Nutrition and Athletic Performance – What are the required vitamins and minerals in the athletes diet?

From: Joint Position Statement of the American Dietetic Association and Dieticians of Canada.

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  • A review of all identifiable studies with specific exclusions.


  • The paper is a systematic review / meta analysis of all relevant trials.
  • This means that the data from all similar trials has been grouped to form an overall outcome.


  • Micronutrients may be required to cover increased needs for building, repair, and maintenance of lean body mass in athletes.

  • The most common vitamins and minerals found to be of concern in athletes’ diets are calcium and vitamin D, the B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium, as well as some antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and selenium.

  • Use of vitamin and mineral supplements does not improve performance in individuals consuming nutritionally adequate diets


B Vitamins:Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, Folate, Vitamin B12

  • 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.

  • Some data suggest that exercise may slightly increase the need for these vitamins as much as twice the current recommended amount; however, these increased needs can generally be met with higher energy intakes.

  • Although short-term marginal deficiencies of B vitamins have not been observed to impact performance, severe deficiency of vitamin B12, folate, or both may result in anaemia and reduced endurance performance.


Antioxidants: Vitamins C and E, A-Carotene, and Selenium

  • Whether exercise increases the need for antioxidant nutrients remains controversial. There is little evidence that antioxidant supplements enhance physical performance.

  • The evidence that a combination of antioxidants or single antioxidants such as vitamin E may be helpful in reducing inflammation and muscle soreness during recovery from intense exercise remains unclear. Although the ergogenic potential of vitamin E concerning physical performance has not been clearly documented, endurance athletes may have a higher need for this vitamin.

  • Vitamin C supplements do not seem to have an ergogenic effect if the diet provides adequate amounts of this nutrient. Because strenuous and prolonged exercise has been shown to increase the need for vitamin C, physical performance can be compromised with marginal vitamin C status or deficiency. Athletes who participate in habitual prolonged, strenuous exercise should consume 100–1000 mg of vitamin C daily.


Minerals: Calcium, Iron, Zinc, and Magnesium

  • The primary minerals low in the diets of athletes, especially female athletes, are calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium

  • Inadequate dietary calcium and vitamin D increase the risk of low bone mineral density and stress fractures. Supplementation with calcium and vitamin D should be determined after nutrition assessment. Current recommendations for athletes with disordered eating, amenorrhea, and risk for early osteoporosis are 1500 mg of elemental calcium and 400–800 IU of vitamin D per day.

  • Iron deficiency, with or without anaemia, can impair muscle function and limit work capacity. Iron requirements for endurance athletes, especially distance runners, are increased by approximately 70%. Athletes who are vegetarian or regular blood donors should aim for an iron intake greater than their respective RDA (i.e., 18 mg and 8 mg, for men and women respectively).

  • In athletes who are iron-deficient, iron supplementation not only improves blood biochemical measures and iron status but also increases work capacity as evidenced by increasing oxygen uptake, reducing heart rate, and decreasing lactate concentration during exercise.

  • Recent findings provide additional support for improved performance (i.e., less skeletal muscle fatigue) when iron supplementation was prescribed as 100-mg ferrous sulfate for 4–6 wk. Improving work capacity and endurance, increasing oxygen uptake, reducing lactate concentrations, and reducing muscle fatigue are benefits of improved iron status.

  • Zinc status has been shown to directly affect thyroid hormone levels, BMR, and protein use, which in turn can negatively affect health and physical performance.

  • Decreases in cardiorespiratory function, muscle strength, and endurance have been noted with poor zinc status. Further, the benefits of zinc supplementation to physical performance have not been established.

  • Magnesium deficiency impairs endurance performance by increasing oxygen requirements to complete submaximal exercise.

  • In athletes with low magnesium status, supplementation might be beneficial.

  • Many endurance athletes will require much more than the upper limit for sodium (2.3 g/day) and chloride (3.6 g/day). Sports drinks containing sodium (0.5–0.7 g/litre) and potassium (0.8–2.0 g/litre), as well as carbohydrate, are recommended for athletes especially in endurance events (>2 h).


  • As per the results above.