for providing me with more spirulina supplements to support my running addiction.
Lastly, I add whey protein to my post run smoothies. Whey is easily absorbed and doesn’t upset my stomach. Running breaks down muscle, so we have to take in more protein to repair damaged cells. I know my diet provides me certain types of proteins that may not be efficiently processed by my body (soy and dairy), so supplementing makes sure I round out my protein needs to provide long-term relief from muscle soreness and aid in cell regeneration.
If you get anything out of this post it should be to look beyond the nutritional recommended needs. By pushing our bodies to our limits, we abuse and demand things from our body the normal sedentary person doesn’t. We have to at least be aware of what those things are that are keeping us from progressing, then looking at how nutrition and supplementation may be able to help.
Do you take any supplements? What are they? Have they helped with performance?