Micronutrients are those vitamins and minerals required in very small quantities by our bodies for growth and development, but as athletes they take on an even more important role, which is why supplementation with a multivitamin could help your sports performance – but only if you need extra vitamins and minerals. – BY CHRISTINE PETERS, REGISTERED DIETICIAN
When we exercise, we place certain stresses on our bodies which may lead to the loss of micronutrients in the body. These 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. 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 involvedin energy production.
•Zinc: Plays a role in growth, building 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?
Athletes consuming a healthy balanced diet don’t necessarily need to supplement with vitamins and minerals, as their diets will still be adequate to supply these higher micronutrient needs. However, athletes who are at greater risk include those who restrict energy intake or have severe weight-loss practices, those who eliminate specific food groups from their diets, and those who consume unbalanced and low micronutrient diets.
Therefore, supplementing with vitamins and minerals will not improve athletic performance in athletes who eat nutritionally balanced diets, and these athletes do not necessarily need to take a multivitamin to meet higher micronutrient demands placed on the body by athletic activities. And you should also always read patient information leaflets before taking supplements, or consult your doctor or chemist when taking other medication.