Have you been working hard at the gym in an effort to achieve muscle gain? That’s a great first step in your fitness journey, but you also have to focus on both muscle recovery and feeding your body the supplements it needs in order to keep improving. Working out—and doing it right—will no doubt contribute to your overall health and wellbeing.
Regardless of if you’re new to lifting or an advanced lifter, the one thing you should know is this: The key to a strong, healthy lean body is nutrition.
All the world’s most famous bodybuilders agree that bodybuilding doesn’t happen only in the gym; it also happens in the kitchen. And there’s a two-fold reason for that: One, your body needs supplements to function at its very best, and two—not even the world’s best workout plan can fix the damage that is caused from a poor diet and bad eating.
Ideally, we would be able to get all the nutrients we need from the food we eat, but unfortunately, that’s not the case for most of us. Over 70 percent of the typical American diet is comprised of processed foods, so getting what we need from our food is harder and harder. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, “Most people [have] vitamin B6, iron, and vitamin D deficiencies.” You can learn more about what your body needs here.
If you’re an athlete and/or gym-goer who works hard to achieve fitness goals, you have special nutritional and dietary requirements—and that’s where supplementation and nutrition come into play. In and out of the gym, the body requires protein, fat and carbs in large amounts and these macronutrients help the body to recover and repair properly as well as to promote lean muscle growth. In addition to macronutrients, the body also needs micronutrients in the form of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to function at its peak performance.
So why are vitamins for muscles important and how do you include them in your diet? Let’s learn more:
The Role of Bodybuilding Vitamins
Bodybuilders and other athletes spend hours in the gym training, and those who compete follow strict diets to get leaner and more defined. It’s important not to go too low on the caloric intake, since it can actually prevent you from building muscle. Sports nutrition can help in these areas, allowing you to get high amounts of protein, which boosts lean muscle mass and supports weight loss.
In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism found bodybuilders taking 20 grams of protein (in this case, whey) before or after they hit the gym boosted their amino acid levels, which is necessary for putting on muscle.
That’s not all, though: Vitamins and minerals should be part of your muscle building regimen as well. Deficiencies can impact your body is several ways, which isn’t helpful when it comes to getting the gains you need. In short, protein alone isn’t enough!
Many vitamins fight inflammation, support stress levels, and promote immune health. They can also help support hypertrophy — otherwise known as muscle size increase. All of this is crucial in your journey toward muscle growth and repair.
Over-supplementation and inappropriate use of supplements can be dangerous, so be sure to consult with your healthcare provider or a BodyLogicMD-affiliated practitioner prior to implementing a supplement regimen. But now, let’s take a quick look at the ABCs of vitamins that promote muscle growth and repair:
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D has been given the nickname of “the sunshine vitamin,” and that’s because we get it from sunlight. However, it’s hard to get the amount you need when you work indoors or don’t live in a sunny state. The vitamin helps you maintain healthy bones and support protein synthesis, which what we need to stay healthy and strong. Vitamin D also helps promote nutrient absorption, mood balance, and insulin. And when we’re older, it can especially affect us.
You can get vitamin D supplements here. Although it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone, eating plenty of fatty fish (think tuna, mackerel, and salmon), soy milk, beef liver, egg yolk, and cheese help keep levels of this important vitamin high.
You may want to take vitamin D3 with vitamin K2, which is an important pairing. According to Healthline, vitamin D allows you to absorb calcium, which vitamin K then directs appropriately to build bone. Without vitamin K, calcium can build up in your arteries instead of your bones and contribute to heart disease.
- Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 helps your body produce red blood cells, which are responsible for delivering oxygen to the muscles. This action makes B12 a key player in muscle growth. You can find this one in most of the foods you eat, like fish, dairy and poultry. A word of warning: vegans and vegetarians are at higher risk of deficiency, so be sure to eat plant milks, soy and soya beans, and some fortified cereals. Additionally, you’ll want to consider taking vitamin B12 supplements.
- Vitamin B3
Vitamin B3 (also called Niacin) supports muscle growth and gives you better pumps. That’s why so many bodybuilders and fitness models load up on this nutrient before photo shoots. It also can promote the metabolism of glucose, increase good cholesterol (while limiting your bad cholesterol) and support healthy hormone production. You can get this food easily, as it’s found in bananas, eggs, seeds, meats, and fish.
- Vitamin B6
Noticing a trend here? The B vitamin family are power players when it comes to bodybuilding and muscle repair. You’ll want to get enough of this vitamins, as it can promote red blood cell production and healthy levels of nitric oxide (which is produced naturally in the body and can support performance and endurance). To get this into your diet, you’ll want to add fish (especially fatty fish, like albacore tuna and salmon), chickpeas, and bananas.
If you’re not into beef liver or fatty fish, or if you don’t eat meat, chickpeas and bananas are your friend: One can of chickpeas, for instance, delivers over 55 percent of the daily recommended amount of B6. Think about supplementing with a B6 vitamin as well.
- Vitamin E
Vitamin E is well-known for its skin-loving properties, but it isn’t just for your skin. Vitamin E not only slows down aging and scavenges free radicals (substances from the environment or toxins that are harmful to our health and can cause chronic illness), but also helps flush out metabolic waste.
When we exercise, we create oxidative stress (free radicals) within the body. The good news? This vitamin actually undoes some of the damage of free radicals. You can find it in nuts,
- Vitamin A
This vitamin is unparalleled, as it supports protein synthesis and the creation of glycogen. It also helps our eyes, fights free radicals, and supports healthy, strong bones. The problem with vitamin A, however, is that it can be made deficient by lots of environmental factors — alcohol, illness (like diabetes) and low fat diets. Easy ways to eat vitamin A include eating eggs, fatty fish (are we noticing a trend, here? Fatty fishes are good for you!) and carrots.
- Vitamin C
This is likely the one vitamin you know all about; most of us have been taking it at our mother’s request since childhood! Most people use vitamin C when it comes to boosting their immune function and upping their antioxidant levels. This vitamin can even help repair damaged tissues, which is a big deal when you’re hitting the gym. You can find it in loads of delicious foods, like tomatoes, citrus-y fruits (think, oranges), and leafy greens (like kale).
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
According to recent human studies, omega-3 fatty acids (like those from fish) “can influence the exercise and nutritional response of skeletal muscle” and reduce post-exercise muscle soreness.
Omega-3s have been found to speed up recovery and boost muscle growth on top of providing support to our cardiovascular, eyes, joint, brain, and skin health. The body needs to get omega-3 fatty acids from foods such as walnuts, eggs, fish (like mackerel and sardines) and avocados. You can also take a daily fish oil supplement to boost your omega-3s.
- Vitamin B2
This ones also supports energy production, so it is key for anyone trying to make big gains at the gym. Additionally, this supplement can also work wonders after you lift — by reducing the soreness after a good workout. This helps to get you back into the gym sooner, rather than waiting a long time for muscle recovery. You can get this one in lots of animal foods, like trout, beef, dairy and lamb. Vegans have other options.
- Vitamin B9 (Folate or Folic Acid)
Vitamin B9 is key for muscle growth. Here’s what you should know: Folic acid is the synthetic (artificial; produced by chemical biosynthesis) version of vitamin B9. Folate, however, is vitamin B9 that occurs naturally in food, according to BreakingMuscle. It is also available in supplement form.
According to one study, “Energy production and the rebuilding and repair of muscle tissue by physical activity require folate and vitamin B12 as a cofactor.” This benefits growth, synthesis of new cells, and the repair of damaged cells and tissues. You can also get a lot of it from foods like avocado and spinach, but if you can’t it’s important to get a folate supplement into your daily routine.
Make Good Nutrition a Priority
In the end, exercise goes hand in hand with smart and thoughtful nutrition and supplementation. Don’t waste your efforts or stop your gains by neglecting your vitamin and nutrient intake!
Eat clean, whole, colorful foods, drink lots of water, and give your body that extra edge by taking professional-grade supplements. From protein supplements to amino acids, our online store provides everything you need to stay fit and healthy and optimize your workouts. As always, to ensure you’re providing your body with the nutrients it needs, be sure to consult with your healthcare practitioner or BodyLogicMD-affiliated practitioner before starting a new supplement regimen.