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Micronutrients (Vitamins and minerals) are essential for ensuring the body functions normally and optimally. Especially important for sports performance are B-vitamins, namely thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, B-12, and folate. B-vitamins are used to convert carbohydrates and proteins into energy and also play a key role in cell repair and production. B-vitamins are also involved in hormone production, protecting the sheath around nerve cells, creating new red blood cells and helping deliver amino acids such as L-Leucine into the muscles to help rebuild muscle. In summary, B-vitamins are vital in combatting the stress generated by physical activity and maintaining optimal function of the body (Soares et al., 1993).

B-vitamins are vital for maintaining the health of physically active individuals, however, individual requirements for B-vitamins are highly variable depending on factors such as age, height, weight, gender, exercise intensity and type, sweat volume and composition and diet (e.g. Manore, 2000, Maughan, 1999). However, even a small deficiency in B-vitamins can significantly reduce performance and recovery (Van der Beek et al., 1997, Telford et al., 1992).

B-vitamins are found in many of the foods we eat and typically, you can get sufficient from your normal diet (see below). However, if you train regularly at a high intensity or are following a restricted diet for health or performance, you may fall short.
    •    Thiamin - lean pork, yeast, legumes, and enriched cereals and bread.
    •    Riboflavin - dairy products, eggs, green leafy vegetables, lean meats, organ meats, such as liver and kidneys, legumes, nuts, Fortified Breads & cereals.
    •    Niacin - Liver, chicken, salmon, beef, and eggs. Whole grain products, legumes, carrots, broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, dates, avocados, and leafy green vegetables
    •    Pantothenic Acid - animal proteins, avocado, broccoli, kale, and other vegetables in the cabbage family, eggs, legumes and lentils, milk, mushrooms, organ meats, poultry, white and sweet potatoes, whole-grain cereals, yeast
    •    Vitamin B6 - beans, chicken, fish, dark leafy greens, bananas, papayas, oranges, and cantaloupe.
    •    Folate - many fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, cereals, and fortified grains.
    •    Vitamin B12 - fish, poultry, meat, eggs, or dairy. Nutritional yeast, miso, seaweed, fortified cereals, and enriched soy or rice milk are also good source of B12 if you are vegetarian.

Thiamin – B1

Thiamin is central to the mobilisation of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for energy production during aerobic activities (e.g. Manore, 2000, Maughan, 1999). It is Thiamin pyrophosphate (TPP) found within Thiamin that is crucial to several key reactions during energy production in the body. Specifically, TPP converts pyruvate to acetyl-COA during the production of ATP (energy) in the mitochondria. Therefore, supplying the body with sufficient Thiamin is crucial to ensuring there is sufficient capacity to continue to mobilise carbohydrate, fats & proteins and produce energy.

Riboflavin – B2

Riboflavin is essentially two important cofactors; Flavin mononucleotide (FMN) and flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD). These two cofactors play vital roles in the transfer of electrons during the aerobic production of ATP (energy) (e.g. Manore, 2000, Maughan, 1999). Without Riboflavin the body isn’t capable of maximising energy production via aerobic methods. Riboflavin is also used in the mobilisation of amino acids for use as energy.

Furthermore, riboflavin also helps to conversion vitamin B-6 into its usable form highlighting the importance of ensuring the full spectrum of B-Vitamins are supplied to the body (Manore, 2000, Leklem, 1988).

Niacin – B3

Niacin performs the same role as other B-vitamins in helping to metabolise carbohydrates, fats and proteins into energy and regulate hormones, but it also has a unique role in supporting brain function.

Niacin consists of 2 coenzymes; nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP). These elements are responsible for energy production via cell metabolism in the brain leading to improved brain function and focus.

A secondary benefit of Niacin is to lower triglycerides. Research has shown that this can be by as much as 20%, and in some cases by 50%. High levels of triglycerides are a health risk, being linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and high levels of LDL cholesterol. This reduction is achieved by Niacin stopping the action of an enzyme involved in triglyceride synthesis.

Pantothenic Acid – B5

Pantothenic Acid is required for the synthesis of coenzyme-A (CoA) that is a key element in the production of ATP (energy) within the mitochondria. Producing energy as efficiently as possible is crucial to maximising your performance.


B-6 is crucial to our ability to release and use amino acids for energy and muscle repair thanks to the active ingredient, pyridoxal phosphate (PLP), which is a cofactor to the enzymes involved in protein transmutation and deamination (removal of an amino group from an amino acid). B-6 is also involved in the breakdown of glycogen which is then transported to the mitochondria for ATP (energy) production (e.g. Manore, 1994, 2000, Maughan, 1999).

Folate – B9

Folate helps, as a coenzyme, to combat the stress created by exercise on red blood cells, muscles and DNA (e.g. Maughan, 1999). Folate contributes to DNA synthesis cell division and amino acid metabolism making it a vital element for muscle and blood cell repair and growth.

Vitamin B12

B-12 is a coenzyme important in the formation of red blood cells and aids in the delivery of key nutrients to muscle cells to promote energy production and recovery (Manore &Thompson, 2000). Insufficient vitamin B12 can result in ‘metabolic anaemia’ leaving you feeling tired, drained and reduced performance. Additionally, vitamin B12 plays a role in your body’s nervous system by helping to maintain the nerve fibre sheath health (Manore &Thompson, 2000). When the sheath is less than optimal nerve signalling can be interrupted resulting in poor co-ordination, lack of focus and weakness. In combination with vitamin B6, vitamin B12 is important for metabolising methionine which is an amino acid that helps to regulate cell growth, DNA formation and cell repair.

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Telford, R.D., E.A. Catchpole, V. Deakin, A.C. McLeay, and A.W. Plank. The effect of 7 to 8 months of vitamin/mineral supplementation on the vitamin and mineral status of athletes.

Int. J. Sport Nutr. 2:123-134, 1992

Manore, M.M. Vitamin B-6 and exercise. Int. J. Sport Nutr. 4:89-103, 1994.

Maughan, R.J. Role of micronutrients in sport and physical activity. Br. Med. Bull. 55:683-690, 1999

Manore, M.M., and J.A. Thompson. Sport Nutrition for Health and Performance. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2000

Soares MJ, Satyanarayana K, Bamji MS, Jacob CM, Ramana YV, Rao SS. The effect of exercise on the riboflavin status of adult men. Br J Nutr  1993;69:541–51.

Leklem JE. Vitamin B-6: of reservoirs, receptors and requirements.  Nutr Today 1988;Sept/Oct:4–10.

Van der Beek EJ, van Dokkum W, Wedel M, Schrijver J, van den Berg H. Thiamin, riboflavin and vitamin B6: Impact of restricted intake on physical performance in man. J Am Coll Nutr  1994;13:629–40.