What is a supplement?
A supplement can be defined or described using the base of the word. Anything used to supplement, or add to, making it whole. When describing a diet, it would be to supplement or make up for a deficiency, for example Iron. If you are Iron deficient, also known as anemic, you would supplement or add Iron to your diet.
Supplements can also used not just to make up for but to add effectiveness. Vitamins, minerals, herbs, meal supplements and sports nutrition products are commonly used to promote general health and well being. They can also be used to help athletes train, and recover more effectively and efficiently.
What kind of supplements should an endurance athlete take?
Depending on what the end result one is looking to achieve is, the supplements that a person should take would be very individual. Here are a few examples:
Electrolytes: While electrolytes are important and necessary for everyone, including all athletes, an individual training longer would have a greater need to replace these electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, potassium, etc.) due to higher sweat loss and dehydration.
Fuel/Carbohydrates: Simply put, an energy gel or other quickly digested source of calories. Again, these are important to an endurance athletes after prolonged (excess of 60minutes) exercise when energy stores are depleted. It’s recommended to take ~100-300 calories (highly individual) per 1hr of exercise.
Glucosamine and Omega-3 fatty acids: These supplements help with injury prevention like joint pain. They can also act as natural anti-inflamatories and are much easier to digest then NSAIDs (not steroid anti inflammatory drugs).
Protein: Protein helps the body and muscles repair faster. Protein is used for maintaining aerobic metabolism and if intake is too low the body will take what it needs from lean muscle.
Amino Acids: Amino acids are building blocks for muscle and digestive enzymes. There are eight essential amino acids that must be obtained from one’s diet. However, a typical endurance athlete’s body can synthesize (use up) them faster than they can consume them with their regular diet. Taking an amino acid supplement has been helpful to optimize and improve physiological responses during racing and training.