Dec 2, 2016
Getting Your Vitamins
Susan Kundrat

Ideally, when an athlete is taking in enough total calories, and eating according to a balanced nutrition plan, vitamin and mineral intakes are high enough to support the additional training. However, athletes are under additional physical stress, and may require higher intakes of certain vitamins and minerals because of the many metabolic processes that take place with exercise, as well as to support growth and development of new tissues.

A general guideline for athletes is to consume vitamins and minerals in the range of at least the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) or the AI (Adequate Intake), and if supplementing, less than the UL (Tolerable Upper Level), as recommended by the DRIs (Dietary Reference Intakes). One way to ensure this is to educate athletes on their specific nutrient needs while providing sample meal plans and sound practical food recommendations. In addition, I recommend athletes take an additional multivitamin-mineral supplement with 100 percent of most nutrients to ensure they are getting everything they need on a daily basis.

Some studies have found an increased need for specific vitamins and minerals over and above the RDA or AI in certain situations. Although not all athletes require additional nutrients in food or supplementation, certain vitamins and minerals may be of benefit, as noted below:

• Vitamin C may enhance immunity and decrease upper respiratory tract infections after intense exercise.

• Vitamin E may decrease oxidative stress related to exercise, and may improve exercise performance at high altitudes.

• Vitamin K may enhance bone strength in female athletes.

• Beta carotene may decrease oxidative stress related to exercise.

• Calcium and Vitamin D may benefit athletes who are at risk for stress fractures or osteoporosis.

• Iron supplementation may boost aerobic performance if an athlete is iron-depleted or has anemia.

• Zinc may decrease exercise-induced changes in immune function.

Susan Kundrat, MS, RD, CSSD, is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and the Nutritional Sciences Program Director at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the co-founder of RK Team Nutrition.

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