First of all, I should say up front. I’m not offering medical advice, nor am I playing doctor on the internet. The following is just what’s worked for me and hopefully will work for you too.
Also, supplementing to improve your running is different from supplementing for optimal health. If you think you have a deficiency in your diet or have health issues, please seek medical advice.
With that all said, using the right supplements at the right time can have huge benefits.
Great running results are often possible in a “natural” manner, i.e., with no supplements. But supplementing can shortcut many processes and lead to quicker and easier results.
That’s why I use supplements.
Since many of us are dealing with a food system that has an ever diminishing nutritional density, retrieving all-important vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients in a convenient and optimized way is much more alluring (and often necessary).
Where to start?
When thinking about supplements for running endurance, I choose 3 different products for well-thought-out reasons. If you can only manage 1 of the supplements, that’s ok. See what works for you the best. But this stack is sure to show results over time.
Here are the 3 supplements I choose. Keep on reading further to find out why these supplements are the ones I use to improve running.
- Enzymes: Make sure the food you consume is absorbed and used efficiently. That way, you’re not making expensive pee and poop! Enzymes break down food for your body to utilize.
- Essential Amino Acids: When it comes to optimal protein absorption, EAAs beat them all. Knowing this now, I can’t see any reason to buy protein powders in the future.
- Organ Meats: Put back the nutrients we need to consume, which we often lack in the modern world. Nutrient-dense organ meats can be a great natural alternative to cheap, ineffective muti-vitamins.
Considering I just mentioned nutrient density, the first supplement of choice is an obvious one.
When we eat food, most of its nutrients are not optimally absorbed for our bodies to benefit. As you might have guessed, protein is one of those nutrients that is a little more difficult for our bodies to utilize to its full potential. To help quantify each protein source, there is a scale named PDCAAS, which ranks foods in terms of the amino acid profile, and its absorbability.
Believe it or not, eggs score near the top in the PDCAAS scoring system, and most other animal sources come up a close second. It’s only when we look to most vegan protein sources when these values tend to drop. For example, beans like pinto and kidney are only 60-70% as efficient as eggs. That doesn’t mean eggs are perfect either; some results show that the amino acid utilization of eggs sits just under 50%. That other 50% is going to waste!
One quick way around this absorption inefficiency is enzymes.
Many of the inefficiencies come from our poor digestion. Poor digestion is often down to a lack of quality enzymes usually found in raw foods or enzymes that we produce by our bodies.
Luckily we can get around this with supplementation.
Enzymes come in all shapes, sizes, and brands. So how do you choose? Personally, I choose BiOptimizers, specifically their enzyme product named Masszymes. I trust their brand and products because of their attention to detail, from ingredients used to the dosage advice. Masszymes contains 13 different types of enzymes to digest a variety of foods.
To answer your unasked question: Yes, it even contains lactase for those concerned with lactose intolerance.
The quality of enzymes per pill is far superior to others on the market, meaning you get a great bang for your buck! The number of enzymes per pill far exceeds many on the market, and the variety of enzymes ensures no gaps left open. I speak more about each enzyme and their role in the digestion process in my in-depth digestive enzyme post.
So how do you use them?
I cycle on and off Masszymes based on my gut feeling of how my digestion is performing, but a sure-fire way to ensure perfect digestion is to take 3 capsules with every meal.
On top of that, when I drink my favorite post-workout “protein-ish” drink, Huel, I add 1 capsule to increase the digestibility of the vegan protein it contains. You can do this with any protein drink you want, and you’ll gain more benefit from the nutrients the drink contains. And as a bonus, you’ll have less gas and bloating!
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You’re probably sick of hearing about protein drinks. I don’t blame you. There is a new protein powder every week. But this supplement is a little different.
Amino acids are the building block of proteins. When we consume protein in the form of food, our digestive system breaks them down to its base amino acids which can be absorbed into the bloodstream.
These amino acids are essential for so many functions in the body, including muscle growth, stress/mood, and metabolic regulation.
If we fail to consume a good ratio of amino acids or have protein digestion issues, our bodies will fail to repair from the mild stress of exercising.
For the average Joe, it’s possible to meet all the amino acid requirements on a balanced diet, but as a runner, the requirements are a little higher due to the stress imposed through training.
Many people supplement with protein powders, which can help, especially when combined with Masszymes, as mentioned above. Another way to ensure you consume the correct ratio of amino acids is to supplement with EAAs.
The great thing about EAAs is that they contain all the necessary amino acids (hence why they are called Essential Amino Acids), and we don’t have to rely solely on the body’s digestion process. They’re already in an absorbable form, ready to be used when they hit the bloodstream. Meaning they’re nearly 100% efficient.
When I run, I take 5 grams of EAAs every hour. I do this to ensure that my muscles are not cannibalized for energy and to fast-track my recovery.
I also take 5-10grams on most days on an empty stomach to ensure my nutritional needs are met.
Kion Aminos or Perfect Aminos
The two brands I trust, and said to be the same formulation. You can’t go wrong with either.
Drop your protein power and start with EAAs today.
As you may have seen on social media and the blog, I eat mainly vegetarian. But with this supplement, I make an exception.
The reason for this exception? Well, it all comes down to nutrient density.
For that reason, I don’t often consume what most would consider “meat.” I’m talking chicken, beef, etc. Yes, as discussed above, the protein content may be more absorbable, but many nutrient benefits stop there.
However, the organ meats of animals are usually nutrient powerhouses.
As runners, we’re burning through our nutrient stores faster than others, especially minerals required for endurance performance. Magnesium, zinc, and iron are all found in significant quantities in various organ meats and are required for optimal performance and recovery.
Meats such as liver and heart are much more nutritious than steak or chicken breast. Even the brain and eyes have much to offer.
When it comes down to it, I’m not one to cook liver and dumplings. I know my dad used to like it, but it’s not my favorite.
That’s why I opt for the simple option. Ancestral Supplements.
Ancestral Supplements have a fantastic line of animal organ supplements. All encapsulated in gelatin (animal-based) capsule, meaning there is no funny stuff in there.
For me, supplementing with liver is perfect due to my mainly vegetarian lifestyle and my previous B12 issues.
And if you’re not sure where to start, Ancestral Supplements offer a beef organs complex containing liver, heart, pancreas, and spleen.
I suggest Ancestral Supplements because they offer a great variety of organ options, and they always take great care of the quality of the product. All the animals are pasture-raised in New Zealand and have never had any hormones or antibiotics. You can’t ask for much more when you decide to consume animal products.
After first getting in touch with Brian at Ancestral supplements I knew they were the brand for me.
Second to none customer support for every unique situation. And their products back up their confidence!