What vitamins and minerals are important for athletes?

A sports medicine doctor told how the diet is formed for people with high physical activity.

Even if you are actively involved in sports, this is not a guarantee of health: in this case, you need to monitor your nutrition and the condition of your body even more carefully.

We talked with a sports medicine doctor and therapist about what microelements and vitamins are necessary for athletes, what products contain them, and whether it is necessary to take vitamin-mineral complexes during high physical exertion.

According to physical culture and sports, an athlete is involved in any sport and performs at competitions. Athletes need to get a balanced diet for health, progress, and achievement of high results, in addition to the correct training regimen.

Nutrition balanced in the quantitative and qualitative composition is necessary for all people involved in physical culture and sports.

Insufficient intake of macro- and micronutrients negatively affects an athlete’s general health and physical readiness, which increases the risk of developing injuries and diseases, including infections, fatigue, and lack of recovery. 

What trace elements are considered essential for the body of an athlete?

“All. There is no specific list of trace elements needed more than others. All of them perform certain functions in our body, and therefore all are needed in sufficient quantities,” the doctor shares.

The most basic thing is that the athlete’s body needs a sufficient amount of macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates), fat- and water-soluble vitamins, and microelements: calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron.

What vitamins and minerals are important for athletes?

Trace elements have a special impact on the condition of the athlete. They are part of biologically active substances – enzymes, hormones, vitamins, etc., and participate in all processes in the human body as cofactors (non-protein compounds necessary for a protein’s biological activity) or enzyme catalysts.

“Selenium, zinc, and copper affect the immune system. They counteract damage to cells and tissues, affect the production of prostaglandins and cytokines, and participate in cellular immunity reactions and antibody production. And hormones are affected by iron, which is part of the enzymes involved in synthesizing steroid hormones … Thus, the therapist shares that one cannot give priority to some trace elements,” the therapist shares.

Is it possible for an athlete to get by with only a well-organized diet, or is a vitamin-mineral complex necessary?

A high-quality and balanced diet will be enough for people involved in physical culture (“for themselves / keeping fit / sometimes performing in local competitions”). Professional athletes are advised to include nutritional supplements in the athlete’s regular diet, preferably under the supervision of a coach and doctors.

What vitamins and minerals are important for athletes?

More and more evidence suggests that nutrition balanced in quantity and quality is insufficient to provide them with all the necessary macro- and micronutrients for athletes. This is due to increased loss of these nutrients through sweat under the influence of heavy and prolonged exercise. Resources are needed for this.

What does a lack of vitamins and minerals lead to in an athlete’s body?

The lack of vitamins and microelements leads to a decrease in an athlete’s performance and several pathological conditions. Often, an athlete has a deficiency of not one but several trace elements or vitamins at once.

“With a lack of nutrients, the athlete will complain of fatigue, insufficient recovery after training, brittle nails, hair loss, and so on. The athlete may complain of frequent colds if he has not previously noted this. This is also if you can call it that, “harmless” complaints,” says the sports doctor.

Severe deficiency leads to problems that can be much more serious: fractures (stress fractures – with a deficiency of vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus), heart rhythm disturbances (potassium, magnesium), convulsions (magnesium, calcium), cardiopathy (iron, copper) and much more.

What vitamins and minerals are important for athletes?

What are the typical nutritional deficiencies that athletes may experience?

Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem among athletes. But its greater deficiency is found in athletes training in the halls than on the street.

A lean physique combined with endurance training requires increased attention. “For athletes who are preparing for marathons, ultramarathons, cycling, or disciplines such as gymnastics, synchronized swimming, such a state as “relative energy deficit in sports” is typical with the resulting negative body conditions: impaired protein synthesis, bone tissue conditions, changes in the cardiovascular system, immune, reproductive,” commented the doctor.

Such athletes are characterized by: iron deficiency (sports anemia, which is often accompanied by a deficiency of magnesium and zinc), a deficiency of calcium, potassium, magnesium, and several others. 

What vitamins and minerals are important for athletes?

Women are more susceptible to such conditions than men, but this does not exclude such a condition them. “You know, the term “female athletic triad” is a pathological condition characterized by eating disorders, menstrual dysfunction, and a decrease in bone mineral density. Now the range of disorders in this condition has expanded. Still, it has been proven that such a condition is also typical for men, so for a more accurate description of all disorders, the “relative energy deficit in sports” was introduced,” said the sports doctor. 

What indicators should be checked by an athlete during the regular training process?

If a person eats properly, observes the training regimen and rest regimen, and has no complaints, it is recommended to undergo a minimum yearly examination.

An athlete who has been involved in sports for a long time and performs at various competitions is required to undergo in-depth medical examinations once a year or every six months (depending on the stage of physical training), which include many laboratory and instrumental studies: complete blood count, general urinalysis, biochemistry, hormones, ECG, ultrasound of the heart and so on.

The most important thing is to listen to your body and feelings and share them with your coaches and team doctors. It is always easier to stop the pathological process at the beginning than when it is already running. It is more correct and, if I may say so, “cheaper” to refuse to compete at competitions at the first “rings,” and, if I may say so, “cheaper” in the long term of further performances and achieving sports results than to start diseases to the point where one cannot do without enhanced, sometimes long-term treatment, with problems resulting from this in the form of suspension from participation in competitions and poor physical condition.

Memo on the content of vitamins and trace elements in products

Iron is found in animal products (red meat and offal) and plant products- legumes, green vegetables, and dried fruits (for example, dates).

What vitamins and minerals are important for athletes?

Copper is green leafy vegetables, legumes, whole grains and almonds, raisins and other dried fruits, and meat (especially liver).

Zinc – meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood (especially oysters), grains, and legumes (however, due to the presence of phytic acid in these foods, zinc is less available than found in animal products).

Selenium – grains and cereals, offal (liver and kidneys), fish (tuna), shellfish. Calcium – milk, cheese, cottage cheese. Phosphorus – fish, meat, milk, legumes, nuts. Magnesium – nuts, seeds, cereals.


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