When it comes to taking supplements alongside a healthy and balanced diet to support training and exercise, the majority of people tend to think about the popular nonetheless proven products that promote lean muscle or increased size and strength such as protein, creatine, and various pre and post workout formulas. There is no doubt these supplements can play a key role in improved training performance, especially if you are not getting the right nutrition from your daily diet.
There is however, one variant in the supplement world that by most is generally ignored, and that supplement is vitamins and minerals. Perhaps it is because they do not claim to increase muscle size, power and strength, or aid recovery, and therefore do not sound very appealing compared to a “add so many pounds in a month” sales pitch. This does not mean they cannot play an important and noticeable role when taken throughout any training and exercise routine, and if you are not consuming enough vitamins and minerals through regular food intake, you should definitely consider.
Vitamins and minerals are not only required for improved training performance, but for everyday health and well-being, as well as maintaining a well-kept immune system. However, the recommendation is the more stress you put your body through with strenuous exercise, the more important vitamins and minerals become in your daily intake.
So what exactly are vitamins? They are bio-chemicals that are required by your body in small doses to enable it to stay fit and healthy. Your body cannot make vitamins on its own, similar to essential amino acids; you therefore need to consume them through foods and supplementation. The amounts you actually require are tiny; recommendation is normally in milligrams, a lot less than the grams of carbohydrates and protein that you require on a daily basis to ensure you perform at your best.
Carbohydrates, protein and fats are referred to as macro-nutrients to sports nutritionists, whereas vitamins are known as micro-nutrients. During every hour of every day, bio-chemical reactions occur in your body that involve micro-nutrients. These micro-nutrients compliment a number of functions including growth, contraction of muscles, hydration balance, nerve and immune function, energy metabolism, tissue repair, bone metabolism, and the supplying of oxygen throughout your body. Next up are minerals. Like vitamins, their consumed only through diet and supplementation, and are very important to maintaining your health and well-being.
Unlike carbohydrates and creatine, vitamins and minerals will not supply your body with extra energy to perform directly. They do however help fuel your muscles when training by having a role in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats, which provide your main source of energy during exercise. They also have a role in the repair and regrowth of muscle protein immediately post training. Bio-chemical controllers called metabolic enzymes exists within the body, these drive metabolic processes such as energy metabolism and protein synthesis. To operate properly, these metabolic enzymes require co-enzymes or cofactors. Cofactors for metabolic enzymes exist in many B vitamins. Your metabolic enzymes will do their job properly if you are getting plenty of B vitamins in your diet, thus enabling you to perform at your peak. If not, your enzymes cannot operate to their best ability, meaning you cannot either.
You have to make sure you get the right amount of vitamins and minerals in your daily diet. As explained too little and your health and performance may suffer, however this does not mean more is necessary better. If your body consumes too many micro-nutrients through vitamins and minerals, there is a risk of it developing toxicity symptoms that can have an adverse effect on training performance. More seriously, it may even be a risk to your health and well-being. To stay fit and healthy, train longer and harder, you need to consume the correct amount of vitamins and minerals on a consistent basis. For those people who do train and exercise on a regular basis, a greater intake of vitamins and minerals may be required. Studies have investigated this theory, and evidence shows a slightly increased amount needed. Your body burns calories via physical activity and exercise, therefore going back to vitamin B, a higher amounts required by those with a higher level of metabolic activity, remembering that vitamin B acts as a cofactor in energy metabolism. As you tend to eat more food however the more you exercise (depending on your end goal of course), you should be consuming the extra vitamins you require, if you end goal is to lose weight or burn body fat, then supplementation should be considered.
There are a number of micro-nutrients that are more important than others are, because either they can be difficult to consume through everyday diet and nutrition or because they can improve training performance more.
Calcium and Vitamin D
These two support bone development by working together within your body. They often fall short in the majority of people’s diet whether training or not. They are more important to those who train, as although you may not feel it, exercise puts a lot of strain on your bones. During physical activity, bone minerals dissolve away, and then are replaced. Having enough calcium in your diet helps aid this process, whereas ensuring efficient consumption of vitamin D supports the absorption of calcium from your stomach. If you consume inadequate amounts of either one, then the risk of exercise related stress fractures is increased. You can find Vitamin D in salmon, fortified ready to eat cereals or vitamin D-fortified milk, whereas you can find calcium in milk, cottage and cheddar cheese, and leafy greens.
Iron is a protein component located in red blood cells called haemoglobin; this means if your diet is lacking your training performance may also be affected. Haemoglobin helps supply the oxygen to your muscles and other tissues during physical activity as well as the transportation back to the lungs of carbon dioxides so it is exhaled out of the body. The iron-deficiency anaemia can result from a lack of iron in your diet, and poor oxygen and carbon dioxide transportation will reduce training performance. You can ensure you get plenty of iron in your diet through the consumption of red meat or dark-meat poultry, vitamin C enhanced fruits and juices, vegetables and iron-fortified, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.
Sodium is the main electrolyte found in sweat. Sweating is an important factor during exercise as it cools your body down during exercise. Once your body begins to sweat, it loses sodium, along with many other electrolytes and minerals. The more electrolytes you lose, the more dehydrated you become, which leads to an adverse effect on your ability to perform at your best. The best way to replace the lost sodium and other electrolytes is with a sports or energy drink during exercise.
Vitamin C is beneficial in preventing upper respiratory tract infections, which can occur in individuals involved in stamina and endurance events. In certain studies, participants took a 500 mg supplementation of vitamin C on a daily basis, a couple of weeks before and after physical activity. The results proved the amount of participants who caught cold and flu symptoms following physical activity that took the supplement was less than those who did not.
In summary, by consuming inadequate amounts of vitamins and minerals in your daily diet and nutrition, you can negatively affect not only your training performance but your general health as well. This is especially important if cutting calories. Therefore, we highly recommended taking a vitamin and mineral supplementation. Try to aim for general, well-balanced multi supplement that contains an abundance of vitamins and minerals. If you feel your general diet and nutrient is already sufficient, supplementing with extra vitamins and minerals may not make you stronger, leaner, faster, or perform better.