No matter how far or for how long you run, your joints play a vital role in helping you get from point A to point B. Taking care of them properly will not only prevent potential injuries and help you recover better, but will also make your runs more pleasant and help improve your form.
However, with so many different vitamins and supplements on the market, it can be very difficult to know which ones actually work and which ones don’t.
Below you will find seven options you can try, and some of their mechanics explained.
A word of caution
Keep in mind that the FDA does not control vitamins and supplements in the same way it controls medications. Consequently, the market can be tainted with products that contain lower quality ingredients or even substances that are not advertised on the packaging.
To make sure your body actually gets what it needs, always buy supplements from reputable stores (whether you shop online or in person), and do some online research about the brand. You can also make your own supplements – this way, you will know exactly what’s in them and how they will benefit your joints.
An oldie but goodie: glucosamine
Runners have been using Glucosamine supplements for decades, in an effort to alleviate knee pain and other unpleasant symptoms of arthritis.
However, about a decade ago, some doubts have been raised about its effectiveness. Since then, many runners have eliminated Glucosamine from their supplement shelves.
Recent research, published in the British Medical Journal, has shown that the supplement can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by as much as 15%.
However, we are still unsure of the way it contributes to joint health. We do believe that it is very efficient in reducing inflammation, which is a contributing factor for arthritis and joint pain.
In other words: taking Glucosamine will be good for your heart, and it may also help with joint pain. More research is still needed to prove the hypothesis, though.
A welcome addition: Omega-3
Most runners take Omega-3 supplements alongside their Glucosamine because it is also good at reducing inflammation and boosting recovery times.
While its benefits are mostly felt by muscle tissues (where they help repair the tears we inflict on them during a run), they can also help your joints. This help comes precisely from their effect on your muscles: the stronger the muscles, the less taxing your runs should be on your joints.
Look for Omega-3s that are richer in DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which are their most beneficial components.
A ray of sunshine: Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a significant role in improving bone and joint health. It helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus, which, in turn, strengthen bones and muscles.
The most natural way to get enough Vitamin D is to expose your skin to sunlight, which will prompt your body to produce it on its own. Remember that you do need to wear an SPF when going out into the sun, as even though it is good for you, it can still be very harmful.
If you don’t get enough sun (especially in the darker months or if you run inside), you can take a Vitamin D supplement during that time to help your joints stay healthy.
Something extra: other additions to try
Apart from the big three we have just mentioned, there are other ways to boost your joint health:
- Turmeric: a spice used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat arthritis, turmeric is an excellent inflammation-reducing agent. It also boosts the immune system and can help with pain management.
- Hyaluronic acid: a substance naturally produced by the body, it keeps the joints lubricated, thus preventing your bones from rubbing against each other (which can be extremely painful). Taking hyaluronic acid supplements will help improve the health of all connective tissues, but they need to be taken consistently over a couple of months to have the best effect.
- Frankincense: used in African and Asian traditional medicine to treat arthritis, it helps reduce inflammation and prevent the breakdown of cartilage. When taken regularly, it can also increase your running distances.
- Ginger: contains Gingerol, which has very powerful anti-inflammatory properties that act similarly to ibuprofen. It suppresses leukotrienes, the inflammatory molecules in your body, and is considered to be more powerful than over the counter painkillers. A shot of ginger and lemon every morning can be all you need to boost your game.
You can choose to combine some of these supplements, or take one of them on its own: the choice is entirely up to you.
Make sure you don’t exceed the daily recommended dose for any of them, however, as that can have an adverse effect. Most of these supplements play a role in reducing inflammation, so you don’t need to take all of them.
Figure out a combination of effects you are looking for, and add in the supplement you feel would most benefit your running routine.