Micronutrients – Vitamins and Minerals
Micronutrients and physical activity
Contrary to the body’s requirements for macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats), the daily dietary requirements for vitamins and minerals are very small. However, these micronutrients serve vital functions in the body and thus are essential for survival. They are essential to facilitate various body functions and biochemical reactions, including muscular contraction.
Sports performance can require additional hydration and energy before and during physical activity, as well as a sufficient intake of the nutrients required to support recovery afterwards. The best way to gain muscle in a healthy manner is to combine weight training with a diet rich in essential vitamins and minerals that improve performance and maximize the benefits of the strenuous workout sessions.
Vitamins and minerals do not directly affect muscle growth and they do not necessarily affect exercise. Although they are not a source of energy, they do perform highly specific metabolic functions, especially in energy metabolism. In other words, they make better environment in your body for muscle growth to occur as a result of real muscle-growth factors. Although these micronutrients don’t themselves enhance athletic performance, they’re necessary to achieve optimal levels of performance.
Many experts believe that food loses much of its vitamin content through processing and the addition of preservatives. Unfortunately, much of the food we eat today is highly processed, making it difficult to get enough vitamins and minerals through diet alone. Bodybuilders, because of their intense workouts, definitely need to take a basic vitamin supplement, which can provide good insurance against vitamin deficiency. Follow the dosage suggestions on the bottle unless advised to do otherwise by your doctor.
Vitamins and minerals should serve only a complementary role in your diet. Supplementation is not nearly as important as eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet. But if you’re involved in an intense exercise program or your nutrition is poor, you’ll require additional amounts of certain micronutrients. The simple solution to avoid deficiency is to take a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement.
Vitamins are biologically active compounds used in the chemical processes that make human body function. They are organic substances, meaning that they contain carbon, yet they do not contain calories (energy).
Vitamins are needed only in tiny amounts in the body, and they are metabolized, so they must be replaced by what is consumed in the diet.
Vitamins are classified into two types:
- Water soluble. They are not able to be stored in the body, and excess amounts are eliminated in urine. Because they can’t be retained, water-soluble vitamins need to be taken daily if you don’t get enough of them in the food you eat. Some important water-soluble vitamins include the B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B12, biotin) and vitamin C.
- Fat soluble. They are stored in the adipose (fat) tissue in the body. They can therefore be taken less often. These include vitamins A, D, E, and K. The fat-soluble vitamins are dependent on the presence of dietary fat for intestinal absorption and transport throughout the body. Fat-soluble vitamins can be more toxic to the body than water-soluble vitamins because they are stored in the liver and adipose tissues and can accumulate over time.
They function to trigger reactions in the body and they play critical roles in energy metabolism and tissue formation.
Minerals are inorganic substances found in the water and soil in the earth, and they enter our bodies from the foods we eat—from the plants that take up the minerals and the animals that eat the plants.
Minerals are all the chemical elements in our body besides carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Four percent of our total body weight is composed of 22 minerals.
Minerals are classified into two types:
- Macrominerals (major minerals). They include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, sodium, potassium, and chloride; these minerals exist in the body in quantities of about 35 to 1.050 grams, depending on mineral and body size.
- Microminerals (trace minerals; trace elements). They include iron, iodine, fluoride, zinc, selenium, copper, cobalt, chromium, manganese, molybdenum, arsenic, nickel, and vanadium; these exist in the body in quantities of less than a few grams.
Both macro- and microminerals (trace elements) are critical to metabolic processes and the synthesis of glycogen, protein, and fat. Minerals found naturally in food are particularly important to exercisers and athletes. They promote the growth, maintenance, and repair of tissue. Minerals also assist in muscle contraction, normal heart rhythm, oxygen transport, transmission of nerve impulses, immune function, and bone health.
Although few studies show beneficial effects with vitamin or mineral supplementation above recommended levels, vitamin or mineral deficiencies may impair strength and training. Thus, a multivitamin is often recommended for athletes to ensure that they are consuming adequate amounts and that they have no deficiencies.
A well balanced diet may provide all the minerals you need, but it’s wise to take a mineral supplement to prevent deficiency. However, there’s no need to take massive doses.
Vitamins and minerals are necessary for health, but they’re also a vital component of getting the greatest benefits from your workouts. Hard workouts increase your nutritional needs. Taking vitamin supplements should not take the place of good nutrition (balanced diet). Your body can get almost all the nutrients it needs from a balanced diet. But if you’re involved in an intense exercise program or your nutrition is poor, you’ll require additional amounts of certain micronutrients. The simple solution to avoid deficiency is to take a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement. When you workout, your body creates free radicals (“oxidative stress”), highly reactive molecules that damage your cells. The increased use of oxygen during exercise generates higher free radical activity than usual, and this can damage muscle fibers and slow the growth and recovery process. Vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and selenium can provide some protection from this oxidative damage.