“It’s always best to eat whole foods, since they supply nutrients in combinations pills can’t replicate,” says Anthony Meade, sports dietitian at Wakefield Sports Clinic in Adelaide. But in some situations taking certain supplements can help ensure runners get everything active people need.” Here’s how to decide whether your diet needs a boost from some of the most common pills runners pop.CALCIUM
“Calcium reduces stress-fracture risk by strengthening bones,” says Meade, “and plays a key role in muscle and nerve function.” A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found people with high calcium intake have a lower risk of developing type-2 diabetes. If you eat at least three daily servings of low fat dairy, you probably have enough calcium in your diet. But if you regularly fall short, supplementing is a good idea, says Meade.
HOW TO POP IT
Depending on your dietary intake either 600mg or 1000mg of calcium carbonate daily is suitable says Meade (women 51 or older need 1200mg/day). To boost absorption, take it away from meals (before bed is a good time).
Studies show EPA and DHA, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, help reduce exercise-induced asthma and muscle soreness and improve blood flow. Both are in fatty fish, like salmon and butterfish. “If you eat two or three servings of fatty fish a week, you get plenty of omegas,” says Meade. But if you’re among the 55 per cent of runners who rarely or never eat seafood, according to a runnersworld.online.com.au poll, supplements are a good choice.
HOW TO POP IT
A supplement with 1000mg of fish oil may actually contain little DHA and EPA. “Read the label,” says Meade, “and find one that contains at least 500mg of DHA and EPA combined.”
“Iron is vital for producing haemoglobin, a compound that carries oxygen to muscles and other organs” says Meade. “Low iron stores causes energy to sag and impairs training performance.” Men rarely have low iron, but pre-menopausal female runners are at particular risk. Runners can feel tired for many reasons, but since high doses of iron can damage organs, Meade stresses runners should always consult a doctor before supplementing.
HOW TO POP IT
If a blood test reveals you have low iron stores, you’ll need to take ferrous sulphate to replete stores and then have regular blood tests to check the response.
Pair it with a vitamin C – rich juice like blackcurrant, guava or orange to boost absorption.
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Find more articles like this in the May 2011 issue of Runner's World - the world's leading running magazine for the runner who wants to achieve their personal health, fitness and performance goals. Go to the Runner's World website for all the latest news and to subscribe online.