B-complex vitamins, which are micronutrients, are a group of eight vitamins essential for cell repair and cell production. B-complex vitamins include Vitamin B-1 (Thiamine), B-2 (Riboflavin), B-3, B-5, B-6, B-9 (folate), and B-12.
These B-vitamins are popular amongst high-level athletes and fitness enthusiasts because they help convert proteins and carbohydrates into energy.
6 Potential Benefits of Vitamin B
- Increases Energy
- Fights Fatigue
- Repairs DNA
- Improves Endurance
- Aids Muscle Recovery
- Improves Muscle Function
Vitamins B-6, B-9, and B-12 are essential B-vitamins for muscle growth and recovery. Similar to vitamin C, B-complex vitamins are water-soluble. Therefore, they are easily absorbed and any excess is excreted by the body.
Research by Oregon State University found that a deficiency in B-vitamins can reduce high-intensity exercise performance among athletes and reduce the body’s ability to repair damaged muscles. B-vitamins are essential as the Oregon study shows that even a small deficiency in B complex vitamins affects athletic performance and recovery.
Vitamin B-1 for Nerves and Muscle Function
Also referred to as thiamine, you can find vitamin B-1 in meats, brewer’s yeast, cereals, and whole grains fortified with B-vitamins. According to a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, B-1 (thiamine) is vital for the functioning of nerves and muscles.
Vitamin B-1 improves nerve and muscle function by controlling the movement of electrolytes across cell membranes, which makes vitamin B-1 critical for the growth and development of cells in the body.
One sign of vitamin B-1 deficiency is tiredness; this is especially true for people who take part in resistance training. B-1 is vital for the production of ATP, which helps the body release energy during intense workouts.
Vitamin B-2 for Energy
Vitamin B-2, also known as riboflavin, works similarly to thiamine by controlling the body’s energy cycles. The main food sources of vitamin B-2 are avocados, green vegetables, animal proteins (milk and dairy products), Portobello mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and whole grains such as brown rice and whole-wheat cereals.
According to Oregon State University, B-2 helps the body break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, which allows the body to convert these nutrients into various forms of fuel such as glucose, fatty acids, and amino acids.
Vitamin B-2 is needed for red blood cell production and helps store energy in the muscles. A B-2 (riboflavin) deficiency can lead to hair loss, skin disorders, and sensitivity to light.
Vitamin B-3 for DNA Repair
Vitamin B-3 (niacin) plays a significant role in DNA repair. The main food sources of vitamin B-3 are eggs, milk, dairy products, peanuts, fish, chicken, nuts, and rice.
Vitamin B-3 helps release amino acids, which is essential for energy production and new muscle tissue formation after resistance training.
B-3 (niacin) also supports the nervous system, enabling the effective transfer of signals to the muscles during a workout.
Vitamin B-5 for Protein Synthesis
Similar to B-3, vitamin B-5, also known as pantothenic acid, helps break down carbohydrates and fats for conversion into energy. The main food sources of vitamin B-5 are broccoli, eggs, fortified cereals, legumes, meat, mushrooms, and potatoes.
Vitamin B-5 aids nerve functioning by facilitating the communication between nerve and muscle cells. Vitamin B-5 also boosts hemoglobin levels in the blood, a vital component of the transportation of oxygen into the muscles during exercise. Furthermore, vitamin B-5 supports muscle protein synthesis, which is crucial in the muscle-building process.
Vitamin B-6 for Muscle Repair
Sometimes referred to as pyridoxine, vitamin B-6 helps process dietary protein, which is vital for building new muscle tissue. You can get Vitamin B-6 from chicken, tuna, whole grains, beans, milk, and dairy products.
Vitamin B-6 is also responsible for the formation of neurotransmitters. Similar to B-5, vitamin B-6 boosts hemoglobin production, which ensures maximum oxygen delivery to the muscles during intense workouts.
Research conducted by Washington State University found that people who lack vitamin B-6 can experience muscle weakness and coordination problems.
Vitamin B-9 for Red Blood Cells
Vitamin B-9, often referred to as folic acid, is known for its importance in the formation of red blood cells. You can find vitamin B-9 in foods such as citrus fruits, fish, beets, whole grains, fortified cereals, and leafy vegetables.
Folic acid is essential for athletes because it ensures that red blood cells remain constant and in good supply, delivering oxygen-rich blood into the muscles.
Vitamin B-12 for Nerve Function
Also known as cobalamin, vitamin B-12 supports protein metabolism, which is a vital step when it comes to building muscle tissue. In addition to boosting red cell production, vitamin B-12 plays a crucial role in maintaining nerve functions.
You can obtain vitamin B-12 from animal foods such as fish, beef liver, chicken, milk, and other dairy products. A deficiency in vitamin B-12 can lead to weight loss, nerve damage, and anemia. People on strict vegetarian and vegan diets are more prone to vitamin B-12 deficiency since plant-based foods lack vitamin B-12.
Vitamin B for Elite Athletes and Bodybuilders
Research published in Science Daily discovered that elite athletes often perform worse during high-intensity exercise if they lack B-vitamins. Furthermore, a deficiency in vitamin B is more damaging to active individuals than less competitive people.
Exercise stresses the body’s energy-production pathways, causing a loss of nutrients through sweat. In this case, nutrients such as vitamin B must be replenished to help repair and maintain lean muscle mass in athletes.
Safety and Side Effects
Despite the apparent benefits of vitamin B, it’s not advisable to take high doses of B vitamin supplements. As indicated earlier, the body excretes excess vitamin B via urine, which means that taking high doses of vitamin B is a waste of money.
Excess amounts of vitamin B can also cause rashes, dizziness, stomach discomfort, and severe but occasional allergic reactions.
The Food and Nutrition Board recommends 1.2 mg of vitamin B-1 (thiamin) per day for men and 1.1 mg per day for women.
The recommended dose for vitamin B-2 (riboflavin) is 1.1–1.3 mg per day.
The tolerable upper intake level for vitamin B-3 (niacin) is 35 mg per day for individuals aged 19+ years.
The recommended dose for vitamin B-5 is 5 mg per day for adults.
The recommended dose for vitamin B-6 is 2 mg per day.
The Linus Pauling Institute recommends an intake of 400 micrograms of vitamin B-9 per day for adults.
The recommended dose for vitamin B-12 is 2.4 micrograms per day.
Effectiveness of Vitamin B
Research shows that tough workouts can deplete levels of vitamin B-2 and B-6 due to the massive amounts of energy used during intense exercise. Adequate amounts of vitamin B are vital for our nervous and cardiovascular systems to function properly. Therefore, you should consider vitamin B supplements if you’re unable to get enough B-vitamins in your diet, especially if you’re a vegan or vegetarian.
Remember, supplements are not magic, and nutrient-rich foods offer more benefits than dietary supplements. Before supplementing with B-vitamins, you should try to improve your diet by eating more vitamin B-rich foods to improve your health and overall well-being.