Athletes are pushing themselves further than the average individual and need extra fuel. As the body is stressed and the necessity for recovery is ever present, supplements can play a key role alongside a well balanced diet. There are certain evidence-based supplements that can improve health in individual circumstances, but a potent and effective multivitamin will act as your best friend.
With that said, supplements are great - but it would be a mistake to overlook your food and water intake. This should be the foundation of your nutrition, with supplements helping you progress to the next level.
So, what are the best vitamins to help us reach that next level?
Stress on the immune system, skeletal structure and metabolism is commonplace in athletes. Combine this with the likely deficiency of Vitamin D that many people in the UK suffer from, the need for a Vitamin D supplement has never been more obvious.
Every cell in the human body is a receptor of vitamin D and we simply do not synthesise enough through winter training months. Due to the increased stress on athletes bodies, supplementing Vitamin D can yield significant advantages. Vitamin D aids in immune function, improved bone strength and reduces the risk of bone loss and injury in aged populations.
In addition, Vitamin D helps reduce depressive symptoms which is also a risk factor prevalent to athletes in hard training blocks. As much as the athletes training should be feedback orientated and closely managed, enhancing the nutritional armoury pays significant dividends in performance and health.
During the darker months, it is recommended that athletes aim to consume 3500-4000IU of Vitamin D per day.
Working in tandem with Vitamin D, Calcium also aids in strengthening bone structure and regulates muscle contraction. Calcium represents one of the most important minerals for athletes to consume.
Female athletes often need higher doses of Calcium if they're training for 6+ hours per week. The added stress to the body of a significant training load can impact menstrual function and bone density. As such, if training more than 6 hours per week, it is recommended that female athletes consume 1200-1500mg of calcium from a combination of supplements and food.
A healthy balanced diet will set the foundation for this consumption and should be prioritised above ergogenic aids; however, a daily supplement will ensure optimal consumption (especially in those who do not consume dairy).
Similarly, for those putting in 6+ hours a week, Iron supplementation could provide significant benefits. Iron plays a pivotal role in the formation of red blood cells and haemoglobin. This directly effects the movement of oxygen to working muscles.
It is important to note that there is a difference in the adequacy of iron absorbed from an omnivorous diet than that of a plant-based diet. Iron is formed of two derivatives, haem, and non-haem iron. Haem iron is found in animal products (from haemoglobin), and non-haem is found in plants (not from haemoglobin). Haem iron is more readily absorbed by the body than non-haem iron and therefore there is a greater requirement for iron consideration in plant based or vegetarian athletes.
The recommended daily amounts of iron are 8mg per day for men and 19mg per day for women. This is achievable through the daily diet of a healthy balanced omnivorous way of eating, but it is recommended that plant based and female athletes who train more than 6-7hrs per week consider additional iron intake through daily diet or supplementation to ensure adequate consumption.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and included in more than 300 metabolic reaction. During training, the athlete is actively damaging their muscles to stimulate greater repair - this is known as muscle protein synthesis.
Magnesium, among a plethora of other health benefits, activates enzymes involved in muscle protein synthesis and can therefore enhance recovery between workouts. However, the importance of magnesium in recovery and repair is significant in the healthy athlete’s daily diet.
It is recommended that male athletes aim to consume 400-420mg per day and female athletes aim to consume 310-320mg per day. In diets lacking in variety from multiple protein sources, nuts, seeds, and vegetables, it is recommended that this is supplemented as part of a daily nutrition routine.
Iodine is lost through excessive sweating which is is common in athletes. Prolonged iodine loss can have damaging effects to thyroid function and therefore sporting performance and health. Athletes in particular need to replace iodine, because it aids in hormonal regulation and the release of cortisol during times of stress.
It is recommended that athletes consume foods high in Iodine such as shellfish, tuna and dairy. For those who do not consume these in the diet due to preference or intolerance, it is recommended that increased iodine intake is sought from a supplemental source.
Athletes who have low levels of zinc are at risk of decreased bone mineral density, which can lead to bone fractures. Zinc is necessary to form collagen tissue, to unite bone fractures, to heal wounds, and to prevent osteoporosis. In male athletes, zinc can aid in optimal testosterone production.
Endurance athletes often adopt unusual diet habits and practices in an attempt to enhance performance. One common approach is to consume a high amount of carbs whilst consuming low amounts of fats and proteins. However, this approach may lead to insufficient levels of Zinc consumption.
Mild Zinc deficiency is difficult to detect because of the lack of definitive indicators of Zinc status. In athletes, Zinc deficiency can lead to anorexia, significant loss in bodyweight, latent fatigue with decreased endurance and a risk of osteoporosis.
It is recommended that athletes focus on increasing protein from multiple food sources throughout their diet, including animal products. In addition, Zinc can be found in supplemental form for convenience in effective doses. Athletes should aim to consume ~30mg of Zinc per day from multiple sources of food with supplementation if required.
A well balanced and varied diet can provide many of the vitamins athletes require to perform optimally. However, in situations that require additional effort, or for those on a limiting diet - supplementation can provide a huge benefit. Multivitamins containing adequate amounts of the above listed vitamins and minerals will significantly aid in overall health and performance. The hakamount Daily Driver contains all of the above listed vitamins with additional vitamins for everyday health in adequate amounts.
The author: Ben Turner, MNU certified evidence-based nutritionist and level 4 Personal Trainer. Ben is the founder of 21st Century Body, Shropshire’s leading nutrition consultancy and works with a range of clients from elite and amateur athletes to busy families trying to make healthier choices. Through a consistent to approach, analysing research and applying evidence to experience, Ben has developed a proactive centred on the healthy attitude to food, a habit based a approach and never demonising or overly restricting foods.