I’m of the opinion that you can very quickly find yourself obsessing over the little things in bodybuilding at the expense of the “big picture.”
Worrying about your intake of all the little bodybuilding vitamins and minerals instead of concentrating on the overall state of your diet and training program is a sure route to frustration.
Unless a specific deficiency is suspected, this is all that is really justified.
It is more likely that the typical conscientious trainer is getting a greater amount of bodybuilding vitamins then he can use rather than too little.
That said, below is a look at some of the vitamins and minerals that are typically supplemented by bodybuilders (Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin B, Calcium) and the reasons that additional amounts of these micronutrients may aid the athlete in achieving top performance.
Obviously, this is not a complete look at all the many bodybuilding vitamins and minerals.
Rather, it is a look at some of the ones important to muscle building. Micronutrients not discussed are not necessarily less important to the weight lifter but are more normally achieved in adequate amounts through diet and/or the taking of a multivitamin.
First, a word on antioxidants. Antioxidants help reduce free radicals in the body. Free radicals occur in everyone but an accumulation of them can lead to damaged cells that cannot adapt naturally.This can lead to major problems including cancer. Because intense exercise has been shown to increase free radical production, supplementing with antioxidants becomes vitally important.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. It is a water-soluble vitamin meaning that it is not stored in the body long and therefore must be continually supplied.
In addition to its antioxidant properties, vitamin C has a lot more to offer the bodybuilder.
A few things Vitamin C plays a role in:
- General immunity (can’t lift well with a cold)
- The ability of the body to recover after being stressed (assisting recovery, helping reduce the risk of overtraining)
- Hormone production (testosterone is good).
Like all vitamin supplementation, the actual amount needed by athletes is up for debate. Typical supplementation by bodybuilders varies between an additional 200 mg a day up to an additional 3,000 mg. These amounts dwarf the RDA of 60 mg but vitamin C produces little risk of toxicity due to the body’s ability to readily excrete unneeded amounts.
A good plan to determine the amount of vitamin C that is right for you would be to listen to your body. If you are having trouble recovering from bodybuilding workouts or are getting bogged down by colds then additional vitamin C may help.
Like vitamin C, vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. The reasons for supplementing with additional vitamin E as well as the benefits attained by the bodybuilder are similar to those for vitamin C.
Unlike vitamin C, vitamin E is fat-soluble which means that it is stored more easily in the body and is not needed in as great of amounts on a daily basis.
Because it is stored, toxicity at high levels can be a concern. However, studies with up to 1000 iu of supplementation have proven safe.
Extra supplementation with B-complex vitamins can also be beneficial to the bodybuilder. The B-complex vitamins are so named because they were once thought to be all one vitamin. Indeed, they have similar functions.
- Aid in energy (by helping circulation and oxygen supply which can help with fat loss)
- Play a large role in metabolization, helping you get the most from your carbs, protein and fatty acids.
- Keep your mood in step
And the list goes on and on.
You can find bodybuilding vitamins for the various specific B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and others) but you are probably best going with a B-complex vitamin that includes them all if you desire amounts beyond those provided by your multivitamin.
And on to the minerals.
Calcium is very important to muscle building. The calcium ion is the blood’s main nutrient transporter. It takes nutrients such as creatine and protein to the place you want them to go – the muscle-cells. This means that creatine and protein can’t do all they can do without sufficient calcium.
Calcium is known as a “bone builder” and it is that. But it also plays major roles in hundreds of more important bodily process’s including the functioning of muscle.
All by themselves, calcium supplements could be considered the best bodybuilding vitamin supplements if it weren’t for the fact that many prospective weight gainers won’t need to supplement with them.
Athletes should aim for a minimum of 2000mg of calcium a day. This can be attained easily by those who make milk a main part of their weight gain diet. Quality protein powders and meal replacement powders also offer large amounts of calcium.
Still, if your diet is not providing the minimum levels of calcium, you should definitely supplement. Calcium is not a mineral you want to skimp on.
Ever Heard of ZMA?
ZMA is a specific bodybuilding vitamins and mineral formulation of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6. Taken on a stomach devoid of calcium (which can inhibit uptake of these minerals), this combo can clear up a deficiency experienced by some athletes and help increase hormone production.