Vitamins for athletes: How important are they really?
Vitamins for athletes: what matters
The different vitamins
Unlike carbohydrates, vitamins do not provide you as an athlete with direct energy. Nevertheless, their supply is essential for your health and performance. Why vitamins are so important for athletes? We explain that in this article.
To do this, it is first worth taking a look at the different types of vitamins. In fact, there are quite a few: around 13 different vitamins are known. They can basically be divided into water-soluble and fat-soluble.
Water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins
Water soluble vitamins occur – as the name suggests – in liquids naturally present in foods, such as lemons. These include vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, biotin, folic acid and vitamin C. Since the body can only store these vitamins in small quantities, a regular supply is important.
To the fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E and K. In contrast to the water-soluble vitamins, the body – in this case the intestine – can absorb these vitamins particularly well if they are supplied with fat at the same time.
A good example is carrots, which are very rich in beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin As, but can only be absorbed as such by the body when they are consumed with fat, for example, when they are fried in a pan with oil.
Exceptions prove the rule: Vitamin D is the only vitamin that the body can produce with the help of the sun’s UV-B rays. This is done through the skin.
What vitamins are important for athletes
The body consumes energy during sporting activity. In order to have enough energy for upcoming loads, the metabolism must function smoothly. For this purpose, it needs above all the vitamins of the B group.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) plays an important role in the provision of energy and is needed for the function of the heart muscle. The stronger and the longer the physical stress, the higher the need for vitamin B1. Vitamin B1 can be ingested as free thiamine (plant foods) or in phosphorylated form (animal foods).
According to the German Nutrition Society (DGE), the daily recommended vitamin B1 intake is 1.2 mg/day for men and 1.0 mg/day for women.
Foods rich in vitamin B1 include in particular whole grain products, oatmeal, legumes, nuts and meat. Above all, processing or refining, e.g. the milling of flour, high temperatures and oxygen reduce the amount of vitamin B1 from food.
The B vitamins are a real all-rounder and also support the function of nerves and muscles.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is of great importance for the metabolism of amino acids and supports important functions of the nervous and immune systems. Vitamin B6 can metabolize fats and proteins. This is not only for energy production, but also helps build muscle. Due to its effect on protein metabolism, vitamin B6 is particularly important for strength athletes.
According to the DGE, the recommended intake of vitamin B6 is for men is 1.6 mg / day and for women at 1.4 mg / day.
Vitamin B6 is found in almost all foods. Good suppliers are next to Chicken and pork also fish, vegetables like cabbage and lamb’s lettuce, potatoes, bananas, whole grains– and Dairy products.
Together with calcium, vitamin D supports muscle function and bone health.
Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D. However, sunlight fluctuates greatly due to the change of seasons and is particularly weak in the winter months.
Adequate intake can also be difficult for athletes who do not practice their sport outdoors. Here, supplements – as part of a balanced diet – can have a supportive effect and replenish the vitamin D depots.
Vitamin C and vitamin E (antioxidants)
During physical activity, more free radicals are formed – the higher the load, the higher the formation of free radicals. These can cause muscle damage as well as inflammation, weaken the immune system and slow down recovery.
High-impact sports such as running, cycling and triathlon are particularly susceptible. However, antioxidants – in the right dosage depending on the sport – can intercept these aggressive free radicals and thus protect the body, muscles and joints.
For vitamin C, a guideline value of approx. 500 mg/dayand for vitamin E 200 to 400 I.U/day (1 IU corresponds to 0.025 micrograms). Also the supply of coenzyme Q10 (100 to 150 mg/d), zinc (15 to 20 mg/d) and selenium (100 to 150 µg) protects the body against oxidative cell damage in the event of increased stress.
Good sources of these antioxidant vitamins are yellow-red– and green vegetables, citrus– and berries and Vegetable oil.
Lemons in particular are a real superfood for athletes. You can read more about the yellow fruit and what it can do in this blog post read up. Our carbohydrate drink
SLOW CARB HEAT
and our premium protein drink
for example, contain real lemon fruit powder.
Important vitamins for athletes:
Fat-soluble, important for the skin and eyes, regulates cell growth and regeneration (wound healing)
Biotin (vitamin B7)
Water soluble, ensures ideal energy metabolism
Folate (vitamin B9)
Water soluble, supports the immune system, reduces fatigue
Water soluble, important for various metabolic processes
Water soluble, can improve the absorption of iron in the body, acts as an antioxidant against free radicals and thus against harmful substances
Fat soluble, regulate calcium levels
Fat-soluble, acts as an antioxidant against free radicals and thus against harmful substances
Fat-soluble, important for blood clotting
What happens when there is a vitamin deficiency?
During high stress in a competition or even in training, your body loses up to two to three liters of fluid per hour. As an athlete, you not only lose fluids, but also various minerals and vitamins through sweat.
Since vitamins are important for your energy metabolism, regeneration and protection against injuries, you should replenish your vitamin stores as soon as possible after your session.
Otherwise, a vitamin deficiency poses the risk of a drop in performance and health impairments such as reduced muscle blood flow.
In addition, intense physical activity creates oxidative stress – increased cellular respiration causes an increased number of free radicals to form. As described above, these free radicals can cause muscle damage and inflammation, weaken the immune system, and slow recovery.
So you should try to avoid vitamin deficiency by eating right.
Here’s what you should keep in mind when taking vitamins
How to find the right diet and vitamin intake for you
Whether an increased vitamin intake is useful and necessary depends on individual factors. These factors include physical constitution – that is, the biological makeup of your body combined with your fitness level – dietary habits, type of sport, exercise intensity, and how much you sweat.
Athletes often consume more food. One might think that they therefore already automatically have a higher vitamin intake.
However, there are athletes who aim for a lower (or even a higher) energy intake during certain phases of a season in order to maintain their body weight. Therefore, during this time it can be difficult to cover the daily necessary vitamin intake only through food.
There are vitamins (
s. Chapter “These vitamins you need as an athlete”.
), which are important for energy metabolism, i.e. the conversion of certain substances into energy. In most cases, additional nutrient needs can be met through a balanced diet.
If, despite a balanced diet, there is a feeling of deficiency or decline in performance, a controlled use of nutritional supplements may well be considered.
However, this should always be discussed with a doctor in advance so that the wrong dosage (
see also “Caution against high-dose preparations and megadoses”).
A blood test can provide information about the vitamin and mineral balance in your body, whether there is a possible deficiency and thus the need to change the diet and possibly even take supplements.
In order to find the optimal form of nutrition for yourself and before you reach for nutritional supplements, every athlete should first consider his or her sport, current training phase, and individual needs and goals.
In our knowledge center you can read about how the right and optimal nutrition especially for Runners, Cyclists, Triathletes, Cross country skiers and Footballers should look like.
Natural food and special sports nutrition with real fruit content
We generally recommend natural foods – such as fruits and vegetables – that already contain vitamins, as well as a during sports the use of special, natural sports food.
For example, our MoN products are very well suited as vitamin sources, as they contain a high proportion of real fruit:
is a good solution, for example, to be optimally supplied with vitamins during long-lasting, steady loads (e.g. slow runs). Here, the proportion of contained Sour cherries per serving about 35g. Sour cherries are super suppliers of vitamins A, B1 and B2 as well as C and E. SLOW CARB is also available in lemon/mango flavor – also with many useful vitamins.
Another vitamin bomb is the
, which is rich in provitamin A, vitamin B and C. The fruit supports the immune system, stimulates metabolism and simulates defense mechanisms. Therefore, and because of its mild raspberry flavor is
is very popular with our top athletes for intensive sessions.
Equally popular is our RECOVERY 8. With the R8, which contains all eight essential amino acids in perfectly available form, you get with the natural power of mango an optimal shake after intense competitions and training sessions.
Another super fruit is the
. You can find all the benefits of the fruit in our POWER CARB with real pineapple powder. The special mineral combination can favorably influence rehydration when it is very hot outside and you sweat a lot.
Beware of high-dose preparations and megadoses
A sensible and well-considered intake of antioxidant vitamins can be useful. However, high-dose preparations and megadoses to improve the efficiency in the working muscles are not recommended.
This is because free radicals are not only bad, but also drivers and a reason why adaptation processes occur at the cellular level in response to endurance training, which in turn is important for performance development.
Artificial supplements and “too much” can consequently negatively affect these adaptation processes.
As a general rule, as an athlete you should aim for at least the micronutrient intake of the “normal population” and pay attention to a balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables.
Vitamins play an important role in energy metabolism. Ideally, the energy metabolism is a well-oiled engine to keep you at full power at all times so you can push beyond stress limits.
Furthermore, as an athlete you put a lot of strain on your muscles, which is why vitamins and minerals should be available in sufficient quantities so that the muscles can function and regenerate.
Likewise, the health-promoting aspects of vitamins play an important role in athletes’ lives.
, German Olympic Sports Confederation, 1st edition, Frankfurt am Main, June 2014.
V. Vitamins & Minerals. Gesundheit.gv.at. Published January 1, 2021. Accessed July 21, 2021. https://www.gesundheit.gv.at/leben/ernaehrung/info/vitamine-mineralstoffe/inhalt