The 3 Most Important Supplements for Triathletes

From time to time, a client will walk into my office and reveal a laundry list of supplements he or she is currently taking. When I ask why they feel they need all those supplements, they often don’t have an answer.

My reasoning for the appeal of supplements? Marketing. Supplement companies spend big bucks promoting their products and enticing potential customers to use their stuff.

I, on the other hand, take a bare-bones approach to supplements: don’t fix it unless it’s broken.

I recommend considering supplements only if you’ve been to the doctor, had a nutrient panel and the doc says you are low in certain nutrients, such as iron and vitamin B12. Don’t just add them because you think you might need them. Instead, get the majority of your vitamins and minerals from — you guessed it — real food!

Here are the few supplements you really need.

1. A GOOD MULTIVITAMIN

A multivitamin is like an insurance policy. If you focus on consuming a variety of foods, including lots of fruits and vegetables, you most likely will be in good shape, but take the multi as a back-up — a just-in-case-I-don’t-eat-perfectly-every-day, because none of us do!

While in school I learned a little trick to determine how effective your multivitamin really is: Drop one tablet in white vinegar and return in 30 minutes. Give the mixture a little stir. The vitamin should be totally dissolved. This test mirrors what is going on in the GI tract with the hydrochloric acid, so if it doesn’t dissolve in the vinegar, it’s not going to dissolve in your stomach. And if it doesn’t dissolve, it’s not going to do you much good.

2. A PROBIOTIC

Probiotics are good bacteria that keep your gut healthy, as well as provide immune support and improve skin conditions. When you take an antibiotic, you wipe out all the bacteria — good and bad alike. Probiotics replace the good stuff, keeping you generally healthy.

Probiotics are found naturally in the body, as well in some supplements and foods like yogurt.

3. AN OMEGA-3

Omega-3 fatty acids are amazing for you — no ifs, ands or buts. They reduce inflammation and support brain and heart health. You can get these fatty acids from food like wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and black cod.

Most people don’t eat enough fatty fish, however, so a quality supplement is helpful.

In Summary

It’s not necessary to load up on every supplement under the sun; in fact, it’s a waste of money. Focus on just the essentials, and get the rest of your nutrients from food. Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables is a good start to meeting your micronutrient needs.

Brooke Schohl, MS, RD, CSSD, METS Level II is a registered sports dietitian and the owner of Fuel to the Finish Endurance Nutrition Coaching in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is an avid triathlete and has completed many triathlons of all distances, including three IRONMAN races. She integrates that personal experience and knowledge into developing customized, sport-specific, metabolically efficient fueling plans for her clients. Brooke and her husband, John, own Destination Kona Triathlon Store in south Scottsdale, Arizona. For more information on services and offerings, visit her website