Consuming the right vitamins and minerals is crucial for a well functioning metabolism of macronutrients, carbohydrates, fats and proteins. These nutrients provide us with energy and antioxidants that prevent oxidation of the cells, which might occur during exercise. The muscles tend to use a lot of oxygen when exercising, therefore increasing the production of free radicals. These unstable molecules that are made by the body when exposed to a toxic environment can harm cells. Vitamins C and E help reduce the damages caused by these free radials. Vitamin C also helps in the production of collagen, which provides structure in connective tissue that includes bones, tendons and ligaments, reducing pains that could surge during physical activity.
Minerals are closely associated to physical and athletic aptitude. Calcium and iron are the most important in this particular case. Iron provides energy for metabolism and helps with the transportation of oxygen inside the muscles and throughout all the body. When there’s an insufficient amount of iron in our bodies, the oxygen’s transportation is poor, therefore causing fatigue and a worst-case scenario resulting in anemia, which is deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin, a protein responsible for the transportation of oxygen in the body in the blood. Athletes have to pay special attention to their iron levels, especially women, who often lose too much iron during the menstrual cycle. The intravascular hemolysis, the breaking of red blood cells in the body, is another effect of endurance exercise and it occurs when the foot is in constant impact with the ground, causing the red blood cells to break and release iron. This often occurs when you’re wearing poor quality footwear. The anemia in athletes is different from anemia in non-athletes because it doesn’t require supplementation. Instead, the body adapts to the change and falls into time with the reproduction of hemoglobin.
Calcium is also a very important factor to take in consideration when exercising. It centers on bone health, heart contractions and the muscle. It also works collaboratively with hormones and neurotransmitters, a structure that permits a neuron to pass a signal from cell to cell. This mineral is lost through sweat, but it’s been proven that the bone density increases when the consumption of Calcium, by food not supplementation, equals the amount lost. This means that athletes have to keep a close eye on their calcium consumption because if you don’t eat what’s lost, the mineral will be extracted from the bone and could result in osteoporosis. Supplementation should only be done in extreme cases or if you have a sedentary lifestyle, which you won’t have if you’re exercising. The excess or unnecessary use of supplements may cause permanent damages to your body. Therefore, if you were to supplement you’d need to consult a registered dietitian (RD).