No runner wants to face a running injury, but the harsh reality is that roughly half of regular runners get hurt yearly [ 1
1]. Whether you’ve had weeks of warning signs or suddenly find yourself sidelined on the sofa, optimizing your nutrition with certain supplements can minimize muscle and training losses, reduce inflammation, and support healing.
If you’re wondering which supplements are most effective, we've got you covered. From prioritizing protein to easing inflammation, here are the best running supplements to boost recovery after a running injury.
Protein is essential for endurance athletes 2
endurance athletes, but when you’ve got a running injury, it becomes especially important for repairing damaged tissues, minimizing muscle loss, and promoting muscle protein synthesis. Studies show that not getting enough protein while recovering from an injury can contribute to increased loss of muscle mass, decreased tissue repair and healing, inflammation, and impaired healing [
One of the most common mistakes runners make is to cut back on calories and protein during periods of injury. However, this can be detrimental, since an athlete’s energy and protein needs may increase during injury recovery (especially in the early phases) to meet the increased demands of healing, repairing tissue, and stimulating muscle protein synthesis [ 2
Moreover, studies show that consuming enough protein while injured can reduce muscle and strength loss and help with weight management [ 3
If you’re recovering from a running injury, most experts recommend getting 2-2.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (g/kg) daily.
It’s important to spread your intake throughout the day as research shows the body can only utilize 20-40 g of protein for muscle synthesis at any time. Dividing your intake into 4-6 protein-rich meals will ensure your body has a regular supply of amino acids to support basic bodily functions, tissue repair, and recovery [ 3 4
Eating protein rich in leucine (an essential amino acid) may benefit injured runners as it inhibits muscle catabolism in injured athletes, especially during the early stages of recovery when tissue breakdown and muscle loss can be significant [ 5
Experts recommend that injured athletes get 20-30 g of leucine-rich protein (~3 g pure leucine) in each meal and snack, including before bed [ 2
Protein foods rich in leucine include cottage cheese, eggs, salmon, canned navy beans, chickpeas, soybeans (tofu, tempeh, and edamame), and pumpkin seeds.
You may also want to fill in the gaps with high-quality whey or plant protein
high-quality whey or plant proteinif you need help meeting your protein needs.
If you’re wondering how to meet your increased protein needs and get that all-important leucine while not overlooking other critical nutrients in your diet, Elo Health
Elo Healthcan help.
Elo Smart Recovery
Elo Smart Recoveryis a ground-breaking personalized protein product that uses AI, individual activity, and health data to create a recovery blend made just for you. Each unique blend delivers high-quality protein and functional ingredients optimally dosed to promote muscle recovery and reduce muscle soreness. Think of it as a supplement and protein powder in one scoop, uniquely designed for your nutrition needs.
Smart Recovery membership also includes unlimited access to a registered dietitian and real-time dosing recommendations based on your latest tracked workout via the Elo App. Unlike other personalized protein products, Elo Smart Recovery evolves as your goals and needs change through continuous feedback loops.
Inflammation is part of the body’s natural response to injury and typically peaks in the first 48 hours after the injury. Initial swelling and inflammation help with the initial stages of injury repair; however, lingering inflammation can impede recovery by limiting the repair of damaged tissue and triggering muscle atrophy [ 6
6]. This is where omega-3s can offer support.
Omega-3sare polyunsaturated fats that include EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) and have been shown to block inflammatory markers and fight inflammation. Your body can not make omega-3s, which means you need to get them from your diet or a supplement.
Emerging research suggests that omega-3s play a role in athletes' recovery and injury prevention, since the anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil-derived omega-3s may modulate the immune response and prevent excessive inflammation during recovery [ 5 7
The daily recommendation for all omega-3s is 1,600 mg/day for men and 1,100 mg/day for women [ 10
If you have a running injury, it’s best to take a conservative approach to supplementation since excess omega-3s can dampen the body’s natural inflammatory response and impair injury healing. If you eat fish, consuming 1-2 portions (~8 ounces) of fish per week may be adequate; however, if you don’t regularly consume fish, supplements can also be beneficial for helping you meet your needs and enhance healing [ 10
Some dietary sources of omega-3s include [ 10
Cold-water fatty fish, including salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines. Farmed fish typically have higher levels of EPA and DHA than wild-caught fish.
Fortified foods like eggs, yogurt, juices, milk, and soy beverages.
Nuts and seeds
Fish oil supplements 3
Fish oil supplementsmay also be beneficial if you don’t regularly eat fish and are recovering from a running injury. A typical fish oil supplement provides about 1,000 mg of fish oil with 180 mg EPA and 120 mg DHA; however, formulations and doses vary widely [
Joint stiffness and pain are standard among runners and can be exacerbated by intense training cycles, mileage jumps, or simply aging. Glucosamine and chondroitin are natural compounds found in joints and cartilage. If you’re looking for supplements for runners joints, research shows glucosamine and chondroitin may help ease joint pain and slow joint degradation, especially in knees and hips [ 11 12
The recommended dosage for glucosamine sulfate is 300-500 mg 3x/day (900-1,500 mg/day). Alternatively, up to 3,000 mg of glucosamine sulfate salts/day can be taken as a single dose [ 11
For chondroitin, a single or divided dose of 1,000-1,200 mg/day appears to be most helpful for joint issues [ 12
Supplementation is the only option for consuming adequate amounts of glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health. Glucosamine is typically harvested from shellfish, while chondroitin is usually produced synthetically.
If you’re a runner struggling with inflammation, joint pain, or extreme stiffness, here are some other
joint health supplementsyou may want to consider.
Calcium is the major component of bone, providing strength and structure to the skeleton. Ninety-nine percent of the calcium in our body exists in our bones and teeth, but it also plays an important role in regulating muscle contractions, nerve conduction, and blood clotting [ 4
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a key role in calcium absorption in the gut and is vital for a strong skeleton [ 13 28 14
13]. Having sub-optimal vitamin D levels can reduce calcium absorption by up to 75% [
28]. (Despite its importance, 90% of Elo members start with low vitamin D.) Adequate vitamin D is also essential for normal immune function, reducing inflammation and muscle health, and may even help prevent injuries [
While daily calcium needs can be met through the diet, vitamin D is harder to come by. As such, nearly everyone can benefit from supplemental vitamin D, though it may not be necessary if you live close to the equator and are out in the sun regularly.
The recommended dietary allowances for calcium are [ 15
1,000mg/day (age 19-50)
1,000mg/day (age 19-70)
For Vitamin D, the recommended daily allowance for both men and women 19-70 years old is 15 mcg/day (600 - 800 IU), but some evidence suggests that 50mcg or more (2,000 IU+) may be helpful for certain people [ 13
Before you go all-in on calcium supplements, it’s worthwhile assessing if you get (or can get) adequate calcium from dietary sources, including yogurt, milk, cheese, canned salmon (with bones), canned sardines, broccoli, kale, and fortified foods like juice, cereals, and plant-based milk [ 15
If you need a supplement, look for calcium citrate and take it in divided doses to maximize absorption. Take iron and calcium supplements at separate times since iron interferes with calcium absorption and vice versa.
Vitamin D can be synthesized in our skin from cholesterol and exposure to sunlight; however, few of us get enough sun all year round to rely solely on endogenous vitamin D. Given that Vitamin D is only found in limited quantities in a few foods such as cod liver oil, salmon, and fortified milk, supplemental vitamin D3 is the best option for many.
Turmeric 16 17
Turmericis a potent anti-inflammatory that has been used for centuries as a traditional remedy for everything from digestive issues to skin health [
16]. This bright yellow spice contains many healthful compounds; however, a polyphenol called curcumin is mainly responsible for its inflammation-fighting benefits [
Studies show that curcumin may be a helpful supplement for runners joints. Studies show it can alleviate joint pain and inflammation in people with osteoarthritis, a common issue among runners from years of pounding pavement [ 17
Early studies also suggest curcumin may benefit post-run recovery, particularly for fighting inflammation and reducing muscle soreness after exercise [ 17
Taking 1,000 mg/day of curcumin for 8-12 weeks is the most effective for relieving osteoarthritis pain and inflammation [ 17
For reducing muscle soreness, doses of 400-2,000 mg/day in the days leading up to and following exercise appear to be the most effective [ 17
Interestingly, taking curcumin with black pepper has been shown to increase the bioavailability of curcumin by up to 2,000%, which is a major plus considering it is not well absorbed by the body on its own [ 18
Adding turmeric to dishes at home can enhance flavor and color; however, it’s unlikely to provide enough curcumin to kick joint pain and inflammation. Curcumin supplementation is generally the easiest and most effective way for runners to reap the joint and muscle benefits.
If you’re feeling increasingly achy or suffer from sore joints after running, collagen
collagenmay also be worth considering.
As you age, your body naturally loses collagen, which increases your risk of degenerative joint disorders such as osteoarthritis, as well as general joint pain and stiffness [ 19
While running appears to be protective against osteoarthritis, research shows that athletes who took 10 g/day of collagen hydrolysate for 24 weeks experienced significant improvements in joint stiffness and self-reported joint pain [ 20 21
As an added benefit, collagen supplementation has also been linked to improvements in muscle mass, body composition, and bone health, which may provide added benefits as you recover from a running injury [ 22 23 24 25
Doses of 10 g/day of hydrolyzed collagen may be beneficial for reducing joint pain associated with osteoarthritis and exercise-related joint pain. In comparison, 15 g/day may benefit muscle mass and body composition when paired with strength or resistance training [ 20 21 22
Collagen is naturally found in the connective tissues of animals, including chicken, pork, beef, and fish [ 26
26]. Consuming certain foods (like bone broth, collagen protein bars, beverages, and the skin from chicken, pork, or fish) may naturally increase your collagen intake, though there’s little research available to prove it.
You can also take collagen supplements, which have become popular for their convenience and potency [ 27 collagen guide
27]. To learn more about the different collagen supplements and which might be the best to help you recover from a running injury, check out our comprehensive
At Elo Health 1:1 dietitian support
Elo Health, we offer
1:1 dietitian supportso you can stay accountable, reach your health and fitness goals, and better understand your health. For example, if you’re recovering from a running injury, a Registered Dietitian can create a health plan for you that focuses on certain supplements and will be able to work with you on lifestyle topics like recovery, stress management, and more.
Elo also provides personalized smart supplements made just for you through at-home blood testing, biomarkers, and data from wearables. After all, your nutrition needs are unique, and your supplement plan should be, too.
If you’re a runner, chances are you’ll experience a running injury at some point in time. In addition to getting adequate calories, rest, and rehabilitation, consuming leucine-rich protein and taking certain supplements like fish oil, glucosamine, chondroitin, turmeric, collagen, calcium, and vitamin D can benefit runners recovering from an injury.
If you’re considering supplementation to boost recovery from a running injury, Elo Health offers personalized supplements to address your specific health concerns, as well as 1:1 dietitian support.
And when you're ready to start running again, check out our Ultimate guide to nutrition for running performance
Ultimate guide to nutrition for running performance.
Disclaimer: The text, images, videos, and other media on this page are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to treat, diagnose, or replace personalized medical care.
Prioritizing protein can help repair tissues and minimize muscle loss while recovering from an injury. Leucine-rich protein sources like eggs, salmon, and tofu can be particularly beneficial.
Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil and turmeric may help reduce inflammation and aid in healing during the recovery process.
Glucosamine, chondroitin, and collagen supplements may be beneficial for runners experiencing joint pain and stiffness, especially in the knees and hips.
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