As active weight lifters, what role do vitamins play in improving our performance? We know there important but what do vitamins actually do?
First of all, vitamins do not actually provide energy to the body or build muscle.
Unlike protein, or carbohydrates, vitamins don’t directly contribute to muscle growth or energy. However, vitamins do perform highly specific metabolic functions, especially in energy metabolism and are vital to all our biological functions including the synthesis of muscle tissue. Which is of course, what we all want!
Hard workouts increase your nutritional needs. There’s no doubt about it. You must ensure that you are getting the optimal amount of vitamins in your diet.
That’s why you may want to add certain vitamins to your nutritional game plan for building muscle. Keep in mind that vitamin supplements should not replace food. Your body can get almost all the nutrients it requires from a balanced diet.
Your body absorbs nutrients best from food. However, you might want to think of adding a vitamin supplement as good insurance. Adding a daily multi vitamin and antioxidant containing 100% of the daily values may be a good move. I like to think of it as covering my nutritional bases.
Certain vitamins belong to a group known as antioxidants which fight off disease causing chemicals known as free radicals. Very important.
I’d like to breifly provide some vitamin information about the role that vitamins and minerals play in the muscle building process.
Here is a partial list of some important vitamins and their functions:
Function: Vitamin A helps to maintain the skin, bone and tooth growth
Sources: Vitamin A is plentiful in vegetables such as carrots, beans, yams, and spinach. Also found in liver, egg yolks, and whole milk.
Vitamin comes in two forms, carotene and retinol.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Function: Vitamin B1 plays a very important part of the energy conversion process. Vitamin B1 helps your body in breaking down carbohydrates to energy. Necessary for the maintenance of a healthy nervous system, growth, and muscle tone
Sources: Bran flakes, wheat germ, whole grains, pork, liver and dried beans.
Notes: Refined foods often depletes Vitamin B1 from carbohydrates.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Function: Vitamin B2 helps your body in releasing energy from protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Vitamin B2 also helps in the maintenance and growth of tissues.
Sources: Eggs, milk, liver, eggs, whole grain breads, cereals, meats and legumes.
Notes: An important part of energy metabolism and supports skin care and vision.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Function: Vitamin B3 is used in energy metabolism and supports skin care. Vitamin B3 also helps to support the nervous system and digestive system.
Sources: Tuna, chicken, liver, breads, cereals and legumes.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)
Function: Helps transform amino acids and fats into glucose. Fatty acid oxidation
Sources: Found in a lot of whole foods.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Function: Vitamin B6 helps in the conversion of stored liver and muscle glycogen into energy. Also helps in protein metabolism.
Sources: Liver, bananas, fish, whole grains, nuts, vegetables, meat and chicken.
Notes: Used in amino acid and fatty acid metabolism.
Vitamin B9 (Folic acid)
Function: Regulation of growth. Helps breakdown protein. Also necessary for normal production of red and white blood cells.
Sources: Liver and leafy green vegetables.
Function: Vitamin B12 helps in the production of red blood cells. Also helps metabolize carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
Sources: White fish, cheese, lean meat, liver, chicken, eggs, and dairy products.
Notes: Daily requirements are usually low since the liver stores large amounts of Vitamin B12
Function: Vitamin C helps in the absorption of iron and in the production of collagen. Helps maintain normal connective tissues. May help protect against exercise induced tissue damage.
Sources: Citrus fruits and juices, oranges, green peppers, cabbage, potatoes, broccoli and tomatoes.
Notes: Vitamin C is an antioxidant and may be help to decrease tissue damage caused by heavy exercise
Function: Vitamin D assists in maintaining strong bones and teeth
Sources: Cod liver oil, liver, egg yolks, sunlight (your skin converts sunlight to vitamin D).
Notes: Vitamin D can be toxic if taken in excess. An excess of vitamin D can cause calcium deposits in soft tissues such as the kidneys, arteries and joints.
Function: Vitamin E helps to prevent the destruction of red blood cells. Vitamin E also helps to improve blood flow by helping to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.
Sources: Green vegetables, raw seeds, vegetable oils, nuts, wheat germ, eggs, and whole grains
Notes: Vitamin E is an antioxidant and may be help to decrease tissue damage caused by heavy exercise
Vitamin H (Biotin)
Function: Helps in the breakdown of fats
Sources: Egg yolks and liver
Function: Vitamin K helps control blot clot rate. Involved in glycogen formation and bone formation.
Sources: Brussel sprouts, broccoli, leafy vegetables, tomatoes, cauliflower, milk, and yogurt.
Apart from vitamins, minerals are also required for growth, maintenance and repair of the body. They help supply oxygen to cells, improve digestion, and help keep the body in balance. Minerals also participate in the proper functioning of the muscular and nervous systems.
The tissues in your body contain fluids on the inside of cells and in the spaces between cells. In these fluids are electrolytes. Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals or ions.
The electrolytes help regulate water balance on either side of the cell membranes and also help make muscles contract.
The two main electrolytes are sodium and potassium. Potassium helps regulate fluids on the inside of cells while sodium helps regulate fluids on the outside of cells.
For optimum functioning, electrolytes must be kept in balance.
Here is a partial list of minerals and there functions
Function: Maintenance of fluid balance on either side of cell walls. Also helps in muscular contractions and nerve transmissions
Source: Found in most foods
Function: Maintenance of fluid balance on either side of cell walls. Assists in the conversion of glucose to glycogen. Helps in muscular contractions and never transmissions.
Source: Fruits and vegetables, bananas, and potatoes
Function: Essential for blood clotting, muscle contractions, and nerve transmissions. Also helps with bone and teeth formation
Sources: Green leafy vegetables and dairy products.
Function: Helps maintain water balance by regulating pressure.
Source: Kelp, table salt
Function: Helps in neuromuscular contractions. Also helps the metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins.
Source: Whole grains, green vegetables, and legumes
Function: Helps stimulate muscular contractions. Helps metabolize carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Also assists in energy production.
Sources: Chicken, fish, Meats, whole grains, and nuts.
Antioxidants have been getting a lot of attention lately in the sports industry. Antioxidants, mainly beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and the minerals selenium, zinc, copper, and manganese have been generating a lot of excitement regarding their disease fighting properties.
Antioxidants help fight free radicals or rather chemicals naturally produced by the body that cause irreversible damage to cells. Free radicals can leave your body open to such diseases as cancer, advanced aging, degenerative diseases, and cardiovascular diseases.
What causes free radicals? Nobody knows for sure but certain environmental factors such as cigarette smoke, radiation, exhaust fumes, certain drugs, stress and too much sunlight contribute to the increase in free radicals.
Oddly enough, steady exercise and weight lifting seems to increase the amount of free radicals in the body. No one really knows why exercise increases free radicals in the body but it is important to understand that there are ways to combat free radicals.
It is important to build up your immune systems while weight training and getting enough antioxidants is one way to do it.
When you get a cold, what’s the first supplement you reach for? I’m guessing it’s vitamin C. Vitamin C is an essential part of our diets and operates in the formation of connective tissues. Vitamin C is also involved in immunity, allergic responses and wound healing.
As an anti oxidant, vitamin C also helps keep free radicals from destroying the outer cells. As a weight trainer, a cold or infection can side line you pretty quick. Vitamin C can help cut the risk of respiratory infections and boost immunity.
The best sources of vitamin C come from citrus fruits and juices, green peppers, kiwi, cantaloupe and green leafy vegetables.
As an antioxidant, vitamin E has been shown to protect against after workout muscle damage and the free radical production that follows.
Part of vitamin E’s job is to scavenge free radicals produced by weight lifting therefore saving tissue from damage. Vitamin E also seems to prevent the destruction of oxygen carrying red blood cells which means improved oxygen delivery to your muscles during exercise.
The best sources of vitamin E come from wheat germ, seeds, nuts, fish oils, and vegetable oils.
Once beta carotene is ingested by the body, it is converted to vitamin A as the body needs it. Beta carotene destroys free radicals after they’ve formed and may help reduce muscle soreness after weight lifting.
The best sources of beta carotene comes from carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, spinach, and cantaloupe.
It is important to note that vitamins and minerals do not directly build muscle or supply energy. Vitamins and minerals have very precise functions that help synthesis muscle tissue and in the metabolism of energy.
Supplementing with a vitamin and minerals will not boost the body’s muscle building abilities but rather enure that you have the optimal amounts to enhance the bodies ability to help synthesis muscle tissue and metabolize energy. Think of supplementing with a quality vitamin/mineral supplement as covering your nutritional bases.
Good luck and all the best,
Blake has been weight lifting for about 28 years now. He's 45 years of age and started seriously training when he was 18 years old.
Blake is the founder of Building-Muscle101.com, a successful fitness website that has been around for more than 15 years.