Paddle Healthy: Supplements for SUP

Photo: Aaron Schmidt
Photo: Aaron Schmidt

Supplements for Standup Paddlers

The supplement industry continues to go from strength to strength–if you’ll pardon the bad intentional pun–and may reach $60 billion by 2021. The trouble is that there’s an increasingly baffling array of products to choose from, many of which have insufficient scientific evidence behind the lofty claims their manufacturers make. Some might even damage your health.

So should you just avoid all supplementation? Certainly, it’s best to eat a well balanced diet based on organic, non-GMO foods. This will not only supply most of the nutrients your body needs, but also limit your exposure to environmental toxins. But beyond this basic premise, there are several supplements that have been shown to safely promote exercise performance and recovery. Here are four you should consider:


For the longest time, doctors and physicians swore up and down that taking high levels of vitamin C was the best way to ward off a cold. But recent studies call this claim into question, and suggest that zinc is actually the micronutrient you need if you want to prevent and shorten the duration of a cold. The trouble is that intense exercise can deplete zinc levels, making it hard to get enough from natural sources such as citrus fruits. Enter ZMA, a natural supplement that not only gives you a zinc top up but also supplies magnesium, another mineral that many people don’t get enough of and which is essential in metabolizing fat and protein and supporting neuromuscular function. In addition to supplying these nutrients and vitamin B6, which helps form red blood cells and helps regulates the nervous system, ZMA helps promote more restful sleep by moving your body into REM sleep more quickly. The results? A NyQuil-type drop off without the morning after sluggishness.

Vitamin D

This isn’t exactly a revelation, but if you’re not getting enough vitamin D, your body just isn’t going to function well. Vitamin D is essential for properly absorbing calcium, reducing levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and regulating cardiovascular function (among many other things). For the lucky ones that live in climates with year-round sun, getting a daily vitamin D fix is as simple as spending 20 minutes a day outdoors–like you need another excuse to get on your SUP board! For the rest of us, we can score some D by consuming dark leafy vegetables and dairy products. But it’s difficult to get enough, so you might want to consider taking between 1,000 and 5,000 IUs a day (depending on your size) to make sure your levels are topped off.

Fish Oil

If you eat a lot of fish then you’re probably set when it comes to omega 3 fatty acids, which help take down inflammation, boost brain function and enhance insulin sensitivity. If you don’t, consider taking two to four capsules a day of high potency fish oil. Remember that just like when you’re at the fish counter, not all fish oils are created equal, or at least it comes to toxicity levels. Look for one that’s third party tested to meet purity standards–we like Nordic Naturals, Vital Choice and Carlson. If you want to avoid the dreaded fish burps, choose capsules that either have natural lemon oil or enteric coating. And if you can’t do fish because of an allergy or dietary restriction, try eating chia, hemp and flax seeds, walnuts and more leafy greens to get your Omega 3s.


Everywhere you look, it seems more athletes are taking pre-workout amino acid boosters, taking post-workout supplement ‘stacks’ and ingesting all kinds of other substances in an effort to get ahead. There’s still little research about the benefits of many exercise supplements, but the positive impact of creatine monohydrate on performance has been demonstrated by hundreds of studies. Taking 5 mg of creatine a day after exercise with fast acting carbs and protein can help your body recover quicker and your muscle fibers contract faster and harder during exercise. It’s particularly effective for explosive exercise such as SUP sprints or intervals and weight training. And as an added bonus, creatine may also improve brain function. Just make sure you drink enough water, as creatine can cause cramping.
–Phil White

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The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

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