The guide to sports nutrition and supplements for runners: vitamins and minerals

This is the second part of a series of articles on sports nutrition and supplements, in the first we talked about gels and energy bars.

The number of nutritional supplements and different types of sports nutrition has long exceeded all reasonable limits. Even experienced runners are not always aware of the side effects and effectiveness of the medication. In this series of articles, we’ll try to help beginners navigate the world of sports nutrition and supplements, and show the rest of us what, how, and when it works (spoiler: not everything works ).


A recent review of the literature on the benefits and harms of vitamins shows that most of them have no effect on health or slightly reduce the risk of stroke (folic acid and B vitamins), and some (antioxidants and niacin) on the contrary increase overall mortality.

This review is a great reminder that vitamins are not an absolute good, they can overdose, they have side effects, and in general, vitamins should be taken as a medicine and not a food.

Another possible danger of vitamins is that they give the false impression of “I get everything I need and can experiment with food”.

Maybe sometimes (in fact, often), instead of vitamins, it’s worth buying a good variety of foods. And with food, you’ll get a whole lot of other goodies – fiber, different vitamins and minerals in each dish, and just the joy of delicious food, in the end!

On the other hand, the short-term (!) intake of high doses of vitamin C and E before the competition has been shown to reduce the number of markers of muscle damage in the blood after exercise.

And on the other hand, individual fluctuations in the concentration of vitamins in the blood are so large that it is difficult to make general recommendations. Although on average, with intense sports activity, the need for vitamins increases slightly.

What to eat instead of supplements

  • Vitamin A found in fish oil, liver, oil, and vegetables (orange and red). Fat-soluble, vegetables should therefore be eaten with oil.
  • B vitamins are found in bran (and whole grain flour), yeast, meat, liver.
  • Vitamin C – in fruits and vegetables. The leaders in its content are red pepper, currant, greens. The lemon is somewhere far below, under the regular cabbage.
  • Vitamin D – in cod liver, eggs, yeast. It is also produced in the skin in the presence of light. To develop a daily dose, it is enough to be 20 minutes a day in the sun, which falls on the face and hands. Since the vitamin is stored in fatty tissue, it is still possible to light up for the future. Vitamin D deficiency is very common, but we still recommend not taking it out of control. A small deficiency is much safer than a small amount of hypervitaminosis.
  • Vitamin E – fat-soluble, present in vegetable oils, whole grains, green vegetables.
  • Vitamin H (biotin), important for the good condition of nails and hair, is found in vegetables, liver, dairy products, yolks, mushrooms, and chocolate.
  • Vitamin K (which takes part in blood clotting) is found in green vegetables, fish, liver.

What happens with vitamins

  1. Ideally, vitamin supplements should only be taken after a prior blood test for their content and only drink what is missing.
  2. If doing these tests is totally unrealistic (yes, they are expensive, we understand) – take vitamins in short courses (up to a month) and out of season, when their dietary intake decreases.
  3. Be sure to study the composition of the vitamin supplement in milligrams and compare with the recommendations of the Ministry of Health. Do not exceed the recommended doses – after all, in addition to vitamins in tablets, you get them with food, and an overdose is very real. In addition, for example, the multivitamins from Nutrend contain caffeine and piperine – a real gift for people with coffee intolerance. These additives are not regulated in any way, so be sure to read the composition.


The situation for minerals is similar to that for vitamins. The need for minerals with active sports increases, especially for long-distance runners – due to high losses.

But you should not take minerals uncontrollably – they have upper limits of recommended doses, when exceeded, very unpleasant side effects appear.

For instance, calcium competes for carrier proteins with other minerals, therefore, when taken at the same time, only calcium is absorbed, and when taking large doses of calcium, a deficiency of zinc, magnesium and iron is possible.

Calcium itself normally enters the bones and is only incorporated there if there is a sufficient amount of vitamin D. Their levels should be monitored together and, if necessary, additional vitamin D should be taken.

Consumer studies phosphorus are contradictory and show on average neither improvement nor deterioration in the condition and results of athletes.

The main role magnesium – participation in the conduction of nerve impulses and muscle contraction. One of the first symptoms of its deficiency can be muscle cramps. In case of overdose, it is toxic (causes a sharp drop in pressure, vomiting, diarrhea, heart failure and depression of brain activity up to coma). The only consolation is that it is difficult to overdose it during normal kidney function.

Zinc participates in energy metabolism, the formation of an immune response and muscle recovery after exercise. The risk of zinc deficiency in athletes is high, but it is recommended to replenish it from food (seeds, herbs, seafood) – in case of overdose, it significantly accelerates the development of atherosclerosis and prevents absorption of iron and copper, and in men it increases the risk of prostate cancer by 2.3 times.

Athletes, especially women, are at high risk of deficit gland. Its deficiency leads to anemia (a decrease in the amount of hemoglobin and the ability of the blood to carry oxygen), and it leads to a significant drop in productivity, poor health, and even the need for hospitalization.

Runners should have their iron levels monitored regularly (it is recommended to maintain them > 50 μg/L). Hemoglobin levels in runners who consume enough iron are usually within the upper limit of normal or slightly above – this is the result of the body adapting to the high oxygen demand during running.

Chromium improves the transport of amino acids into the cell and is therefore often taken by bodybuilders. However, no effects on muscle mass and performance in athletes have been found in studies.

Selenium may reduce muscle damage after strenuous exercise due to its antioxidant activity. Studies have shown no improvement in athletic performance with selenium supplementation.

Details and links to studies on micronutrients in athletes can be found here and here.

What to eat instead of supplements

  • A lot calcium – in sesame, cheeses and dairy products, green vegetables.
  • Phosphorus found in bran, cheese, eggs and legumes.
  • Magnesium – in sesame, whole grains, various nuts (especially cashews), buckwheat, peanuts.
  • To cover the need for zinc include in the diet bran, pine nuts and seeds, cheeses, eggs, meat, cereals, legumes.
  • Much more than in the liver gland found in sesame, bran, seaweed, lentils, soy, buckwheat. Liver has a similar iron content to peas and yolk. But iron is less absorbed from plant sources.
  • Selena a lot in bran, seeds, eggs, pink salmon, cottage cheese, legumes and cereals, cheeses, garlic.
  • Chromium a lot in fish (the leader is tuna, in the rest it is less, but also a lot). 100 grams of sprat cover the daily chromium requirement. Beets, milk, eggs, meat and mushrooms also contain chromium.

What is the result of the minerals?

As with vitamins, individual fluctuations in the level of trace elements in the blood are very important.

For example, they found that athletes had more chromium, manganese, and nickel in their blood than couch dwellers. Moreover, even the type of load affects – for example, when performing aerobic sports, the zinc content in the blood is lower than average, while those who prefer anaerobic loads are higher.

Before starting to take microelements, it is strongly advised to take a blood (and even better – hair) test for their content and repeat it every 3-6 months. If taken regularly, do not exceed the recommended doses. And prefer a natural source of trace elements – a varied and complete diet.

Magnesium and other preparations that are used to prevent seizures

Examples: Magnezlife, Magne-B6, ZMA, Antikrump

Magnesium, as already mentioned above, is involved in neuromuscular transmission, preventing excessive excitation of neurons in the muscles. One of the first symptoms of its deficiency is convulsion. Runners need more magnesium due to high magnesium losses.

The main difference between the preparations lies in the connection of the magnesium ion with an organic or inorganic base. The inorganics are nitrate, sulfate and oxide. Organic – everything else, the most common are acetyl citrate, lactate, malate and taurate.

Information about the type of salt in the preparation should be included in the very finely written instructions. We need these terrible names because organic salts are better absorbed and penetrate the tissues than inorganic salts.

Magnesium absorption also worsens when consumed simultaneously with other minerals and fiber, and improves with protein and carbohydrates.

The pharmaceutical drug Magne-B6 has a composition very close to Nutrend’s Magnezlife (there is a difference in the dose of vitamin B6, but if you follow the instructions, you will not overdose it. If necessary, you can substitute a dose of Magnezlife with two drinking ampoules of Magne-B6.

In addition to magnesium salt and vitamin B6, Antikrump contains calcium, potassium, sodium and several B vitamins. Therefore, when using it, it is desirable to control the content of minerals and vitamins in the blood , especially when taken with vitamins or minerals. complex.

Magnesium is excreted in the urine, so during normal kidney function, its overdose is extremely rare. For an overdose of vitamin B6, you have to consume a large amount of it for months.

Therefore, this group of drugs is one of the safest in all sports nutrition. But still, respect the recommended doses and be attentive to your well-being.

In the next part, we will deal with amino acids and other multi-component supplements (BCAA, arginine, glutamine, creatine, carnitine, inosine).