You’ve started exercising. Congratulations! You’re on the road to better health. For many people the beginning of this road is fairly bumpy. You experience muscle soreness or cramps, disrupted sleep, or changes in your gut associated with this new level of activity. Fear not. You won’t feel this way for very long, and quitting exercise is not the way to improve your situation.   

When you start a new exercise routine, evaluating your diet is a smart preparatory step. A solid nutritional foundation is critical for supporting your body during exercise and the recovery process that follows. Eating a wide variety of colorful, whole foods is an excellent start. Avoid heavily processed foods, as well as foods with large quantities of added salt or sugar.

But even the best diet can fall short of providing all the essential nutrients needed, especially when you’re trying to keep calories under control and can’t spend hours on meal planning. Nutritional supplements can fill in the gaps and provide your body with needed building blocks to not just survive exercise, but to maximize its benefits. Here are several tips for augmenting your diet to support healthy exercise and recovery.

Essential vitamins and minerals 

A quality multi-vitamin/mineral complex will go a long way toward filling in foundational gaps in your nutrition. When choosing one, keep in mind there are some nutrients, like calcium and magnesium, required by the body in larger quantities. That means they will take up a lot of space in the capsule. If you prefer a multi-vitamin/mineral product with a smaller serving size (like Thorne’s Basic Nutrients 2/Day), then there will be less of those ingredients than in a product with a larger serving size (like Men’s Multi 50+ or Women’s Multi 50+). That’s fine, especially if it helps you actually use the product because you aren’t swallowing as many capsules, but it’s important to be aware of this so you can be sure you get those nutrients from other sources (like dairy, seeds, nuts, and leafy greens). If capsule number is an issue, then another option is to add a calcium-magnesium powder product along with your 2/day multi.

Multi-Vitamin Elite is specifically designed for athletes and includes two formulations that support energy during the day and restful sleep and recovery at night.*

Essential fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, support a wide range of body systems, including muscles, joints, and healthy inflammation processes,* but most American adults don’t get enough omega-3’s in their diet (most commonly from fatty fish).1 Thorne’s Super EPA is an excellent choice for supporting exercise, or, if you prefer a liquid form, check out our Omega Superb.

Essential amino acids

High quality protein promotes lean muscle growth and exercise recovery, especially when consumed just after exercise.* Whey Protein Isolate is a low calorie source of easily digested, complete protein. If you are closely watching calories or avoiding dairy, then Amino Complex contains all the essential amino acids in a form that is easy to absorb and lower in calories than whole protein formulations.

Electrolytes

Electrolytes – calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphate, potassium, and sodium – are critical to many body systems, especially for proper nervous system and muscle function.* Many electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, are easy to acquire in the typical diet, but others, like phosphate and magnesium, are not as plentiful in the average diet. Exercise, especially when you sweat, increases your body’s need for electrolytes beyond what your diet can provide.

Thorne’s Catalyte is a balanced mix of electrolytes plus vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that support cellular rehydration and recovery,* without excess sugar or artificial colors or sweeteners like many sports drinks.

Magnesium is an important mineral related to dozens of cellular functions, including muscle relaxation.* If your new exercise plan is disturbing your sleep or resulting in fatigue or muscle cramps, then consider supplementing with Thorne’s Magnesium Bisglycinate.  

Special needs

Sore muscles are a common complaint associated with exercise, especially when just starting out. Thorne’s Meriva, an enhanced-absorption form of curcumin, offers antioxidant benefits, supports a healthy inflammatory response in joints and muscles, and reduces the aches and pains associated with exercise.*

If the stress of a new exercise plan is challenging you with gut disruptions, then the probiotic blend in FloraSport 20B is specifically designed to support digestive system and immune function.*  

Combo products

Although it’s nice to customize your supplement strategy, sometimes you just want one or two options that cover a lot of bases in one product.  

VeganPro Complex is an all-in-one solution that includes vitamins, minerals, omega-3s, protein, fiber, and immune support.*

RecoveryPro is designed to optimize muscle recovery, support restful sleep, and moderate stress,* with a synergistic blend of whey protein, tryptophan, magnesium bisglycinate, and PharmaGABA®.

Hydration

Last, but definitely not least, is water. It’s easy to forget about water, but everything your body does requires water. You constantly lose water just because you’re alive. Water loss increases with exercise, hot weather, and any type of illness. Very small shortages of body water (just 1-2%) can result in negative effects on body functions,2 but you might not feel thirsty until you’re already mildly dehydrated.

To keep adequately hydrated, drink water all day long, and drink a little extra before, during, and after exercise, especially when you sweat. Being adequately hydrated reduces fatigue, cramping, and headaches associated with exercise and recovery.

If drinking plain water is unappealing, then change the temperature of the water or add natural essences for flavor (drop in fresh citrus, berries, mint, basil, cucumber, or your favorite flavor) without adding calories. Some of your water needs can be met with food and other beverages, especially melons and fruit, but it’s important to be aware of added calories or caffeine that can be counterproductive.  

With your nutritional needs shored up, check out our Simple Answers to Beginner Exercise Questions for help designing your exercise plan or Making Exercise a Reality – 10 Tips for Success for help developing a new exercise routine. Most importantly – stick with it and it won’t be too long before you’re feeling better than ever!


References

  1. Papanikolaou Y, Brooks J, Reider C, Fulgoni VL. U.S. adults are not meeting recommended levels for fish and omega-3 fatty acid intake: results of an analysis using observational data from NHANES 2003–2008. Nutr J. 2014;13:31. 
  2. Riebl SK, Davy BM. The hydration equation: update on water balance and cognitive performance. ACSMs Health Fit J. 2013;17(6):21-28.