Micronutrients play an important role in energy production, maintenance of bone health and adequate immune function, to mention but a few. They also help with the synthesis and repair of muscle tissue during recovery from exercise and injury. When we exercise, we place certain stresses on our bodies which may lead to the loss of micronutrients in the body. Therefore, a greater intake of micronutrients may be needed in athletes for building, repair and maintenance of lean body mass.
The most important vitamins and minerals include:
• Calcium: Especially important for growth, maintenance and repair of bone tissue, maintenance of blood calcium levels, regulation of muscle contraction, nerve conduction, and normal blood clotting.
• Vitamin D: Important for calcium absorption, regulation of serum calcium and phosphorous levels, and promotion of bone health.
• B Vitamins: Important to ensure adequate energy production and building and repair of muscle tissue.
• Iron: Required for the formation of oxygen-carrying proteins, haemoglobin and myoglobin, and for enzymes involved in energy production.
• Zinc: Plays a role in growth, building and muscle tissue, energy production and immune status.
• Antioxidants – Vitamin C and E, Beta-Carotene and selenium: Play important roles in protecting the cell membranes from oxidative stress damage.
• Magnesium: Plays a variety of roles in cellular metabolism and regulates membrane stability and neuromuscular, cardiovascular, immune and hormonal functions.
SO WHO NEEDS TO SUPPLEMENT?
An athlete consuming a healthy balanced diet, with lots of variety, doesn’t necessarily need to supplement with vitamins and minerals, as their diets will still be adequate to supply these higher micronutrient needs. Athletes who are at greater risk include those who restrict energy intake or have severe weight-loss practices, those who eliminate specific food groups out of their diets, and those who consume unbalanced and low micronutrient diets. The use of vitamins and minerals does not improve athletic performance in athletes who eat nutritionally balanced diets!
Let’s take a closer look at a few common multivitamins on the market:
STAMINOGROW: A 5-in-1 slow-release combination supplement containing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids.
• Contains all the important vitamins and minerals mentioned above, i.e. antioxidants for protecting cells of the body from harmful effects of free radicals.
• Contains B-Complex vitamins that are important in the production of healthy red blood cells and energy release.
• Contains Amino acids, which are important building blocks for the body and may assist in cellular repair and anti-aging processes.
Who should use it: Aimed at people suffering from fatigue, sub-fertility and immune problems.
PHARMATON: A nutritional supplement containing a combination of ginseng, vitamins, minerals and trace elements.
• Pharmaton contains 100% of the RDA (recommended daily allowance) for B-vitamins, including folic acid.
• Contains antioxidants (Beta-carotene, zinc, selenium, vitamin E and C).
• Contains 71 % of the RDA for iron – helps to maintain healthy red blood cells, and therefore the transportation of oxygen to the body.
• Contains ginseng, which is known to increase energy levels, enhance physical performance and help the body’s ability to tolerate stress.
Who should use it: Athletes, especially those who struggle with tiredness throughout the day, female athletes who suffer from low iron levels, and people who follow restrictive diets or who are vegetarian.
(Note people with high blood pressure or on blood-thinning medication should consult their doctors before taking medication with ginseng.)
DYNAMISAN: A complete multivitamin containing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids. It also contains iron and folic acid.
• Contains all the important vitamins and minerals needed for increased physical activity, e.g. B-vitamins, antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and iron.
• Contains 225% of the RDA for Vitamin C.
• Contains a powerful antioxidant called EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate), which is four times stronger than Vitamin E and C.
Who should use it: Physically active people, those with low immune systems, smokers, fatigued people, or people who follow dietary restrictions or are vegetarian.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Remember, athletes eating balanced diets do not necessarily need to take a multivitamin to meet higher micronutrient demands on the body. Taking supplements does not increase athletic performance when diets are optimal. You should also always read patient information leaflets before taking supplements, or consult your doctor or chemist when taking other medication.