Vitamin B's Importance in Athletes

What is the important of Group B vitamins in bodybuilders? How important Vitamin B group is for athletes? Which foods contain the most vitamin B and which type? What are the causes & symptoms of Vitamin B deficiency? What are Vitamins B1-12?

Of all the vitamin groups, you are probably most familiar with vitamin C for its antioxidant properties and its links to immune function. However, the B vitamins are even more ubiquitous, and often even at the top of the list in many supplements for bodybuilding.

B-complex vitamins aren't just for increasing energy. They indeed have many other important functions that we will discuss in this article.

What are B vitamins?

B-complex vitamins are a group of water soluble vitamins that are found in many food sources. They support the metabolism, by acting as coenzymes that convert proteins and carbohydrates into energy in the body.

They also help maintain skin and muscle tone, support the immune system, maintain nerve function and support cell growth. This is the reason why most multivitamins and energy drinks created for athletes include an abundance of B-type vitamins.

vitamin b complex

Why supplement with B vitamins?

Extensive research that has been carried out over the years has raised awareness about the importance of B vitamins for athletic performance, primarily due to their implications in energy production.

While the nutirtional needs of the general population are met with a healthy, well-balanced diet, the latest data suggests that many athletes are unknowingly deficient in B vitamins. These deficiencies, especially in strength athletes, can occur for several reasons.

  1. They tend to follow strict and limited diets with little variety, especially while preparing for a competition.
  2. The body's metabolic energy-producing pathways are pushed to the limit during intense training. Therefore, the requirements for some of the vitamins used in these routes may increase.
  3. As the body's metabolism adapts to intensive training, micronutrient requirements also tend to increase.
  4. Exercise increases the loss of micronutrients in sweat, urine and faeces.
  5. The need for vitamins increases with greater muscle mass.

As a bodybuilder, you are probably affected by 1 or more of these 5 points. To help you progress to your full potential, here is a comprehensive guide with functions, sources, signs of deficiency and recommended doses.

Vitamin B1

vitamin b1 foods

Thiamine (B1): maintains the metabolism and promotes the ability of cells to produce energy from carbohydrates. It also plays a role in muscle contraction and in the conduction of nerve impulses.

Food sources: legumes, liver, pork, whole grains.

Signs of deficiency: confusion, edema, growth disturbances, muscle weakness and atrophy, weight loss. Alcohol consumption can drain thiamine levels from the body.

Recommended daily allowance: 1.2 mg.

Recommended intake for athletes : 100 mg twice a day.

Vitamin B2

Riboflavin (B2): promotes carbohydrate metabolism and the oxidation of fatty acids (fats). Contributes to the good health of the skin and the vision.

Food sources: eggs, green vegetables, liver, milk, whole grains.

Signs of deficiency: cracks in the lips, inflammation of the tongue, sensitivity to sunlight.

Recommended daily allowance: 1.3 to 1.7 mg.

Recommended intake for athletes : 100 mg twice a day.

Vitamin B3

Niacin (B3): participates in the proper functioning of the digestive system, skin and nerves. It is also important in the process by which food is metabolized to produce energy. Some research suggests that taking too much niacin reduces fat burning during aerobic training. Yet, when taken in adequate doses, it can lower cholesterol, improve thermoregulation, and improve energy availability during exercise.

Food sources: dairy products, eggs, breads and cereals, fish, lean meats, legumes, nuts.

Signs of Deficiency: A deficiency of niacin leads to a condition called pellagra, manifesting digestive problems, inflammation of the skin and mental impairment.

Recommended daily allowance: 16 mg.

Recommended intake for athletes: 100 mg twice a day.

Vitamin B5

Pantothenic Acid (B5): Underestimated in the B family. It acts as a coenzyme for acetyl-coenzyme A. It plays an essential role in energy production and metabolism. In addition, vitamin B5 is essential for the production of red blood cells and hormones (adrenaline, insulin). Vitamin B5 helps maintain the health of the digestive system and helps the body in the use of other vitamins, especially vitamin B2.

Food sources: avocado, beef (kidney and liver), broccoli, cauliflower, chicken, corn, duck, egg yolk , kale, legumes, lentils , lobster, milk, peanuts, salmon, soybeans, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turkey, whole grains ...

Deficiency signs: burning feet, depression, fatigue, insomnia, irritability, abdominal pain, upper respiratory tract infections, vomiting.

Recommended daily allowance: 5 mg.

Recommended intake for athletes: 100 mg twice a day.

Vitamin B6

Pyridoxine (B6): promotes protein metabolism and absorption, helps in the production of red blood cells, and improves fat metabolism. Vitamin B6 is needed for the production of serotonin in the brain, which increases focus and mental health. It is also involved in the production of norepinephrine in the body, which regulates blood flow to the skin and muscle, as well as in the metabolism of lipids in fat cells.

Food sources: dairy products, green leafy vegetables, legumes, liver, pork, whole grains…

Signs of deficiency: anemia, cracks in the lips, kidney stones, nausea, skin disorders.

Recommended daily allowance: 1.3 mg.

Recommended intake for athletes: 100 mg twice a day.

Vitamin B7

Biotin (B7 or H): it is important in cell growth, in the metabolism of fats and amino acids. It increases insulin sensitivity and helps regulate blood glucose levels.

Food sources: almonds, carrots, eggs, onions, peanuts, salmon, sweet potatoes , tomatoes, nuts ...

Signs of Deficiency: Biotin deficiency is rare, as the body's gut bacteria can produce it. However, eating raw egg whites can decrease the levels of biotin in the body because it contains a protein called avidin which binds to the biotin in your intestines and prevents your body from using it. Namely that the heat destroys the avidin, cooking the egg white therefore eliminates any risk at this level. Some digestive diseases can also limit the production and absorption of biotin from the body, leading to conjunctivitis, depression, dermatitis, hair loss, hallucinations, numbness and tingling in the extremities, fatigue.

Recommended daily allowance: no official recommended amount. The literature recommends between 0.3 mg (30µg) and 0.6 mg (60µg).

Recommended intake for athletes: 0.3 mg twice a day. 

Vitamin B9

Folic acid (B9): it is the key to the synthesis and repair of DNA and RNA. Vitamin B9 is an important factor in protein metabolism and the formation of red blood cells. It is especially important in conditions of rapid cell division and growth, which is why women are advised to take it as a supplement during pregnancy. Finally, folic acid lowers homocysteine ​​levels, which reduces the risk of heart disease.

Food sources: bananas, beef (liver and kidneys), green vegetables, legumes, lemons, melons ...

Signs of deficiency: anemia, confusion, depression, diarrhea. Consuming alcohol can drain folic acid levels from the body.

Recommended daily allowance: 0.4 mg.

Recommended intake for athletes: 0.4 mg twice a day.

Vitamin B12

Cobalamin (B12): it is a coenzyme involved in the production of serotonin and DNA. This gives it an important role in the synthesis of proteins and red blood cells. Adequate vitamin B12 is needed to increase muscle mass and the blood's ability to carry oxygen, and to decrease stress.

Food sources: beef (kidneys and liver), eggs, fish, milk, oysters, shellfish…

Signs of deficiency: anemia, neurological disturbances, numbness in the fingers or toes.

Recommended daily allowance: 2.4 micrograms.

Recommended intake for athletes: at least 100 micrograms twice a day.

advantages of vitamin b complex