The 8 Best Supplements for Mother Runners (And 5 To Avoid!)

by | Aug 28, 2023

The best supplements for mother runners and female athletes can vary depending on individual needs, training intensity, and dietary habits. While it’s always recommended to prioritize a well-balanced diet first, some supplements might help support your performance, recovery, and overall health as a runner. Remember to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen to make sure you are taking what is best for you and your individual needs and goals.

Considerations Before Taking a Supplement

Before making recommendations on best supplements for mother runners, I highly encourage you to consider these factors:

1. Are you eating enough of this nutrient already?

Nutrients work best in their natural form, namely in FOOD. The best sources of any vitamin or mineral is whole, unprocessed foods. If you’re already getting enough of the nutrient in question from the foods you eat, taking a supplement could do more harm than good. There is a fine balance to how much of something we need in the body and too much of one nutrient could negatively impact the availability or absorption of another. More is not always better when it comes to supplementation!

2. Can you modify your meals to get enough of this nutrient through food?

If the best source of nutrients is whole foods, can you work to increase the food sources of a certain nutrient before resorting to a supplement? In some seasons of life, this may be more possible than others, and that is okay! But consider food first.

3. Is the supplement third party tested as safe for sport?

Not all supplements are created equal! When it comes to sports supplements, you want to look for one that is NSF certified for sport or Informed Sport, which indicates they’ve been third party tested for banned substances. Products certified for sport or informed sport will be labeled as such. Sports nutrition brands to look for include Momentous, Klean, Thorne, Garden of Life, among others.

4. Who is recommending the supplement to you (and are they qualified?)

If you are being recommended a supplement by someone, what is their background and credentials? Do they have something to gain by you purchasing or using that supplement? Social media influencers and fitness coaches are not trained in the nuances of supplement utilization in the body the way health professionals are. Make sure you are getting your information and recommendations from a trained, credible source, especially when it comes to best supplements for mother runners.

My Recommended Best Supplements for Mother Runners

While there are a number of supplements on the market targeted toward runners, there are 8 that I feel are the best supplements for mother runners to consider adding to their diet:

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Athletes have greater omega-3 needs than non athletes, up to 2-4 grams per day. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties and can help support joint health. Fish oil supplements are a common source of omega-3s, and cod liver oil specifically is beneficial due to also being a rich source of vitamin D and vitamin A. Whole food sources of omega-3s include salmon, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.

2. Magnesium: Magnesium plays a role in muscle function, energy production, and overall recovery. Magnesium is the first mineral to be used up during times of stress, and is an important electrolyte to be replenished during sport alongside sodium and potassium. Over half the magnesium in the body is stored in the bone, so low levels can impact bone health. Magnesium is also critical to iron recycling, metabolism of vitamin D, and reducing muscle cramping. Most athletes will need to supplement with magnesium in addition to prioritizing food sources. Options high in magnesium include nuts, seeds, and legumes. For information on various types of magnesium and which may be right for you, check out this post.

3. Protein: Protein is important for muscle repair and recovery. While it’s best to get most of your protein from whole food sources, protein supplements like whey or plant-based options can be convenient post-workout. Look for brands that have been NSF certified for sport on the packaging, including Momentous, Thorne, and Garden of Life.

4. Essential Amino Acids: Not to be confused with BCAAs, essential amino acids include all 9 of the amino acids that are essential because the body cannot produce them on their own. We need to get them from food. All 9 of these are needed for muscle protein synthesis, so consuming a variety of protein sources throughout the day and spreading out protein intake across meals is ideal to ensure adequate intake of all 9. If supplementing, look for an essential amino acid supplement, such as Kion or NOW Foods.

5. Electrolytes: Especially important if you’re running in hot conditions or sweating excessively, electrolyte supplements can help maintain the balance of sodium, potassium, and other minerals. Be mindful of consuming electrolytes vs sports drinks or energy drinks marketed to athletes. These products may contain additional ingredients that can cause GI upset, have risk of negative side effects and can lack amounts of nutrients needed for athletes. Electrolyte supplements and foods that can be effective include LMNT, Redmond ReLyte, Jigsaw Health Adrenal Cocktail and MagSoothe, Klean hydration, Tailwind, coconut water, tart cherry juice, and mineral mocktails. Of all the best supplements for mother runners, this is the one I suggest the most to women.

6. Creatine: While often associated with strength training, creatine might also benefit endurance athletes by enhancing muscle energy production. Creatine is one of the most researched sports supplements out there. Look for creatine monohydrate on the label and aim to consume 3-5 grams per day. Higher loading doses aren’t necessary and specific timing of consumption won’t make a difference to it’s effectiveness. The goal is to be consistent in taking it. Also be aware, that there can be an initial phase of water retention leading to feeling bloated. This should go away after about a week of consistent use. Recommended brands include Thorne, Klean Athlete, and Momentous.

7. Beta-Alanine: This non-essential amino acid can help improve endurance by buffering lactic acid buildup in muscles. This means you can workout longer before fatigue sets in. It is most effective in shorter duration, high intensity exercise. Since it is a non-essential amino acid, it will not be found in EAA or BCAA supplements. Food sources include meat, poultry, and fish. The general recommendation for supplementation is 2-5 grams daily and works best when taken with a meal. Too much beta-alanine can interfere with taurine absorption so be mindful of intake of both to maximize gains.

8. Caffeine: While not a traditional supplement, caffeine can enhance alertness and performance. Just be mindful of its effects on sleep and individual tolerance. Caffeine consumption of greater than 0.9 mg per pound body weight prior to evening activity has been shown to negatively impact overall sleep. Caffeine can also have negative effects on the GI tract as it increases transit time of stomach contents through the GI system. Consuming caffeine >1 hour prior to activity will allow it to be effective in training while minimizing GI distress during a run. For athletes consuming sports nutrition with caffeine during activity, practicing before race day is key to ensuring GI issues are minimized.

Why I Don’t Recommend These Common Supplements for Runners

You may notice some of the supplements I did NOT discuss above but are commonly marketed to athletes. While a number of best supplements for mother runners can improve performance, there are a few that can be detrimental if not taken with caution and under the supervision of a trained health professional. Here are a few that I’d suggest avoiding and why:

1. Multivitamins and Greens Powders: Blanket supplements that include a number of vitamins and minerals can sound appealing, but as noted earlier, the quantity does in fact matter. Many multivitamins contain forms of nutrients that are less absorbable by the body or in doses that hinder the effectiveness of other nutrients. Greens powders may seem more appealing due to their whole food sourcing, but they are often expensive, contain proprietary blends that make knowing exact nutrient intake hard to determine, and remove valuable fiber from foods in processing. Choosing targeted nutrient supplementation alongside whole food nutrition will be both cheaper and more effective to individual needs.

2. Vitamin D: Vitamin D is essential for bone health and immune function. Runners who train indoors a lot might be at risk of deficiency. But taking vitamin D supplements without testing for specific needs can cause downstream effects, namely with vitamin A and iron levels, and can also impact hormones. If you’re wondering if you need a vitamin D supplement, work with a trained health professional to get levels tested and proper dosing administered.

3. Iron: Yes, endurance athletes, especially females, may be at a higher risk of iron deficiency. Iron is crucial for carrying oxygen in the blood, and aerobic exercise such as running increases iron demands. When iron is deficient, energy cannot be created, leading to chronic fatigue symptoms in athletes. However, low iron cannot be treated by simply taking an iron supplement. The body’s natural iron recycling process relies on copper, magnesium, and vitamin A to work optimally, so levels of a number of nutrients should be tested to determine where imbalances lie and what specifically is needed to prevent iron overload and oxidative stress.

4. Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): While BCAAs, particularly leucine, can aid in muscle recovery and reduce muscle soreness, there are a few reasons why EAAs are a better option. BCAAs contain 3 of the 9 essential amino acids – leucine, isoleucine, and valine. While these three have been studied to be beneficial to muscle gains, all 9 are needed to be best utilized by the body. If choosing to consume BCAAs, do so alongside adequate protein sources of the other 6 essential amino acids to maximize results.

5. Pre Workout drinks: Most pre workouts on the market are full of synthetic nutrients, sugars, and caffeine. And while we may benefit from an energy boost before activity, the best pre workout is FOOD! Namely carbohydrates and electrolytes. Instead of spending money on a fancy pre workout mix, try eating a carb rich snack alongside an electrolyte rich beverage, such as one of the options in the electrolyte section above. This will give you longer lasting energy as well as needed calories to fuel your activity. Carb rich food options for a pre workout meal include fruit, white bagel or toast, low fiber cereal, fruit juice, graham crackers, or frozen waffles.

Remember that the best supplements for mother runners should complement a well-rounded diet, not replace it. Also, what works well for one runner might not work the same for another, so it’s essential to listen to your body and adjust accordingly. Always consult with a healthcare professional before adding new supplements to your routine, as they can provide personalized guidance based on your specific needs and circumstances. The best supplements for mother runners are the ones that work for each individual, their unique needs, and specific goals.

Further Resources on Best Supplements for Mother Runners:

  1. The Best Electrolytes for Runners
  2. Registered Dietitian’s Top Protein Powders for Athletes
  3. Vegetarian Sources of Iron: Combating Iron Deficiency in Female Athletes
  4. The Role of Trace Minerals for Active Women

Hi, I’m Stephanie! I help everyday active women nourish their goals and fuel their lives.

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