It’s reasonable to think that because athletes are burning hundreds of extra calories every day and shedding pounds of weight through sweating, they may need comparatively more of the micro-nutrients that are found in vitamins and minerals than the average person. But do they really?
What are vitamins and minerals?
Vitamins are biochemicals that are taken in small amounts to maintain your health and athletic performance. Some of the most well-known vitamins are:
- Vitamin C, which is famed for its flu-busting properties and is found in, for example, citrus fruit.
- Vitamin B, which helps with giving the body energy and can be taken in from legumes, whole grains, bananas, potatoes and animal products.
- Vitamin E that is extremely beneficial in assisting with joint health and is found in kidney beans and carrots.
Minerals are substances found naturally in the earth’s crust. Examples of these substances are iron, magnesium and copper.
It is essential to include these micro-nutrients in your diet, whether you are an athlete or not, because your body can’t make them. Ideally you should get them from foods but you can also take dietary supplements if you don’t get enough nutrients from what you eat.
Why do you need vitamins and minerals?
Vitamins and minerals don’t give you energybut they do play key roles in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats, which is the primary fuel for muscle during exercise. They’re also involved in the repair and building of muscle protein in response to fitness training.
Micronutrients support growth and development, muscle contraction, hydration, balance, nerve function, energy metabolism, tissue repair, bone metabolism, the transport of oxygen throughout your body, and immune functioning.
If your intake of vitamins and minerals is chronically too low, you won’t function very well metabolically or athletically. If you consume too much of these micro-nutrients, you can develop toxicity symptoms that can impair athletic performanceand, even worse, put your health at risk.
That is why it is so crucial to get the perfect amount and balance of micro-nutrients in your nutritional practices.
Must athletes take more vitamins and minerals?
Experts say that, while athletes burn more calories, they also tend to eat more food, which provides them with the extra vitamins and minerals that they need. So, if they are meeting their calorie needs, they are most likely also meeting their micro-nutrient requirements.
Another popular belief is that athletes need extra micro-nutrients to protect against the damaging effects of free radicals. These are highly reactive biochemicals that are formed during metabolism, which attack structures within cells.
Scientists have found that we have built-in antioxidants defence systems in our bodies that are designed to neutralise free radicals. In trained athletes, this protective antioxidant defence system is significantly more developed than in non-athletes.
Some nutrients need extra attention
Some micro-nutrients warrant more attentionbecause they commonly come up short in diets of certain groups of athletes:
- Calcium and vitamin D: Training puts a lot of strain on your bones. Calcium and vitamin D work hand in hand in supporting your bone development.
- Iron: Too little iron in your diet can result in iron-deficiency anaemia, as well as impaired oxygen and carbon dioxide transport.
- As mentioned above, vitamin C helps to reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections, which occur more frequently in athletes.
- Sodium is the major electrolyte lost during sweat. It is important to include extra sodium in your diet when you know you will be training for a long time in high temperatures.
In conclusion, while athletes train more and burn more vitamins and minerals, they also eat a lot more nutrition wise which provides them with the additional micro-nutrients that they need. Some nutrients, however, need more attention than others, as they come up short in diets of certain athletes. Finding the right balance of micro-nutrients is essential for your body. Too much micro-nutrients can be just as dangerous as too little.