An intense training program is tough on your body, so it’s important to support yourself as much as possible. To be able to keep working hard day after day, you need to recover and keep your body strong. To do that, you need certain nutrients.
For some nutrients, the needs are the same as for non-athletes. For others, you may have higher needs. Or, you could be more likely to be deficient. These are some reasons why you need nutrients for sports recovery, and some vitamins and minerals to be particularly careful of when you are training.
There are a variety of different vitamin and mineral supplements. It can be hard to choose the right ones for you, but you can look through the different options and consider factors such as types and amounts of nutrients, and what form they are in. Just be sure to ask your healthcare provider before taking any nutritional or sports supplements.
Goals of Sports Recovery
What exactly is sports recovery? It’s getting your body ready for your next workout so you can keep training for maximal fitness and performance. Each workout wears you out. You may have muscle damage or reduced glycogen stores, for example. Supporting your recovery speeds up the process of repairing muscles, replenishing stored fuel, and adapting your body systems so that you become a little fitter.
Vitamins and Minerals for Sports Recovery*
These are some vitamins and minerals to think about as you plan your sports recovery.
B vitamins are involved in lots of processes related to sports training. Many B vitamins are involved in energy metabolism, or getting fuel from the fat, carbohydrates, and proteins in the food you eat.
B vitamins are also involved in the production of healthy red blood cells. Without enough healthy red blood cells, you can be short of breath and have trouble working hard. That’s not helpful for hard training!
B vitamins are in a variety of foods. These include leafy green vegetables, nuts, beans, meat and poultry, shellfish, eggs, whole grains, milk, and fruit. If you’re not sure that you’re eating enough, you may need a supplement.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant vitamin that is also helpful for the immune system. These are important for athletes because intense exercise can increase the need for antioxidants to protect the body from free radicals and oxidative damage, as well as a weaker immune system after an intense workout or competition. Vitamin C is also needed for cartilage production, which is essential for maintaining healthy joints, and it helps the body absorb some forms of iron.
Sources of vitamin C include grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, spinach, kale, broccoli, potatoes, berries, red peppers.
Vitamin D is necessary for a healthy immune system. It also helps with calcium metabolism, which is extra important for athletes who are putting stress on their bones and may end up with stronger bones as a result.
Being out in the sun can increase vitamin D production, but athletes may use sunscreen to protect their skin. Vitamin D is also in fortified milk, fatty fish, and some fortified cereals, yogurt, and orange juice.
Vitamin A is another necessary nutrient for the immune system. Vitamin A from plant sources is in the form of carotenoids, such as beta-carotene. These are antioxidants and may be anti-inflammatory. They could protect cells from oxidative damage and also support a normal inflammatory response to exercise. The bottom line is that muscular damage could be reduced.*
Liver, butter, and egg yolks have vitamin A, but plant-based sources include orange and green vegetables, such as spinach, carrots, pumpkin, acorn squash, and sweet potatoes. Fruits, such as cantaloupe, can also have vitamin A.
Iron is a mineral that is necessary for immune function and healthy red blood cells. In fact, iron is the component in hemoglobin, in red blood cells, that carries oxygen. Without enough iron, your cells won’t get enough oxygen, and you’ll certainly notice that as you breathe harder when you try to exercise more intensely.
Sources of iron include red meat, chicken, fortified cereals and other grains, potatoes, and beans. Athletes are especially susceptible to iron deficiency.
Magnesium is a mineral that is needed for normal muscle contraction and relaxation. It is also part of energy production reactions, and it may protect against muscle damage. It is an electrolyte.
Sources include nuts, wheat germ, milk, and chocolate, among other foods. Many Americans could have more magnesium.
Potassium is a mineral that’s known for opposing the effects of sodium and helping to lower blood pressure, but it is like sodium in that it is an electrolyte. It helps maintain proper fluid balance. Low potassium can lead to muscle cramps and dehydration.
You may be more likely to be deficient in potassium if you do not eat many fruits and vegetables. Beans, fish, and starchy vegetables are also good sources of potassium.
Zinc is needed for immune function and for normal energy production. It is in meat, beans, whole grains, nuts, and dairy products.
Supplements for Nutrients That Aid Sports Recovery
The last thing you need when working out so hard is something else to worry about. You may already be worrying about your training program, your recovery, and your nutrition, not to mention the rest of your hectic life. You don’t want to be worrying about vitamins and minerals, too.
The right supplements can make it easy for you to get your nutrients.* Talk to your healthcare provider about your workout regimen and your fitness goals, and see which nutrients you may need. Then talk about which specific supplements may be right for you. Netrition has all kinds of sports supplements with vitamins and minerals, not to mention amino acids and herbal ingredients.
Your body always needs nutrients, but certain nutrients can take on special meaning when you are working out especially hard. Whether you are an athlete, a weekend warrior, or someone trying to lose weight or perform their best, some vitamins and minerals are necessary for optimal recovery. Ask your healthcare provider how to best support your nutrition.
*The Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated these statements. Netrition products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Anyone with a medical condition should seek the advice of a licensed medical practitioner. Individual results may vary.