Chapter 4: Macro Nutrients & Vitamins – Vitamins
Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential for optimal physiological functioning of the body. There are 13 essential vitamins, 4 being fat soluble (Vitamin A, E, D and K) and 9 are water soluble (8-B Vitamins and, Vitamin C). Both water soluble and fat soluble vitamins serve a multitude of functions in the body but some of the most important to note are: they assist with coenzyme functions or in the aiding in activating enzymes, they help with facilitating antioxidant functions that assist enzymes in lessening the negative effects of free radicals, they help facilitate the formation of certain hormones and lastly they help the body in producing energy from the food we eat. Vitamins however do not serve as direct energy sources.
Fat Soluble Vitamins
A vitamin that can dissolve in fats and oils. Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed along with fats in the diet and can be stored in the body’s fatty tissue. They are derived from plant and animal sources or dietary supplements.
Some fat soluble vitamins can be made in the body and all 4 can be stored in the body. Serious deficiencies that can become health threatening in industrialized populations are rare but excessive amounts can be toxic due to the fact that the body can store them up. The 4 fat soluble vitamins and their aliases are listed below.
- Vitamin A – also known as retinol
- Vitamin D – also known as cholecalciferol
- Vitamin E – also known as alpha tocopherol
- Vitamin K – also known as phylloquinone and menaquinone
Water Soluble Vitamins
A vitamin that can dissolve in water. Water-soluble vitamins are carried to the body’s tissues but are not stored in the body. They are found in plant and animal foods or dietary supplements and must be taken in daily.
There are 9 water soluble vitamins, 8 of which are in the B-Complex family and lastly the singular vitamin C. These water soluble vitamins are not able to be stored in the body and because of that fact deficiencies are common and can appear in as little as 2 to 4 weeks. The 9 water soluble vitamins and their aliases are listed below.
- Vitamin B1 – also known as Thiamin
- Vitamin B2 – also known as Riboflavin
- Vitamin B3 – also known as Niacin
- Vitamin B6 – also known Pyridoxine
- Vitamin B12 – also known as Cobalamin
- Vitamin B9 – also known as Folate or Folic Acidv
- Vitamin B5 – also known as Pantothenic acid
- Vitamin B7 – also known as Biotin
- Vitamin C – also known as Ascorbic Acid
Vitamin Supplements in the Sports Performance World
Vitamins aid in regulating many if not all of the body’s metabolic functions and understanding that fact is critical when it comes to evaluating exercise performance (and is super dependent on the sport). Athletes often times use large doses of specific vitamins with the hopes of improving a single or multiple metabolic processes and enhancing overall performance. The doses that they consume often exceed 50-100 times what the United States RDI allows. The hypothetical foundation causing the use of each vitamin will depend upon the vitamin’s individual metabolic role in connection to that sport. Data compiled through several surveys have shown that a large majority of elite athletes in the world supplement with vitamins and it is widely accepted that almost any vitamin deficiency will negatively impair physical athletic performance. Now if this insufficiency is rectified, athletic performance will most likely get better. However, for an athlete that adheres to a well-balanced diet, supplemental vitamin intake has not been shown to improve athletic performance. Further research with certain vitamins does appear to be warranted as there is a very subjective matter when it comes to evaluating an athlete’s mental state surrounding athletic performance and not just a reduction in a timed event or a certain weight lifted.