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Vitamin Deficiencies in Sports Nutrition

By Peter Hyc

Elite athletes take vitamin supplements often in doses 100 times greater than the USRDA to improve performance, says a recent article in the International Journal of Vitamin Nutrition and Research.

Vitamins in Sports NutritionThe theoretical basis underlying the uses of each vitamin depends upon its specific metabolic function. Vitamin A helps night vision. Thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid are all involved in muscle cell energy metabolism. Pyridoxine is involved in the synthesis of hemoglobin and other oxygen-transfer proteins. Folic acid and Vitamin B12 are integrally involved in red blood cell development. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants, possibly preventing the destruction of cell membranes during intense exercise. Vitamin D may be involved in muscle cell energetics through its influence on calcium.

These are just examples of possible ergogenic applications to sport. Research has shown that a vitamin deficiency impairs physical performance and if the deficiency is corrected by taking vitamins or bodybuilding supplements, performance usually improves. The possible ergogenic effects can and possibly will make that minute difference in making or breaking records without the dangerous side effects of performance-enhancing drugs.

Strenuous physical activity along with an adequate intake of Vitamin E and other antioxidants can provide protection against free-radical concentrations caused by air pollutants, according to the April 1991 issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. As we know, bodybuilding and strength training can be just as strenuous as you care to make them.

Reports that megadoses of ascorbic acid are beneficial for the prevention and treatment of several disorders have led to widespread ingestion of Vitamin C supplements, says the International Journal of Vitamin Nutrition and Research.

Of major concern, the journal reports, is whether megadoses of Vitamin C cause or aggravate such things as systemic conditioning, kidney stones, gout and iron overload.

After an extensive review of the literature, the journal says, the consensus is that these adverse health effects are not induced in healthy persons by ingesting large doses of ascorbic acid. Since possible interactions of ascorbic acid with other nutrients and physiological processes may be of importance to human health, further research is warranted.

Meanwhile, if you sense a cold coming on or just don't feel up to par, before going on any supplement program, check with your doctor!