Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that must be consumed since our bodies cannot make them. Vitamins and minerals help you to stay healthy by playing a wide variety of roles in the body from immune system function, to helping our hearts beat.
The amount of each vitamin and mineral we need each day is variable depending on sex, age and stage of life. There are no set recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals for athletes versus the general population. However, athletes likely do have higher requirements because of the physical demands of training. For instance, athletes often have higher iron needs due to the losses that can occur during exercise and higher antioxidant needs to help with damaged muscles.
While vitamin and mineral needs are likely higher in athletes, so are calorie requirements, which means athletes should be eating more food. This increased food consumption should equate to increased vitamin and mineral intake. For instance, an athlete may have a couple more slices of bread at breakfast or an extra snack before bed, which will provide a higher daily intake of vitamins and minerals.
While nutrition fact labels are certainly useful, they can be a little misleading when providing information on vitamin and mineral content of food. Nutrition fact labels only provide information on 4 vitamins and minerals: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron. For each of these vitamins and minerals, the % daily value (DV) will be listed. However, the measurement that the % DV is based on may be more or less than what you actually require. Below highlights what intake a label is based on, versus what is recommended based on sex and age.
> 70 years
As you can see, you may need more or less than what is used to determine the %DV. For instance, if something has 20% DV for iron, this is actually 35% of the daily requirements for males and females over 50 years and 16% DV for females 19-50 years of age. This doesn’t mean that the %DV is useless. Rather, the % DV for vitamins and minerals should be used as a guide. If something is greater than 15% DV then it’s considered a lot. If it’s less than 5% DV then it’s a little.
If you are eating a wide variety of foods from each food group and adequate calories, then you’re likely eating adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals to meet your requirements. On the other hand, athletes who consume too few calories or do not eat certain foods or food groups such as meat, dairy products and gluten are at risk for vitamin or mineral deficiencies. However, before you starting popping supplements, I would suggest meeting with a Registered Dietitian for a more in-depth analysis of your current diet. More is not always better and in some cases, can be harmful for health.
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