Supplementation of Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are often equated with vitality, energy and strength, and many people tend to think of them as health enhancers, a plentiful supply being the secret to a long and healthy life
Vitamins and minerals are often equated with vitality, energy and strength, and many people tend to think of them as health enhancers, a plentiful supply being the secret to a long and healthy life. However, although adequate vitamins and minerals are needed in certain quantities for good health and optimal physical performance, an excess offers no competitive edge. No scientific evidence to date proves that extra vitamins and minerals enhance performance, prevent injuries or increase endurance.
There are a number of reasons why people turn to supplementation, the most common being that they consider their vitamin-pill breakfasts may rationalise their fast food lunches! It is na´ve to believe that some extra vitamins will make up for late nights, too much alcohol, or too much fat in your diet. There is only one solution to these problems - correct your diet plan and lifestyle first and then consider supplementation!
Secondly, many athletes believe that the nutritional requirements for their sport are too great to be met with a wholesome diet alone. However, all athletes generally consume more food, and therein more vitamins and minerals, than more sedentary people with smaller appetites, and therefore nutrient deficiencies are unlikely to be a result.
However, there are a number of special situations where it is wise to recommend micro-nutrient supplementation, where individuals may be at risk of nutritional deficiencies and this may be the cause of impaired physical performance. Supplementation would therefore be appropriate for individuals such as chronic ‘dieters' who are severely restricting their energy intake below 5000kJ, or for allergy sufferers who may have to exclude certain food groups, or even perhaps for some vegetarian athletes who find it difficult to meet their nutritional requirements.
Supplements are often seen as a psychological ‘health insurance' and the intake of a daily multivitamin supplement may provide athletes with a peace of mind that they are meeting all their nutritional needs. There is nothing wrong with this, but many athletes often prescribe megadoses of these vitamins for themselves - they figure that if a little is good, then a lot must be better! They usually have little knowledge about how these micro-nutrients work or what doses are appropriate, and it is important to realise that some vitamins can be toxic if taken in large doses. Our recommendation to you, is that if you are currently supplementing your diet, or if you would like advice on planning a balanced eating plan, consider consulting a registered sports dietitian who will be better able to evaluate your diet and provide you with a balanced perspective on the issue.
There are a few useful guidelines which should assist you in choosing a vitamin and mineral supplement. Firstly, check if the supplement contains a full range of vitamins and minerals, not just a few, and the amounts of each of these nutrients should be in proportion to the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). Avoid a supplement that contains for example, 3000% of the RDA for thiamin, yet only 3% of the RDA for riboflavin. Secondly avoid high potency or megadose supplements - it is unlikely that taking more than the RDA is beneficial. And, finally do not be guided by price - expensive brands are not necessarily better than cheaper ones.
Finally, don't pin your hopes on any supplements and overlook the factors that definitely effect performance. There is no pill or potion that can replace good training, an optimal training diet, a strong mental attitude, and adequate sleep and recovery.