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VITAMINS & MINERALS, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
June 15, 2014
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Vitamins and minerals, do you really know what they actually are? You probably have a vague idea of vitamins and minerals being important nutrients needed by the body to perform various functions. We know we have to eat a variety of foods, especially vegetables, in order to ensure we have enough of the right vitamins and minerals. But what are they really?
A vitamin is simply described as an organic compound required by an organism as a vital nutrient in limited amounts. Minerals are chemical compounds that are stable at room temperature and provide much the same benefit as vitamins, in that they are required by the body in order to perform vital functions.
This issue of the Unleashed Journal will look at a few select vitamins and minerals and how they act within the body, how they can increase health and performance and some lesser known adverse effects of certain vitamins and minerals, known collectively as micronutrients.
We have all heard that iron is necessary for normal functioning of the circulatory system. Without iron the body can effectively produce red blood cells and the haematocrit (red blood cell concentration) decreases, resulting in conditions such as anaemia. For this reason we need adequate iron levels in the blood. Iron can be consumed through vegetables such as spinach and other greens, or in larger amounts in red meat and other animal products such as dairy, eggs and other meats. Red meat is among the most plentiful sources of dietary iron.
If enough iron is consumed yet iron stores are still low, there is a possibility that vitamin C levels are inadequate. Vitamin C is partially responsible for iron absorption. Vitamin C is easily obtained through broccoli, oranges, grapefruit juice, spinach and is rather stable in pill/supplement form.
But what about too much iron? Too much iron stored in the body is a condition called haemochromatosis, and it can be quite dangerous and even deadly. The condition results in many symptoms, broad in nature, which worsen over time. Things such as heart disease are common with excess iron storage, as are arthritis, severe liver damage, impotence in men, loss of hair and a host of other nasty things.
But how do we solve an excess iron problem? First of all, women, due to menstrual cycle, are less likely to suffer haemochromatosis. The menstrual cycle causes women to lose blood each month, which is generally iron-rich and oxygen-rich blood. It can happen in women, but is less likely. In men it is far more common. But there is a simple solution; donate blood every 4-8 weeks. For those suffering genetic iron overload there may be other measures required, but for those storing too much iron due to diet and lifestyle factors, regular blood donation is a very sound solution. The karmic benefits are good too, you will be saving lives and prolonging your own.
Before assuming iron overload, get yourself tested by a doctor, never assume.
VITAMIN D – AKA CHOLECALCIFEROL
Vitamin D can also be called the sunshine vitamin. Why? Because UV sun exposure causes the body to produce vitamin D at adequate levels. What if you work indoors? It could be likely you are deficient in vitamin D. this also even applies to some people that are getting enough sun due to poor conversion.
Why do you need vitamin D? There are a number of reasons. First of all, vitamin D, along with magnesium and manganese, help the body to absorb calcium and increase bone density. Vitamin D help with bone growth and with the building of connective tissue such as cartilage and ligaments. But there is another, lesser known role of vitamin D. Several studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between vitamin D deficiency and low testosterone along with loss of muscle mass and strength. Most research points to one or more of the following…
1. Those with low testosterone commonly have a vitamin D deficiency.
2. Those with a vitamin D deficiency commonly have low testosterone.
3. The testicles have receptors for vitamin D, suggesting it plays some role there.
4. In mice, those with no receptors for vitamin D are generally, almost always, testosterone deficient.
How do we make sure we have enough vitamin D? the first, and most obvious, is to ensure exposure to sunlight is adequate. Care should be taken not to over-expose and increase risk of skin cancer. 15-30 minutes of full body exposure per day is generally enough for Caucasian people. The darker the skin the more exposure necessary. Very dark skinned individuals may need up to two hours of direct sun exposure per day, or even more in colder parts of the world. This is because those with darker skin are less sensitive to UV rays.
Eggs are another good source of vitamin D, but only in the yolk. It is advised to eat free-range eggs from healthy chickens, not factory farmed eggs. Another food with a good dose of vitamin D is mushrooms that have been exposed to direct sunlight. Alternatively, a vitamin D3 supplement will help.
Be careful not to overdo it, get your levels checked by a doctor, never assume you are deficient.
B-vitamins include: Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, Folate, Vitamin B12.
These perform many different functions, but most significantly they aid in energy metabolism, in that you better utilise the macro-nutrients you consume. This also includes tissue growth and repair due to increased protein synthesis.
The B-complex vitamins have two major functions directly related to exercise. Thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine (B6), pantothenic acid, and biotin are involved in energy production during exercise, whereas folate and vitamin B12 are required for the production of red blood cells, for protein synthesis, and in tissue repair and maintenance including the CNS.
This has obvious benefits to sports performance and the increase in effectiveness of exercise.
For most vitamins and minerals, adequate levels can be maintained by consuming a natural diet, rich in colourful vegetables. But it extends further than this, and sometimes measures need to be taken to either supplement the diet for vitamin deficiencies, or to actively reduce certain micronutrients such as excess iron levels.
Stay tuned for the next issue. We will discuss training velocity and how it impacts performance. Train fast to get fast. It’s all about power.
Unleash Your Physical Potential,
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