3 Essential Vitamins For Athletes



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We have all heard time and time again how important taking daily vitamins can be for optimal health. However, there are a few key vitamins which may be especially critical for athletic performance. Vitamins are especially important for an athlete to prevent injuries and increase athletic performance.

A lack of these key vitamins in an athlete’s diet can ultimately lead to injuries, weakness, and overall poor health. During high intensity exercises, athletes are not only ridding their bodies of fat and increasing muscle mass; they are also depleting the body of certain vitamins, so it is especially important to replenish these vitamins through food, or use supplements if necessary.

So for all you athletes out there, whether professional or recreational, take a trip down the vitamin aisle or produce section of your grocery store and start incorporating these key vitamins into your daily routine.

Vitamin B-12 for Energy

The B vitamins in general are all very important in an athlete’s diet; however Vitamin B12 is especially important because it deals with red blood cell formation and the process of getting oxygen to muscle tissues. Unfortunately, Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products, which makes anyone who follows a vegan or vegetarian diet at risk for a Vitamin B12 deficiency.

A Vitamin B12 deficiency can ultimately lead to a decreased level of energy, a higher risk of developing serious injuries, changes in nervous system functionality, and serious cases of anemia. In Vegan and Vegetarian cases taking a Vitamin B12 supplement or eating Vitamin B12-fortified foods will most likely be needed on a daily basis. Good sources of Vitamin B12 include: Seafood, meats, milk and cheese, eggs and fortified breakfast cereals, while the only reliable vegan sources of B12 are foods fortified with B12 (including some plant milks, some soy products and some breakfast cereals) and B12 supplements.

Vitamin C for Fast Recovery

While Vitamin C is great for helping to keep your immune system strong during the cold winter weather, it can also do wonders for your muscle recovery and the prevention of lactic acid buildup after a long workout. Vitamin C can easily be found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, with the most common source being citrus fruits. Because Vitamin C has so many antioxidant properties, it is known to help prevent illness by boosting the immune system, and relieve inflammation or joint pain. Vitamin C can also help repair damaged cells or tissues within the body, making it a perfect Vitamin to load up on after any high intensity workout that could result in painful lactic acid buildup in the muscles. By increasing your Vitamin C after a workout such as weight lifting, or a long run, you can potentially decrease your recovery time needed after a workout due to muscle soreness. Good sources of Vitamin C to include in your diet are: citrus fruits, strawberries, sweet peppers, and tomatoes.

Vitamin D for Strong Bones

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While this Vitamin may be slightly easier to incorporate into an athletic lifestyle in the sunny days of summer, come winter it is critical to make sure you are supplementing your Vitamin D from the sun with Vitamin D from a food source. Not only does Vitamin D help strengthen your bones but it can also help increase muscle strength. An athlete who participates in any sort of weight bearing activity will need a lot of Vitamin D, in order to keep bones healthy and strong. A lack of Vitamin D will in most cases lead to serious injuries such as bone fractures, loss of bone mass, and increased joint pain. Especially in these winter months it is important to include Vitamin D food sources into your daily diet. Good sources where Vitamin D can be found are in fortified milk and cereals, cod-liver oil, most seafood and eggs.

Megan Faletra
Megan Faletra

Integrative Dietitian Nutritionist, Whole Foods Advocate, Certified Yoga Instructor, and Yogi-athlete


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