Marathon Training Vitamin
Nutrition Supplements Tip #17

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In marathon training vitamin nutrition supplements seem like an easy way to meet all your nutrition needs. Although certain supplements can provide benefit to the marathoner, one must be reminded of the definition of supplement: to add to, to make up the difference. Supplements should compliment the diet rather than be an easy shortcut.

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going. Beverly Sills (1929-2007)

I think we could all agree that it’s worth training for the marathon, so let’s think about the potential problems with marathon training vitamin nutrition supplement shortcuts.

  • Vitamin and mineral supplements provide vitamins and minerals…period. A marathon runner in training needs carbs, protein, and essential fatty acids found in whole foods . Depending solely on a supplement for your vitamins and minerals does not assure your intake of the right fuel. Food provides vitamins and minerals along with the fuel of the carbs, protein and fat. Diet soda enhanced with vitamins will not give you the fuel you need to be a better runner.


  • In marathon training vitamin nutrition supplements could provide too much of a nutrient. I’ve analyzed hundreds of diets over the years as a dietitian. Even the lousy diets provide some vitamins and minerals. A multi-vitamin-mineral supplement not exceeding 100% of your daily needs is likely to be fine for most marathoners. You don’t need hundreds or thousands of a percent on top of your dietary intake. More is not always better. In fact, some nutrients, when taken in very high doses, compete for absorption. This means the absorption of both nutrients is hampered, defeating the purpose of taking the supplement in that amount.


  • Be careful if you take multiple over-the-counter supplements and eat vitamin fortified food along with whole foods. Together they could all add up to be too much. Here is a vitamin C example:

    Daily Value for Vitamin C: 60 mg daily (slightly less than the RDI)
    Tolerable Upper Limit (above which there could be risks): 2000 mg daily

    Possible combination:
    One cup fresh orange juice: 124 milligrams (mg) (double the Daily Value)
    Nutrition bar (picked at random): 60 mg (100% DV)
    Basic multi-vitamin provides 60 mg (100% DV)
    Popular “Anti Sickness” Supplement Vitamin C 1,000 mg (1,633% DV).
    This pProduct suggests three daily doses for a total of 3000 mg (yikes… beyond 1,000 mg has been linked to diarrhea and stomach ache).

    Total for the day (not counting most of the food eaten): 3244 mg

  • In any case, including marathon training vitamin nutrition supplements do not have to be proven effective or safe by the FDA, although word is out that this could be changing later this year. The FDA only looks into a supplement if there is a problem brought to their attention. The FTC just makes sure the supplement company doesn’t claim it can cure or heal you. Bottom line is to buy supplements from a reputable company, and remember…if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. You can find more information about supplements at websites such as Consumer Labs and Informed Choice.

    So, although shortcuts may look appealing, the end result might not be what you want. Just like you can’t take shortcuts on getting your miles in, you can’t take supplement shortcuts to get all the nutrition in. In marathon training vitamin nutrition supplements can be used, but the key is to compliment the diet, not be a substitute for whole foods.

    Marathon Training Nutrition Tip of the Day: Pick one or two vitamins or minerals and tally how much of the nutrient you are taking from all the pills, powders and fortified foods you eat in a day (either by milligram or by percent Daily Value). Get the help of a Registered Dietitian if needed. Remember you are also getting the nutrients from your regular food intake. Make adjustments in your supplementation plan as needed!

    E-mail me with your questions about marathon training vitamin nutrition supplements.

    Learn more about vitamins and supplements.

    Check out more marathon nutrition training tips.

    Everyday is your day to succeed!