Which Vitamins Do We Really Need?

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The human body needs 13 vitamins (plus minerals) ranging from Vitamin A to Zinc! But which ones are essential when you lead an active lifestyle?

Most people are happy to take a multivitamin and mineral supplement every day for years, but few people stop to think about which vitamins the human body actually needs.

Almost 99% of the human body is made of oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. We also have potassium, sodium, sulphur, chlorine, and magnesium in our make-up. All 11 of them are considered necessary for life. And there are 13 vitamins in the human body, four of which are fat-soluble (Vitamin A, D, E, and K) and nine which are water-soluble (the eight B Vitamins, and Vitamin C). As you’d expect, the water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water, and we lose a lot of them when we urinate. excreted from the body, to the degree that urinary output is a strong predictor of vitamin consumption.

So these vitamins and minerals aren’t just crucial to our bodies, but they can get depleted. We need to keep a close eye on our vitamin and mineral intake so our bodies get what they need and can build, grow, perform, and repair without a glitch.

The Most Important Vitamins & Minerals For Athletes

When you’re sporty and active, some of these vitamins and minerals become even more important. One of them is calcium (which regulates muscle contractions, supports strong bones, and helps control blood pressure). Your body excretes calcium when you sweat a lot through training, and you if you’re building muscle tissue then you might need more of it to start with. It can be hard to get enough calcium from food, so consider taking a daily supplement.

Iron is another important mineral for athletic people, as it helps carry oxygen around the body. Adult women can often be deficient, due to their menstrual cycle, and vegetarians can find themselves lacking in iron if their diet isn’t great. Exercise can contribute to low levels of iron in the body, especially if your sessions are long.

Magnesium is part of 300+ enzymes in the body, and an important part of energy metabolism and bone density. The trouble is, we lose magnesium fast through sweat, so make sure your diet and supplement routine helps keep you topped up.

Another mineral lost during sweat is potassium. It is a key electrolyte that helps regulate the amount of fluid is your body, lower your blood pressure, and support your muscles and nerves. The good news is that it’s relatively easy to rebalance your potassium levels with sports drinks or common sports-diet foods like bananas. Keep a close eye on potassium and other electrolytes if you’re an endurance athlete or do long training sessions in warm weather.

Vitamin B is a group of micronutrients including Vitamins B6 and B12, thiamin, folate, and riboflavin. They help convert protein and sugar into energy, help your body produce red blood cells, and are part of the muscle building and repairing process. Intense training will contribute to Vitamin B depletion, so it’s well worth taking a simple supplement.

Vitamin C is probably one of the best known vitamins in supplement form, but do we really know what it does for our bodies? It’s important for a healthy immune system, especially when your body is under stress. Consider supplementing with Vitamin C when you’re training hard, dieting, or entering a time of year when you usually get colds.

Vitamin D is crucial for supporting healthy bones, a strong immune system, and all round good health. It even helps the mitochondria in muscles regenerate energy during muscle contractions. But our bodies can only get it from decent sunlight exposure (it can also get it from some foods, but this is a big ask). So get sunlight on your skin every day if you can. If not, take a daily Vitamin D supplement.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant which can support your immune system to cut your chances of coming down with annoying coughs and colds during the year. If you eat a low-fat diet, you run the risk of being low on this oily antioxidant. A supplement is a sensible way to take controlled doses every day.

We don’t need much zinc, but it is essential for a massive range of things in the body, including healthy immune system function. Zinc is part of more than 300 enzyme processes in the body. Having enough zinc in your daily diet supports oxygen uptake, which means you can work harder for longer. If you eat plenty of animal protein, you’re unlikely to be deficient in zinc. But it’s a good one to take alongside magnesium and B Vitamins in a quality ZMA supplement – especially if you’re a bloke.

Recommended Daily Intakes

Like most recommendations, RDA numbers aren’t set in stone, but they’re a good guideline.

Calcium 1000mg daily

Folate 400 μg

Iron 18mg

Magnesium 400 mg

Potassium 1600 to 2000 mg

Riboflavin 1.7 mg

Thiamin 1.5 mg

Vitamin B6 2 mg

Vitamin B12 6 μg

Vitamin C 60 mg

Vitamin D 400 IU

Vitamin E 30 IU

Zinc 8mg (women), 11mg (men)

Most of these important vitamins and minerals can be found in food, but getting the right amounts (and a combination of them all!) is a delicate balancing act. If you choose to cover your bases with a solid daily vitamin and mineral supplement, take a look at our Complete Multivitamin Complex™ (available as tablets or a powder). We developed it specifically for sporty, active people who need a wide spectrum of vitamins, minerals, probiotics and antioxidants to support regular training and a healthy body.

About the Author:

Nicola Joyce has been writing for (and about) sport, fitness, nutrition and healthy living since 2004. She’s also a keen sportswoman: her background is in endurance sport but she now competes as a natural bodybuilder, most recently winning a world title with the INBF. When she’s not writing content, she can be found blogging. Follow her here www.nicolajoyce.co.uk and on Facebook & Twitter (@thefitwriter) too.

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