- How important vitamins and minerals are for athletes
- Why do athletes need vitamins?
- When do athletes need a dietary supplement for their vitamins?
- Which vitamins and minerals are important for athletes?
- B vitamins
- Vitamin A and vitamin E
- Calcium, vitamin D and K
- Iron and vitamin C
- Iodine and selenium
- Copper, zinc and chromium
- Do athletes have different vitamin requirements?
- Conclusion: Sufficient vitamins maintain the performance of athletes
How important vitamins and minerals are for athletes
Vitamins and minerals, also known as micronutrients, are crucial for a number of processes in the body, e.g. energy metabolism, hormone balance, muscle function or a healthy immune system. But they can also influence thebody 's general performance. A balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle with sufficient sleep should be enough to give most people the energy they need for their daily activities. However, athletes push their bodies to perform at their best, so these people could use an extra boost of energy: Some research suggests that intense training in athletes can increase their vitamin and mineral needs.[¹] Vitamin and mineral supplements may not boost athletic performance, but they can counteract deficiencies, which in turn could have a negative impact on performance. They virtually ensure that you get the maximum out of your body and don't waste any potential.
In our guide, we explain why vitamins and minerals are important in sports and which micronutrients in particular play a role for athletes and active people.
Why do athletes need vitamins?
Depending on the type of sport being played, the intensity and the workload, factors such as nutrition and sweating can lead to higher mineral and vitamin requirements in athletes.[²] Vitamins and minerals are of great importance in energy metabolism, which is why the supply of these micronutrients should be ensured.
The fact that vitamins and minerals are involved in energy metabolism is often misunderstood. This is because nutrients do not provide energy; rather, they participate in the conversion of macronutrients from food into energy as part of metabolism. Other important tasks of micronutrients are the maintenance of nerve function and hormone balance as well as electrolyte balance. But they also help synthesize and repair new muscle and can protect against oxidative stress.
When do athletes need a dietary supplement for their vitamins?
Those who do a lot of sports but do not get enough vitamins and minerals through their diet risk an insufficient supply of nutrients that are important for numerous functions in the body. If the requirements cannot be met through sports nutrition, it is advisable to take a dietary supplement containing vitamins, minerals and trace elements.
Since athletes have a high energy metabolism and expose their bodies to higher levels of stress, they generally have a greater need for micronutrients than non-athletes. In addition, sports also increase macronutrient metabolism, which also consumes vitamins and minerals. This can lead to biochemical adjustments that increase micronutrient needs. Routine exercise can also accelerate the turnover and loss of vitamins and minerals in the body.
What vitamins and minerals are important for athletes?
Some vitamins and minerals are especially important for athletes, including:
- B vitamins
- Vitamin A and E
- Vitamin D and K
- Iron and vitamin C
- Iodine and selenium
- Other trace elements such as copper, zinc and chromium
Why these nutrients are so important and what role the vitamins and minerals play in the metabolism of athletes, we show you in detail:
B vitamins are essential for energy release in the body as they aid in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. They are important micronutrients and include thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine (B6), pantothenic acid, biotin, folate, and B12. The B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, B6, pantothenic acid and biotin are involved in energy production during physical activity. Folate and B12 are needed for red blood cell production, protein synthesis, and tissue repair and maintenance. There is some data to suggest that exercise may increase the need for B vitamins.[³] Severe deficiencies of B12, folate, or both can lead to anemia and impaired performance. As for supplementation, B vitamins are water-soluble and therefore are not stored in the body the way fat-soluble vitamins are. A risk of overdose is therefore extremely low.
Female athletes have a higher risk of vitamin B12, B6 or niacin deficiency.[⁴] Vitamin B12 deficiency is particularly problematic. It can make you feel weak and tired. Since vitamin B12 is found primarily in animal products, vegans and vegetarians are even more at risk for developing such vitamin deficiencies.
Foods with plenty of B vitamins include whole grain products, meat, legumes, but also fish or nuts.
Vitamin A and E
Vitamin A is well known for its role in vision. In addition, vitamin A has been shown to play a role in maintaining normal mucous membranes and supports the immune system and iron metabolism.
Vitamin E also has an antioxidant effect. It slows down the aging process of cells by protecting them from oxidative stress and scavenging free radicals (substances from the environment or toxins that can harm our health and cause chronic diseases).
Antioxidants such as vitamins A and E are important in sports because frequent exercise exerts chronic oxidative stress on muscles. This increases oxygen consumption and thus the need for antioxidants.[⁵]
The problem with vitamin A, for example, however, is that it can be deficient due to many environmental factors - alcohol, disease (such as diabetes), and low-fat diets.[⁶],[⁷] Easy ways to get vitamin A include eggs, oily fish and carrots. Those who cannot meet their supply through diet also have the option of taking a dietary supplement.
Calcium, vitamin D and K
Calcium and vitamin D help the body maintain healthy muscles and bones . These vitamins can help athletes maintain muscle mass and bone density and reduce the risk of injuries, such as bone fractures.
Calcium is found in many foods, including:
- Dairy products, such as milk and yogurt.
- Fortified plant products, e.g., soy milk
- Green vegetables
- Fish, e.g. sardines and salmon
For people who eat a purely plant-based diet, for example, the supply of calcium can be problematic.
Getting enough vitamin D through the diet is extremely difficult. Although consumption of fatty fish (e.g. tuna, mackerel and salmon), soy milk, liver, egg yolk and cheese provides small amounts of the vitamin, these amounts are usually not sufficient to meet the requirement. For people in our latitudes, who usually also work a lot indoors, the body's own production of the important vitamin may also be insufficient. An optimal supply of vitamin D is therefore difficult to achieve through diet and the body's own production alone - which is why a supplement with an appropriate dose of vitamin D is a good idea.
Vitamin K is a key factor in numerous processes in the body: it activates proteins that play a role in blood clotting and bone maintenance. Vitamin K is found primarily in certain animal and fermented foods, of which most people do not consume many. Rich animal sources include high-fat dairy products from grass-fed cows, egg yolks, and liver and other offal.
To support your vitamin D and vitamin K budgets, we've developed our Vitamin D3+K2 Spray.
Iron and Vitamin C
Although iron is a mineral and not a vitamin, it is nevertheless important, especially for athletes. According to some studies, iron deficiency is widespread among athletes and can impair their performance.[⁸] While it can also occur in men, it is more common in women - especially those who participate in endurance sports. A Swiss study found that the rate of iron deficiency in teenage female athletes was as high as 52 percent.[⁹] Further research found that low iron levels in female athletes can cause many negative symptoms, such as lower body endurance and performance.[¹⁰]
Therefore, experts suggest that sufferers could take supplements to reduce these effects. They also point out that people who eat a vegetarian or vegan diet should take extra care to meet their daily iron requirements, as plant-based iron is less available to the body. Foods containing iron include red meat, lentils, beans, tofu, spinach and pumpkin seeds.
Vitamin C has been shown to help the body absorb more iron. However, most people use vitamin C primarily when it comes to boosting the immune system. However, the vitamin can do more than just support the immune system and iron absorption. It protects cells from oxidative stress - a good thing if you exercise a lot. Vitamin C is found in many foods such as tomatoes, citrus fruits (such as oranges), and leafy greens (such as kale).
Magnesium is essential for a functioning energy metabolism as well as for muscle function. The mineral also supports the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth and makes an important contribution to protein synthesis, which plays an important role for muscles.
The performance and contractility of the muscles is severely impaired by magnesium deficiency. Insufficient magnesium intake thus demonstrably reduces training success. Although magnesium is found in a wide variety of foods - from leafy greens to nuts, seeds and beans - many people do not consume enough of it.
When exercising, depending on the activity, you need more magnesium than when resting.[¹¹] Magnesium helps transport glycogen to the muscles and break down lactate, which can accumulate during exercise and cause fatigue.[¹²] Studies show that taking supplements with magnesium can help optimize magnesium levels, maximizing athletic performance.[¹³] Try our magnesium capsules for this.
Potassium helps you meet your fluid needs by maintaining fluid balance in your body.[¹⁴] Athletes should pay special attention to their potassium intake because potassium plays a role in the storage of carbohydrates as fuel for muscles. In addition, the intensity and magnitude of muscle contraction depends greatly on the proper amount of potassium in your body. If you don't get enough potassium in your diet, or if the movement of potassium through the body is blocked, your nervous and muscular systems can be affected.
Bananas are a good source of potassium, which promotes muscle recovery. Fresh fruits, especially citrus fruits and melons, and vegetables, especially leafy greens and broccoli, are also rich in potassium. The mineral is also found in fish, most meats, and milk. Sweet potatoes and legumes such as kidney beans are also rich in potassium.
Since potassium is excreted through sweat and urine, you should eat these potassium-rich foods every day or supplement potassium if necessary - especially if you are an athlete and thus sweat more.
Iodine and selenium
Thyroid hormones perform many important functions in the human body, including regulating body temperature as well as metabolism, and play an important role in how an athlete produces and uses energy.
Iodine is an important trace element stored primarily in the thyroid gland. Selenium and iodine have a synergistic relationship that is especially important for a healthy thyroid. Iodine is a component of thyroid hormone and selenium, as a selenoprotein in the body, helps convert thyroid hormone to its active form.[¹⁵] If iodine is not supplied sufficiently over a long period of time, the thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) even writes in its statement that "serious health consequencesmayresult."[¹⁶]
Iodine is excreted primarily through sweat, but also through urine. According to some studies, athletes lose more iodine through sweat in one hour of intense exercise than through their total daily urine excretion. Heavy sweating during exercise can deplete the iodine balance and lead to dehydration and poor performance.[¹⁷] A dietary supplement with iodine can be helpful because German soils are very poor in selenium and iodine . For this reason, foods from Germany often do not contain significant amounts of the important trace elements - only some types of fish or algae contain plenty of iodine.
Copper, zinc and chromium
Many other minerals play a role - not only for athletes. Zinc, for example, not only supports the growth and repair of muscle tissue, it is also essential for healthy testosterone levels. A risk for a too low intake of zinc exists in a sports diet with low total energy requirements and few fats.[¹⁸] In this case, our ESN Zinc can help.
As an integral component of many enzymes, copper is an essential trace element and plays an important role in iron metabolism. It is a component of ferroprotein - a protein involved in iron transport through intestinal cells.[¹⁹] Copper is therefore an important trace element for the absorption of iron into the body. In addition, it still contributes to the maintenance of a robust connective tissue.
A deficiency of chromium, on the other hand, can contribute to glucose intolerance and unhealthy blood lipid profiles. This is because chromium's main function is to enhance the action of insulin, thereby altering glucose, amino acid and fat metabolism.[²⁰]
While many athletes consume foods that contain these essential trace elements, adequate supply can be compromised if, for example, they are in a calorie deficit or frequently engage in very intense exercise.
Do female and male athletes have different vitamin requirements?
The vitamin requirements of women differ significantly from those of men. For example, daily iron and folate intake should be higher for women during menstruation than for men of the same age, while total intake of vitamins A, B, E, K, and zinc depends on body size, and recommendations for women are generally lower than for men.
For most nutrients and vitamins, adequate daily intake can be achieved through a balanced diet. For certain groups of people, such as pregnant women or the elderly - or simply people who have an unbalanced diet due to intolerances or allergies - taking a dietary supplement may be helpful.
Conclusion: Sufficient vitamins maintain the performance of athletes
Ultimately, sports go hand in hand with a well thought-out diet and nutritional supplementation. From energy metabolism and production to muscle function and hormone balance, many vitamins for athletes cover functions that are important even for casual athletes . Don't waste potential by neglecting to take vitamins and nutrients and, in the worst case, undoing your training progress.
Athletes who eat an unbalanced diet, especially if they restrict energy intake or eliminate food groups from their diet, should consider supplementing with a multivitamin or mineral supplement. Such a supplement can fill the gap in providing athletes with some vitamins and minerals.