Getting actively healthier
The reason those who work out regularly need more nutrients than the average sedentary person is that exercise can use up vital vitamin and mineral stores whilst working up a sweat. Food is of course the most effective way to furnish the body with what it needs to function optimally (although with the best will in the world sometimes food alone may not be able to cover all your nutritional needs) and there are some nutrients which are particularly important for exercisers. These include B vitamins (found in nuts, wholegrains, green leafy veg) necessary for converting food into energy; calcium (found in milk and dairy products and green leafy vegetables) for healthy bones; vitamin D (synthesised on the skin via sunlight) to avoid tiredness and muscle fatigue; magnesium (good sources include almonds, quinoa, dark leafy greens) involved in energy metabolism, iron (found in red meat, offal, spinach) to help carry oxygen to the muscles and potassium (found in bananas, milk, potatoes, fish) to help reduce cramping and speed recovery after physical exertion.
Replacing lost nutrients
To give you an idea of what you could be losing and how low levels of certain nutrients could affect your exercise performance research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed an hour of pumping iron in the gym could deplete iron stores by 5.7%.i A study from Oregon State University showed athletes with low vitamin B levels performed worse in high intensity exercise than those with higher levels and they also had a reduced ability to repair muscle afterwards.iiAthletes who consumed enough calcium and vitamin D were less likely to develop stress fractures in another study. iiiAnd research from the University of Newcastle revealed that those given extra vitamin D experienced less in the way of muscle fatigue.iv
Working out regularly could mean your stores of some of these performance-enhancing nutrients are running low or on empty. If you’ve done a strenuous work out for over an hour you are also very likely to be slightly dehydrated. This is why experts recommend you keep well hydrated and ideally eat a nutrient-dense meal within an hour of exercising (something like anti-inflammatory omega-3 rich salmon and avocado is good or baked sweet potato and a steak with spinach or broccoli). It stands to reason that the healthier you are the faster your body will recover after physical exertion. That recovery process includes not just eating well but also getting enough sleep, drinking enough water and taking a day or so off in between work outs to let your muscles recuperate. A multivitamin will also help with this recovery process – helping to cover all nutritional bases by giving you a complete spectrum of what your body needs so you get a perfect balance of vitamins and minerals on a daily basis. Take it either before or after you exercise.
More energy and improved immunity
Replenishing your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs should also improve your overall health. Exercising without replacing those essential nutrients can potentially run down your immune system - leaving you more vulnerable to a cold, flu or other viral infection – as your body struggles with the demands you are putting it under. Safeguarding your health with a multi-vitamin when you are training should also help keep energy levels stable and help your body to withstand stress – so you can continue with your exercise routine.
Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.