Vitamins are organic compounds found in foods and play a role in many physiological processes. Vitamins do not supply energy or add to body mass but they are as crucial to endurance performance as macronutrients. Vitamins regulate metabolism, build bone and tissue, and prevents or treats cancer and chronic disease.
Endurance athletes endure prolonged exercise that takes a toll on the body. The body depends upon the vitamin and mineral reserves to assist with hard training, competition, and promote active recovery. To ensure an athlete performs optimally levels of these nutrients should remain adequate but here is where a lot of misinformation is formed. Inadequate intake of vitamins will lead to deficiencies and will hinder performance and impair overall health. However, deficiencies to the extreme of causing harm are rare in America and most dietary inadequacies can be corrected by changing food choices.
Endurance athletes who are at risk of a vitamin deficiency are those following a severely restricted-calorie diet for weight loss, those who have adopted an extreme or fad diet, or those improperly following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Although most athletes are not deficient, vitamins do play a major role in energy production reactions from body-fuel stores. For those reason it is beneficial to have a basic understanding of vitamins, the different kinds, and their function.
To receive optimal benefit of a vitamin it must be obtained from food. Science has not been able to capture the true power of a single vitamin in a capsule. Magic happens when the vitamin is consumed with all the other vitamins, minerals, macronutrients, and enzymes found the in the host food. There are 13 known classified vitamins in two main groups; water soluble and fat soluble.
Water Soluble Vitamins:
Vitamin C, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Folate
· Do not require fat for their absorption.
· Play important roles in energy metabolism.
· Help the body turn the food we do eat into a more powerful energy source.
· Vitamin C helps builds collagen which gets damaged from intense exercise and supports our immune system.
· Disperse in the bodily fluids without being stored.
· If the diet regularly contains less than 50% of the recommend amounts of water soluble vitamins, marginal deficiencies may develop within 4 weeks.
· Water soluble vitamins exert their influence for 8 to 14 hours after ingestion; thereafter their potency decreases. For maximum benefit they should be consumed at least every 12 hours.
Fat Soluble Vitamins:
Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin, E and Vitamin K
· Dietary lipids must be consumed in order to receive and absorb fat soluble vitamins
· The liver stores Vitamins A, K and D
· Vitamin E is distributed throughout the body's’ fatty tissues.
· Focusing on a “fat free” diet increases the risk of becoming deficient in fat soluble vitamins.
· Excess Vitamin A can lead to bridal bones, increases risk of birth defects in utero, cause irritability, swelling of bones, dry, itchy skin, drowsiness, hair loss, and calcium loss from bones.
· Overdose of E and K are rare.
The vitamin and mineral needs of active individuals are similar to the requirements for all healthy individuals. Why? As active individuals training increases so does there intake of macronutrient (fats, carbs, protein) which also provides an increase in micronutrients. People who are active also tend to eat healthier. Overall vitamin and mineral needs will depend on the frequency, intensity, duration and type(s) of activity; climate, gender and dietary intakes and food preferences.
To ensure adequate intake of water soluble vitamin and minerals increase intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fat soluble vitamins can be found in lean meats and low fat dairy.
Vitamin B: Carrots, dark green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, winter squash, apricots, cantaloupe, mango, papaya
Vitamin C: Citrus fruits and juices, cabbage, broccoli, turnip greens, cantaloupe, tomatoes, strawberries, apples with skin
Vitamin E: vegetable oils, wheat germ, whole grain breads and cereals, dried beans, green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin D: fatty fish, fish oil, cod liver oil, dairy and sun light
Although supplementation is unnecessary for most individuals a multivitamin that does not exceed the RDA for any nutrient is considered safe. Always take a multivitamin with food. This will aid in absorption and lessen the risk of GI distress. Take multivitamin before bed to avoid any GI distress.
FUEL Tip: Eat wholesome foods and use a multivitamin as insurance and avoid over supplementation.