Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients required by the body to catalyze and facilitate the biochemical reactions that convert the food we eat into useable nutrients that enable muscle growth and an optimal metabolism. Although food provides us with vitamins and minerals, it can take quite a bit of eating to get an adequate amount that is needed to maximize your efforts in the gym, rev up the metabolism and support the recovery processes.
Many people take vitamin supplements and multivitamins because they want to do everything they can to protect their health and optimize their performance in the gym, improve recovery and the results of their training. And Harvard experts think that’s a sound strategy.
“There are potential benefits and there are no known risks at this time,” says Dr. Howard Sesso, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. “It is worth considering a multivitamin as part of a healthy lifestyle.”
Vitamins play a role in protein metabolism and energy production. Minerals maintain the balance of fluids in our cells and help enhance muscle contractions. Without these vital micronutrients, nothing happens; virtually every energy production process is dependent on the right proportion of vitamins and minerals. If you are serious about your fitness, you need to make sure you are getting enough of the right vitamins and minerals, especially if you are following a strict diet that might be deficient in the key nutrients needed to keep you functioning optimally. In fact, if you are currently training at the level needed for competition, you could be impeding your results; nutrient deficiencies can occur during intense training and can sabotage lean muscle tone and hinder the recovery process. The best defense is to ensure you are incorporating key vitamins and minerals into your nutrition plan, in the form of supplements and/or a multivitamin. These vitamins and minerals will make sure you are getting what you need to keep going, ensure proper recovery, avoid injury and keep your energy levels up!
Calcium is a mineral not only essential for bone health, but it’s also required for muscular contraction. Once muscle cells receive a signal from the corresponding nerve, calcium floods into the stimulated muscle cells and binds with a protein called troponin. This causes another protein, tropomyosin, to go away from the binding site of myosin, which is a thicker protein that bends and elongates to create muscle contraction. If adequate calcium is not available in the muscle, full and hard contractions during weight training cannot be sustained. Calcium is also needed for the integrity of bones, which help support increased muscle tissue and provide an anchor during muscular contraction.
This fat-soluble vitamin is important for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Calcium is essential for muscular contraction and is needed to keep bones strong to support increases in muscle tissue, providing a solid anchor for muscle contraction. Phosphorus is needed to help generate the synthesis of ATP or energy that is required as fuel for muscles during contraction.
Magnesium is another mineral you need for optimal muscular function. Magnesium permits nerve chemical messengers to stimulate the muscle cell so that calcium can enter muscle cells, resulting in muscular contraction. This mineral also is necessary to produce ATP or energy during aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Magnesium is necessary to convert the glucose in your food into smaller molecules that can be used inside the mitochondria to produce more ATP. Consuming the daily requirement of magnesium helps to ensure you can optimally contract your muscles to produce sufficient force and that you can exercise at higher intensities for longer periods. Magnesium is often supplied in most calcium supplements as well.
Biotin and Vitamin B6
Biotin and vitamin B6 are coenzymes in glycogen metabolism; this means they augment other enzymes in the formation of glycogen, the storage form of glucose. Glycogen is essential for fueling your muscles to contract at the onset of exercise. If you eat enough carbohydrates, you can spare the glycogen in your muscles so that you have energy at the very end of your weight training workout or cardio session. Legumes, meats, vegetables, nuts and egg yolks are rich in biotin. Biotin has critical function in protein and amino acid metabolism and the production of energy from many sources. Vitamin B6 also plays a role in protein metabolism, growth and carbohydrate utilization. In fact the more protein you consume, the more of this essential vitamin you need. Therefore, supplementation with this important vitamin is essential during high-protein diets.
This B vitamin is important in carbohydrate metabolism and maintenance of nervous system tissue (the spinal cord and nerves that carry signals from the brain to muscle tissues). Stimulation of muscles via nerves is a critical step in the contraction, coordination and growth of muscles. In fact, B12 shots are popular with many athletes to help with performance and to help boost metabolism for weight loss.
Vitamin B3 is involved in many metabolic processes that are related to energy production. It is involved in both DNA repair and the production of steroid hormones in the adrenal gland. Nicotine acid, another form of vitamin B3, can cause vasodilation, which can increase nutrient delivery and the pump feeling during a workout.
This B vitamin packs muscle! Thiamine is one of the vitamins required for protein metabolism and growth. It’s also involved in the formation of hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells that transport oxygen throughout the body (especially working muscles). The transport of oxygen is critical to athletic performance and becomes even more important as intensity and duration of exercise increase. Thiamine is one of the few vitamins that directly enhance performance when supplemented and is increasingly needed by athletes. Not only that, but thiamine requirements appear to be directly related to caloric expenditure. The more exercise frequency, intensity and duration increase, the more thiamine is needed.
Iron is required by red blood cells to assist in carrying oxygen throughout the body. Iron is also involved in producing ATP. Not having enough iron in the body can lead to feelings of weakness, fatigue and the onset of anemia.
Folic acid or vitamin B9 is needed by the body to synthesize and repair DNA. It is highly involved in rapid cell growth and division, and is needed to produce healthy red blood cells and prevent anemia.
This antioxidant can play a role in recovery and protecting the muscle cells from free radical damage. Vitamin C is also involved in amino acid metabolism, especially the formation of collagen, which is the primary constituent of connective tissue that holds bone and muscle together. Keeping this strong is important during lifting. Vitamin C helps with absorption of iron, which is necessary to help with oxygen binding to hemoglobin in the blood. Without adequate oxygen transportation in blood, muscles are robbed of precious oxygen and performance is greatly reduced. Also, vitamin C assists in the formation and release of steroid hormones, including the anabolic hormone testosterone. Finally, vitamin C is perhaps the most water-soluble vitamin there is. In other words, it diffuses very rapidly in water. Since a muscle cell is mostly water, the more muscular an athlete becomes, the more vitamin C disperses and the lower the concentration of this critical substance becomes in body tissues. So vitamin C requirements are greatly increased for building a lean, muscular body.
Important in the synthesis of protein, it is also involved in the production of glycogen, the body’s storage form of energy. Vitamin A is also an important antioxidant that can provide protection against free radical damage. Most diets are low in vitamin A, combined with high-intensity exercise and it can be difficult to make sure you are getting enough.
Multivitamins are your “all in one” source for optimal health and improved recovery from training, packing scientifically formulated amounts of the vitamins and minerals listed above in one convenient pill. If you’ve been thinking about taking a multivitamin, researchers at Harvard Medical School recommend the following:
- Ask your doctor if you really need to take a multivitamin. Could you have a vitamin deficiency?
- Assess your diet. Do you eat as healthy as you could? Is anything lacking?
- Do you want expert nutritional advice? See a dietitian.
- Do not take high doses of specific vitamins, especially A and E. These may actually be harmful.
One multivitamin stands out because it’s designed for athletes, runners, bodybuilders and ultra health conscious people – Next Level Superfoods Multivitamin from Alpha Wolf Nutrition. This multivitamin has mega amounts of superfoods including pomegranate, sprouted broccoli seed and grape seed extract; something we haven’t seen with many other multivitamins. What’s more, Alpha Wolf Nutrition also offers a 100% satisfaction, 60-day money back guarantee so you have nothing to lose.
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