Vitamin B and Exercise

Vitamin B and Exercise.

Vitamins are needed by your body in order to perform specific functions. I want to use this article to look at Vitamin B and its effect on your health.

Vitamin B is used by the body to unlock fuel stored within your carbohydrate, fat and protein reserves. Because athletes use up more energy than their non-athletic counterparts, their need for Vitamin B is increased.  The B Vitamins are water soluble and are thus only found in parts of your body that store water. As a result you need to replenish the vitamin on a daily basis.

The Vitamin molecule is not linked in long chains such as carbohydrates. They do not provide energy when broken down. Instead, vitamins assist enzymes that release energy from carbohydrates, fats and proteins.

A look at the different types of Vitamin B.

B1 -Thiamin       

Needed by both your nervous system and cardiovascular system. Deficiency thereof includes malaise, weight loss, irritability and confusion.

B2 -Riboflavin

Vitamin B2 is required for a wide variety of cellular processes. It plays a key role in energy metabolism, and for the metabolism of fats, ketone bodies, carbohydrates, and proteins. It gives Vitamin B preparations their distinctive yellow colour.

B3 -Niacin

Niacin is involved in both DNA repair, and the production of steroid hormones in the adrenal gland.

B5 -Pantothenic Acid

B5 is used to synthesize and metabolize proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

B6 -Pyridoxine

Vitamin B6 helps the body make several neurotransmitters, chemicals that carry signals from one nerve cell to another. It is essential for normal brain development and function, and helps the body make the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine (which influence mood) and melatonin (which helps regulate the body clock).

B7 -Biotin

Biotin not only assists in various metabolic reactions but also helps to transfer carbon dioxide. Biotin may also be helpful in maintaining a steady blood sugar level. Biotin deficiencies are rare in that the intestinal bacteria generally produce enough of the vitamin.

B9-Folic Acid

It is especially important in aiding rapid cell division and growth, such as in infancy and pregnancy, as well as in “feeding” some cancers.

B12 – Cyanocolbalamin

Vitamin B12 is found in a large variety of foods in amounts much higher than needed by the body.  The major food sources of Vitamin B12 are meats, fish, eggs and dairy products.  Vitamin B12 is also commonly added to breakfast cereals in many western nations.  Vitamin B12 is used by the body to produce energy and is required for cellular division and the health of nerve cells.  A deficiency of Vitamin B12 usually causes problems such as anaemia along with fatigue as well as digestive symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

There is also a medical condition that can cause Vitamin B12 deficiency which involves the lack of formation of B12-intrinsic enzyme in the stomach.  In the absence of this enzyme, the body is unable to absorb the nutrient from food in the small intestines.   This process also requires the presence of calcium, so in extreme cases of a calcium deficiency a problem with Vitamin B12 absorption could also be seen.

There are some very serious conditions that can occur in a Vitamin B12 deficiency.   Because Vitamin B12 is needed for cellular division, reduced red blood cell counts are often one of the first symptoms.  Vitamin B12 anaemia causes symptoms such as fatigue, muscle weakness and shortness of breath.  Vitamin B12 is also necessary in the production of the myelin sheath that surrounds and protects nerve cells.  A deficiency of Vitamin B12 could cause numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.  It is important to note that this damage is permanent and cannot be reversed, even with Vitamin B12 supplements.

In summary, B12 is critical to the normal functioning of the brain, nervous system and in the formation of blood. It is critical to the well being of every cell in your body.


As an athlete you need to eat healthily. A varied diet that includes all food groups is essential.  Vegetarians need to make sure that they keep up with vitamins normally found in meat. You should be on a Vitamin B supplement during times of training and this should be stepped up to injected Vitamin B during times of heavy training.

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