What Are Vitamins & Minerals & Why Do We Need Them?
Eating the correct diet is the best way to gain optimal vitamins and minerals, however many of us don’t consume the correct amount to ensure we do. Plus when performing high-intensity exercise your body uses up its vitamin and mineral stores, so it’s even more important to make sure that you replenish these as quickly as possible.
This is why many athletes decide to supplement their vitamins and minerals through tablets and powders. It’s cost-effective, more convenient and for those trying to cut back on the calories, means you can consume them without the worry of tipping over your goal.
Whether you like it or not – your body produces skin, skeletal bone, muscles, and sends nerve signals skipping along miles of brain pathways. Formulating chemical messages for organs and many more incredible things on a daily basis.
Our body really is amazing and as such why we need to keep ourselves in tip-top shape, after all, it does deserve some TLC for all its hard work.
For our body to perform these actions It needs at least 30 vitamins, minerals, and other dietary elements, unfortunately, out of these 30 there is a large fraction that we cannot produce ourselves, and we must gain from what we eat or supplement.
So, as we are sure you’re now aware these vitamins and minerals are vitally important, giving you a host of body functions and other benefits.
If interested in reading a little more about why we need vitamins we have an article for that, just click here to read ‘Why Do We Need Vitamins?’
But what vitamins & minerals do you specifically need if looking to gain muscle and help with recovery?
Here is our shortened list
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin B6
Top Vitamins & Minerals For Muscle Gain & Recovery
We understand you all lead busy lives, so we’ve rounded the top vitamins and minerals you should be taking for muscle gain and recovery below. Please bare in mind this is not a hierarchy, they’re all equally important for you. But if you do have a spare 3 minutes then keep scrolling through to go into more detail.
|Vitamin/Mineral||How Does this Help Muscle Gain & Recovery?|
|1) Vitamin D||Enhances muscle function and contraction, helps to strengthen and rebuild bones and cartilage|
|2) Vitamin B12||Contributes towards the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and, cell division, homocysteine metabolism and functioning of the immune system.|
|3) Vitamin C||Supports the nervous system.|
|4) Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)||Protects cells from oxidative stress, and maintenance of normal blood cells.|
|5) Vitamin A||Contributes to normal iron metabolism and plays a role in the process of cell specialisation.|
|6) Vitamin E||Contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress|
|7) Magnesium||Contributes towards electrolyte balance, normal protein synthesis and normal muscle function|
|8) Vitamin B6||Contributes towards normal protein and glycogen metabolism|
|9) Calcium||Contributes to normal muscle function and maintenance of normal bones|
Top Vitamins & Minerals For Muscle Gain & Recovery Continued
What is Vitamin D? & Where can I find it?
Vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin due to our bodies producing it naturally through exposure of UV light to our skin.
Unfortunately, if you live in countries with limited sunlight or spend your days inside, your body will produce limited amounts. This is one of the reasons why vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies among the UK population.
This doesn’t mean you should be going on the sunbeds for your daily dose of UV light, that’s an issue for another article, but if you’re not getting enough sunlight the vitamin D supplementation is the way forward.
Vitamin D can be found in food, though in a limited capacity. Foods such as fatty fish, cereals, cheese, egg yolks and mushrooms all contain amounts of vitamin D, however, you’d have to consume a fair amount to ensure you hit your RDA. Which if on a bulk is ideal, but for those looking to cut the calories, its not the best action to take. That’s where Vitamin D tablets come in, the little lifesavers.
How does Vitamin D help Muscle Gain & Recovery?
Vitamin D has several benefits for our body, but for the purpose of this article, we will concentrate on how it helps muscle gain and recovery. So, getting down to the good stuff:
Vitamin D helps to Build Strong Bones –
Our bodies use vitamin D to extract calcium from the food we eat and what we drink. Without vitamin D our bodies will be unable to extract this calcium which can result in osteomalacia.
For those unaware what that is, it’s where the bones become weak, and thus more likely to fracture and break. Some studies have even found that Vitamin D can slow down bones loss too.
Why is that important? Well, when exercising will put excess force through our bones and muscles, so our bones need to be extra strong to deal with this stress. This is even more important for those that play a contact sport. The last thing you want to happen is to go in for a challenge with weak bones, you will be more than likely be going home in an ambulance.
Improves Muscle Strength and Performance –
Many studies conducted have found that low vitamin D levels can result in muscle weakness and many more have shown an increase in muscle performance.
Vitamin D has also been linked to improving muscle health (Bartoszewska et al. 2010), strength (Tomlinson PB, et al. 2015), preserving musculoskeletal (Kerksick et al. 2018) function, regulating immune function and cardiovascular health (Krzywanski et al. 2016) while reducing injuries, meaning that you can gain to your healthy heart’s content, whilst also ensuring there won’t be any unexpected days off from the gym because of muscle, bone or joint pain
What is Vitamin B12 & Where Can I Find It?
Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin due to our body being unable to make it on its own, which is why supplementing vitamin B12 is the easiest option to ensure you get the optimal amounts. Those who consume a vegan or vegetarian diet are more susceptible to becoming vitamin B12 deficient due to many of us gaining their vitamin B12 from meat and animal products. There are actually eight vitamin B’s in total, with each having their own specific benefits for your body.
Like we said vitamin B12 is mainly found in meats and animal products including, beef, sardines, tuna, salmon, Milk and other dairy products. A lot of the above products can be quite a meal full, which is one of the reasons why athletes choose supplementation. Unfortunately for those that consume an animal-free diet, vitamin B12 can be hard to come by, though it can be found in plant milk, fortified cereals and soy products.
How does Vitamin B12 help Muscle Gain & Recovery?
Vitamin B12 has a lot of benefits for both muscle gain, recovery and just general health and well being. Take a look below at how vitamin B12 can help you gain, and reduce your recovery times.
Vitamin B12 assists in metabolizing protein and fats
Vitamin B12 plays an important role in ensuring that our body is able to metabolise protein and fats. This is just a simple way of saying ‘breaking down’, by breaking down protein and fats our body is then able to use these elements for a number of health functions. Take protein for example, one of the most important nutrients for muscle gain and recovery.
Protein is made up of as many as 2000 amino acids connected by chemical links called peptide bonds. These whole proteins are unable to be absorbed into our bloodstream, and as such these bonds must be broken and metabolized (Shane, 2008). We all know how important protein is, so imagine consuming all those awesome shakes for it to be having no impact at all. That’s why we need vitamin B12, to help break these proteins down and send it straight to our muscles for gains and recovery.
Vitamin B12 is essential for red blood cell formation
Vitamin B12 plays an important role in forming red blood cells with the help of folate. That doesn’t sound like anything to do with muscle gain and recovery but you will be mistaken. As the name suggests, red blood cells make up our blood, among some other elements but ignore those for the time being. Red blood cells help to transport oxygen around the body from our lungs direct to our working muscles. Why do we need this oxygen? Oxygen is one of the main products we need to produce energy, without energy our muscles simply wouldn’t be able to work. If we have a greater count of red blood cells it allows more oxygen to be transported to our muscles, meaning that our muscles can work harder and longer without becoming fatigued (Mahmood, 2014)
3) Vitamin C
What is Vitamin C & Where Can I Find It?
Vitamin C is another essential vitamin, meaning that we can only gain it through the food that we eat, but don’t fret, many supplements such as 24/7 super multivitamin contain a high amount of vitamin C. Okay panic over, vitamin C has some impressive benefits for both muscle gain, recovery and other body boosting elements hiding up its sleeve. Vitamin C is actually a strong antioxidant, with studies showing that consuming vitamin C in either a supplement or food source can increase your blood antioxidant levels by up to 30% (Kim et al. 2003), pretty impressive if you ask us.
Vitamin C can be found in a host of different fresh foods and vegetables, although many do not contain enough vitamin C to reach our RDA, which is why many athletes choose to supplement it for ease and convenience. Vitamin C can be found in orange’s, blackcurrants, yellow peppers, kale, kiwis, broccoli, lemons and even brussel sprouts.
How does Vitamin C help Muscle Gain & Recovery?
Vitamin C can be found in some delicious tasting foods and has a number of benefits for not just muscle gain and recovery. However, you’re looking to increase your muscle mass and recovery with ease then this should be added to your stack. Find out why below:
Vitamin C Lowers Cortisol
Vitamin C has been shown to reduce cortisol levels. Sounds a little like car oil but bare with us here, because this can be a fine line between muscle gain and muscle loss. When we work out with intensity it increases cortisol secretion. Cortisol is a hormone found naturally in the body and is also known as a stress hormone, that is best known for helping fuel your body’s “fight-or-flight” response. Usually, cortisol levels reduce naturally post workout but for some these levels can remain high for long periods after exercise. Elevated cortisol levels have been shown to induce a catabolic state in our bodies that cause muscle breakdown. By consuming vitamin C you have a greater chance of reducing these cortisol levels, thus reducing the chances of losing those important gains you’ve made (Peterrs et al. 2001)
Vitamin C Reduce’s Muscle Inflammation & Supports the Immune System
Vitamin C can help reduce muscle inflammation which can lead to better tissue healing. We’ve all been there, the day after a big leg session, you’re struggling to even walk. Yes, you’ve worked those muscles hard, and you will make gains, but this muscle soreness can also be a result of overworking them. By overexertion, during a workout, it can lead to muscle inflammation and cause soreness that can last for multiple days. Not too bad if you know you’re having a rest week, but detrimental if you want to get back into the gym the next day. This is why many athletes and gym goers supplement vitamin C on a daily basis, and we’ve even added it into our popular Raze-Pump Pre-workout to help you intra-workout too.
4) Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
What is Riboflavin & Where Can I Find It?
Riboflavin is actually a part of the vitamin B group. Vitamin B2 if we want to get precise with it. Like the vitamins above, riboflavin is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that it cannot be stored in muscles or cells, so must be consumed on a daily basis, either through supplementation or food. Riboflavin can be found naturally in foods and is also produced unnaturally too. Both ways are completely fine, however many athletes decide to go down the supplementation route for ease of consumption and instant restore.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2) can be found in many food products we eat each day, but just double check the labels to make sure you’re hitting those RDA’s, if not then get yourself some supplements. Anyway, riboflavin is found in natural yoghurt, milk, spinach, almonds, eggs, quinoa, mushrooms, salmon and even kidney beans.
How does Riboflavin help Muscle Gain & Recovery?
Riboflavin or Vitamin B2, depending on which side of the water you live on, is an important vitamin you should be consuming through your diet or supplementation. Its a vitamin that people often forget about which is why such supplements as 24/7 multivitamin that contains vitamin B2 should be added to your stack, but how can this all mighty vitamin help with muscle gain and recovery?
Riboflavin is associated with extracting energy from foods
Riboflavin has been associated with extracting energy from foods and is involved with energy metabolism. We’ve talked a little about metabolism above, but for those that have skipped through (we know who you are), here’s a little recap. Many people think of metabolism as a way of burning calories, and well you’re right but this is a little different. Basically, this form of metabolism is the process of breaking down bonds within food so we are then able to absorb and take in the energy through our bloodstream. Riboflavin contains to type’s of co-enzymes; flavin mononucleotide, also known as FMN and flavin adenine, also known as FAD (Rivin et al. 2010). These coenzymes play major roles in energy production, cellular function, growth and development and metabolism of fats (Said et al. 2014). More than 90% of riboflavin is in the form of FAD or FMN, showing the importance of supplementation or gaining it through the food that we eat.
Riboflavin Helps Improve Cardiovascular Health
Riboflavin has been found to improve cardiovascular health, which if you’re interested in keeping fit and healthy, then this should be at the top of your checklist. Riboflavin is essential for the synthesis of new red blood cells and the regulation of homocysteine levels in the blood. For those unsure, red blood cells help transport oxygen to our muscles for energy production and homocysteine levels are amino acids. If levels of these are too high in the blood it can damage arteries and increase the risk of heart disease (Hoey, 2009). By consuming riboflavin through supplementation or food, it helps to maintain these homocysteine at healthy levels.Riboflavin has also been shown to protect your cells from oxidative stress, which occurs during intense exercises. For anyone taking part in physical exercise whether that be running, contact sports or hitting the weights, maintaining a healthy heart should be a priority. Of course, you want to build those muscles, but your heart is what keeps you alive.
5) Vitamin A
What is Vitamin A?
Vitamin A is the last on the list but this by no means makes it the least important. Like we said don’t take this list as a ‘1st is the best’ situation, they’re all incredibly important and should be added to your supplement stack. Anyway, Vitamin A, unlike the above vitamins, are fat soluble. This is just a fancy way of saying they’re absorbed along with fats in the body which can then be stored within the fatty tissue. As Vitamin A is stored, it’s not needed to be consumed and refreshed on a daily basis, however, if you’re an active individual the chances are that you’ll be using your stores up anyway, so supplementing it on a daily basis is recommended.
Vitamin A is another vitamin that our bodies cannot produce naturally and as such why we need to gain this through the food we eat, or supplementation. Vitamin A can be found in foods such as sweet potato, carrots, spinach, broccoli, salmon, beef, and many others. For ease and convenience, many athletes choose to supplement vitamin A. These can be consumed through vitamin A tablets or as a multivitamin.
How does Vitamin A help Muscle Gain & Recovery?
Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that hosts a number of benefits for just general health and well being. It can easily be consumed through supplementation, though many users are unaware of its potential benefits for gaining muscle mass and helping recovery. Take a look below, you may be surprised.
Vitamin A Supports a Healthy Immune System
Vitamin A has been shown to support a healthy immune system. The purpose of our immune system is to keep infections, bacteria, diseases and a host of other nasties out of the body. It does this through creating antibodies, but to save you from the boredom we won’t go into detail how that works. Without our immune system would we be incredibly sick, which would impact on your gym and fitness routine, thus reducing the gains you can make. Studies conducted have found that those with a vitamin A deficiency are more susceptible to infections (Sommer et al. 2004) and delay from recovery when you get sick (Stephensen, C 2001), so keep those vitamin A levels in tip top shape to maintain your health, help recovery and boost your muscles. Vitamin A has also been shown to contribute towards normal iron metabolism and plays a role in cell specialisation.
Vitamin A has Shown to Aid in Testosterone Production
Some studies conducted on vitamin A consumption have shown that it can aid in the production of testosterone (livera et al 2002). Testosterone is an important element in muscle building that’s produced naturally in our body. For any females reading this thinking that an increase of testosterone is going to turn you into a man, don’t worry, you won’t be waking up the next day with a beard after consuming some vitamin A. Testosterone is responsible for the development of male characteristics , including muscle mass and strength. Testosterone is classed as an anabolic hormone. Like we said this is naturally produced by our bodies so don’t worry, you wont get banned from the FDA.
6) Vitamin E
What is Vitamin E?
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and fat soluble vitamins. As discussed in this article a fat soluble vitamin simply allows it to be stored within our fat, rather than a water soluble vitamin having to be replenished everyday. Antioxidant may be a term you’ve come across a few times in sports nutrition or just general articles surrounding health. An antioxidant is a molecule which reduces oxidation. Oxidation in cells creates free radicals. If these free radicals are then left, they can cause damage to cells within our body and impair their function (Elshama et al. 2018) This is just one of the reasons why antioxidants are so important to our body.
Vitamin E can be found in numerous supplements, either through multivitamins or individual tablets on their own. Many athletes choose to consume these supplements for ease, but you can also gain vitamin E through food that you eat. For example, sunflower seeds, almonds, avocados, spinach, broccoli, and even shrimp all contain high levels of vitamin E.
How does Vitamin E Help with Muscle Gain & Recovery?
Vitamin E is another important element you should either be consuming as a supplement or adding foods containing healthy amounts of vitamin E to your daily diet. Vitamin E has been shown to help with recovery through one main reason, have a read below.
Vitamin E Contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress
As stated above, vitamin E is a very strong antioxidant. Our body is constantly under oxidative stress, however when performing exercise this increases. Oxidative stress occurs when an oxygen molecule splits into single atoms with unpaired electrons which are known as these ‘free radicals’ (Lobo et al 2010). Basically, these electrons that have been split prefer to be in pairs, meaning that they then scavenge the body and look for an electron friend to buddy up with. This causes damage to cells, proteins and even DNA. (Siesjö et al 2000). The damaged caused by this ‘scavenge’ can result in muscle loss, and increased recovery rates.
What is Magnesium and Where Can I Find It?
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral found in the body and the second most abundant element found within cells (Dean, 2007). Magnesium plays literally hundreds of different functions, to be a little more precise, it’s actually involved with over 300 biochemical reactions in our body. Don’t worry we won’t detail every single one. As we said, magnesium is a mineral, and although they both help with bodily functions, vitamins and minerals do slightly differ. Where vitamins and organic, minerals are actually inorganic. What this means is it simply does not contain any carbon-based molecules which means that minerals are much more stable than vitamins when cooking is concerned.
Magnesium can be consumed easily in food, though depending on your diet, many athletes choose to supplement instead. High levels of magnesium can be found in such foods as; avocados, all sorts of nuts, tofu, seeds, whole grains, and bananas.
How Does Magnesium Help with Muscle Gain & Recovery?
Magnesium is often consumed by athletes through the food they eat and supplementation due to Its several body boosting benefits. You will often find magnesium supplements combined with zinc. Known as ZMA, these supplements have shown to help with sleep, recovery and muscle support.
Magnesium Contributes towards electrolyte balance
Magnesium itself is an electrolyte and contributes towards the body’s electrolyte balance (Schwalfenberg et al. 2017). An electrolyte is a substance that conducts electricity when dissolved in water. You may think that sounds a little strange, but many automatic processes in the body rely on a small electric current to function, and as such these electrolytes provide this charge. Electrolytes interact which other within the body, in cells, tissue and muscles. A balance of different electrolytes is vital for healthy function (Carvil et al. 2010).
Most electrolytes are lost when performing physical activity as they are lost through sweat, which is why you’ll see professional athletes sipping on those sports drinks during and after exercise. Electrolytes are also essential for muscle contractions, without them our muscles would weaken, and fatigue incredibly quick resulting in fewer reps and less overall gains (Maday,2013). So by supplementing and consuming magnesium, you can maintain healthy and optimal levels for your muscles to perform at their very best.
Magnesium Contributes towards Normal Protein Synthesis
Magnesium has shown to contribute towards normal protein synthesis. Protein synthesis is the holy term when it comes to muscle building and is responsible for helping to build and repair muscle tissue. Protein synthesis is basically the process in creating protein molecules and involves amino acid synthesis too within our muscles. Without protein synthesis our body would be unable to provide protein for our muscles which would result in a lack of energy production, muscle wastage and much longer recovery times (Travieso et al. 2013
7) Vitamin B6
What is Vitamin B6?
Vitamin B6 is another water-soluble vitamin used for muscle gain and recovery, and as such it must be consumed daily to ensure your body has optimal levels for performance. Your body, unfortunately, cannot produce vitamin B6 on its own so we must gain it through the food we consume, or the easier and more convenient way of supplementation. Vitamin B6 is involved in over 100 enzyme reactions (Para et al. 2018) but is mostly concerned with protein metabolism (Para et al 2018) of which we will go into detail below.
Vitamin B6 is often lacking in a lot of modern day diets simply due to the number of people consuming processed foods and dairy-free diets. Vitamin B6 can be found in lots of different foods but has been found in high concentrations such as; Milk, ricotta cheese, salmon, eggs, beef, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, bananas, chickpeas, and avocados.
How does Vitamin B6 Help with Muscle Gain & Recovery?
The lack of Vitamin B6 has been rising in recent years due to the amount of unhealthy unnatural processed foods. Unfortunately vitamins are delicate, and when food is put through different manufacturing techniques they can lose their potency, which is why eating fresh foods, or going direct for supplementation is the best course of action.
Vitamin B6 Contributes towards normal protein and glycogen metabolism
Vitamin B6 has shown to contribute towards normal protein and glycogen metabolism. If you take part in physical exercise then the chances are you’ve heard about the importance of consuming protein to help build muscles and recover, but in order for your body to receive this protein it must first break it down into amino acids, this is what protein metabolism does, it helps extract the amino acids and then shuttle it to parts of the body where we need it. Glycogen metabolism is also very similar, but here vitamin B6 helps to break down glycogen into glucose. This is then used by the body as fuel for muscle contractions or stored within tissue ready for the next need of an energy supply (George et al. 2011)
What is Calcium?
Calcium is a vital mineral found in the body and perhaps the most important when it comes down to bone health. Around 90% of your body’s calcium is stored in your bones, and as such why maintaining high levels if you take part in physical exercise is important (Ross, 2011). However, calcium is also found in the circulatory system, extracellular fluid, muscle and other tissue, where it is critical for mediating vascular contraction, vasodilation, nerve transmission, intracellular signalling and hormonal secretion (Aloia, et al. 2010).
Calcium can be found in numerous types of foods, however, those who consume a vegan or dairy free diet are more subjected to calcium deficiencies and such why supplementation is often consumed. Calcium is most commonly found and consumed in dairy products. A study performed in the USA studied the average Americans diet and sources of vitamins, they found that Americans gained 72% of their RDA calcium from milk, cheese, yoghurt and other dairy products, 7% from vegetables, 5% from grains, 4% from legumes, 3% from fruit, 3% from meat (including fish), 2 % from eggs and a further 4% from miscellaneous foods (calvo et al. 2004).
However, calcium can be found in plentiful amounts from the following foods, chia seeds, cheese, yoghurt, sardines, salmon, beans and lentils, almonds, whey protein, rhubarb, fortified foods, tofu and even figs.
How Does Calcium Help With Muscle Gain & Recovery?
Calcium performs more functions than people realise, so depending on your lifestyle and diet, supplementation may be the best way to ensure your body receives optimal levels of calcium. As vegan diets become more popular so does calcium supplementation. For those who take part in physical exercise, such as resistance training, then calcium will help to build muscle and help recovery in the following ways.
Calcium Contributes to Normal Muscle Function & Contraction
Calcium contributes to normal muscle function and contraction, allowing you to perform movements without injury or weakness. To understand how calcium does this we need to first talk about muscle cell anatomy. Our muscles are made from strands of fibres called myofilaments, these are the main feature of muscle cells that separates them from other cells in the body. (Sanger & Sanger, 2014) When a muscle is contracted the myofilaments shorten. A network is known as sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR for short) surround each myofilament within muscles, this SR contains a high concentration of calcium (Endo, 2009)
When we decide we want to make a muscle contraction, for example, to pick up a dumbbell, the brain sends signals directly to the muscles. This signal stimulates the SR to open and flood the myofilament with calcium. This sudden increase of calcium sets off a chain reaction which causes the myofilament to shorten. A simultaneous shortening of millions of microscopic myofilaments found within muscle fibres leads to muscle contraction. (Wakabayashi, 2015). Being able to perform multiple muscle contractions allows you to perform multiple reps, lifting heavy weights, which then results in muscle gains and growth.
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