For ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE, an antioxidant-carotene-rich multi provides essential vitamins and minerals to enhance performance and energy, to protect muscles and connective tissues from oxidative damage, and help prevent exercise-induced injury. Vitamins support a brisk metabolic rate, which maintains the physiological processes important to sports performance, while minerals are crucial for muscle, nerve, and heart function. A high-quality multivitamin ensures the body has all the nutrients needed for athletic activity, in highly absorbable forms.
We can obtain adequate basic nourishment from eating a well-balanced diet that contains a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein. But athletes put greater demands on their body systems, creating special nutritional needs that cannot be met through diet alone. A comprehensive formula provides higher levels of vitamins and minerals for protein metabolism, blood sugar balance, adrenal and energy output, nervous system coordination, and tissue repair that a body needs when training. It offsets intense exercise stressors and serves as daily insurance to keep the body functioning at peak performance.
The ergogenic potential–the capacity to enhance physical performance, stamina, or recovery–has been investigated in copious studies of many nutrients. Virtually every individual vitamin, as well as combinations of vitamins and related substances, have been tested. These include the B-complex vitamins, multivitamin/mineral compounds, and antioxidants. Survey data indicates that vitamins are the most commonly used dietary supplements among various athletic groups compared to the general population.1,2
Antioxidants are natural plant or mineral substances that prevent oxidative damage and help protect all cells and tissues from scavenging free radicals, reduce oxidative stress and cell damage, and decrease harmful lipid peroxides. They include natural carotenes, vitamin C and selenium. Antioxidants work to boost our cells’ own protective glutathione levels, and to enhance the actions of superoxide dismutase and catalase enzymes. These are enzyme molecules that neutralize or block cell damage from superoxide, one of the reactive oxygen species that form in our cells during metabolism and increase with stress. Higher tissue levels of carotenes also protect against environmental oxidative injury. They reduce the risks of many degenerative conditions, including heart disease, several types of cancer, diabetes, cataracts, macular degeneration, arthritis, and skin damage.
Antioxidants, including vitamins C and E and the mineral selenium, enhance exercise performance, as shown in many studies where they were examined individually and collectively. They prevent exercise-induced oxidative damage to muscle tissues, caused by free radicals that form with increased metabolism and tissue stress during exercise. Antioxidant supplementation has been shown to improve physical performance in deficient subjects, and further studies are expected on elite athletes.5,6 Many researchers are convinced that antioxidants prevent exercise-induced lipid peroxidation. This is injury to the fatty layer of cell membranes and other important fats such as myelin wrappings around brain cells, and it can be exacerbated by the physiological stress of exercise. Antioxidants also protect against muscle tissue damage. They provide particular protective benefits for exercise training in older athletes.7
Natural carotenes are a group of red, orange, and yellow pigments found in the chloroplasts and chromoplasts of plants including fruits, vegetables, algae, and whole grains. They shield plants from sun-induced free radical damage, providing powerful protection for a lifetime in the sun. Plant carotenoids are water-soluble and do not accumulate in our bodies, so toxicity is almost unheard of. More than five hundred carotenoids are known, some of which convert into active vitamin A in our tissues.
For athletes, we recommend carotenes only in the natural mixed form which are safest and most effective when derived from food sources, and never synthetic beta-carotene which has been shown to be relatively ineffective and potentially risky. We recommend the full range of purely natural carotenoids, including carotene isomers, alpha-carotene, zeaxanthin, cryptoxanthin and lutein, which are all potent antioxidants.
Carotenes, along with lutein and other antioxidants, protect all cells and tissues including muscles and connective tissues from scavenging free radicals. They reduce oxidative stress and cell damage, and decrease harmful lipid peroxides. They boost each cell’s own protective glutathione levels and they enhance the actions of superoxide dismutase and catalase enzymes. These enzymes neutralize cell damage from superoxide, a major type of harmful reactive oxygen species that increases with high-intensity exercise.
B-complex vitamins are essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and protein, and for energy production during exercise. They are also key for adrenal and thyroid function, both of which have to work at peak levels for endurance and stamina. B vitamins are also needed to form hemoglobin, the molecule in red blood cells which delivers oxygen to the muscles, for which there is greater demand during aerobic or endurance exercise. A deficiency of B vitamins may impair both aerobic and anaerobic exercise performance. Vitamins B1, B6 and B12 affect the formation of serotonin, an important neurotransmitter benefiting fine motor control for better performance in precision sports.3
Nutrition experts agree that the increased use of pesticides, food processing, and the depletion of minerals in soils has compromised the quality of the current food supply. And because few Americans eat the recommended daily amounts of health-giving fruits and vegetables, a daily multiple vitamin-mineral formulation should be taken for nourishment and disease prevention.
The director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University stated, “Taking a multivitamin will help fill in the substantial gaps that are consistently apparent in national surveys of intake. Over two-thirds of Americans fail to meet the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) for vitamins D, E, and K and for the minerals magnesium and potassium; about 40% fall short of the EAR for vitamins A and C.” 4 In large part, these nutrient inadequacies are due to poor soils, low levels of vitamins and minerals in foods, and to insufficient consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. So, even with optimal eating behavior, taking a multivitamin helps immediate vitality and is a wise investment in long term health.
Our clinic recommends a multivitamin with high antioxidant delivery for our athletic patients. We emphasize the full range of purely natural mixed carotenoids, including cis and trans beta-carotene isomers, alpha-carotene, zeaxanthin, cryptoxanthin and lutein, all of which are potent antioxidants, along with other antioxidants such as vitamin C and selenium. These offer maximum protection for all cells and tissues from scavenging free radicals, and they help boost athletic performance by reducing oxidative stress and cell damage. We never use synthetic beta-carotene which has been shown to be ineffective and potentially harmful.
Our patients tell us that with an antioxidant-rich multi they feel increased stamina, faster recovery after workouts, better muscle tone and development long-term, and reduced frequency of injury with faster healing.
Recommendation: Daily totals of: Natural mixed carotenes 6,000-7,000 IU, Vitamin C 400-600mg, Vitamin E (as d-alpha tocopherol or mixed tocopherols) 200-250 IU, Pantothenic acid or vitamin B5 200-250 mg, Selenium as seleno-methionine 100 mcg, Vitamin B12 225-350 mcg, B-complex 10-40mg, along with calcium and magnesium chelates, chromium, zinc and copper. Take with any meals, or as directed by your healthcare provider.
- Jacobson B, et al. Nutrition practices and knowledge of college varsity athletes: A follow-up. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2001;15:63–8.
- Williams, M. H. “Dietary supplements and sport performance: Introduction and vitamins.” Journal of International Society of sports Nutrition 1.2 (2004): 1-6.
- Bonke D. Influence of vitamin B1, B6 and B12 on the control of fine motoric movements. Bibliotheca Nutritio et Dieta. 1986;38:104–9.
- Bloomberg, Jeffrey Friedman School professor and director of the HNRCA Antioxidants Research Laboratory, Health & Nutrition Letter, Tufts University, August 2015.
- Tiidus P, Houston M. Vitamin E status and response to exercise training. Sports Medicine. 1995;20:12–23.
- Powers S, Hamilton K. Antioxidants and exercise. Clinics in Sports Medicine. 1999;18:525–36.
- Ji L. Exercise-induced modulation of antioxidant defense. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2002;959:82–92.