Micronutrients like vitamins and minerals are essential to normal cellular function and nutrient absorption. As well, they support growth and development of various tissues in the body including bones and muscle. Vitamins act as catalysts for many important bodily processes, thus it stands to reason that vitamin requirements go up under increased metabolism from heavy training. In many strength sports, intense training is commonly coupled with strict dieting— restricted diets tend to limit micronutrient intake, leading to vitamin deficiencies. Notably, it is well documented that a considerable proportion North Americans are deficient in one or more vitamins and minerals.
Vitamins and minerals play direct roles in brain function (e.g. via neurotransmitter synthesis, etc) as well as indirect roles, via their involvement in energy metabolism and the modulation of the brains blood supply. With regards cellular energy production, most of the vitamins (and a number of minerals) play fundamental roles in mitochondrial function— the major site for energy (ATP) production. In the end, vitamin and mineral deficiencies can have profound effects on focus, energy, and metabolism— all of which can significantly limit exercise and sports performance.
A recent randomized and placebo controlled clinical trial published in Nutrition & Metabolism tested the effects of acute and chronic (8 weeks) vitamin and mineral supplementation on brain blood flow and total body metabolism at rest and during cognitive tasks. It was concluded that supplementation with micronutrients, increased fat oxidation (up to ~20%), total body energy expenditure (up to ~10%) and cerebral blood-flow during cognitive tasks following a single dose, and increased energy expenditure following 8 weeks supplementation. Most notably, they reported that taking a daily vitamin and mineral supplement containing 300% of RDA of water-soluble vitamins produced the greatest metabolic effects.
ACTION POINT: For men and women, we suggest using a high quality vitamin and micronutrient supplement formulated specifically for athletes. For best results, use products with high levels of vitamins B and C.
Kennedy DO, Stevenson EJ, Jackson PA, Dunn S, Wishart K, Bieri G, Barella L, Carne A, Dodd FL, Robertson BC, Forster J, Haskell-Ramsay CF. Multivitamins and minerals modulate whole-body energy metabolism and cerebral blood-flow during cognitive task performance: a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2016 Feb 11;13:11.
The Power of Supplemental Nitate
One of the latest supplement trends is to add nitrates to energy bars and preworkout formulations. High levels of dietary nitrates increase nitric oxide (NO) levels in the blood, which is used by the endothelium (the inner lining of blood vessels) to trigger relaxation in the vascular smooth muscle (the outer lining of blood vessels). This ensuing vasodilation promotes increased blood flow to muscles and organs throughout the body. Past research has noted the great benefits nitrate rich supplements (e.g., beetroot extract) can have on endurance and time to exhaustion. As well, other research illustrates that taking beetroot extract (even for less than even a week) significantly enhances muscle contractile efficiency, meaning you can workout harder with less energy cost.
Most recently, a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition investigated the effects of short-term (3-days) nitrate rich supplementation (containing 3 g beetroot extract, supplying 35.5 mg of dietary nitrates) on heavy resistance exercise performance in young weight trained men. The research team found that nitrate-rich supplementation produced a 4-6% improvement in the ability to sustain peak muscular activity during intense heavy resistance exercise. They concluded that nitrate rich supplements enhance the efficiency of muscle contractions during fatiguing resistance exercise.
Dosing: As always, we recommend taking 500-750mg of high nitrate standardized beetroot extract, 30-120 minutes before training.
Flanagan SD, Looney DP, Miller MJ, DuPont WH, Pryor L, Creighton BC, Sterczala AJ, Szivak TK, Hooper DR, Maresh CM, Volek JS, Ellis LA, Kraemer WJ. The Effects of Nitrate-Rich Supplementation on Neuromuscular Efficiency during Heavy Resistance Exercise. J Am Coll Nutr. 2016 Feb-Mar;35(2):100-7.