While they may not be as “sexy” as the major muscle builders like protein and creatine, no nutrients are as important as vitamins for keeping us healthy and training hard.
In fact, several vitamins are labeled as “essential” because we HAVE to have them to stay alive, but we cannot make them from other substances we consume.
Here is a rundown of vitamins for health, which we MUST consume in the foods we eat, or in our supplements, along with a few words on what each one does for us.
Also called beta-carotene, vitamin A is a fat-soluble antioxidant that aids in eye health and tissue growth, and it also helps fight free radicals.
Sources: cantaloupe, spinach, sweet potato, carrots, mango, pink grapefruit, broccoli
Thiamine, or vitamin B1, helps you produce an enzyme called thiamine pyrophosphate, which aids in the breakdown of macronutrients (fat and carbohydrate) to provide energy.
Foods: pork, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds,whole enriched grains, beef liver
Vitamin B2, also called riboflavin, moves oxygen and energy within cells, which helps you turn fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into energy for workouts.
Foods: whole-grain cereals, pork, dairy products, dark greens
Pantothenic Acid, or vitamin B5, is a building block for several enzymes which help convert fat to energy.
Foods: eggs, broccoli, green leafy vegetables
Vitamin B6, or pyroxidine, aids fat burning and also helps in red blood cell production.
Foods: organ meats, potatoes, non-citrus fruits
Vitamin B7 (biotin) helps your body convert food into glucose (blood sugar), and it also plays a role in the production of fatty acids and amino acids.
Foods: fatty fish, egg yolks, organ meats
Folic Acid (synthetic vitamin B9) is important for the metabolism and absorption of the food you eat. It also helps your nervous system function.
Foods: spinach, green vegetables, bananas, melons, legumes, fortified whole grains
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, helps you maintain a healthy metabolism and nervous system. It is especially important to bodybuilders because it helps turn fat and amino acids into energy. That makes it vital for helping us stay as lean as possible while gaining
B12 can also help us generate more intensity in the gym thanks to its beneficial effects on the nervous system and energy production.
Foods: fortified whole grains, fish, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is most famous as an antioxidant and its power to help keep us healthy, but it’s also important for vibrant skin and proper iron absorption.
While most animals can manufacture their own vitamin C, we cannot.
Foods: Brussels sprouts, papaya, strawberries, leafy green vegetables, broccoli, citrus fruits (use your lemons!), tomatoes, cabbage, red bell pepper
Vitamin E, or tocopherol, is a fat-soluble antioxidant that protects your body from free radicals and may also improve blood flow.
Foods: spinach, asparagus, leafy green vegetables, olive oil ,almonds, almond milk, sunflower seeds, almond butter, olives
How to Get Them
You may have noticed that these essential vitamins are all available from relatively common foods, but you need to eat a wide variety on a regular basis to cover all of your needs. That’s pretty inconvenient for most modern Americans and it can be nearly impossible when you’re eating a restricted diet, as when trying to lose fat.
That’s why a good multivitamin, or even a series of individual vitamin supplements, can be of great value to hard-training lifters.
No matter how you get them, though, the important thing is THAT you get these essential vitamins for health. Do that, and they will take care of your health as you build your muscles.