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Vitamins and Minerals (also known as Micronutrients)are important substances that allow your body to function and stay healthy.
If you already have a balanced diet, you probably do not need to take them as supplements, and yet in some cases people should.
This article is the result of a collaboration with Annalisa Brigo, a Nutrition & Dietetics student (and my sister, btw), who knows where to find verified and scientifically proven resources on this topic to present you the best data: thanks, Annalisa!
In this article we are not only going to talk about the benefits of vitamins and minerals, but also other supplements that people should consider taking, and why.
Excited? So let’s begin!
Vitamin A (Retinol)
Vitamin A plays an important role in boosting your immune system, protecting you from illnesses, enhancing your dim-light vision and keeping your skin healthy.
You should aim to take about 1.5 mg of Vitamin A per day, but no more than that, as too much can weaken your bones over the years (or be harmful to your baby if you’re a pregnant woman).
Vitamin A can be found in food such as liver, dairy products, eggs and fatty fish.
You can also get Vitamin A from Beta-carotene, which can be found in yellow/red fruits & vegetables and green leafy vegetables.
Multiple are the Vitamins that belong to group B.
In general these Vitamins help release energy from food. If you want to make sure that you are getting all of them in the right dosage, check this out!
•Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
Besides helping in turning food into energy, Thiamin keeps the nervous system healthy.
The recommended daily dose is about 1 mg.
Thiamin cannot be stored, so you need to take it daily.
You can find it in: peas, fruit, eggs, and wholegrains
•Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Riboflavin releases energy stored in food as well as keeping your eyes, skin and nervous system healthy.
Neither Riboflavin can be stored in your body, so you need to introduce it in your diet everyday; you can do this by eating: milk, eggs and rice. Remember to keep these foods away from sunlight, as UVs can destroy Vitamin B2.
Adults should take about 1.3 mg/day of Riboflavin.
•Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Niacin helps realesing energy from food and keeping skin and nervous system healthy.
Adults need about 16 mg/day of Niacin and since our bodies are not able to store it, it is necessary to take it daily.
You can do this by eating: meat, fish, eggs, milk and wheat flour.
Pantothenic Acid is helpful to keep your skin healthy; it cannot be stored in our body, so you have to make sure to get it daily by eating foods such as meats and vegetables (chicken, beef, eggs, potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, wholegrains).
Adults should aim to take about 5-10 mg/day of Pantothenic Acid.
•Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Pyridoxine helps releasing energy from Carbohydrates and Protein and forms Haemoglobin, the substance without which our cells wouldn’t receive the oxygen they need (so it is VERY important!).
Luckily, you can get your daily fix of Vitamin B6 (which is 1.3 mg/day) from a lot of different foods, such as pork, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, soya beans,vegetables, potatoes and wholegrains.
Avoid taking more than 100 mg/day for a long period of time, as this may cause loss of sensation in your limbs.
•Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
You need Biotin in VERY SMALL amounts (0,03 mg/day) and, as your bowel bacteria already make it, you probably do not need to supplement it.
Biotin is very important to keep skin, hair and nails healthy and also helps breaking down fat.
•Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)
The intake of Folic Acid is often recommended to pregnant women, as it reduces in unborn babies the risk or spina bifida (a defect of formation of the neural tube). Folic Acid also helps in the formation of red blood cells, preventing anaemia.
Adults should aim to take about 0,2 mg/day (double as that if you’re pregnant) of Folic Acid.
Be careful not to take more than 1mg/day, as this can cover Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms, eventually damaging the nervous system.
•Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Cobalamin is responsible for releasing energy from food, keeping the nervous system healthy and making red blood cells (using Folic Acid).
Adults need 0,002mg/day of Vitamin B12 (and no more than 2mg/day).
You can get enough of it from meat, fish and dairy; it is not found in fruits and vegetables, though, so vegans should supplement it.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Vitamin C plays an important role in producing collagen, thus keeping skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage healthy and also helping wounds to heal.
In fact, if you lack Vitamin C, you may end up with scurvy.
Adults should take 40mg/day of Ascorbic Acid: as it cannot be stored in your body, you should get it daily by eating fruits and vegetables, such as oranges/lemons, bell peppers, broccoli, potatoes and strawberries.
If you take too much Vitamin C (over 1000mg/day) you may end up with symptoms such as stomach pain or diarrhea.
Vitamin D ( Colecalciferol, D3)
Being a Physiotherapist, this is one of my favorite vitamins. Why?
Because Vitamin D is essential for bones and muscles health!
Everybody should take a Vitamin D supplement, especially in winter times for two reasons:
1) vitamin D is created from our body when you get direct sunlight on your skin; in winter this is often more difficult to achieve;
2) Vitamin D can be found in a few foods only: fatty fish, red meat, liver, egg yolks.
This is why you should definitely consider taking a dietary supplement of Vitamin D.
The recommended dosage is 0,01mg/day of Vitamin D as its deficiency can lead to rickets in children and osteomalacia (weaker bones) in adults.
You should not even take too much either, tough, as this can cause excessive calcium to build up in your body, damaging bones, heart and kidneys.
Vitamin E (Tocoferol)
Vitamin E is actually a set of vitamins, the main being Tocoferol.
This is a great antioxidant: in fact, Vitamin E strengthen your immune system, other than keeping your eyes and skin healthy.
You should take about 4mg/day of Vitamin E (and no more 540mg/day): you can get Vitamin E from olive oil, nuts and seeds. Or from a supplement like this one.
When you get wounded, Vitamin K is essential to help you heal: in fact this vitamin is needed for blood clotting.
Too little Vitamin K can lead to hemorrhages, too much to thrombosis (eccessive blood clotting).
Adults need a daily dose of Vitamin K of about 0.001mg/kg of body weight (and no more than 1mg/kg/day).
You can get Vitamin K by eating green vegetables, cereals, and plant oils.
Not sure how to get all of these vitamins in? Don’t worry! The best thing you can do is taking a multivitamin. And you’re good to go!
We need to get about 700mg/day of Calcium (but no more than 1500mg/day) to build strong bones & teeth, regulating muscle contraction (including heartbeat) and blood clotting.
People can get Calcium from: dairy products, green vegetables (NOT spinach), soy and nuts. Or from a supplement like this one!
To make thyroid hormones it is essential the presence of Iodine, which can be found in sea fish and shellfish.
Adult people need 0.14mg/day of Iodine: more than that could result in thyroid gland disfunction.
Iron is very important because it helps making red blood cells, responsible for carrying oxygen to every cell of your body.
If you are a men you need 8.7mg/day of Iron, but if you are a woman you need almost as twice as that: 14.8mg/day (at least for as long as you still have periods).
Doses too low of Iron may lead to anaemia, while excessive amounts can cause gastrointestinal issues (such as constipation, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain).
You can get Iron from meat, beans, nuts and wholegrains.
This mineral helps turning food into energy as well as keeping bones healthy.
Magnesium can be found in lots of different foods, such as: meat, fish, dairy products, wholegrains & rice, nuts and green vegetables.
You need about 300mg/day of Magnesium, but no more than 400mg (it could cause diarrhea).
Potassium contributes in balancing fluids in our body and helping the heart work properly.
Adults need about 3500mg/day of Potassium and they can obtain it eating meat, fish, nuts, seeds, bananas and broccoli.
Sodium Chloride (a.k.a. Salt)
Salt is NOT bad per-se. Only eccessive amounts are (just like anything else!).
Common salt is composed by sodium and chloride, which in adequate quantities help balancing fluids in the body.
Usually salt is added to a lot of processed foods, even though it is naturally present is small uantities in all foods.
The recommended daily intake for adults is 6g of Salt (which equal 2.4g of Sodium).
Zinc is an antioxidant, preventing cell from free-radicals damage and boosting the immune system; it also helps digesting food and healing wounds.
Zinc is usually found in meat, shellfish, dairy products and cereals.
You should aim to get about 9mg/day of Zinc, but no more than 25mg/day as this could alter the amount of Copper absorbed by your body (which I turn may cause anaemia and weak bones).
In order to properly function, your body needs many other nutrients, although in minor quantities, such as: beta-carotene, chromium, cobalt, copper, manganese, molybdenum and selenium.
Not sure how to get all of these nutrients in your body? Don’t worry! The best thing you can do is taking a multivitamin. And you’re good to go!
SUPPLEMENTS for ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE & OVERALL WELLBEING
So far we have talked about nutrients essential to keep your body healthy.
Now, instead, we are going to look at supplements that can do more than that: these are, in fact, all those supplements that can boost your athletic performance and your overall health & wellbeing.
Antioxidants are substances naturally present in some foods, which fight cell-damaging free-radicals.
Increasing your antioxidant intake can help you prevent chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer, and even slow down the aging process.
A very powerful antioxidant is “Matcha” Green Tea.
This is an amino-acid (amino-acids are the “blocks” that make up proteins) found in meat and fish.
Beta-Alanine may improve performance in high-intensity sports by increasing carnosine levels, thus reducing the lactatic acid produced during exercise.
Get some Beta-Alanine here!
•BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids)
Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine are the 3 amino acids, together known as BCAAs. These can increase strength and build muscle when paired with weight-training.
You can get BCAAs from eating meat, fish and dairy products, even though they are more quickly absorbed if you take them as a supplement.
Up to 500mg/day of Caffeine is a perfectly safe intake for adults. More than that it can actually decrease performance and cause anxiety and sleeping problems.
Caffeine can help you fight fatigue and improve endurance and strength, although it may not work for everyone.
This is a great antioxidant, so it helps fighting aging. Not only that, Coenzyme Q10 boosts your energy and it may even fight cancer and other diseases, such as Parkinson’s or heart-related problem.
As you grow old, though, your body produce less and less Coenzyme Q10, so you may want to consider taking it as a supplement.
Creatine can be found in some animal-derived food, but only in very small amounts.
You have to take larger amounts of Creatine from supplements to rip its benefits, which include: increased strength and power during intense yet short moments of effort, making it perfect for sprinters and weightlifters.
Fiber clears out cholesterol, thus decreasing cardiovascular diseases, and helps digestion, which in turn reduces the risk of colon cancer.
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables to get enough fiber in, or add a fiber supplement to food or drinks.
Ginseng is a root that is often used to fight fatigue and boost the immune system, although there is little scientific evidence proving this.
This is an amino acid found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy products and legumes. Glutamine may help improving performance and reducing muscle soreness.
Click here to get some Glutamine and improve your performance in the gym!
This amino acid (found in green and black tea), has a calming effect on the brain: L-Theanine can increase the body’s production of GABA and dopamine, two neurotransmitters that induce feelings of well-being, without making you feel sleepy.
Get some good-for-you L-Theanine here!
Omega-3 Fatty Acids are “healthy fats” that reduce inflammation, control blood pressure, keep triglycerides low, reduce joint pain and fight cardiovascular diseases
You can find omega-3s in fish oil, flaxseeds and chia seeds.
Or you can get this one here!
Protein is essential to your body: not only its needed to build, repair and maintain muscle, but also is key for your overall health.
You can find Protein in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products and in combination of grains and legumes.
Aim to consume about 2g/kg of body weight, or even more when you are training
Whey protein is very bioavailable and it is a complete protein (this means that it contains all of the essential amino acids needed for building muscle).
So, what do I personally take?
It’s not that complicated at all!
You can get these supplements by clicking the links you find throughout this post.
I hope you enjoyed this article!
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Keep Active & Stay Healthy!