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Do Runners Need to Take Supplements or Vitamins?


Updated April 19, 2014

Question: Do Runners Need to Take Supplements or Vitamins?

"I'm training for a half marathon. I try to eat a healthy, balanced diet, but I’m wondering if I should be taking any vitamins or supplements during my training."

Answer: Getting your vitamins from whole foods is preferable to supplementation; there's no strong evidence that taking supplements improves either health or athletic performance. A well-balanced diet should provide all the nutrients that runners need.

That being said, some runners may have nutrient deficiencies that may have an impact on their performance and health. For example, some female runners are low in calcium, putting them more at risk for stress fractures. While they can increase their consumption of calcium rich foods such as low-fat dairy products, their doctor may also recommend a calcium supplement to help reach the goal of 1,000 to 1,300 mg of calcium per day. An iron deficiency can also wreak havoc on runners' training because it can lead to feelings of sluggishness and low energy. If your doctor determines through bloodwork that you're low in iron, he or she may recommend an iron supplement.

The bottom line? It's not necessary for most runners to take supplements, but make sure you go for regular medical check-ups and talk to your doctor and/or a registered dietician about any concerns about nutrient deficiencies.

Also see:
Diet and Nutrition for Runners
Nutrition and Hydration for Distance Runners
Sports Nutrition Mistakes

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