Exercising regularly means that the body will use more energy much quicker than being sedentary. The more energy you use, the more you need to replenish. Vitamins are important nutrients that help to convert food into energy and support the process of building muscle mass through synthesising tissues.
Many people take vitamin supplements to make sure they keep on top of their nutritional needs, but is it really necessary to take a supplement? Evidence suggests that all additional vitamins needed by people who do regular exercise can be consumed by eating nutrient-rich foods.
Taking vitamin supplements does not directly improve performance. The only way taking extra vitamins in tablet form can complement training, is if a vitamin deficiency is evident.
Vitamin deficiencies can occur when a person does not eat a balanced diet or fails to consume enough food in relation to how much effort they exert during the day. Vitamin deficiencies can affect your ability to exercise consistently and can lead to an increased risk of injury and other complications.
If a vitamin deficiency is diagnosed by a health professional, taking a vitamin supplement could be a useful way of restoring necessary vitamin levels in the body, and as a result may allow the person to exercise to their ‘normal’ capacity.
In order to prevent future vitamin deficiencies, it is important to work out what initially caused this issue.
Vitamin C and E are powerful antioxidants. They’re important nutrients because they help to slow down or stop the processes (oxidation) that damage cells in the body.
Exercise often leads to increased oxidative stress in the body, but as you exercise more – the body gradually begins to build up a stronger residence to this oxidation process.
Eating antioxidant rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, combined with following a balanced diet can help to ensure the body maintains an adequate antioxidant state.
Once the body has absorbed sufficient amounts of vitamin C and E to function properly, consuming more vitamins, for example in supplement form, will not continue to improve your level of fitness or performance. Taking too many vitamins can actually counteract the benefits of the combination of eating healthily and exercising.
‘Free radicals’, the molecules that produce oxidative stress, can actually be helpful when it comes to exercise. Though free radicals are understood to damage cells and speed the ageing process, research suggests that they are also used by the body to prevent cell damage after exercising.
Vitamin D deficiency is a worldwide issue. The main source of vitamin D is acquired through sun exposure. This vitamin is important for maintaining good bone health, and research also suggests vitamin D is vital to help muscles function effectively.
Living in a country that has few daylight hours, not exposing yourself to sunlight or training indoors (during winter for example) can increase the chances of becoming deficient in vitamin D. This can lead to decreased performance when it comes to exercise and cause health problems. Taking a vitamin D supplement can help to replenish vitamin D levels, but this process should always been monitored, because excessive levels of vitamin D can be toxic for the body.
Most vegans and vegetarians need to take a vitamin B12 supplement to ensure they don’t become deficient, because vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal products, including: fish, meat, poultry, eggs and milk.
Vitamin B12 supplements may also be necessary for pregnant women or for people with specific illnesses, when there are special needs for extra vitamin intake.
Despite initial assumptions, vitamin supplements are not necessary to improve exercise related performance, unless a vitamin deficiency is present. A varied and balanced diet is usually enough to maintain sufficient vitamin levels when exercising regularly.
Some research does suggests that occasional consumption of vitamin supplements could be beneficial to support recovery from particularly high intense or long workouts. This would be to help prevent the body from producing excessive levels of free radicals, which can become dangerous to overall health and well-being.