Vitamins are classified as ingredients essential to life.
Daily minimum amounts are established and listed for those micronutrients deemed worthy enough to be classified as a 'vitamin'.
We base our knowledge on the events that unfold when the vitamin is lacking in the diet and studying the disorders and symptoms that result.
There are many other compounds, which are not associated with a deficiency but are unquestioanbly essential to maximum health.
Our understanding of any given vitamin centers on the biochemical and physiological functions that the vitamin is involved in.
The dysfunction that occurs if uncorrected, causes disease.
Deficiencies in vitamins were recognized early on as the cause of certain diseases.
Pellagra, scurvy and beri-beri, decimated soldiers of old because certain vitamins were unavailable to the troops.
Today's danger to health is more due to overabundance of food, not deficiency. An insidious threat, caused by American success.
Despite the overabundance of food, deficiencies still exist. This is especially true for athletes who don't follow a colorful diet.
These athletes need more because their metabolic rate is so much higher than sedentary people and the foods they eat have been stripped of many of their essential compounds by commercialized farming.
Moreover, food today contains a vast array of potentially cancerous compounds like preservatives. The processing, refining and transporting of food has resulted in the removal of the phytochemicals that normally act as protectors against these agents.
The importance and value of vitamins to people who exercise can not be overstated.
This program recommends supplements to counter the loss of vitamins in foods. This includes high doses of the antioxidant and energy vitamins because their functions promote improved exercise performance as well as speeding an athlete's recovery from it.
Vitamins are a class of non-protein organic compounds needed in minute quantities by the body.
Vitamins are necessary for cellular metabolism and growth.
Vitamins have traditionally been divided into water-soluble and fat-soluble groups.
Vitamin C and the B vitamins are water-soluble and have the common trait of functioning as co-factors or co-enzymes in cellular metabolic reactions.
These complex reactions regulate cell division and energy production.
Vitamin C and B are not stored in tissue and require regular consumption to maintain tissue levels. They are required in higher amounts by athletes because they are metabolically affected by physical activity and exercise.
The fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K can be stored in body tissues.
They function more in the manner of hormones than co-factors and with the exception of vitamins E and D, do not require supplementation.
Vitamin E has the essential role of protecting cells against oxidative damage and vitamin D is essential for calcium metabolism.
Vitamin B is a library of eight different vitamins, manufactured in plants. Some foods are high in one B vitamin while other foods are higher in another.
Leafy greens, whole grains and lentils are good sources of B vitamins as are fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes.
None of them contain significant amounts of B12, which is found in meat and dairy.
Brewers yeast and its Australian incarnation, Vegemite are high in B vitamins.
Avocado, pomegranate, dates, watermelon, bok choy, Swiss chard, kale, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, squash, parsnips and berries are other high B-complex foods.
Soy beans and black-eye peas contain the highest amounts of B9 or folate.
Vitamin B complex is also found naturally in many high-protein foods but processed foods and grains, like cereals and breads, have much of them removed in the processing so manufacturers add vitamins to their products.
B vitamins are a group of water-soluble vitamins that play a role in cell metabolism. They are often involved in energy transactions.
Thiamin - Vitamin B1
• The disease beriberi was recognized in China as early as 2600 BC and is the earliest documented deficiency disorder. Thiamin acts as a co-enzyme in the decarboxylation reaction of the branched chain amino acids, valine, leucine and isoleucine.
• Thiamin also functions in the formation of acetyl-CoA, the two-carbon fragment that provides the link between carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism.
• Thiamin requirements increase with exercise, high carbohydrate diets and high metabolic rates. Thiamin requirements on the other hand are reduced when protein and fats comprise a higher caloric proportion of the diet.
• Thiamin requirements are also lower for sedentary people. Thiamin is transformed in the liver to thiamin pyrophosphate, the active co-enzyme form of the vitamin. A deficiency of thiamin results in an increase in blood lactic acid levels, which have important implications for athletes.
Riboflavin - Vitamin B2
Riboflavin or Vitamin B2 is converted to two active coenzyme forms, flavine mononucleotide (FMN), and flavine adenine dinucleotide (FAD). These coenzymes function as hydrogen carriers (flavoproteins) in the mitochondria electron transport system (respiratory chain). Riboflavin is involved with thyroid hormone production, fatty acid metabolism and the citric acid cycle.
Niacin functions as part of a co-enzyme complex.
Within that complex, Niacin acts as a hydrogen donor during oxidation-reduction reactions.
Niacin plays an essential role in glycolysis, fatty acid metabolism and the citric acid or Krebs cycle.
Niacin is also needed for protein synthesis.
Niacin blocks the release of fatty acids from adipose tissue thus preventing its use as a source of energy. Consequently, glycogen depletion is accelerated and a drop in blood glucose occurs (hypoglycemia). In all likelihood, the impairment of fatty acid mobilization precludes its use as a supplement for athletes.
Pantothenic Acid B5
Pantothenic acid is a structural component of coenzyme A (CoA). CoA occupies an essential place in energy metabolism and is linked to energy utilization in transacetylation reactions. In this capacity, CoA is involved with carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism through the formation of acetyl coenzyme A (acetyl CoA). Supplementation with pantothenic acid can reduce the need for oxygen by lowering the lactate level of athletes.
Pyridoxine - Vitamin B6
Pyridoxine is a cofactor in deamination and decarboxylation reactions.
Consequently, Vitamin B6 requirements become higher when high-protein diets are consumed, since these reactions occur during amino acid transformation.
Vitamin B66 is important in all aspects of amino acid metabolism and is especially important in brain metabolism. Vitamin B6 is involved with the formation of brain amines (epinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin), which are responsible for neuronal synaptic transmissions.
Since low carbohydrate diets cause early glycogen depletion, Vitamin B6 supplements may aid athletes who insist on following high protein diets.
Cobalamin - Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 functions in a variety of reactions: DNA synthesis, folic acid metabolism, neural tissue development, hemoglobin and RBC formation. It is the most abused vitamin among athletes. There is no need to supplement an athlete’s diet with Vitamin B12
Folic Acid - Vitamin B9
Folic acid or Vitamin B9 functions in various co-enzyme forms. Its main metabolic function is in donating or accepting one-carbon units.
Folate or folic acid is important in cell division and nucleotide metabolism.
Folic acid also plays a role in fatty acid metabolism and is intricately involved with erythrocyte (Red Blood Cell) formation.
Folic acid in its co-enzyme form, aids in the conversion of homocysteine to methionine. This is a conversion that helps prevent disease.
High homocysteine levels are associated with atherosclerosis.
High homocysteine levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. An increased level of Folic acid lowers homocysteine levels, which lowers the risk.
Choline is an accessory nutrient that is included with the B vitamins.
Choline acts as a methyl donor.
That means that it provides carbon atoms in the form of (CH3). Methyl donors are often involved in
Choline is required in higher amounts during periods of growth necessitating its inclusion in infant milk formulas. Choline and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) are combined to produce acetylcholine.
Choline is a component of lecithin and acetylcholine (ACh).
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter.
Lecithin is chemically known as phosphatidylcholine and commercially represents a natural mixture of lipids.
Phosphatidylcholine helps maintain cell membrane fluidity and support for the protective sheath that surrounds the brain.
Choline is also needed for cell membrane integrity and helps move fats in and out of cells
Biotin - Vitamin H
Biotin is also a member of the water-soluble B vitamins.
It functions as a co-enzyme and has a metabolic role in energy and amino acid metabolism.
Biotin is necessary for the conversion of pyruvate, (the three-carbon compound formed from glucose metabolism) to acetyl-CoA.
As a reminder, acetyl-CoA is the two-carbon unit that enters the citric acid cycle during aerobic metabolism and so biotin is necessary for both metabolism and growth
The citric acid (tricarboxylic acid) cycle is a recycling system of two carbon units. These units are in the form of acetyl-CoA.
These units combine with the four-carbon skeleton of oxaloacetic acid to produce the six-carbon compound, citric acid.
In the process of returning to the original four-carbon compound, carbon dioxide is produced, which must be removed.
This release of CO2 is coupled to an energy transfer. The energy flows to the high-energy phosphate bonds of ATP.
In addition, each spin of the cycle releases pairs of electrons that enter the respiratory chain.
Each cascade of electrons in the respiratory chain produces more high-energy bonds.
The bonds of ATP are used as the energy currency in biological reactions.
Ascorbic Acid - Vitamin C
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) has multiple functions in the body. Ascorbic acid is a water-soluble antioxidant important in exercise.
Vitamin C is necessary for the synthesis of collagen, adrenaline, carnitine, and serotonin. Vitamin C has a role in steroid synthesis and is aids in steroid release (cortisol) from the adrenal gland.
There is an interrelationship between Vitamin C and heat, stress and exercise.
The importance of maintaining adequate levels of Vitamin C is important for healing, performance and long term health.
Athletes are advised to supplement their diet with high doses of C to insure a high level during exercise.