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Runners: To supplement or not to?

One of the frequently asked questions posed to me by runners is firstly whether they should be taking supplements to assist with running and secondly, which supplements should they take.

As you know there are various schools of thought on this topic. My personal belief is that a nutritious eating plan is the best way to achieve a more healthy foundation which contains the much needed nutrients and minerals needed for runners. Supplements can be used to complement one’s eating if one has a deficiency due to a diet that does not meet the runners nutrient requirements or a variety of health reasons.


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When making this decision it is important to understand that a good supplement regime is only a supplementation to our healthy eating and will not replace good eating protocols.

As runners we tend to burn our candles on both ends. Most runners who come to me to assist them with their running tend to have a busy work life and family commitments whilst, at the same time wanting to improve their performance. As a society, we have become so goal-orientated that we are willing to put in the time, grit and hard work if that what it takes to reach our running goals. We easily forget that to be consistently successful we first need to be a happy and healthy runner.

The mineral and vitamin recommendations below will not only improve your endurance but will support you in being an overall healthier runner.


Magnesium deficiency is common amongst runners. Magnesium is a nutrient that is involved in the production of creating energy (ATP). Magnesium is important for many processes in the body, including regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure and making protein, bone, and DNA. If you have a magnesium deficiency the body will get tired from exercise much easily. Foods that are high in magnesium includes a cup of leafy greens like kale or spinach can give you up to 40% of your daily requirements. A cup of legumes like black beans can give you another 30% with an additional 28g of cashew nuts giving you another 20%.

Recommended daily intake: 300mg – 400mg

Vitamin D

Vitamin D3, Vitamins for runners
Vitamin D3 Faithful Nature

Vitamin D referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” is produced mainly through the exposure of your skin and eyes to the sun. However, although “sunny South Africa have an abundance of the sun with air pollution, sunscreen and working indoors, it is easy not to get enough vitamin D, especially through the winter months. Vitamin D is a great anti-inflammatory and plays a key role in calcium absorption and have great effects on muscle performance.

Recommended time in the sun: 20 – 30 minutes of direct sunlight would be sufficient in summer months with winter months it’s a good idea to get up to three times more sun. The colour of your skin is also a very important factor as darker skin tones need more sunlight to get their daily requirements according to Perrin Braun’s article from insider tracker


Iron is necessary ( to produce haemoglobin which in turn carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Iron easy get sweated out of the body during those long runs. Being deficient in Iron will leave you feeling weak and can lead to anaemia.

According to a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports Exercise, up to 17 percent of men and 50 percent of woman are likely to be deficient in Iron.

Foods that are high in iron includes liver and grass-fed beef, spinach, lentils and black beans.

Recommended daily intake: 18 mg for females and 8 mg for males (

Supplement: Iron Complex


Probiotics greatly improve one’s immune system and gut health. Helping one run more constantly. Research also shows that it also has added benefits for the marathon or ultra-marathon runners with all the stress that is placed on the gut.

Recommendations: although probiotics are available in a variety of foods I personally find it is much more effective to supplement with a good probiotic


B12 plays an essential role in the production of one’s red blood cells. Red blood cells are responsible to carry oxygen to the muscles and other vital parts used whilst running. With running generally depleting B12 and it’s important to supplement. B12 also mainly comes from meat products so it’s even more essential for non-meat eating runners

Vitamin B1

Vitamin B1 assist with burning energy which is particularly important if your taking in something like a GU during a half marathon to ultra-marathon. B1 will help you convert that glucose from the GU into available energy.

Foods that contain good sources of B1 pork, salmon, flax, sunflower seeds, green peas, macadamia nuts. Be careful as refined sugar and carbohydrate severally depletes B1. Check out this video of one of my favourite doctors on YouTube


Beta-alanine helps decrease lactic acid and increase energy meaning one will be able to just go a bit longer on those tempo pace runs or weekly time trails.

Foods with Beta-alanine chicken, soyabeans and tuna

Potassium and sodium

Potassium and sodium are two major electrolytes which runners need 4700 mg of per day. If you ever cramp up in a race you most likely have experienced the effects of being deficient in potassium. Potassium helps ones nerves to function and muscles to contract. It also helps ones heartbeat to stay regular and moving nutrients into the cell whilst, removing waste from the cell. Potassium should be easily ingested through healthy eating and rarely need to be supplemented. Foods high in potassium are bananas, Oranges, spinach, sweet potatoes and cucumbers.

Sodium is important as one sweats out a lot of the sodium whilst, running however just adding a little bit of Himalayan sea salt to one’s meals will assist with keeping sodium levels in balance

Green tea is filled with antioxidants, it will assist with recovery by reducing the free radical damage that takes place while running. It will also help with fat oxidation which will help with running performance and weight loss.

Collagen helps both in protecting ones muscles and joints whilst running. Collagen will also enhance recovery especially after that hard tempo or long runs. If one’s diet is balanced one should be getting enough collagen in however as one gets older one tend to absorb less collagen into the body. Adding Vitamin C to one’s diet will assist in improving the absorption of collagen from various foods. A great meal to get collagen is bone broth.

Multivitamin’s primary goal is to fill nutritional gaps and make sure one gets one daily allowance on vitamins.

This is a summary of my personal takes on supplements however, it is important to maintain healthy eating habits. Let us know if you take any supplements or if you feel you are able to get all your minerals and vitamins needs purely from your healthy eating lifestyle.

Want more tips and guidance on improving your running? Have a look at our Youtube page

Corne is a Running Coach at In-Reach Run and is the owner of two private gyms. He has been in the fitness industry for 15 years and specializes in endurance sports (e.g. half-marathons, marathons, Comrades, Ultra Mountain Races, 100 milers and Adventure Racing events) What to work with a running coaching to achieve your running goals. Contact: Corne Van Zyl 0769842980

316 views9 comments

9 comentarios

Thanks for sharing coach..great read!

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Contestando a

Pleasure Yugs! Feel free to email me a list of supplements you might be taking. Then we can tailor your supplement and diet to your goals.

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Extremely interesting read, definitely something to mull over when preparing meals.

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Contestando a

Hi Henning, we almost done with our online Nutrition for Performance and health workshop. I will keep you posted!

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Thanks for Sharing Corne. quite informative. persinally I used to struggle wear and tear post my runs. recetly increased my collagen suppliement that seems to be helping post run.

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Hi Deepak. Well done, I see you are training hard. Make sure to watch the Aerobic Running Video Running 70 - 80% off your training at a very easy effort will have many benefits. Some of which includes improved fitness, weight loss and improved recovery. Also, make sure to have a good meal that includes some carbohydrates right after your training.

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Corne van Zyl
Corne van Zyl
08 sept 2021

That’s great to hear. Make sure to start of with easy aerobic running for the first couple of weeks. You should be able to talk to someone whilst running.

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Kgaogelo Matjie
Kgaogelo Matjie
08 sept 2021

I've always battled with lactic acid after especially if i had taken a break from exercising. This info on Beta-alanine will really help me, thanks for sharing!

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Contestando a

Hi Kgaogelo I think I can give you the same advise as Deepak. (Make sure to watch the Aerobic Running Video Running 70 - 80% off your training at a very easy effort will have many benefits. Some of which includes improved fitness, weight loss and improved recovery. Also, make sure to have a good meal that includes some carbohydrates right after your training.) If we run outside our aerobic zone we start building more lactic acid than what our bodies can process. If we do this too often it can become a problem. I would also recommend adding more greens to your diet.

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