What Is The Importance Of Proper Vitamin And Mineral Supplementation?

What is the importance of proper vitamin and mineral supplementation? Vitamins play a key role in bodily functions. In addition, vitamins support the immune system, nervous system, contribute to growth, etc... Learn more.


TOPIC: What Is The Importance of Vitamin And Mineral Supplementation?

The Question:

With such a variety of supplements today, supplementing vitamins and minerals may seem like the real basics. However, even properly supplementing the bare basics can be vital to athletes.

What is the importance of proper vitamin and mineral supplementation?

How should one properly supplement vitamins and minerals?

Where does vitamin and mineral supplementation rank in importance amongst other supplements?

Bonus Question: Do the more expensive vitamins/minerals really offer more benefit than their less expensive counterparts?

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With such a variety of supplements today, supplementing vitamins and minerals may seem like the real basics. However, even properly supplementing the bare basics can be vital to athletes.

Despite the fact that ages of scientific research has brought about miraculous scientific advances, the world doesn't seem to be at its healthiest. An obesity epidemic is sweeping across the globe, and diseases such as AIDS still ravage entire continents. And while there are countless sports supplements available for every purpose - from gaining strength to burning fat - some athletes are still missing out on the essentials.

An Obesity Epidemic Is Sweeping Across The Globe.
+ Click To Enlarge.
An Obesity Epidemic Is
Sweeping Across The Globe.

Perhaps the tremendous number of options has distracted athletes from what matters most, the core nutritional supplements: vitamins and minerals.


What Is The Importance Of Proper Vitamin And Mineral Supplementation?


Vitamins

    You know you're supposed to take your vitamins, but have you ever really stopped to think about what they do? Well, perhaps a better question would be, what don't vitamins do? Most vitamins are substances your body can't manufacture on its own, so supplementation is necessary unless your diet is flawless, which is nearly impossible.

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    Vitamins play a key role in bodily functions, acting as coenzymes in chemical reactions. In addition, vitamins support the immune system, nervous system, contribute to growth, convert nutrients into energy, process carbohydrates, fats and proteins, and aid in the clotting of blood. And vitamin deficiencies can have serious consequences, such as anemia, mental disturbances, muscle weakness, sterility, disease, infections and even paralysis.

    While far from exhaustive, here is a list of five key vitamins and their contributions, as well as food sources:

    Vitamin A:

Vitamin A Can Be Found In Foods Like Oranges.
+ Click To Enlarge.
Vitamin A Can Be Found
In Foods Like Oranges.

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Minerals

    Like vitamins, minerals play a role in nearly every process your body performs. While minerals are the most basic for of matter, their functions are often enormously complex. Minerals are not produced by the body, and therefore must be obtained from food or supplements.

    Minerals coordinate the activity of muscles and nerves, aid in the proper growth and development of the entire body, and are responsible for building and regulating cells. Obviously, these are vital roles, and deficiencies can be quite damaging. Some symptoms include: cramps, loss of cellular function, muscle weakness, anemia, energy loss, vomiting and exhaustion.

    What Does Anemia Mean?
    Anemia is a decrease in normal number of red blood cells or less than the normal quantity of hemoglobin in the blood. Anemia is the most common disorder of the blood. There are several kinds of anemia, produced by a variety of underlying causes. Anemia can be classified in a variety of ways, based on the morphology of RBCs, underlying etiologic mechanisms, and discernible clinical spectra, to mention a few

    Some important minerals and their sources are:

    Calcium:

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    As you can see, vitamins and minerals play integral roles in a wide variety of functions. While their supplementation is needed for the average person, strength athletes who are pushing their bodies to the limits should be sure to get enough of these elements to maintain a high level of performance.


How Should One Properly Supplement Vitamins And Minerals?

While it may seem as though a healthy diet may be sufficient in terms of obtaining vitamins and minerals, it would be extremely difficult to satisfy the body's needs without taking in an excessive number of calories. Therefore, I think anyone can benefit from a multivitamin, which offers a wide variety of vitamins and minerals in one convenient package. This should help the average person cover all the bases in addition to a nutritious diet.

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Do You Take A Regular Multivitamin?

Yes.
No.

A multivitamin isn't going to be perfect, though. Individuals should assess their individual needs and try to make up for elements that may be lacking in their diet or they have natural deficiencies of. For example, women often have iron deficiencies and may want to supplement with iron in addition to a multivitamin.

Those living in areas with low levels of sunlight or those not consuming dairy may also want to supplement vitamin D, which guards against osteoporosis. Likewise, those who do not consume may want to use a calcium supplement to ensure they reach recommended levels.

While many supplements are sold individualy, I like the potent combination of ZMA - zinc, magnesium and vitamin B-6. In addition to the immune system boost provided by zinc, the nervous and muscular system regulation of magnesium and the cardiovascular and liver benefits of vitamin B-6, ZMA can help boost testosterone and trigger gains in lean muscle mass.

ZMA Can Trigger Gains In Lean Muscle Mass.
+ Click To Enlarge.
ZMA Can Trigger Gains
In Lean Muscle Mass.

Athletes in particular, may want to pay special attention to the benefits of vitamin and mineral supplementation, as physical exertion can deplete the body of vitamins and minerals. If you have any doubts, consult with a medical professional.

No matter what supplement you choose to take, a healthy diet will do wonders as well. In addition, pay attention to the directions on the supplements - many are to be taken with food because they are fat-soluble, and your body cannot absorb them without the presence of fat.

And while you may think that "more is better," be careful not to take too much of any one supplement. Megadosing a vitamin or mineral can have negative effects, balance is key.

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How Do Vitamin And Minerals Rank In Importance Amongst Other Supplements?

Some people may disagree with me here, but I think vitamin and mineral supplementation ranks first, bar none. Making sure your body is in the best shape possible and that all of your internal organs are functioning properly is far more important than any pump supplement or energy booster.

In fact, B-vitamin deficiencies are notorious for causing sluggishness, so a simple B-vitamin supplement may be able to replace your caffeine colada. More importantly, vitamins and minerals are vital for long-term health in addition to boosting athletic performance.

B-Vitamin Deficiencies Are Notorious For Causing Sluggishness.
+ Click To Enlarge.
B-Vitamin Deficiencies Are Notorious
For Causing Sluggishness.

Even though our society now has more medical knowledge than at any other time in history, the fast pace of modern life and the instant gratification attitude have led to the prevalence of very poor diets.

It's much more convenient to grab a burger from the drive-thru on the way to class than to get up early and pack a nutritious lunch full of lean protein, vegetables and fruits. If you're eating most of your meals out of microwavable containers, you should probably make vitamin and mineral supplementation a very high priority.


Are Expensive Vitamins/Minerals Really More Beneficial Than Cheaper Ones?

It would be nice to think that quality considerations are as simple as the old saying suggests - "you get what you pay for." Unfortunately, this is not often the case.

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In a market saturated with similar products, companies spend countless dollars on marketing in order to set their product apart. This in itself can contribute to a higher price, regardless of the actual quality of the product. In addition, a good reputation and a brand name seems to be enough to boost price alone; I've had "no-name" supplements that were just as effective as those sold by well-known companies.

The key to figuring out whether one supplement is worth the extra cost lies in being an educated consumer. Search online for reviews - It is easy to find a product review forum that is a great resource. You should also read labels carefully and see which supplement offers more of the nutrients you need.

When doing so, be careful of serving sizes! While common sense might dictate that one pill is one serving, vitamin and mineral supplements often designate two or more pills as one serving. What looks like a great value might turn into a rip-off once you review this factor.

Be Careful Of Serving Sizes!
+ Click To Enlarge.
Be Careful Of Serving Sizes!

Most importantly, don't buy into the hype, whether it comes in the form of shiny packaging or celebrity endorsements. Figure out what works best for you. And remember - the greatest value lies in whole foods, because you get calories for energy as well as essential nutrients - so a varied, balanced diet is a must.


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With such a variety of supplements today, supplementing vitamins and minerals may seem like the real basics. However, even properly supplementing the bare basics can be vital to athletes.


What Is The Importance Of Proper Vitamin And Mineral Supplementation?

Vitamins and minerals are essential to athletes of all types and creeds. They are important in all biological processes, and keep the body functioning properly. Some are of particular importance to athletes, more so than to sedentary people.

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Vitamin A:


Vitamins B:

    The suite of vitamins that composes this category of chemicals are all similar, and all have important roles to athletes. They help with cell division, especially of red blood cells. They speed up metabolism, and help maintain nervous system function. Without them, energy and endurance would drop, and the CNS would not be able to meet the demands of weightlifting.


Vitamin C:

    Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, so it will protect the body during extended cardio sessions. More importantly, it plays a role in the synthesis and repair of collagen, a major part of tendons and other connective tissue. Since most plateaus and injuries result from weak connective tissue, vitamin C is essential to prevent these scenarios.

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Vitamin D:

    Calcium intake is helped along by vitamin D (see below for the importance of calcium). The notion that the body will produce vitamin D in the sun is something of an overstatement. Vitamin D from sources such as milk is in an inactive form, and sunlight will convert it to the active form. Thus, supplementation may be necessary.

Vitamin D From Sources Such As Milk Is In An Inactive Form.
+ Click To Enlarge.
Vitamin D From Sources Such As
Milk Is In An Inactive Form.


Vitamin E:

    Vitamin E coats the lungs to prevent oxygen damage to them. Extended cardio can be wearing on the lungs, so more vitamin E is necessary to protect them.


Calcium:

    Calcium is the mineral directly responsible for muscular contraction. When the nerves tell the muscle to move, calcium is released from the sarcoplasmic reticulum, so it can bind with a protein known as troponin, which will trigger a series of events leading to muscular contraction.

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    Most of the calcium is recycled after each contraction. Calcium is also vital for cardiac muscle function and bone integrity. Obviously, our goal here is to build muscle, so calcium will help new muscle fibers contract. High rep work will increase the size of the sarcoplasmic reticulum, so more calcium can be held, which will also increase muscle size. Of course, sturdy bones are necessary to layer muscles on top of.


Iron:

    Iron is one of the most important minerals for those concerned with bodybuilding and endurance sports. Iron is used in hemoglobin, myoglobin, and mitochondria. Hemoglobin is used in red blood cells to transport oxygen to the muscles.

    Without iron, no more heme can be produced, and thus mo more red blood cells, which will stall the development of endurance and limit recovery. Myoglobin stores oxygen in cells other than the lungs.

Without Iron Your Endurance Development Will Stall.
+ Click To Enlarge.
Without Iron Your Endurance Development Will Stall.

    Higher-rep training and endurance sports increase the amount of myoglobin present in the muscles, which will help with endurance and size. Mitochondria use iron as part of the electron transport chain, which is the main power house of the cell.

    More iron allows more mitochondria to be made, meaning more energy and more size. In addition, new cells require iron for their mitochondria and proteins. In short, iron is necessary to grow.


Potassium:

    Potassium is essential for the proper functioning of cells, as it is part of the control of action and graded potentials on the cell's surface. New cells need to be full of potassium if they are to communicate properly (and thus contract for muscles).

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Zinc, Copper, Etc:

    Trace elements are used to help build proteins and enzymes, which wear down as cells are used.

As can be seen above, vitamins and minerals are nearly as important to athletes as protein and other macronutrients. Without them, performance would begin to drop rapidly.


How Should One Properly Supplement Vitamins And Minerals?

A simple multivitamin should be all that is necessary for a supplement. Vitamins and minerals are ingested in the course of regular eating, but not in sufficient quantities. Multivitamins usually contain a full complement of what you need every day, and overdosing on vitamins and minerals can be dangerous, especially for fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E).

Hyperdosage of certain vitamins, such as vitamin C, is not of any increased benefit to the body, as only a certain amount can be absorbed at any one time, and the rest is excreted.

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It is important to take calcium and iron supplements at separate times, however, as calcium is more reactive than iron and will out-compete it for absorption. This will negate the benefits of iron supplementation. Usually, these minerals are not found together in the same product, but be careful.


How Do Vitamin And Minerals Rank In Importance Amongst Other Supplements?

Proper nutrition can offset the need for vitamin and mineral supplementation to some extent, but a simple multivitamin is still important and relatively cheap. Since I do not take many supplements myself, I would have difficulty ranking it effectively on a performance scale. But on a health scale, it is one of the most effective. Personally, I would rank it with protein on the "must have" list.


Are Expensive Vitamins/Minerals Really More Beneficial Than Cheaper Ones?

Not at all. Any pill with the proper amount of nutrients in it will suffice. Some multivitamins do not contain an extensive list of minerals, and should be avoided. The only other difference is the delivery method. There is some controversy I've heard over different types of pills, but I prefer to keep it simple and go with the old-fashion types of pills.