Vitamins and supplements for athletes
A balanced diet and healthful lifestyle that includes enough sleep should be sufficient to give most people the energy that they need for their daily activities. However, athletes push their bodies to peak performance, so these individuals may need an energy boost.
In this article, we provide information on six vitamins and supplements that can help athletes beat fatigue and perform at their best.
- B vitamins
A number of of vitamins and supplements may provide athletes with an added energy boost.
B vitamins are vital for releasing energy in the body as they aid the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
Although being deficient in one or several B vitamins can affect how well a person can exercise, there is little evidenceto suggest that unnecessarily taking supplements will improve performance.
As a result, it is best to see a doctor to undergo testing before choosing to take a B vitamin supplement.
Female athletes may be at risk for deficiencies in B vitamins, which include:
Having a vitamin B-12 deficiency can make people feel weak and tired. As vitamin B-12 primarily occurs in animal products, vegans and vegetarians are more likely to develop a deficiency in this vitamin.
Learn how to incorporate vitamin B-12 into a vegetarian or vegan diet here.
Iron deficiency is common in athletes and can affect performance, according to some research.
While it can occur in males, this deficiency is more common in females, especially those in endurance sports. A Swiss review found that the rate of iron deficiency among teenage female athletes was up to 52%.
Additional research found that low iron levels can cause many adverse symptoms in female athletes, including reducing endurance and increasing the amount of energy that the body uses.
The authors suggested that people could take supplements to reduce these effects, but only if dietary changes could not meet their needs. They also note that people following vegetarian or vegan diets should take extra care to ensure that they meet their required daily intake of iron, as plant-based iron is less available to the body.
People should speak to a doctor before taking iron supplements and be sure to request a blood test to check their iron levels. Taking too much iron can cause uncomfortable and even dangerous side effects.
Those with sufficient iron do not need to take a supplement.
- Calcium and vitamin D
Calcium and vitamin D help the body build and maintain healthy bones, teeth, and muscles. These vitamins can help athletes maintain muscle mass and reduce the risk of injuries, such as bone fractures.
Calcium is available in many foods, including:
dairy products, such as milk and yogurt
fortified nondairy milks, such as soy milk
dark green vegetables
fish with soft bones, including sardines and salmon
- Coenzyme Q10
Studies have shown an association between low levels of coenzyme Q10 and increased fatigue. Coenzyme Q10 is an enzyme in the mitochondria, which are the parts of cells that generate energy.
Experts have linked some conditions with lower levels of coenzyme Q10 in the body, including:
Research has shown that coenzyme Q10 may improve both physical performance and “subjective fatigue” in healthy people engaging in physical activity.
The authors of a 2019 review stated that studies have consistently associated low levels of coenzyme Q10 with fatigue. However, they noted that the results were difficult to interpret, as research papers vary in their definition of fatigue.
The research on whether coenzyme Q10 supplementation is useful for athletes has produced mixed results. For example, a 2012 study of moderately trained men found no evidence that it benefitted their exercise capacity.