What supplements to take for running?

This question is about and NutritionRunning
Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, Freelance Writer
There are a wide variety of supplements that have been shown to be beneficial for runners, including magnesium, tart cherry juice, turmeric, caffeine, creatine, sodium bicarbonate, beta-alanine, and nitrates (from beets). Here’s what science has to say about how these supplements affect running:
  • Magnesium: Research suggests that magnesium supplements may help with sleep and relaxation, both of which are important after tough training days [1]. Additionally, magnesium is lost through sweat, so replacing it is essential for hydration [1].
  • Tart cherry juice: Rich in polyphenols and antioxidants, research suggests that drinking tart cherry juice before running may help improve performance and reduce muscle soreness [2].
  • Turmeric: This spice contains a compound called curcumin, which serves as a potent antioxidant. Small studies indicate that 150-1500mg turmeric/day may speed up post-exercise recovery and reduce muscle soreness [3]. Moreover, other research suggests that taking 1000-1500mg of turmeric extract daily may reduce knee pain and improve functionality in people with osteoarthritis [4].  
  • Caffeine: Ingesting caffeine before a run may result in improved performance, speed, power, and endurance capacity [5]. Caffeine is a well-known central nervous system stimulant, and is naturally found in coffee, tea, and chocolate. 
  • Creatine: Evidence suggests that supplementing with creatine may improve muscle recovery, glycogen replenishment, and potentially improve speed/output during a run [6]. 
  • Sodium bicarbonate: Otherwise known as baking soda, sodium bicarbonate might improve athletic performance in runners by buffering lactic acid production, a major factor of muscle fatigue [7].
  • Beta-alanine: Beta-alanine may help improve performance and reduce neuromuscular fatigue during a run, especially near maximum effort [8]. 
  • Nitrates: Beets are naturally rich in nitrates, a substance that increases nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels and increases oxygen uptake in the muscles, which may enhance running performance [9].
Ground turmeric in a spoon
  1. Lukaski, H. C. (2000). Magnesium, zinc, and chromium nutriture and physical activity. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 72(2). https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/72.2.585s 
  2. Gao, R., & Chilibeck, P. D. (2020). Effect of tart cherry concentrate on endurance exercise performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 39(7), 657–664. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2020.1713246 
  3. Yoon, W. Y., Lee, K., & Kim, J. (2020). Curcumin supplementation and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS): effects, mechanisms, and practical considerations. Physical activity and nutrition, 24(3), 39–43. https://doi.org/10.20463/pan.2020.0020 
  4. Paultre K, Cade W, Hernandez D, et alTherapeutic effects of turmeric or curcumin extract on pain and function for individuals with knee osteoarthritis: a systematic reviewBMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine 2021;7:e000935. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2020-000935
  5. Wiles, J. D., Coleman, D., Tegerdine, M., & Swaine, I. L. (2006). The effects of caffeine ingestion on performance time, speed and power during A Laboratory-based 1 km cycling time-trial. Journal of Sports Sciences, 24(11), 1165–1171. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640410500457687 
  6. Rawson, E. S., Miles, M. P., & Larson-Meyer, D. E. (2018). Dietary Supplements for Health, Adaptation, and Recovery in Athletes, International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 28(2), 188-199. Retrieved Jul 27, 2021, from https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/ijsnem/28/2/article-p188.xml
  7. Hadzic, M., Eckstein, M. L., & Schugardt, M. (2019). The Impact of Sodium Bicarbonate on Performance in Response to Exercise Duration in Athletes: A Systematic Review. Journal of sports science & medicine, 18(2), 271–281. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6544001/ 
  8. Hobson, R.M., Saunders, B., Ball, G. et al. Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids 43, 25–37 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00726-011-1200-z
  9. Domínguez R, Cuenca E, Maté-Muñoz JL, García-Fernández P, Serra-Paya N, Estevan MCL, Herreros PV, Garnacho-Castaño MV. Effects of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Athletes. A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017; 9(1):43. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9010043