Firstly, I’m a strong believer in getting what you need from your diet as much as you can. Do you really need to supplement vitamin ABCDEFG… when you eat a variety of different coloured fruit and veg, meat and dairy*, grains, etc.? Having said that, there are a few things that could offer a bit of a helping hand with protection and recovery when you’re pushing your body for performance, and that’s what my focus is when it comes to supplementation.
Some of the products in this post have been gifted to me, but I do all my own research and only promote products I can stand by and would buy myself! All research linked to public articles – full text versions were accessed via my Open University library resources.
Xendurance Lactic Acid Buffer
First up is Xendurance’s signature product, which, like a good rock band album, is named after itself. This product claims to buffer (aka, reduce the impact of) lactic acid build up in your muscles, potentially allowing you to train for longer, at higher intensities, and with faster recovery. The main study Xendurance quoted for these claims also showed reduced levels of creatine kinase, which is a marker of muscle damage, which could also have positive effects on recovery.
I trialled Xendurance for a month or so before the Ragnar Relay, a multi-stage relay race run over a period of around 24 hours. I’ve completed three Ragnar Relays in three years and this was honestly my most successful – I ran my longest total distance (22 miles over the three legs), I felt recovered and ready for each leg, and came away feeling strong too. So much so that I ran a sub 2 hour half marathon a week later, and completed the Loch Ness marathon another week after that.
Despite the study not having results for female athletes, I feel the benefits (both potential and that I experienced) are enough for me to continue using this in my marathon training and I’m hoping it will help me attack the plan I’ve chosen, which happens to be my most intense yet…
- Cost: £39.95 for a 30 day supply (6 tablets per day)
- Where to buy: https://www.xendurance.eu/xendurance
- Find out more: Evaluation of a Sport Supplement on Performance, Buffering Capacity, Muscle Damage, Oxidative Stress, and Inflammation
This supplement is relatively well-known in the world of osteoarthritis, due to claims that it reduces degradation of cartilage in the joints. This then has a protective effect on joints.
Those who’ve followed me for a while will know I’ve suffered with two stress fractures in my running life. After the second, I was referred for a nuclear medicine bone scan (where they inject a radioactive tracer into your blood and then scan you with a gamma camera). As well as clearly showing the fractured part of my leg, the scan showed pretty heavy signal around my ankles and knees – signs of increased blood flow and, therefore, potential damage.
The effects of glucosamine are relatively minor, and there are limited studies on athletes, but as an extremely cheap supplement, I’m prepared to take the hit – particularly as running is a heavily joint-impactful sport and I have reason to believe I could be at risk!
- Cost: £1.30 for a 30 day supply (1 tablet per day)
- Where to buy: https://www.boots.com/boots-glucosamine-sulphate-and-vitamin-c-food-supplement—30-tablets-10259789
- Find out more: Examine: Glucosamine and Chondroprotective action of glucosamine, a chitosan monomer, on the joint health of athletes
Another one by Xendurance, this supplement contains a mix of four different types of carbohydrates, plus lactate and caffeine. The claims are that it gives your body the preferred fuel to promote glycogen synthesis for fast, mid and long sustained energy. It can be taken pre or post-workout, which gives you twice the bang for your buck and, if taken alongside their protein powder, gives you an all-in-one recovery drink (although I’m not sure what the mix of flavours would be like!).
The benefits of carbohydrate and caffeine for endurance exercise are well known, which is reason enough to take a supplement like this for a quick and easy fuelling option that’s light on the stomach. But I wanted to look a bit more into lactate.
Research is relatively limited, and not conclusive on performance benefits of supplementing with lactate, but two studies I found supported the potential for reduced perceived exertion when taking lactate, and I am ALL for that when marathon training seems hard enough!
- Cost: £31.95 for 40 1-scoop servings or 20 2-scoop servings
- Where to buy: https://www.xendurance.eu/fuel-5-plus?search=fuel%205
- Find out more: Improving cardiovascular performance and decreasing perceived exertion with lactate supplement and Effect of lactate supplementation and sodium bicarbonate on 40-km cycling time trial performance
When training gets tough and you’re really putting the miles in, it can have an impact on your immune system, not only that but your requirements of certain vitamins and minerals could be increased based on their depletion during exercise. There is some evidence to support antioxidants in their role in protecting against illness, but also certain vitamins and minerals too. With marathon training being a big commitment, and weeks and weeks of training all leading up to one day, I’m willing to take any steps I can to reduce my changes of getting ill, and any potential performance boosting effects that may come with it!
Xedurance’s immune boost supplement combines 40 different vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients into one product, claiming to protect against oxidative stress and free radical damage. Plus, with winter training (darkness) and the stress of the pavements on my body, I am definitely not averse to a little bit more vitamin D and calcium!
- Cost: £42.95 for a 30 day supply (6 tablets per day)
- Where to buy: https://www.xendurance.eu/extreme-immune-boost
- Find out more: Acute Antioxidant Supplementation Improves Endurance Performance in Trained Athletes, Acute Effects of an Oral Calcium Load on Markers of Bone Metabolism During Endurance Cycling Exercise in Male Athletes, Antioxidant and Vitamin D supplements for athletes: sense or nonsense?, Effects of magnesium supplementation on blood parameters of athletes at rest and after exercise and Oxidative Stress Biomarker Monitoring in Elite Women Volleyball Athletes During a 6-Week Training Period.
The benefits of fish oil include promotion of heart, brain, eye, and joint health, and it is already a very common supplement. However, further benefits may be reaped for athletes in terms of immune response and anti-inflammatory properties. Capsules are a very common form of fish oil supplement, but Omega 3 Zone provide an alternative to even more pills with their liquid supplement that comes in a variety of flavours.
Even if it doesn’t help me recover faster and train harder (as per claims), the health benefits have been touted for such a long time that this staple could still be worth taking. And again, the risk of getting ill is something I want to lower as much as possible when I have hundreds of miles to get done between now and April!
- Cost: £27.99 for 250ml, roughly 1 month’s supply (8ml per dose)
- Where to buy: https://www.omega3zone.co.uk/shop-home
- Find out more: Effects of DHA-Rich Fish Oil Supplementation on Lymphocyte Function Before and After a Marathon Race and Fish Oil Supplementation Reduces Markers of Oxidative Stress But Not Muscle Soreness After Eccentric Exercise
A supplement I hadn’t really heard much about until recently… vitamin K2 has been the feature of many studies recently due to findings that it helps to bind calcium to the bones as well as preventing it from building up in the arteries (also known as atherosclerosis, a contributor to heart disease and stroke). These properties give the vitamin a double whack of effectiveness per dose, but unfortunately it seems to be limited in even a healthy western diet.
With stroke common in my family, and of course my history of stress fractures, this seems like a really important vitamin to add to my collection. Especially with supplementation of calcium, excess of which can contribute to atherosclerosis if not bound to the bones and used in muscles contractions as intended!
- Cost: £11.60 for a 1 month supply (1 tablet per day)
- Where to buy: https://www.highernature.com/healthy-body/bone-health/vitamin-k2
- Find out more: Proper Calcium Use: Vitamin K2 as a Promoter of Bone and Cardiovascular Health and The physiology of vitamin K nutriture and vitamin K‐dependent protein function in atherosclerosis
So there are my marathon-ready supplements. Like I said to start with, supplementation isn’t a necessity, but if you can afford to spend some money on just a few of these, the potential benefits may be something you’re thankful for!
Do you already take supplements? If so, which ones?
* Yes, I know meat/dairy consumption is a hot topic right now… we’ve all seen The Game Changers! But, for now at least, I still eat a varied diet which includes all food groups. https://gamechangersmovie.com/