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  • Writer's pictureAlexa

Vitamins and minerals for sport

Vitamins are essential nutrients, they enable the release of energy from carbs and protein. They help growth, repair and protection of the body including some antioxidant systems. Some really help with exercise and sport;

  • B vitamins are important for exercise due to their role in energy production

  • A, C and E also key for their role as antioxidants

Minerals are important components of enzymes, hormones and vitamins. They provide structure to bones, teeth and blood cell and help support body functions including in the brain and muscles. For exercise their key role is to regulate metabolism with enzymes and hormones that breakdown carbs, fat and protein and be part of anti oxidant and immune systems.

There is no benefit to taking excess levels of vitamins or minerals as high levels will either be removed as waste products or cause issues by building up in the body.

Calcium, iron and selenium are particularly useful for sports;

  • Calcium is key in body health, muscle growth, nerve function

    • Inadequate intake impairs muscle contraction, osteoporosis and brittle bones

    • Extra calcium is needed for females with low oestrogen levels and amenorrhea

  • Iron is used in red blood cells and oxygen transport and utilisation

    • Useful in high impact sports as these promote increased iron loss

    • Iron lost in menstruation so females athletes need higher intakes

    • Vitamin c enhances iron absorption

  • Selenium is a key component in anti oxidants and has a role in prevention of fatigue, and aids recovery

    • Magnesium, zinc and copper also help with this

Simple changes to increase micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) intake

  • Add mango or other fruit to cereal

  • Eat beef or lentils for iron

  • Drinking orange juice/vitamin C with meal increases iron absorption

  • Eat brazil nuts for selenium

Antioxidants protect our bodies against free radicals. Free radicals cause cell damage, DNA damage and are linked to some cancers. They are released as a result of some normal biological processes, including energy production.

The more active you are the more free radicals you will produce, the intensity and type of activity will also impact free radical production. This can lead to muscles damage, muscle soreness, muscle fatigue and will impair the muscles ability to take up glucose; impacting performance. Intensive training and those with new training programmes are more susceptible to free radical damage.

The antioxidant system in the body mops up free radicals. You can support it with a good vitamin and macronutrient intake, particularly of beta carotene, vitamins C and E, copper and selenium. Vigorous sports increase demands for micronutrient, so sports people need more micronutrients. This shouldn’t cause too big a problem as energy intake needs to increase too, you just need a balanced diet.

Here are some practical tips to increase micronutrient quality of foods

  • Careful selection and preparation

  • Buy British seasonal produce

  • Buy local with less travel time

  • Prepare fruit and veg as you need them - nutrients are lost as soon as you start chopping

  • Wash thoroughly and eat the skins

  • Use frozen where fresh is not available - they have very similar levels of nutrients

  • Steam or boil in shallow water as briefly as possible to reduce micronutrients lost 

  • Keep cooking water to use in gravy, sauce and soup as it contains the micronutrients

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