Maintaining proper levels of vitamins and minerals in your body is essential to achieving optimal exercise performance.
Zinc, iron, and vitamin b12 are of concern to vegetarian/vegan athletes.
A daily intake of less than 1/3 of the RDA for thiamin, riboflavin, b6, and vitamin C may lead to decreased exercise performance.
Supplementation may help fill in gaps where the diet does not fulfill nutrient requirements, but excess amounts of supplemented vitamins may cause health problems and interfere with vitamin, mineral, and other nutrient absorption. More is not always better.
B vitamins play a role in energy metabolism.
Individuals following a vegan, vegetarian, or prolonged low calorie diet are likely to be deficient in vitamin b12. In this case, it is suggested a B-Vitamin supplement be consumed.
Vegan sources of Vitamin B12 include fortified cereals, grains, and legume products. Supplementation will not be necessary if adequate amounts of these products are consumed on a near daily basis.
Other sources of Vitamin B12 include: chicken, beef, pork, seafood, and freshwater fish.
Because exercise can produce free radicals which are harmful to the tissues of the body it is essential to consume nutrients that combat these free radicals.
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals which protects the cells of the body from damage.
Studies have shown that athletes deficient in antioxidants recovered significantly more slowly than athletes with abundant antioxidants in their systems when both groups were subjected to identical training programs. (Watson and colleagues 2005)
A diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables ensures that the body is receiving adequate amounts of antioxidants to help the body recover from damage.
Tea and coffee also have many antioxidant properties.
Vitamin C is important for exercise metabolism and is believed to play a role in increasing performance.
Supplementation with Vitamin C can be beneficial for individuals who do not obtain adequate amounts of Vitamin C from the diet.
Great sources of Vitamin C include: red and green bell peppers, guava, oranges, fortified cereals, parsley, kale, broccoli, and many other fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin E has been shown to act as an antioxidant in so far as it reduces oxidative damage to tissues from free radicals.
Great sources of Vitamin E include: wheat germ oil, hazelnut oil, fortified cereals and peanut butters, vegetable oils, and many nut butters.
Iron is critically important for individuals engaging in regular activity.
Iron helps the cells of the body transport oxygen from the lungs to all the tissues of the body.
Iron also plays a role in the production of ATP which is needed for exercise and optimal performance.
When someone is iron deficient his/her aerobic capacity and overall work capacity is limited to less than optimal levels. Even partial depletion of iron in various tissues and organs of the body can have detrimental effects on exercise performance.
Individuals especially vulnerable to being iron deficient include: females with heavy menstrual losses, people with energy restricted diets, distance runners, and individuals in hot climates who suffer from substantial sweating.
Because supplementation with iron can be toxic in high doses and to individuals with genetic pre dispositions iron supplementation should be overseen by a registered dietitian who is aware of your medical history.
Foods abundant in iron include: thyme, parsley, spearmint, fortified cereals, cumin, lamb, duck, goose, and liver.
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