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Will a multivitamin supplement increase my gains?

Wird ein Multivitamin Supplement meine Zuwächse steigern?

Could a multivitamin supplement be the answer to new gains? Read this article to find out which vitamins' reserves are most depleted by your training and the best way to replenish those reserves!

You've seen the headlines. One day it's not necessary for anyone to take vitamins and the next day it turns out that everyone needs extra vitamins.

How important is taking vitamins really and which ones should we use for best results?

If you are a high performance athlete, then you know that you are more susceptible to nutrient deficiencies than the average person.

Bodybuilders and other athletes push their bodies hard and often restrict their consumption of certain nutrients or foods in order to get lean. However, doing this can put a barrier between you and the muscle growth you're after.

So if you're struggling with muscle growth, replenishing your energy reserves and performing at your best, it could simply be because your micronutrient intake is inadequate.

What are micronutrients?

Micronutrients, which include vitamins, minerals and additional co-factors such as coenzymes, are essential for life. Micronutrients make a myriad of biochemical processes possible in the first place. You can eat as much protein and carbohydrates as you want - if your micronutrients are not in the right balance, you can forget about building muscle mass.

Vitamins are regularly neglected by athletes. There are at least 13 important vitamins in the human body:

  • 4 fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K) that can be stored in the human body over a long period of time.
  • 9 water-soluble vitamins (8 B vitamins and vitamin C), which are quickly excreted from the body via the urine.

Many believe that the complete vitamin requirement can be met through a balanced diet that includes a wide range of fruit and vegetables. However, with an ever-growing list of environmental toxins robbing the body of essential nutrients, poor quality farmland, poor food preparation methods and daily stress affecting our health, it is unlikely that adequate vitamin intake can be achieved through whole foods alone.

The need for vitamins is even higher for strength athletes and bodybuilders. The collective stress of hard resistance training and nutrient restrictions (such as pre-competition) combined with environmental factors make the use of a high quality multivitamin supplement a must for muscle building.

Why should you increase your vitamin intake?

In 2009, more than 2 billion people worldwide were affected by micronutrient deficiencies (14). With 50% of the population at risk of vitamin D deficiency (2) and one in four adults with a vitamin B12 deficiency, it quickly becomes clear that achieving the right micronutrient balance can be difficult, even in well-developed Western countries (9).

People who do not suffer from symptoms of vitamin deficiency may believe that they are getting enough vitamins from a balanced diet, but such a diet is in fact often less than optimal.

Over time, a suboptimal intake of vitamins can result in a breakdown of cellular metabolism, which is necessary for proper growth and function of body tissues and organs. Diseases and other ailments can be the result. Physical performance will certainly decline as a result.

Some people have a higher risk of vitamin deficiency than others. Older people, for example, are less able to absorb important nutrients. Athletes also tend to suffer from depletion of their micronutrient reserves due to the rigors of their training.

Those who are more prone to vitamin deficiencies might simply choose to increase their consumption of whole foods. However, while a balanced diet free of processed foods is undoubtedly a solid foundation for good health, such an approach can still lead to subclinical vitamin deficiencies.

Current farming practices and pesticides can significantly reduce the mineral and vitamin content of soils (15, 16). Unripe fruits are also deficient in certain nutrients. In addition, the processing and preservation of fruit and vegetables can also deprive them of valuable vitamins.

Multivitamin products: An essential part of an intensively training athlete's diet

Athletes who train hard are known to look for an edge to optimize their results. More repetitions, longer training sessions, optimal macronutrient intake, targeted supplementation - whatever it takes to gain an edge over the competition, serious athletes will do it. An often overlooked training edge that is also a fundamental key to excellent health and wellbeing is optimal vitamin intake.

As we will see in more detail later, athletes are particularly susceptible to nutrient deficiencies. The problem here is that with the masses of food that athletes eat - especially during the off-season - they have no reason to believe that they are at risk of inadequate nutrient intake.

But by emphasizing protein- and energy-rich foods, athletes often overlook what's most important for turning training efforts into tangible results: a complete array of micronutrients.

Compared to easy to moderate training, intense training (such as training with weights and regular high-intensity cardio) produces large amounts of free radicals (10). Such an increase in free radicals can exceed the body's antioxidant defenses and cause irreparable oxidative damage (or at least severe stress to the body).

Once damaged, the affected cells produce more free radicals and cause further damage to healthy cells. According to research by scientist Harshal R. Patil, heavy and prolonged exercise generates large amounts of free radicals that are likely to exceed the buffering capacity of the responsible body systems, making affected individuals more susceptible to oxidative stress (4).

Although not obvious at first, oxidative stress resulting from intense exercise accumulates while nutrient deficiencies are exacerbated as the body attempts to compensate for this stress by drawing nutrients from other areas. Unfortunately, meanwhile, micro-damage to the tissue continues unchecked.

Such damage increases the risk of heart disease, cancer and early death (1). The normal population may not feel any noticeable effects from accumulated microdamage, but in athletes, any amount of cellular damage will immediately and significantly impair athletic performance (7,11).

Many vitamins - and the B vitamins in particular - are significantly involved in energy metabolism. Although marginal deficiencies in sedentary individuals may have minimal impact, in athletes, even minor impairments in the ability to produce energy and perform at their best can have serious consequences (7).

Combine this with the fact that depletion of vitamin reserves in athletes is greater than normal due to the intense nature of their training and intentional dietary restrictions and it becomes obvious that adequate vitamin intake is particularly important in athletes.

As we already know, vitamin deficiencies can result in cellular damage. Since vitamins are critical to ensuring systemic function of the body, it follows that those at higher risk of oxidative stress need an insurance policy in the form of a high-dose vitamin product.

Differences between vitamin products

Today, you can find many common multivitamin products on the internet, drug stores and sporting goods stores that try to lure the masses of health-conscious people with fancy labels and exaggerated claims. Many of these products do provide the recommended daily amounts of the vitamins they contain, but that's about it. Others provide a single source of a given nutrient in small amounts to keep profits high. Many of these products are inefficient for hard-training athletes.

Many multivitamin products provide a full spectrum of supplemental ingredients, while others contain only a few select co-factors. For those who are routinely exposed to significant amounts of oxidative stress and depletion of their vitamin reserves, a product with high dosages of ingredients and a full spectrum of co-factors may provide superior benefits.

To work optimally, vitamins must be taken in adequate amounts and in conjunction with complementary co-factors, as vitamins and other micronutrients work together synergistically. Many vitamins can only help to promote health and well-being if they are included in a comprehensive formula together with all the other micronutrients required.

B Vitamins

You don't need a degree in biology to know that all 8 B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12) should be taken together for maximum effect. Each B vitamin plays a specific role in the body and all B vitamins work together to ensure that the food we eat can be converted into energy.

Tissue growth - including muscle tissue - and the formation of red blood cells will only occur at optimal levels if all B vitamins are on board. However, even a product that contains the full spectrum of B vitamins may be less than optimal. One B vitamin that is considered very important for health and tissue growth is vitamin B9 - also known as folic acid or folate. Folic acid is absolutely essential for the vital biological process of methylation.

Systemic methylation - the transfer of methyl groups that modifies DNA and occurs billions of times every day - underpins all biological functions. Methylation is essential for health. Without sufficient intake and absorption of folic acid, methylation is severely impaired.

Unfortunately, folic acid must undergo several biological transformations in the body before it becomes 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF), its biologically active form. This is an inefficient process that can limit the absorption of folic acid (3). Folic acid absorption is problematic for many. However, by supplementing directly with 5-MTHF, your body can benefit directly and fully from all the benefits of folic acid. (3)

Another B vitamin - vitamin B12 - is considered the most important energy nutrient of all. Vitamin B12 protects RNA and DNA, supports immune function, protects nerve and brain cells, helps with serotonin production and contributes to the formation of red blood cells.

Similar to vitamin B9, different forms of B12 found in multivitamin products must go through a multi-step conversion process before they can be converted into their naturally occurring coenzyme form called methylcobalamin. (5)

This process is metabolically costly and very inefficient. However, direct ingestion of methylcobalamin eliminates the need for this conversion. In addition, methylcobalamin is more stable and bioavailable than other forms of vitamin B12. (5)

Vitamin E

The fat-soluble vitamin E penetrates the body's fatty tissues to neutralize toxic oxidants, thereby protecting membranes susceptible to oxidation. Vitamin E is one of the most effective antioxidants, not only neutralizing oxygen-based free radicals to protect cells, but also helping to fight inflammation and protect nerve cells from overproduction of the neurotransmitter glutamate.

By neglecting most forms of vitamin E in favor of the most commonly used form in supplements called alpha-tocopherol, supplement manufacturers are taking advantage of the customer. To work synergistically and deliver all the benefits of vitamin E, eight different forms of vitamin E need to be present: 4 tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) and 4 tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta)(12).

Each form of vitamin E fulfills different functions and all of these forms are important for health and well-being. For example, if the body tends to store more alpha tocopherol, then the different tocotrienols can penetrate cell membranes more easily due to their unsaturated bonds. Gamma tocotrienol has a particularly strong protective effect.

Vitamin C: repair and detoxification

Vitamin C is of such crucial importance for health that a vitamin C deficiency can quickly lead to illness. Water-soluble and known for its strong antioxidant effects, vitamin C is also important for numerous detoxification processes in the body and is crucial for the growth of many body tissues, ranging from collagen to blood vessels and skin.

Similar to vitamin E, vitamin C works best when several forms are taken in combination (6). Sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate and ascorbic acid are the three effective forms of vitamin C that should be included in a good multivitamin product. However, most products will only contain one of these forms of vitamin C.

Nutrient absorption

Vitamin supplementation should always accompany a balanced diet. But it is still not guaranteed that all nutrients - from food and supplements - will be properly absorbed. In fact, many people are deficient in the digestive enzymes needed to properly digest and absorb the food we eat.

A good multivitamin can help with this dilemma by providing the full range of digestive enzymes. Of the 6 key enzymes (lipase, amylase, protease, bromelain, papain and serrapeptase) needed for optimal nutrient absorption, proteases are crucial for breaking down proteins into amino acids to support muscle growth, while amylase is needed to convert carbohydrates into glucose, which is needed as energy for your workouts (17).

Determining the requirements

In terms of needs for specific performance requirements, all vitamins need to be prioritized regardless of athletic goals. While antioxidants such as vitamins E and C are great for combating oxidative stress and the B vitamins are essential for energy production, each individual vitamin (including the often overlooked vitamins D, K and A) plays a specific role in health, well-being, performance and tissue growth.

General lethargy, which is not limited to exercise, can be a sign of a vitamin deficiency. Cravings for processed foods can also be the result of a lack of nutrients. Such cravings can also result from low-calorie diets.

More obvious signs of a vitamin deficiency include cracking of the skin at the corners of the mouth, a red, scaly rash on the face, hair loss, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, muscle cramps (which in most cases can be attributed to an electrolyte imbalance) and red or white bumps resembling acne on the arms, thighs, buttocks and cheeks. (8)

Rather than choosing specific vitamins to treat specific ailments, it may be better to ensure an optimal balance of all vitamins (meaning adequate amounts to promote health).

Hard-training strength athletes, including bodybuilders, need a multivitamin product specifically tailored to this target group to provide the additional nutrients required for progress in the gym.

Vitalize yourself with vitamins

A good multivitamin needs to be used all year round - even during the off-season, when people often don't pay as much attention to their diet. While you can neglect certain other supplements and foods during certain times, a good multivitamin must always be at the center of a serious exerciser's training plan.

Building muscle and immense strength is not simply a matter of maintaining a balanced macronutrient intake. The regulation of every chemical process that occurs in the human body is a combined interplay of a full spectrum of micronutrients, of which the vitamins described in this article are a large part.

So before you grab that protein shake or those high-performance carbohydrates, make sure you've got all the important aspects of nutrition covered.


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