Though vitamins do not supply the body with energy, they are needed to convert food into energy. Some research suggests that intense activity level of athletes might increase their vitamin needs but medical institutes do not make any additional vitamin recommendations restricted to athletes. Vitamins do not improve your performance but reduced level of these nutrients will definitely affect your activities.
Further discussed are the role of vitamins and their Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI).
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Thiamine is responsible for the breakdown of carbs and proteins to produce energy. It is better to consume the prescribed amount of this vitamin as consuming more than the DRI does not appear to improve performance.
Riboflavin is indispensable for energy production and also takes part in red blood cell formation. Athletes need the DRI of this vitamin.
Niacin supports both anaerobic and aerobic performance. Too much or too little of this vitamin can shift your body’s use of energy from fat to carbohydrates or vice versa which might influence your performance.
Vitamin B6 takes part in more than 100 metabolic reactions in your body apart from being involved in the production of energy and hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells. Consuming less than the DRI can affect performance.
B12 is imperative for getting oxygen to tissues owing to its role in red blood cell formation. Vegan and vegetarian athletes should be extra cautious to get enough B12 into their body as this vitamin is found only in animal products and decreased levels of this vitamin can result in anemia. Such people should consume as much B12 from food as possible. Additional supplements or eating B12-fortified foods may also be needed.
Folate is critical for cell production, heart health and protection against birth defects. The recommended DRI is enough to fulfill the energy demands of athletes. Female athletes of childbearing age should include folate in their diet daily.
Vitamin C, the most famous antioxidant, is needed for multiple health benefits like protection from infection and damage to body cells, collagen (the connective tissue that holds bones and muscles together) production, protection against bruising by keeping the capillary walls and blood vessels firm and helping in the absorption of iron and folate.
This vitamin is essential to breakdown fats, proteins and carbohydrates into usable energy. It is present in all plant and animal foods and hence, should be easy for athletes to meet their DRI for pantothenic acid.
Biotin is required for energy production.
Vitamin D is a hormone in reality and not a vitamin. Vitamin D, needed for bone health is produced by the body on adequate exposure to sunlight. Athletes who are training in weight-sensitive sports such as gymnastics, running or cycling should take extra care to fulfill the required DRI for this nutrient. Physicians might suggest vitamin D and or/calcium supplements for some athletes. You can also get in touch with a registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in sports nutrition at www.firsteatright.com to plan your diet along with vitamin supplements, if needed.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.