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B Vitamins: Crucial nutrients for an active lifestyle
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Vitamins are called micronutrients because they are only needed in miniscule amounts. These micronutrients are what enable the macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and protein) to produce enzymes, hormones, and other substances that allow for proper growth and development. vitamins.jpg

Without them your diet is incomplete and you won’t be able to recover from training sessions quickly which could lead to injuries. As small as the amounts are, their absence from your diet can have severe consequences.

Understanding each vitamin, its functions, and source can be confusing. This article will make things easier and teach you the importance of energy-boosting B vitamins for an active lifestyle.

The B vitamin complex consists of eight water soluble vitamins. Numerous health benefits, especially for active individuals, have been observed from taking B vitamins that include increasing metabolism, maintaining healthy skin and muscle tone, increased immune and nervous system function, and they act to promote cell growth of red blood cells.

Thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), B6, B12, and folate are the micronutrients that are necessary during the body’s process for converting proteins and sugars into energy during strenuous exercise. These vitamins are also necessary for producing red blood cells which are vital during exercise because they carry oxygen to the working muscles.

Probably the most important B vitamins for improving the overall function of your body is Thiamin (or B1). Thiamin acts to increase energy metabolism. This increase in metabolism increases the levels of digestion in the body, which helps to maintain weight as well as move vitamins and other substances through the body quicker and more efficiently.

The second vital function of thiamine is to aid in nerve and muscle functioning by increasing the nerves response time, thus muscles will receive nerve impulses quicker and become more efficient.

Thiamine is found in the greatest quantities in animal products such as red meats, pork, and liver, but also in fortified grain products. The recommended daily amount of thiamine is about 50mg for the average person. However, because exercise stresses metabolic pathways that depend upon thiamine the requirements may be higher for extremely active individuals.

It is assumed that as a person becomes more physically active their energy and protein intake would also increase accordingly. Unfortunately, this is not always true, and research has found that persons who make poor dietary decisions and those who restrict calories are often deficient in several B vitamins including thiamine. People who do not receive at least 50mg typically will find that their body will swell, and since it is know to be an important factor for helping nerves and muscles, fatigue and weakness are often signs of a thiamine deficiency. Beriberi is a disease of the nervous system and is common upon thiamine deficient people.

Riboflavin (or B2) is also important for athletes paralleling the effects of thiamine. Riboflavin also produces two co enzymes that are important for the metabolism of glucose, fatty acids, glycerol, and protein for energy during exercise. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for riboflavin is at least 1.2 mg/day, but a 0.5 increase is recommended for athletes and pregnant women. A deficiency in riboflavin causes ariboflavinosis, characterized by cracked lips and skin, high sensitivity to light, and a swollen tongue. Riboflavin is found in animal sources such as meat and dairy products, as well as grains, beans and nuts.

The third B vitamin vital when exercising is B6. A major function of B6 is the metabolism of proteins and amino acids. During exercise, the process of producing glucose in the liver involves the breakdown of amino acids for energy in the muscle and the conversion of lactic acid (which has built up in the body from exercise) in the liver. Vitamin B6 also breaks down muscle glycogen which is directly related to the production of energy during exercise.

B6 intake is often in the form of protein. It has been suggested that the RDA for B6 is around 2.0 mg. A person deficient in vitamin B6 will typically experience hypertension. This increases your blood levels of homocysteine. Homocysteine increase is a marker for potential cardiovascular disease, and has been linked to increased fractures due to bone weakness.

These three B vitamins are the most important when considering there importance for exercise, but the others such as folate, folic acid and vitamin B12 are all important in order to have a well balanced health lifestyle. Folic acid is especially important during pregnancies and a deficiency in it is responsible for 4,000 birth defects in the United States each year.

The RDA for these vitamins differs for individuals depending upon sex, race, age, and activity level. For a complete listing of the RDA for the B vitamins and others visit

You should also note that the best and most effective way of receiving vitamin B is from food sources that cover all nutritional bases, as opposed to supplements. Although vitamins are found in foods, they are not foods themselves, thus they lack the energy you need to power you through rigorous workouts. Therefore, it’s important that your vitamin intake is included within a balanced diet and will enable to to sustain high energy levels and proper overall health.

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