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Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are also an essential part of a healthy diet. They not only assist in optimizing athletic performance, but also aide in the healing process. Athletes are always looking for ways to heal faster in order to get back out on the playing field. By maintaining a balanced diet with plenty of vitamins and minerals an athlete can increase their ability to heal and even prevent some serious infections. Listed below are some essential vitamins and minerals that should be included in an athlete’s diet. Though it is popular to use a multi-vitamin supplement to cover the daily intake of essential vitamins and minerals, it is actually better to get these vitamins from the foods we consume every day.

As with most things more is not always better, the body can only metabolize a certain amount of vitamins and minerals at a time. The body dispels any excess above what is necessary. However there are few vitamins like vitamin A that can be stored in the fat and can become a health risk if too much is stored at one time.

Vitamin A

This vitamin is most important because it promotes growth and repair of body tissues and help with bone formation. It also increases cells defense against infections. It is a must have vitamin for all athletes because it can assist in the healing of injuries and infection.

Vitamin D

This vitamin aids in the absorption of calcium, helping to build bone mass and prevent bone loss. It is most important to preventing stress injuries, such as in the shins and feet.

Vitamin C

This vitamin is probably one of the most talked about when fighting infections. It promotes healthy cell development, wound healing and resistance to infections.

Vitamin E

This vitamin is one of the most powerful antioxidants, which is needed for normal growth. It is also thought to protect against heart disease, some cancers and cataracts. It does this by protecting the red blood cells that feed oxygen to muscles from free radicals that are thought to cause some of these diseases.

B-complex

This group of vitamins includes thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, B-6, and B-12, which are all involved with cellular metabolism. They are key to energy output and without them the body would not be able to meet its energy demands, resulting in fatigue.

Calcium

This mineral is essential for developing strong bones and teeth. It also assists in blood clotting, muscle contraction and nerve transmission. Many athletes that sustain stress fractures lack proper calcium in their diet. For women this is especially important because calcium can also prevent osteoporosis.

Iron

This mineral is essential for red blood cell formation. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the muscles, which help to sustain muscle energy. Athletes with low iron may experience extreme fatigue and an inability to keep up with what they consider normal athletic activity.

Zinc

This mineral assists in protein synthesis, insulin utilization, carbohydrate metabolism and the absorption of the B-Vitamin complex.

References:

Eat to Compete. Chapter 4: Protocols for Developing Diets and Meal Plans; Timing Meals with Event Protocol, pages 136-37.

Gatorade Sports Science Institue. Sports Science Exchange : Round table ; “Sports Foods for Athletes : What Works ?” Volume 9(1998) number 2.

Lafayette Sports Medicine. “Nutrition Handbook”.

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