Bicycle Network: Health Matters
They are essential for optimal health, energy levels and performance, but which vitamins do you need and what's the best way to take them?
We all need vitamins to keep our body healthy and produce energy to keep those pedals turning. Vitamins are abundant in fresh foods, and if you eat well and cycle regularly you may feel that you are getting all that you need. The big question remains: “Can I get all my vitamins from food or are supplements necessary?”
Pills vs plate
If you are a keen recreational cyclist who eats a nutrient-dense diet then you will probably be getting adequate vitamins from your food. On the other hand, if you are training several hours a day and competing, or in the early stages of a new training regime then you will be putting extra stress on your body and will need extra vitamins.
Some of these vitamins will come from eating extra food to match your training levels. However, athletes in heavy training often need to use supplements to meet their needs. Individuals with specific dietary requirements, such as vegetarians, pregnant women and those with vitamin deficiencies will also need extra vitamins and may benefit from supplementation.
Vitamins are found naturally in foods in two varieties, fat soluble and water soluble. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble vitamins and are found in dairy products, eggs, oils and green leafy vegetables. Fat soluble vitamins can accumulate in the body over time.
Vitamin C and those from the B family are water soluble and exist in lean meats, organ meats (eg brains, liver), grains, dairy products and fruit and vegetables. Water soluble vitamins do not accumulate in the body, so you need to have them daily at levels that meet individual needs.
If you are not sure of your requirements, a professional dietary assessment will help you determine your current intake from foods and if, how much and which type of supplements may be required.
Don’t miss your dose
Some individuals may be at higher risk of vitamin deficiencies. If you follow a low-kilojoule diet you may not be eating enough food in total to meet nutrient requirements. If you have felt a bit heavy on the bike, you may have tried to drop some body fat by changing your eating habits.
Fad diets often lead to avoidance of certain food groups, which can lead to inadequate vitamin intake. Frequent travel that leads to erratic meal patterns and eating on the road may also limit the range of vitamins consumed.
This article first appeared in the August-September 2006 issue of Ride On.
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