Matthew Kadey, MS, RD November 08, 2012 TWEET COMMENTS 3

Supplement Savvy

Take these and improve your health and performance

A well-balanced diet chock-full of whole foods is the best way to obtain the nutrients and antioxidants needed to support training.

Photo by iStock Photo

A well-balanced diet chock-full of whole foods is the best way to obtain the nutrients and antioxidants needed to support training. In reality, though, most people do not have a perfect diet and the right supplements can pick up nutritional slack and give you a performance boost on the trails.

But it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the dizzying array of liquids, powders and pills now available in a myriad of concentrations. And in many cases the products are more marketing than nutrition. Read on to learn about five supplements really worth running to the store for.


How it helps: A recent American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that the cells of multivitamin users might have a younger biological age than cells of non-users. A good multi provides nutrients shown to thwart several maladies such as cancer and heart disease and support training including B vitamins, which help generate energy from food.

When to supplement: More than filling in missing daily dietary links, multis can cover additional nutrient needs during periods of hard training. What’s more, studies suggest that the fruits and vegetables we consume today contain fewer nutrients than they did years ago, so taking a daily multi regardless of your diet is not a bad idea.

How to take it: Find a broad-spectrum multivitamin that contains about 100 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for most vitamins and minerals. If you can afford it, choose a supplement that derives its nutrients from whole-food sources like fruits and vegetables, which are likely better absorbed by the body than synthetic versions. Steer clear of artificial colors, sweeteners and flavors. Purdue University researchers found that high humidity could reduce the potency of B vitamins and vitamin C in pills. So, store vitamins in areas with little temperature fluctuation.

We like: True Athlete Whole Food Multivitamin (www.true-athlete.com)

Eat it: Make whole foods like legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables a primary focus of your diet and you’ll consume most of the vitamins and minerals found in a multivitamin.

Vitamin D

How it helps: By aiding calcium absorption, adequate vitamin D levels are crucial for bone health. A 2012 study by researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston found that higher vitamin-D levels were associated with lower stress-fracture risk among subjects who engaged in regular high-impact activities. The latest research also postulates that this multi-tasking vitamin can help fend off winter viruses, reduce the risk of heart disease, depression, certain cancers and diabetes, and keep body fat at bay by reducing fat-cell expansion. What’s more, a review of studies in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise concluded that there is strong evidence that vitamin D might improve athletic performance. Why the myriad of benefits? D behaves more like a hormone than a vitamin and plays a major roll in a range of bodily processes including muscle function.

When to supplement: You can reach your quota courtesy of the big yellow orb above, but the amount of sunlight-derived vitamin D your body produces depends largely on where you live and the time of year (in the winter you most likely won’t soak up enough). Sunscreen use, air pollution and spending the peak vitamin-D-making hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. indoors means that runners living in sunny locations may still not make enough. An Archives of Internal Medicine study concluded that 75-percent of Americans have low vitamin-D levels.

How to take it: Vitamin D experts recommend taking 1000 to 2000 I.U. daily of vitamin D3 (studies suggest D3 is more potent than D2) as many believe that the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation, 600 I.U., is usually inadequate. Vitamin D is fat-soluble. Pop it with a meal to increase absorption by almost 50 percent.

We like:
Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw D3 (www.gardenoflife.com)

Eat it: Nosh on fatty fish such as salmon (particularly, wild), sardines, mackerel and herring. Other sources include egg yolk and UV-exposed mushrooms.

Fish Oil

How it helps: Studies suggest that omega-3 fats DHA and EPA present in fish oil can help prevent heart disease and reduce inflammation in the body, which may improve recovery during intense training periods. University of California at Davis scientists reported that DHA and EPA might improve blood flow to muscles during exercise. They may also help ward off diabetes, mental decline and arthritis.

When to supplement: Experts recommend eating at least 1.7 to 3.5 grams of DHA and EPA each week—a three-ounce serving of wild salmon contains nearly one gram. Some plant foods such as walnuts, flax seed, canola oil and chia seeds contain omega-3 fat in the form of ALA, but, when it comes to disease prevention, the omega-3s in fish are more potent.
How to take it: DHA and EPA make up only about 30 percent of most fish-oil supplements, with the remaining 70 percent being other fatty acids with fewer proven health perks. Look for a product that contains at least 500 milligrams total of both DHA and EPA. Vegetarians and vegans can rely on supplements containing algae derived omega-3 such as Life’sDHA.

We like: Coromega Omega-3 Squeeze (www.coromega.com)

Eat it: Fish species with the most DHA and EPA include rainbow trout, arctic char, sablefish, barramundi, anchovies, salmon, mackerel and sardines. Omega-3 eggs contain some, but levels are generally low.


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