The Best Vitamins for Runners

The Best Vitamins for Runners

Discover the top nutritional supplements and the best vitamins for runners to stay healthy and perform optimally.

An inadequate intake of nutrients can impair runners’ performance and lead to fatigue and/or injury. That’s why it is critically important that runners not only eat a healthy diet, but also take the appropriate nutritional supplements. Here, discover the best vitamins for runners to achieve optimal performance and thwart nutritional deficits.

Best Vitamins for Runners:

B Vitamins

B vitamins are water-soluble, which means the body does not store them; you must supply them each day via diet. In addition, exercise increases the body’s requirements for certain B vitamins such as vitamins B-2 and B-6. Thus, taking a B-complex is the top of the list when it comes to the best vitamins for runners.

Thiamine (B-1), riboflavin (B-2), and pyridoxine (B-6) are necessary micronutrients utilized in the pathways of the body that convert proteins and sugars into energy. While folate (B-9) and cobalamin (B-12) are required for the synthesis of new cells (such as red blood cells) and for repairing damaged cells.

According to Oregon State University research, “Active individuals lacking in B vitamins may perform worse during high-intensity exercise and have a decreased ability to repair and build muscle than their counterparts with nutrient-rich diets”.

Symptoms of a vitamin B deficiency depend on which type of vitamin B is lacking and can range from depression to anemia to cognitive impairment. Runners in particular can experience recurring muscle soreness or generalized fatigue if they are deficient in one or more B vitamins.

Nutritional supplements that contain all eight B vitamins are referred to as B-complex vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12. Runners should aim to take the B-complex vitamins about one hour prior to exercise and should follow the manufacturer’s dosing instructions. Because B vitamins can provide a burst of energy, it is generally recommended to avoid taking them at bedtime.

Vitamin C

Endurance athletes such as marathon runners put a high amount of physical stress on their bodies, which means they are more prone to have weakened immune systems and are at higher risk of developing respiratory illnesses such as the cold or flu. It has long been touted that taking vitamin C can prevent a cold. To be fair, there is conflicting research on whether or not vitamin C actually prevents respiratory infections. Some studies show promising results for staving off colds while other studies show no benefit. This is likely attributed to the daily dosage as studies involving participants taking larger doses (2,000 mg per day or higher) show positive results with vitamin C supplementation.

However, studies do confirm that vitamin C can reduce the adverse effects of oxidative damage that occurs with exercise, including inflammation, muscle breakdown, and fatigue.

Most research demonstrates that taking 1,000-3,000 mg of vitamin C per day for several days during training periods may reduce pain, speed up muscle recovery, and prevent connective tissue injury.

Ideally, a runner should take a daily supplement that contains the right combination of vitamins (B vitamins, C, E, D, etc.) as well as minerals (magnesium, calcium, etc.). I recommend this multivitamin/mineral supplement as it contains multivitamins, essential minerals, and other nutrients including a blend of 42 fruit & vegetables.

Best Minerals for Runners:


Magnesium is a mineral that is often overlooked, yet it is essential for over 300 chemical pathways in the body. Deficiency of this important mineral can lead to muscle tension, cramps, spasms, and weakness – symptoms no runner ever wants to experience!

Magnesium levels can be depleted in the body through exercise, so it is important that runners include magnesium-rich food sources in the diet, such as green leafy vegetables, beans, almonds, cashews, avocados, bananas, and oats. Drinking spring and mineral water can help increase magnesium levels, too.

Magnesium citrate (used to treat constipation) can cause more stomach upset than other forms of magnesium, and therefore, should be avoided. The best magnesium supplement for runners would be in the form of magnesium malate or a chelated magnesium. The recommended daily allowance in male adults is 400-420 mg and female adults is 310-320 mg.

As an alternative to taking a supplement, a relaxing hot bath soaking in magnesium-rich salts (Epsom Salts) after a run will absorb magnesium through the skin and help reduce muscle soreness.


Potassium is a mineral found in bananas and other fresh fruits and vegetables that works with sodium to balance fluid and electrolyte levels in the body. When potassium levels become too low, muscle cramping can ensue. However, taking extra potassium supplements can be very dangerous as it can interfere with cardiac (heart) rhythm. Therefore, it is best to obtain potassium via a multivitamin/multimineral or from food sources: bananas, oranges, apricots, grapefruits, prunes, and spinach.

Best Nutritional Supplements for Runners:


L-carnitine is a naturally occurring non-essential amino acid that promotes weight loss by increasing calorie expenditure. L-carnitine also plays an important role in recovery from strenuous exercise and may help to reduce muscle soreness.


Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid which serves as fuel for immune cells. Endurance exercise can deplete glutamine levels in the muscles and blood. When levels get too low, the immune system is impaired, thereby increasing the risk of illness. Some research shows that supplementing with glutamine can ward off illness and muscle soreness.

Beet Root

Beets are loaded with vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and potassium. But, it is the magic ingredient of nitrate that makes beets beneficial to runners. Once the nitrates from beets are consumed, they are turned into nitrites by bacteria in the mouth or enzymes in the body. The digestive system absorbs the nitrites, which then flows into the bloodstream and is transformed into nitric oxide. Essentially, this nitric oxide provides a boost of supplemental oxygen to the blood (i.e. increases V02 max during exercise).

Learn More: Beets for Runners: Let Nature Increase Your VO2 Max

The only way to truly identify an individual’s nutrient deficits is to perform a comprehensive nutrition assessment, including dietary, biochemical, anthropometric, clinical, and environmental components. If you are a runner and are interested in taking supplements, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about identifying specific nutrition-related deficits that might be impacting your overall health and performance.


[1] Int J Sport Nut and Exercise Metabolism. 2006 Nov; 16(5):453-84.

[2] Oregon State University. Nov 2006.

[3] Current Sports Med Reports. July 2012; 11(4):180-4.

[4] Int J Sports Med. 1996 Jul;17(5):320-4.

[5] J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Feb;28(2):514-9.

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