B vitamins are essential to our energy levels as they play an extensive roll in the energy producing pathways (1), alongside the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, proteins and the production of our red blood cells (2). When the body is placed under increased physical stress, which it is when exercising, our need for B vitamins increases. For example during aerobic activity we utilise both carbohydrates and fats as our source of energy, in order to do this effectively we need good levels of vitamin B1 (thiamin).
These vitamins are mainly found in whole foods, which have not been processed. Because a variety of B vitamin containing foods are milled the government stated that lost vitamins be reintroduced back into the foods after processing (3). Good sources of B-vitamins come from leafy green vegetables, nuts, legumes, plant foods, meat and dairy. It is important to note, however, that vitamin B12 solely comes from animal products and cannot be acquired through the other sources. If you are a vegetarian and doing a high amount of exercise, it would be worth getting your B12 levels checked out as it may be that you are deficient in this vitamin and this may be playing a role in your energy levels and exercise performance (4).
It is, therefore, extremely important that you support your training with natural B-vitamins in your diet. Really easy ways of increasing them is through snacking on nuts, have a healthy portion of green veggies in your dinner and lunch and make sure if you are a meat eater then you are having some protein with every meal. Don’t go and buy supplements until you have had your levels tested.
- Woolfe K, Manore MM. B-vitamins and exercise: Does exercise alter requirements? Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006;16:453-484.
- Rodriguez N, DiMarco N, Langley S. Nutrition and athletic performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009;41:709-731.
- Food Standards Agency. The bread and flour regulations 1998 (as amended). [Accessed: 29th August 2014]. Available from: http://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/multimedia/pdfs/breadflourguide.pdf.
- Lukasaki H. Vitamin and mineral status: effects on physical performance. Nutrition. 2004;20:632-644.