By clicking on the product links in this article, we may receive a commission fee at no cost to you, the reader. Sponsorships and affiliate commissions help support our research so we can help you find the best products. Read our full affiliate disclosure here.
Runners are often interested in tweaking their diet to optimize performance, especially when trying to achieve an exciting personal best or race a new distance, and a healthy, balanced diet fuels the body to make hitting your goal paces and mileage possible. Though many runners who eat a healthy and well-rounded diet may not need supplements, some runners wish to add dietary supplements to their routine to ensure they're giving their body all it needs to perform its best.
Supplements are not a substitute for a healthy diet but may help in achieving greater performance results. If you're considering adding a supplement to your diet, check out our list of the best supplements for runners.
Why Trust Us?
The health and safety of ACTIVE's readers is of the utmost importance to us. To ensure your well-being when consuming nutritional supplements, the ACTIVE.com editorial team prioritizes products that are independently tested by a third party. We've also consulted with a team of nutritionists and dieticians to ensure the products we feature are of the highest standard. This helps us create the most accurate, authentic review content for our readers.
Best Supplements for Runners - Our Top Picks
- Multivitamin: Transparent Labs Multivitamin
- Probiotic: Ritual Synbiotic+
- Beta-Alanine: Swolverine Beta-Alanine
- Protein Powder: Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate
- Caffeine: XWERKS Ignite
- Creatine: Transparent Labs Creatine HMB
- Vitamin D: Transparent Labs Vitamin D3 With K2
- Iron: MegaFood Iron Supplement
- Calcium: Nature's Bounty Calcium Plus
- Beets: HumanN SuperBeets Heart Chews
Best Supplements for Runners
These vitamins and supplements should not all be taken together but are individual supplements to consider adding to your diet to boost your running performance. If you take a multivitamin, for example, you likely do not need to take additional iron or vitamin D unless you have a deficiency. As always, it's a good idea to check with your physician before adding supplements to your diet to make sure they don't interact with any medications you take or health conditions you may have.
A multivitamin would be a great choice if you'd like to take only one supplement. Multivitamins fill in any gaps in your diet and provide most of the daily vitamins and minerals you need.
Multivitamins contain various vitamins and minerals, usually in one or two daily tablets. They typically provide 100 percent of the Daily Value for many nutrients but don't usually contain enough calcium to meet a person's daily goal since calcium is a bulky nutrient.
Here’s something most runners don’t realize: the more intense or long-duration your training sessions are, the more of a negative impact it has on your immune system. A number of studies have even found links between hard training and the prevalence of upper respiratory infections. The moral for you? Don’t overdo your training, but also prioritize your immune health in your diet and supplementation. Consuming more probiotic foods and supplements is a key part of that.
Ritual’s Synbiotic+ is a carefully engineered probiotic designed to deliver all three types of gut-health supplements: prebiotic, probiotic, and post-biotic (you didn’t know about those, did you?). It delivers 11 billion CFUs of the most-studied probiotic strains, in a delayed-release capsule designed to reach the part of your digestive tract where it can actually contribute to gut health, rather than getting destroyed in the stomach.
Do you know that awful burning feeling that you get in your legs when you start to push the pace in a run or just have to climb a hill? That’s lactate buildup. And it’s not a bad thing; it’s a normal thing! But it can definitely cause you to slow down and prematurely fatigue. The amino acid beta-alanine is a potent “lactate buffer,” meaning it can help your body withstand the effects of lactate and last longer in high-intensity activity of all types.
There’s a catch, though: Beta-alanine only works when you take it consistently for at least two weeks straight, which serves “load” your body’s supplies of another amino acid, carnosine. So if you take beta-alanine as part of an energy supplement or pre-workout every once in a while, sorry, that’s not enough. Swolverine’s beta-alanine is a once-daily scoop of the most research-backed patented version of beta-alanine, CarnoSyn, which you can easily add to any drink or protein shake. If you find that a scoop makes your skin tingle (a well-known and harmless side effect), just split it into two smaller doses.
4. Protein Powder
The protein needs of athletes are higher than sedentary people. That much is well-known! But here’s what doesn't get said enough: the more time you spend training, the harder it is to reach an ambitious daily protein goal! That’s where a simple, clean protein powder like Transparent Labs’ Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate can be a game-changer. It delivers 28 grams of protein per serving in just 120 calories, with only 3 grams of carbs and a measly 1 gram of fat.
Why choose an isolate? A big reason is the near-total lack of lactose, which means it’s far easier on most people’s digestive systems. But this protein is also free of artificial sweeteners, food dyes, gluten, and preservatives, and comes from hormone-free cow whey. It’s about as clean as protein gets, and a single post-workout serving might be the simplest way there is to get your protein intake where it probably should be to match your activity level.
There’s really only one supplement that has been shown to increase all attributes of athletic success, from strength to endurance, explosive power to pain tolerance, while also boosting fat loss and mental focus. And that’s our old friend caffeine. The only problem: lots of the pre-workout supplements out there are super-shady and packed with more caffeine than you might like, plus lots of other stuff you probably don’t want.
XWERKS Ignite is a simple, straightforward pre with 150 of caffeine, which is right in that “large cup of coffee” sweet spot, along with a few other non-stimulant research-backed ingredients that have been shown to increase endurance, such as the amino acids and L-citrulline and L-Tyrosine, the latter of which can also boost mental focus and resiliency when you’re fatigued. This is a solid “everything you want, nothing you don’t” energy booster that you’ll feel working, but that won’t turn you into a jittery mess.
For many years creatine had the reputation of only being for bodybuilders and strength athletes, but the tide has definitely turned! Creatine monohydrate also boosts power output, which can help you make the most of your interval work and other higher-speed running, making you a more efficient runner at every speed. And because creatine draws water into cells, it can actually help you stay hydrated during all types of sports!
The only problem: maybe because of its weight room mystique, there are a lot of poorly manufactured creatine supplements out there. It’s definitely a supplement where it’s worth it to pay for a version with third-party testing for purity, like Transparent Labs Creatine HMB, is the benchmark research-backed version of creatine monohydrate. Just one scoop a day, and you’re good to go.
7. Vitamin D
Taking vitamin D3 with K2 is a classic bone-health strategy because both nutrients are fat-soluble and the pair have synergistic effects to further increase absorption. “But I’m a runner. Aren’t I getting enough D simply by being outdoors?” you ask. Well, the stats say that 75 percent of Americans are deficient in this crucial nutrient, which also has major impacts on immune health, testosterone production, and workout recovery. So the blunt answer is, “Probably not.”
Transparent Labs’ D3 + K2 delivers a whopping 5000 IU of D3, well above the RDA but in line with more modern dosing recommendations. And it’s still well below the 8,000-10,000 threshold where some people begin to experience minor side effects. The cost per dose is very reasonable, and you can drop it by another couple of bucks per month by subscribing for automatic delivery.
Believe it or not, iron deficiency is rampant among serious runners, and is a major contributor to poor performance in both training and races. We hear you: “But I tried an iron supplement, and it totally backed me up.” That’s why we’re such big fans of MegaFood’s Blood-Builder, which is made from whole foods rather than synthetic sources. This means it can be taken on an empty stomach, and doesn’t cause constipation like many iron supplements. Reviewer after reviewer has called those two attributes of this product “life-changing.”
Not a fan of swallowing horse pills? It also comes in mini tablets called Blood Builder Minis, and even a once-daily liquid formula.
You might think that calcium is something you get from your multivitamin, but the truth is that most multis don’t have it. And the MORE IMPORTANT truth is that they shouldn’t! Calcium can affect how your body absorbs iron, zinc, and magnesium, the latter two of which runners need more of because they lose so much sweat. So it’s recommended that you take calcium separately from your multi, at different times of the day. For instance, if you take your multi in the morning, you should take calcium in the afternoon.
Nature’s Bounty Calcium Plus is a straightforward supplement that delivers both 92 percent of your RDA of calcium and 125 percent of vitamin D with a tough-to-beat cost-per-dose ratio. And the “Plus” part isn’t just for show! Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium making the duo a no-brainer to take together.
If you’ve been on the starting line of a race in the last few years, or just hang out with other runners, you’ve probably heard someone talking about taking beetroot. Why consider it? This inarguable superfood boosts your body’s natural production of nitric oxide, helping increase blood flow and circulation. This makes it a potent supporter of heart health (hence the name, SuperBeet Heart Chews), but also an effective way to control fatigue during running and other cardiovascular-focused work.
Here’s the catch: No supplement works best (or really at all) if you only take it once. Beetroot has been shown to help athletes when taken for at least a week prior to an event, but preferably far longer. That’s when having chewables like the pomegranate and berry-flavored SuperBeets chews can be a huge help. You can pop one in any time–even when you’re running–and will quickly find yourself looking forward to them.
Do Runners Need Supplements?
Many runners likely don't require supplements to meet their basic nutrient needs, but some supplements may have performance benefits.
As with anyone, runners should first work on their overall diet quality by eating from the following food groups:
- Fiber-rich whole grains
- Lean protein sources
- Beans, nuts, and seeds
- Low-fat dairy
- Healthy fats
Eating a balanced diet isn't always easy for everyone, so some runners may find supplements helpful to meet their mineral and vitamin needs for running. Picky eaters, vegetarians, vegans, those with multiple food allergies, or runners with other limitations that make eating a wide variety of foods hard may require supplements to meet their needs.
Tips to Consider When Choosing Supplements for Runners
- If you don't know where to start and would like customized diet advice, a registered dietitian (RD) specializing in sports nutrition would be a great resource.
- Megadoses of vitamins and minerals are probably unnecessary for most runners unless you have been diagnosed with a deficiency. Look for supplements that have around 100 percent of the recommended Daily Values (DV). This will help ensure you don't take an unsafe amount of a nutrient or waste your money.
- Look for supplements that follow USP manufacturing standards, which helps verify ingredient purity and label accuracy.
- Choose well-known national brands for better safety.
FAQs About Supplements for Runners
Do runners need to take specific supplements or vitamins?
Runners who eat a healthy diet from all the main food groups (whole grains, proteins, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and healthy fats) may not need to take additional supplements. A multivitamin would be a good first supplement to add to your routine if you have trouble eating a balanced diet or have special dietary restrictions. Consider adding calcium or vitamin D supplements if you don't consume dairy regularly to keep your bones strong. Other supplements may help give runners a performance boost if they are already eating a well-balanced diet.
Should runners take creatine?
Not all runners need to take creatine. Creatine has positive effects on athletes who do short, high-intensity movements. Sprinters would be the group most likely to benefit from a creatine supplement, not distance or endurance runners. If you take creatine, you should drink extra fluids throughout the day to ensure it is properly absorbed.