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Vitamin Kings – The Top 5 Bodybuilding Vitamins

October 27, 2015 | 0 Comments
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It is well known that muscle is created from proteins. And it therefore follows that the effectiveness of protein metabolism and protein synthesis has a major impact on new muscle growth.

The function and performance of muscle tissue is dependent on the production of ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate) via the use of carbohydrates (in the form of glucose) to fuel ATP production in skeletal muscle.

Bodybuilders and performance athletes are quick to buy into the latest supplements from protein powders, testosterone boosters or pre-workout products to enhance performance and build muscle, but often overlook the importance of simple vitamins and minerals that are major regulators of both muscle growth and energy production in the body.

Vitamins serve the primary purpose as regulators of metabolic functions, many of which are critical for exercise performance, muscle growth and weight loss. Research has shown that deficiency in specific vitamins can negatively affect physical performance, however if a deficiency is corrected, performance typically improves.

Whether you are interested in optimizing muscle growth, training for your next iron man competition, or looking for the best products to complement your supplement stack, each of the 5 following vitamins has solidified itself as a vitamin king!

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Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient, meaning it is one of the 24 micronutrients critical for human survival. Vitamin D is sometimes referred to as the sunlight vitamin as the sun is the major source of vitamin D, however it is also found naturally in dairy, eggs and fish and synthesized into supplemental form vitamin D3.

The recommended dosage of vitamin D is currently 800IU/day, however a safe upper limit is 2000-4000IU/day, especially in Western cultures that have the highest rates of vitamin D deficiency. Individuals who don’t spend enough time in the sun or have difficulty absorbing Vitamin D should look to increase their intake of fatty fish, dairy, eggs or supplement with a free form vitamin D3 supplement.

Vitamin D provides a variety of health benefits including improved immune function, improved bone health, and increased cognition. 

Immune Function

Vitamin D has numerous effects on cells within the immune system. In particular it works to regulate the expression of genes that influence the immune system to help it fight against bacteria, viruses and disease. For bodybuilders and performance athletes this means less time recovering from illness and more time training to increase strength and performance.

Bone Health

Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining healthy bone density and muscle cell function resulting in increased bone structure integrity and reduced risk of fractures later on in life. Sufficient Vitamin D levels can assist bodybuilders, powerlifters and Crossfit athletes by helping their skeletal system resist against sudden force and trauma whilst also maintaining function of muscle fibres, thus preserving muscle and strength.    

Cognition

Some early studies have looked at the influence of Vitamin D levels on cognitive performance with data showing that individuals with lower vitamin D levels exhibited slower information processing speed. For performance based tasks and activities, supplementing with vitamin D may help to increase the ability to process information and act decisively. 

Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral and one of the most prevalent electrolytes in the human body. Deficiency is highly prevalent in Western diets as most grains, cereals and breads typically contain little to no magnesium. Maintaining healthy magnesium levels is important for reduced blood pressure and increased insulin sensitivity. 

Related Article: Inside Insulin

Magnesium supplements can be useful if individuals are unable to consume enough magnesium rich foods such as leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds. The standard dose of magnesium is between 200-400mg per day, with magnesium citrate being the most popular supplemental form of magnesium as it is more easily absorbed than other varieties.

Magnesium works to promote greater transportation of calcium and oxygen and the intra-cellular transport of sodium and potassium. Most notably, magnesium plays a crucial role during extended bouts of high intensity exercise such as performance based sports and Crossfit WODs, working to prevent muscular cramps. 

Magnesium benefits bodybuilding and strength based athletes by regulating energy production and protein synthesis. Without the presence of sufficient magnesium nutrients consumed can not be metabolized into ATP. ATP is the fundamental unit of energy that is responsible for muscular contractions, protein synthesis and cell reproduction, so supplementing with magnesium helps to upregulate the synthesis of ATP resulting in increased force during training as well as increased lean tissue growth.   

Potassium

Potassium is a mineral and electrolyte that works with sodium to balance fluids and electrolytes in the body, helping to regulate heartbeat, nerve impulses and prevent muscles from cramping. Potassium is involved in the transportation and storage of carbohydrates to fuel muscles and the regulation of muscular contractions, so it is essential for keeping the muscular system running smoothly.

According to dietary guidelines, adults require 4.7 grams of potassium per day, with athletes recommended to consume upwards of this amount, especially following intense physical activity.

Potassium is not produced naturally by the body and therefore must be obtained from potassium-rich foods sources including lean meats, nuts, beans and fruits (in particular bananas and apricots). Caution should be exercised when supplementing with free form potassium as too much too quickly can cause cardiac arrest.

Potassium is lost through sweat and urination, so bodybuilders and athletes who train in warmer climates should ensure they do not suffer from low potassium levels. 

Chromium

As an essential mineral, chromium works to regulate the metabolism of glucose (sugars) and may help to increase insulin sensitivity. Insulin is the hormone most responsible for the delivery of nutrients and associated muscle growth and fat burning processes. 

Related Article: Inside Insulin

Chromium ensures that insulin is working correctly to efficiently uptake glucose and amino acids into cells where they can be used for repair and growth. Ultimately, supplementing with chromium may help bodybuilders and athletes to decrease body fat and increase lean muscle tissue by stabilising blood sugar levels throughout the day.

Supplementing with chromium (typically in the form of chromium picolinate) should comprise around 1,000 micrograms per day, spread across 2-3 doses. It is recommended to consume chromium supplements with meals containing carbohydrates due to its interactions with glucose metabolism.

Iron

Iron is a necessary trace element found in all living organisms. As an essential nutrient, it needs to be obtained from whole food sources such as steak, cashews, eggs and oysters.

Iron is involved in the transport of oxygen from blood cells to vital organs and cells in the body. Specifically, iron is a component of haemoglobin, an oxygen-transport protein that carries oxygen from the respiratory organs to the body for use in aerobic respiration, providing the energy and power to generate movement.

Bodybuilders and athletes have greater than normal red blood cell mass and therefore have an increased need for iron in their diet. Because of this, athletes are often at higher risk of developing either an iron deficiency or more severely, anaemia. Iron deficiency symptoms can include fatigue and a dramatic decrease in athletic performance, working capacity and VO2max, as fewer haemoglobin proteins are available to transport oxygen to working muscles.   

To recover depleted levels of iron in the body and reverse the symptoms of iron deficiency free form supplements can be used. Typically supplementing with 100-200 milligrams of iron per day (in conjunction with vitamin C which enhances its absorption) is recommended, however completely recovering from an iron deficiency can take up to 3 months. 

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