March 23, 2007

Importance of Micronutrients for Bodybuilders: Water, Vitamins & Minerals

A common mistake in bodybuilders’ nutrition is neglecting those elements that do not provide calories. However, these elements, known as micronutrients, are indispensable for many physiological functions. This post reviews the importance of basic micronutrients (water, vitamins, and minerals) for achieving success in bodybuilding.

Water is one of the most important nutrients, as it has many health and performance benefits. It keeps your organs functioning properly, clears toxins from the body and regulates the body cooling system. In addition, it is essential for proper digestion, nutrient absorption and chemical reactions, and it contributes to muscle growth by favoring the transport of nutrients to the cells. It even increases the body's ability to metabolize stored fat. On the other side, water is also very important for the athletic performance, since improper hydration can result in muscle cramping, decreased strength and reduced endurance.

In general, people wait to be thirsty in order to drink. This is not a good idea, because when you are thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. You should drink on average 3 or 4 liters of water per day, distributed at regular intervals regardless if you are thirsty or not. Use water itself as you main water source. Soft drinks, alcohol or coffee should be better avoided as a water source because they are diuretic (they take away more water than they provide to the body). In addition, soft drinks and alcohol supply a great number of calories which can turn into body fat.

Vitamins are organic substances essential to the normal functioning of the body, as they help to catalyze biochemical reactions controlling metabolism, growth and maintenance. A deficiency in a single vitamin can have great effects in the athletic performance and even in the health. Vitamins must be obtained from food (fish, fruit and veggies are great vitamin sources) since, with few exceptions, the body cannot synthesize them. Vitamins can be divided into two categories: fat-soluble and water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are stored in the body fatty tissue and for this reason they do not have to be replenished daily. Don’t overdose since this can lead to toxicity. The water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C and all the B complex vitamins, namely B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B12 (cobalamin), folic acid, and biotin (a.k.a. vitamin H)) are not stored in the body and excessive amounts are excreted in the urine. This means that toxicity is generally not a problem, but these vitamins must be continually replenished through the diet.

Minerals have also a great importance. They act as catalysts for many biological reactions within the body, including muscle response, the transmission of messages through the nervous system, the production of hormones, and the assimilation of nutrients in foods. In addition, all tissues and internal fluids of our body (e.g. bones, teeth, muscle, blood, and nerve cells) contain varying quantities of minerals. Since the body cannot manufacture any single mineral, your entire mineral intake must provide from food. The most important minerals for a bodybuilder include magnesium, calcium, zinc, chromium, sodium, phosphorous, iron, selenium, cooper, and potassium. Be aware of overdosing on any mineral, since this can cause a functional imbalance of another mineral or even toxicity.

I’ll provide a detailed description for each vitamin and mineral (importance, deficiency symptoms and food sources) in a later post, but in the meanwhile, you can find more information about the importance of micronutrients in the article “Understanding The Importance Of Proper Hydration For Maximum Gains In And Out Of The Gym!” by Jeff Behar or the article “Anabolic Nutrition!” included in the I.C.E. Training Program developed by Big Cat.

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