It should be a huge emphasis for any diet and nutrition plan to maintain or increase one’s internal health and wellbeing. It’s quite simple, a healthy body on the inside makes the whole process of building muscle, getting leaner and looking good on the outside a lot easier. With adequate nutrition and micronutrient intake, your body’s various systems including Hormonal, Reproductive and Digestive will be working efficiently; you’ll be creating more energy, absorbing more nutrients and you won’t be at risk of long-term health issues that can be created by a poorly managed competition season or a Micronutrient poor diet.
Nutrition should always be considered first when it comes to looking after your health, which requires incorporating a wide variety of food sources such as fruits and vegetables, which contain an abundance of micronutrients your body requires for various metabolic processes.
For regular individuals who do not exercise, the nutrients contained within wholefoods alone should suffice, provided the quality of food is high and grown in nutrient-rich soil. However, there is a difference between acceptable and optimal in most cases, and as an athlete or more specifically a bodybuilder, you deplete nutrients far quicker and put your body through more stresses that the average Joe just isn’t used to. In some cases, an average Joe still needs additional Vitamins and Minerals to correct deficiencies and health issues, that cannot be sourced from food.
The body naturally wants to remain in homeostasis, which means it does not want to build muscle OR lose fat. It just wants to remain stable and survive. Training is recognised as a stressor; your body doesn’t know the difference between a threatening situation like physical fight, or when participating in high-intensity exercise. It considers both activities to be abnormal and as a result, the body’s internal stress response is triggered. Funnily enough, severe dieting and a low-calorie diet is even recognised as a stress to the body!
Think about it like this, if you are participating in training, whether that be weightlifting or cardio every day of the week, not only are you depleting vital stores of nutrients, but you are constantly signalling to your body that it is in fight-or-flight mode, or a stressful situation. Paired with a low-calorie diet which many competitors will adhere to in a bid to cut unwanted bodyfat, it is safe to say that the opportunity to replenish such Micronutrients and alleviate such stress may not occur.
If you want to maintain or enhance you internal health, not only feel good, but to ensure your physique related goals are more attainable, then this is a must-read list of benefits you can receive from supplementing with Vitamins and Minerals.
Metabolism is often confused with simply how efficiently or quickly your body is “burning calories”. But it is so much more then that, with the exact definition being “the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life.”
If you have a slow metabolism, it doesn’t just make changing your body composition or losing body fat more of a challenge, but it hampers your overall health and your body’s ability to carry out its’ everyday processes.
Magnesium for example, is involved in the occurrence of over 350 internal processes every single day and is absolutely essential for those which require Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) and other Enzymes involved in Nucleic Acid metabolism. It is a cofactor for DNA, RNA and protein synthesis.
So, imagine being deficient in Magnesium, which will affect the overall speed of your metabolism and how efficiently these internal processes can occur. Odds are, if you are training at a high-intensity on a regular basis, then you are depleting through existing stores quickly.
The same story exists in respect to other crucial nutrients in the body required for a host of important roles. To help combat this, it may be necessary to supplement directly. Two vitamins which can help improve your metabolism, especially while training frequently and at a high intensity is Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) and Chromium. Both are involved in energy and glucose metabolism, with ALA being a unique chemical which can function as a fatty acid as well as a water-soluble vitamin. While ALA naturally occurs in meat, fruit and vegetables, the supplement form contains higher dosages and has been shown to have a high absorption. It’s an antioxidant compound which works with the mitochondria and helps the body break down carbohydrates and create energy for organs in the body.
Chromium plays an integral role in the metabolism of Fat, Carbohydrates and Protein. However it’s primarily known and used for it’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels and help the Insulin hormone transport glucose and other nutrients into cells. As bodybuilders, we know just how integral the Insulin hormone is if we want any chance at maximising our growth potential and giving our muscles the fuel they need to do so. To learn more about how Insulin works and to take advantage of this powerful hormone, check out this article!
Other Vitamins and Minerals worthy of being noted for the positive impact they have on one’s metabolism include Zinc, the entire Vitamin B group, Iron and Selenium; all of which have shown to improve the integrity of the Thyroid function and optimise it’s various hormones. These are all staple nutrients required by the body. If in doubt we highly recommend using a high-quality Multi-Vitamin to try and cover all your bases.
Modern day stresses, chemicals, cosmetics, pollution, plastics and the like can all wreak havoc on your hormones. Combine that with a poor or insufficient diet and it’s easy to see how your hormones can be left in an extremely vulnerable state.
A poor diet leading to deficiencies in key Vitamins and Minerals can make the production and regulation of important hormones your body needs a difficult process. Vitamins play a role in the creation of sex hormones: Testosterone and Estrogen, which play an integral role not only for reproductive function, but for the attainment of both aesthetic and performance based goals!
One such underrated Micronutrient is Vitamin D3, which plays an important role in the production of Testosterone. Studies have revealed that a link exists between a deficiency in this Vitamin and low Testosterone levels. One such study had a group of male subjects who were deficient in Vitamin D and Testosterone levels, and provided them with 3,332 IUs of Vitamin D3 daily for a year. The results saw Free Testosterone levels had by increased by an average of 20%. There is also evidence to suggest that sufficient levels of Vitamin D3 can inhibit the aromatization process whereby Testosterone converts into Estrogen! This is a process that bodybuilders try to avoid at all costs.
The same applies to females and their need for Vitamin D3 for reproductive and hormonal balance purposes. Research has also shown that Vitamin D3 levels can affect the metabolic pathways of developing a fetus, whilst also having known benefits for mood and relieving symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The B group of Vitamins is also crucial for hormonal health. As previously mentioned, harmful chemicals such as those in plastics and pollution can play havoc on your hormonal health. Chemicals and environmental toxins can mimic existing hormones in the body, which alter the body’s regulating system, cause abnormalities and disrupt the production and metabolism of other hormones. B Vitamins such as B6, B9 and B12 can help Estrogen detoxification, which is imperative as excess Estrogens ciruculating in the body have been linked to causing various types of cancers. Detoxifying excess Estrogen can also help with fat loss and traditional areas that you may struggle to get lean, where Estrogen tends to accumulate such as the back of the arms, love handles and chest. In addition, B Vitamins are benefitial to combat stress and the undesirable Hormonal response of such.
Zinc is another staple Vitamin which has been linked to low Testosterone levels if suffering from a deficiency. Deficiency in Zinc has also been linked to low sperm counts in men. For women, Zinc is crucial for the creation and release of eggs and plays a role in Estrogen and Progesterone production to support reproductive health. Unbalanced levels of these sex hormones can also increase the risk of cancer, with other symptoms of Estrogen Dominance including feelings of fatigue, depression, anxiety, weight gain, low libido, bloating and cravings for sweet foods.
Fish Oil is another popular supplement which has a myriad of uses for a variety of people and purposes. A little-known benefit of Fish Oil is it’s impact on relieving stress and how it affects the Hormone Cortisol. Cortisol is an important hormone which has long assisted the human race survive threatening situations, but in modern times, this hormone has shown to lead to many detrimental situations. Too much of this hormone can throw off the balance of all of your hormones whilst effecting your ability to lose weight and gain muscle. To learn more about this hormone and reduce your own Cortisol levels, check out this articles here!
Studies in 2010 showed that Fish Oil can lower the incidence of this stress hormone by reducing the heart rate and the sympathetic nervous system response, which is triggered during times of stress. Another Vitamin shown to have benefits in reducing levels of Cortisol and the stress response is Vitamin C, which has been shown to reduce Cortisol Levels whilst increasing Testosterone! A win for bodybuilders everywhere.
Combined with a sensible diet and training regime, the addition of quality Vitamins and Minerals are designed to maximize your body’s hormonal regulation system and response to external situations, accelerate recovery and mitigate unwanted fat gain, Estrogen Dominance and stress.
Gut & Detoxification
Gut health is commonly one of the most neglected elements that many members of the health and fitness industry are uneducated about when it comes to attaining their goals. The performance and efficiency of your gut is not only important for optimal body composition and looking good, but for your overall health, energy levels and mood!
It’s said that 70% of your immune system is housed in your gut. It’s designed to keep us healthy and protect us from sickness and disease. It is responsible for breaking down food into smaller nutrients which can then be utilised for energy and various repair processes. It is also largely responsible for the creation of our brain’s Neurotransmitters; the communication messengers of our body. That’s right, when we send signals to our body to lift something or to run, jump, hop or skip, they are created in our gut.
Imagine now what you eat, and how it can affect your gut health and consequentially how you think, feel and how you send important messages to the rest of your body! For example, it’s estimated that 90% of the Serotonin in your body is created in the gut. Serotonin is the chemical responsible for making us ‘feel good’, linked to improvements in mood, sexual desire, appetite, sleep, memory, learning and social behaviour!
Digestive Enzymes can help to restore and maintain gut health so these digestive processes can occur with ease. Many of these Enzymes such as Protease and Lipase aid in the digestion of protein and fats respectively. If food can be digested and absorbed effectively, your internal systems can all work with efficiently, and you’ll feel great! Not to mention, when it comes to building mass and cutting body fat, you want to be absorbing nutrients and detoxifying yourself efficiently so you can better achieve your goals.
Lactase is another example of an Enzyme which is used to digest Lactose, the sugar found in dairy. If you are Lactose intolerant or have problems digesting foods such as Milk, Cheese and Whey Protein, this suggests you may be having issues producing the Lactase enzyme, causing you digestive upset. Common symptoms include and relieving symptoms of flatulence, indigestion and bloating, which can make day-to-day life, not to mention training, extremely uncomfortable! If you suffer from any of these symptoms, it’s usually a sign that you are having gut issues of some sort, and may require some additional Digestive Enzymes in your system.
The Vitamins we have discussed in this article can all have positive benefits on your body composition; when it comes to burning fat or building muscle, a healthy body on the inside makes it a lot easier to achieve either or both.
Calcium is a crucial Vitamin, frequently known for its importance for maintaining strong, dense bones. But few understand how integral adequate Calcium levels are necessary for your muscles! Sufficient Calcium level are required in order to move your muscles and carry nerve messages to your brain. Calcium is used to move blood vessels throughout the body and to help release important hormones and Enzymes. Calcium is also the primary Vitamin responsible for allowing muscle contractions to occur. Therefore, a deficiency can affect your performance in the gym and significantly hinder your progress, by affecting your ability to train intensely and achieve optimal muscle growth and results
Fish Oil can also help in your goal to improve your body composition and actually help you lose body fat for a variety of reasons. Firstly, Fish Oil has been linked to increasing Insulin Sensitivity, which means your body produces less Insulin and enables Fat to be burned as a source of fuel. Fish Oil can also aid weight loss by reducing inflammation levels. If you are inflamed then you will struggle to burn fat and gain muscle. This is because inflammation means your body is stressed, and therefore you’ll have higher levels of cortisol present, which as discussed, has a myriad of negative implications including blunting fat loss and potentially causing muscle degradation. Fish Oil also assists in lubricating joints, raising the metabolism and assists with cognitive function.
Vitamin B12, which can be harder to obtain than other B vitamins as it is only found sourced in animal products, is important for the conversion of Fats and Proteins into energy. Vitamin B12 also helps with the production of Red Blood Cells which is important for delivering oxygen and nutrients to muscles. It’s important to ensure you are getting enough Vitamin B12 in your diet to reach optimal muscle building and general health levels, which is often supplemented due to the difficulty in consuming such naturally.
When it comes to building a leaner, more muscular physique, you cannot go past Vitamins and Minerals which assist in Testosterone production, Estrogen detoxification and Insulin transportation. Vitamin D3, Magnesium, Zinc, Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) and Chromium are all noteworthy here, which when taken in sufficient quantities, you can ensure your hormones are working optimally and bettering your chances at building muscle and burning fat.
There’s no question that Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation can be of huge assistance when it comes to getting into optimal shape and remaining healthy. As always, we at MassiveJoes encourage you prioritise your Micronutrient intake from wholefood sources in your diet before choosing to use or relying on supplements to fill in the gaps and deficiencies.
Choosing what Brands of supplements to buy also will influence your results. Don’t elect cheaper options as this typically results in poor quality forms of Vitamins or extremely low dosages. Higher quality products usually come at a greater cost but you can be assured that you are getting the right formulations for your needs, as well as a sufficient dose and bioavailable form. For example not all Magnesium is made equal. Magnesium Citrate has far greater benefits than Magnesium Oxide, which has been shown to have very little to no benefits.
As always, with essential Vitamins and Minerals, we advise searching for deficiencies by obtaining a blood test from your local doctor and trying to base your nutritional intake around the needs of your body. Don’t underestimate the powers of Micronutrients; without these and without your body working at its prime, you can’t expect to see maximal results with your aesthetic or performance based goals.