Supplements are one of those topics that I hear/see come up pretty often on podcast that I listen to and articles that I read on-line or in running and traithlon magazines. It seems like no matter what you are trying to accomplish or prevent, there’s a supplement out there that someone advertises will take care of it. I’ve always been pretty skeptical of supplements and for as long as I can remember, the only pill I popped was a multi-vitamin.
In fact, as recently as 6 months ago, I was still only taking a multi-vitamin once a day with my breakfast. Once I started getting into the longer rides and runs as part of my Ironman training, I began to look into other supplements that would help me sustain energy and recover faster. The number one criteria for all of my supplements is that they be 100% natural. So here’s list of what I currently use and why:
DURING LONG WORKOUTS:
If you read this blog, then you know that I love Hammer Nutrition products. They do not use artificial ingredients and they make easy to digest stuff.
On rides and runs lasting over an hour and a half, I use Hammer Perpetuem. I mix various amounts of this powder with water depending on how long I’m going to be out. Perpetuem contains complex carbohydrates, GMO-free soy protein, healthy fats, and other key nutrients that help maximize stored fat as energy and prevent muscle fatigue. I like the Orange-Vanilla (dream sickle) flavor.
Along with the Perpetuem, I take a Hammer Gel once an hour on long rides. It’s one of the only energy gels out there that does not add any refined, simple sugars and has no artificial colors or flavors. One gel provides me with an extra 90 calories that I need to reach my goal of approximately 350 calories per hour on the bike. I’ve tried lots of flavors, but I’ve been stuck on Apple Cinnamon for a long time now…tastes like an apple pie!
While some new research that I’ve been reading about has me questioning their necessity, I also take an electrolyte supplement during my workouts. After trying several different electroyle capsules, I landed on the Millennium Sports Athlytes product. Their capsules provide both electrolytes and sodium to replenish what is lost sweat. I’ve experimented with taking between 2 and 6 per hour and I’ve decided that 4 per hour (700mg of sodium) is what I need.
AFTER LONG WORKOUTS:
About three months ago, I started taking a post-exercise supplement made by Wicked Fast called Recover-Ease. This all-natural supplement blends 8 ingredients that the body uses to repair damage following intense exercise. It helps repair tissue damage in the muscles and lungs. I’ll take 4-6 capsules after a hard workout and 8 after a long (100+ mile) ride or a race.
From time to time I’ll also mix up a smoothie with some Hammer Recoverite after a long workout as well. Strawberry goes well with a fruit smoothie and chocolate tastes good mixed with almond butter and bananas!
WHAT I TAKE DAILY:
As I mentioned before, I have been taking a multi-vitamin on a daily basis since I was able to chew. The brand has differed over the years and particularly when I was in college, I would just get whatever was the cheapest at the grocery store! What I’ve learned since then is that these cheap multi-vitamins are full of fillers and additives. I also realized that if I’m eating a healthy, balanced diet, I shouldn’t need to take a multi-vitamin. They are good for people who are lacking critical vitamins in their diet, but for the most part, everything found in a multi-vitamin can be obtained through food. Your body will just flush out excess vitamins, so why waste the money? I stopped taking a multi-vitamin about a month ago once I ran out of the ones I had. If I decide to take them again in the future, I’ll definitely go with a brand that is all organic, such as those made by Garden of Life – the brand we give our 2 year old.
What I do take on a daily basis is a Fish Oil supplement. Fish oil has proven to be beneficial for a wide range or reasons. One of the reasons that I take it is ability to reduce inflammation. It also improves your skin health, reduces post-workout fatigue, and lowers the risk of heart disease. Like the multi-vitamin, you have to stay away from the cheap brands. Make sure that the fish oil you take has EPA and DHA in it. I can’t think of the brand that I take now, but I got it a Whole Foods.
The supplement that I started taking most recently, as in this week, is digestive enzymes. I take Raw Enzymes made by Garden of Life. These enzymes help the body digest foods that you may have an intolerance to, such as dairy, grains, nuts, seeds, beans, etc. They also help your body absorb nutrients from foods, allowing you to utilize all the natural benefits found in raw foods. These raw enzymes also boost your immune system and act as an anti-inflammatory (which is always good). I take one before breakfast, lunch and dinner.
About two or three times a week I will also put 5-6 drops of Oil of Oregano under my tongue before bed. I drink a full glass of water to wash it down. It leaves a nasty taste in your mouth, so I do it right before I brush my teeth. So why do I do this? Here’s a list of some of the healing powers of this herb. It treats allergies, it’s an anti-fungal, it contains antioxidants, it eases pain from arthritis, works to heal bacterial infections, eases diarrhea and aids in digestion, helps cure eczema, boosts your immune system, works as a natural pain killer for headaches and muscle soreness, clears up sinus and nose problems, and skin rashes. Another buyer-beware on this stuff. These health benefits are only found if the oregano is in it’s true form. There are products out there called “oil of oregano” that are comprised of thyme or marjoram oil. So don’t buy anything that is less than 70% carvacrol (found in wild oil of oregano). The brand that I use is Source Naturals. It has a handy dropper in the cap.
So that may seem like a lot of stuff, but on most easy workout days, I’m only taking the fish oil and the enzymes. As I said before, there’s nothing that can replace all the nutrients your body gets from eating a healthy, balanced diet. These are called “supplements” for a reason. They are meant to supplement your diet, not replace it or give you an excuse to eat junk!
In other news, I set out for a run this morning. My first run on dry land in 12 days. I logged just over 2 miles at an easy pace. No sign of pain from my IT band. While this was really encouraging, the fact that my heart rate was 10-12 beats higher than it should have been at this pace is a clear indication that I’ve lost a significant amount of my running fitness over the last 4 weeks. I’m also not really sure where to go from here. With Ironman Louisville just 18 days away, do I try and continue to run more and up the mileage until my IT band hurts or do I just keep doing my therapy and rest it? I think I’ll consult my PT…