Q: I’m planning on running my first half marathon, and as I start training, I was wondering if you had information on supplements that might be helpful as I start increasing my mileage.
A: That’s exciting- congratulations! There definitely are supplements that could help.
The first supplement I’d recommend is CoQ10. CoQ10 is a nutrient that is best known for its benefit for heart health and is a common supplement used for cardiovascular health particularly in the aging population.
CoQ10 is a nutrient produced in the human body that works with the mitochondria in each of our cells. Mitochondria are the energy producers in each of the cells in our body, and CoQ10 works to support those energy producers in our cells. It’s almost like CoQ10 is food for those energy producing organisms, which in turn, helps our cells to run better.
Parts of the body that use the most energy, like the heart and other muscle tissues, have the most mitochondria- remember, the mitochondria are the power plants of a cell. Since CoQ10 supports those cellular power plants, it can help with proper cardiovascular functioning and protecting the heart. For example, CoQ10 is often recommended for congestive heart failure, since it has been shown in research to encourage the heart to run properly and have the energy it needs.
CoQ10 can also be beneficial for athletes or anyone on an exercise regimen, since studies have shown that CoQ10 can increase exercise performance, helping people to be able to exercise longer without fatigue.
CoQ10 has also been researched with positive results for helping to reduce muscle damage and soreness after exercise when used on a regular basis. Most studies used 100mg-200mg of CoQ10 daily, and CoQ10 should be taken with food for best absorbtion.
Omega 3 fatty acids can also be helpful in reducing exercise induced muscle damage and soreness. Omega 3s have also been researched with positive results in helping the muscles to repair themselves after exercise, which can improve performance, especially when on a training regimen.
Omega 3s are known as “essential fatty acids” meaning that they must be obtained through diet or supplements since they are not manufactured by the body. Also, be sure to look for a high potency omega 3 supplement that has a good dose of EPA and DHA (the beneficial parts of omega 3s) per pill, since the amounts of those nutrients in a fish oil pill can vary widely. One we would recommend in particular is Solgar’s Omega 950- each softgel has 504mg of DHA and 378mg of DHA, which are really good amounts. Any fish oil or omega 3 supplement should list the amounts of EPA and DHA they contain on the back of the bottle so you can compare. This one by Solgar is the strongest we’ve found, and I don’t really see why a person would take one that’s less potent, since taking a less potent version just seems like a waste of time.
Omega 3s can also help with brain function, joints, and reducing inflammation throughout the body- all good things. Omega 3s have even been researched for reducing cholesterol and helping cardiovascular function. Here’s an article from our website with more information about Omega 3s.
Another supplement that might help would be panax ginseng, also known as Korean ginseng. Ginseng has been used for thousands of years in Eastern medicine to help with energy and vitality. I personally take ginseng occasionally in a liquid form since it’s a great energy boost. Research has linked panax ginseng use with a reduction of fatigue and enhancement of physical performance, so it might be a supplement worth trying to see if it helps.
Last, I’d say a protein shake is a good idea after exercise. Protein can help the muscles to repair themselves after strenuous exercise, but it’s important to note that there’s a “magic window” of about 45 minutes after exercising, where consuming protein has the most benefit for repairing muscles. Mega doses of protein aren’t necessary- a shake containing around 20mg of protein is ideal. You can make a protein shake into an entire smoothie with the addition of fruits and whatever else in a blender, but generally the easiest thing is just to mix protein powder in a shaker cup with water, which will also equal out to less additional sugar and calories. We have a good selection of protein shakes at the store including many suitable for people with allergies or dietary restrictions.
Finally, since you’re trying to increase the amount you’re running, you may think of investing in a pair of new shoes. The cushioning and support in running shoes does not last forever. We would recommend a running store in Palos Heights called Running for Kicks, which has been voted to be one of the 50 best running stores in the entire United States, and the people there are extremely knowledgeable about running and running shoes.
Good luck, and happy running!