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Vitamins & Minerals Essential for Optimum Performance

In Sports Nutrition a lot of the attention surrounds the Macronutrients aka Carbohydrates, Fats and Protein. Consequently the Micronutrients (Vitamins & Minerals) are often overlooked, yet without them we wouldn't be able to use the energy from the Macronutrients and both training and recovery would be impaired. 4 of the most essential micronutrients for performance include, B Vitamins, Magnesium, Iron and Zinc.


B Vitamins:

The B vitamins include; B1-Thiamin, B2-Riboflavin, B3-Niacin, B6 and B12. These vitamins are important for physical performance as they are involved in the metabolic processes which convert the nutrients in the food we eat into ATP which is the body’s useable form of energy. These processes involve a chain of reactions in which B vitamins serve as coenzymes, which as the name suggests help enzymes catalyse reactions. The required dietary intakes of the B Vitamins are listed below.





















Sources of B-Vitamins:

Legumes (pulses/beans), Milk, Whole grains (e.g. brown rice), Eggs, Meat (beef/pork), Liver



Magnesium (Mg) is a key component in a range of physiological functions which contribute to human performance including, muscle contraction, nerve function as well as both energy and hormone production. Despite Magnesium being required for these exercise related functions, magnesium deficiency is fairly common in athletes who endure regular strenuous exercise. This is likely due to a combination of insufficient dietary intake and loss through excessive sweating.

 Studies have shown that a reduced intake of magnesium has a negative effect on performance through increasing energy requirements and having an adverse effect on cardiovascular function. Therefore if you are not consuming enough magnesium from your diet it may well be inhibiting your performance (Lukaski & Nielsen, 2002).  It is recommended that you consume 300mg of magnesium daily. This can be achieved by consuming the foods listed below.

Sources of Magnesium:

Green leafy veg, Nuts, Seeds, Fish, meat.



Iron is a mineral which is found in red blood cells in the form of haemoglobin and in muscle tissue in the form of myoglobin. It is involved in the transport of oxygen from the lungs to where it’s required throughout the body. During exercise, oxygen attaches to haemoglobin in the blood and is carried to the working muscles. Here it is transferred to myoglobin and can be used by the muscle tissue. Because of this role in oxygen transport, iron is extremely important for athletic performance.

Iron stores are reduced due to sweating and menstruation. It is therefore important that athletes (in particular female athletes) are consuming enough iron from their diets as depleted iron status will hinder performance and health. It is recommended that males should consume around 9mg per day and females 15mg per day.

Sources of Iron:

Meat, Liver, beans, nuts, whole grains, kale, watercress, spinach



Undergoing strenuous exercise is extremely taxing on your body, especially your muscles and subsequently leads to muscle breakdown and damage. Zinc plays an integral role in aiding your muscles to recover as it promotes the repair and renewal of muscle tissue. In addition studies have shown that when consumed in conjunction with magnesium, zinc can improve your quality of sleep which is crucial for recovery.

Athletes are susceptible to zinc deficiency due to losses through urine and sweat. Therefore it is important that you consume the RDA of 15mg in order to prevent deficiency and aid recovery.

Sources of Zinc:

Seafood, Beef, Beans, Nuts, Liver, Whole grains.


Enjoy this article? Read more about how to improve recovery here or for more Nutrition articles visit our blog.


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