When it comes to sports supplements for endurance athletes there’s a lot of hype which makes it difficult to know if you’re buying into a nutritional supplement that’ll actually help you, or if you’re being sold a promise of improved performance based on limited, biased or even non-existent scientific evidence.

Today I want to share with you 4 essential supplements that are well researched, and that will not only help you perform at your best all year round, but also will contribute towards better health and body composition.

 

Essential Nutrients

Even with the most nutrient dense and broad diet from real food, athletes can find it challenging to meet your optimum micronutrient intake. Vitamins and mineral deficiencies are common and can leave us feeling sub optimal. When it comes to the triathlon training at any age, providing your body with a ‘catch all’ multvitamin and mineral supplement might be a great idea.

When it comes to food supplements these can be split into two categories. Those providing ‘essential nutrients’ and those which provide ‘non essential nutrients’.

Today I’ll focus purely on the essential nutrients, and I’ll leave the non-essential supplements for another post. Supplementing with nutrients can be beneficial for most people – particularly age-group triathlets – or athletes and active people in general. Here’ why:

Essential nutrients are present in food are needed for normal physiological functioning.

Non essential nutrients can be described as those which the body can make itself – assuming adequate nutritional intake – or nutrients that aren’t needed for normal physiological functioning.

 

Confusion About Sports Supplements

The world f supplementation is confusing. There’s lots of information available, but much of it is biased in order to sell a product.

If you do decide to supplement, be mindful that it doesn’t need to be an ‘all or nothing’ strategy. Imagine you mainly eat a diet rich in protein, vegetables and healthy fat, and your hydration is good most of the time, but you struggle at certain times.

On these occasions you may choose to supplement. Examples could include super-busy days, or days that you travel with your job or for leisure. When food is hard to come by, a supplement may be beneficial.

 

Essential Nutrient Supplements For Endurance Athletes

Below I highlight four essential nutrient supplements that can help you to promote health and being safe to use regularly:

Omega 3

  • The key source of Omega 3 is fish oil.
  • Supplementation is effective for fat loss and health benefits.
  • Real Food Sources
    • Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herrings.
    • Grass fed organic beef.
    • Flax and pumpkin seeds (plant based source).
  • Why Supplement With Omega 3?
    • It is easy to become deficient in Omega 3.
    • Ratio of omega 3 and 6 becomes imbalanced due to high intake of omega 6.

Recommended Brands
Bulk Powders Prom3ga – the best supplement I can find.
Vitabiotics omega 3 oil

 

Multivitamin And Mineral Supplements

Sadly deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals are common – even with a varied diet. This can slow your metabolism and impair fat loss and optimum health and performance.

Real Food Sources

  • Fruit, berries and vegetables – the more colours and darker the better
  • Meat and fish as well as organ meat and shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Seeds and nuts

Why Supplement?

  • To prevent common vitamin and mineral deficiency.
  • Ensure you cover any gaps left by real food.
  • Ensure proper functioning of the metabolism.

How Much Should I take?

As directed by the product you purchase.
Be careful not to exceed the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Dangers of excess, in particular fat soluble vitamins A,D,E and K.

Recommended Brands
Bulk Powders Complete multivitamin and mineral complex
Reflex Nexgen Sports

 

Protein Supplements

If you get enough protein from the foods you eat supplementation is not necessary. Many of us are protein deficient though, so if you’re pressed for time or eating too little protein then supplementing can be useful in appetite regulation, metabolism and fat loss.

Real Food Sources

  • Meat, fish and poultry.
  • Eggs (white)
  • Dairy such as Greek yogurt.
  • Nuts, seeds and legumes and pulses (plant based sources).
  • Quinoa.
  • Hemp
  • Tempeh and tofu

Why Supplement?

  • Protein contains amino acids which are essential for recovery for sports performance.
  • Convenient protein source if you’re in a rush.
  • Helps with appetite regulation.
  • We’re commonly deficient in protein.

How Much Should I Take?

  • As directed by the product.
  • 20-80g per day (no more than 80g).
  • Supplement rather than replace real food sources of protein.

Recommended Brands

Impact Whey Protein Isolate.
Whey protein Isolate
Other sources such as Pea or Hemp can be useful if you want a plant based source.
Be aware of added ingredients.

 

Greens Drink

If you eat enough vegetables, a greens drink probably isn’t necessary. Many of us don’t eat enough vegetables and are missing out on the micronutrients which help us lose fat and maintain health. In addition a greens drink will help by providing antioxidants and improving your pH.

Real Food Sources?

  • Vegetables including dark leafy vegetables.
  • Cruciferous vegetables.
  • Fruit including citrus fruit.

 Why Supplement?

  • Improved pH.
  • Essential if you don’t eat lots of vegetables.
  • Antioxidant effect and a good source of phytonutrients.

 How Much Should I Take?

  • Manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Usually 1-2 servings daily.

Recommended Brands
Bulk Powders Complete Greens
MyProtein Greens Drink.

 

Final Considerations

In addition to protein, omega 3, vitamin and mineral deficiencies being common in many people, chronic dehydration is also common.

It is also a good idea to arrange a baseline blood screening every 6-12 months. This can identify any deficiencies you may have. With these results you can be confident that you’re making supplementation decisions based on your own personal data and that address your own needs.

Planning your supplementation as appropriate, for example females in particular may be iron deficient and need an iron supplementation in the first instance that will quickly address this deficiency, while over the long term overall nutrition sources of heme iron sources could be increased in her diet.

Another example that many of us lack vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is even prevalent in those if us who are into outdoor sports. Nowadays we’re so concerned about the dangers of sun exposure that we often cover our skin with sunscreen or clothing. In addition, our modern lifestyles, for those of us who work indoors or live further away from the equator are likely to be vitamin D3 deficient. Again, screening can allow you to make educated decisions on supplementation.

I hope this helps, and of course if you need further advice on supplements or real-food nutrition please feel free to get in touch.

Many thanks,
Nico.