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B12: What are the benefits in sport?

August 6, 2021 3 min read
B12: What are the benefits in sport?

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    Vitamin B12 is a non-negotiable when it comes to good health. We rely on this essential vitamin to maintain our energy levels and support our nervous system. For those of us on a vegan diet,  B12 supplementation is necessary to give us the nutrition we need. However, the benefits of B12 extend beyond veganism and include those of us with an active lifestyle. Here we reveal how B12 can help you to reach your own fitness goals, whatever your sport of choice.

    What is B12?

    Vitamin B12 is part of the B vitamin family - which includes B6, folic acid, and niacin.  Whilst all of the B vitamins play a key role in our health, B12 in particular, is necessary for essential physiological processes. Without adequate supplies, not only can we feel unwell, but there can be irreversible damage to our nervous system – therefore avoiding deficiency is key.

    Does B12 improve athletic performance?

    Potentially yes. Evidence indicates that athletes with sub-optimal Vitamin B12 status may have reduced capacity for high-intensity exercise. This appears particularly true for female athletes, but performance is hampered across both genders. Studies have demonstrated that when Vitamin B12 status is optimised, athletic performance is enhanced - some athletes even opt for Vitamin b12 injections to ensure they have sufficient supplies to fuel their activity. 

    Does B12 increase energy?

    Absolutely. Almost all of our cells in the body require access to Vitamin B12, and in particular, Vitamin B12 is required for the healthy formation of red blood cells. If we lack red blood cells, we cannot transport iron around the body, which can lead to fatigue and even anaemia. B12 also helps the body to utilise fat and protein for fuel - in other words, B12 is essential for us to have the energy we need to feel our best.

    Does B12 help with running?

    Running is a type of sport that requires sustained and reliable energy. Of course, part of this energy comes from appropriate macronutrient intake, but, as low Vitamin B12 stores can promote tiredness and weakness, it is imperative we are not ‘running low’ on this key nutrient. Keeping our Vitamin B12 supplies high can order to maximize our exercise capacity during sustained aerobic activity.

    If I’m training do I need more vitamin B?

    People under stress tend to use up their B12 supply more readily than those who are not. As exercise is a physical stressor it is possible that you need to keep a closer eye on your intake and consider a supplement to ward off deficiency.  In particular, if you regularly conduct resistance-type exercise, you may want to consider a top-up as Vitamin B12 can also aid muscle repair and regrowth. 

    B12 for vegetarian athletes

    B12 levels need to be carefully monitored for vegetarians and vegans. This is because the best source of B12 is in meat and fish products. You can obtain B12 from dairy, eggs and some fortified breakfast cereals, but it is harder to meet your requirements, especially if you are active.  A supplement is required for vegan athletes (and non-athletes) in order to prevent a harmful deficiency.

    In addition to being a vegetarian/vegan - you may also require supplementation if you have a stomach condition that impairs your nutrient absorption, take antiacids, or have low stomach acid levels. 

    Overall, we can see that B12 is beneficial for anyone with an active lifestyle, due to its role in energy production, nerve health, and muscle repair. The need for supplementation is especially crucial for vegetarian/ vegan athletes or those with nutrient absorption issues. Buy your B12 supplements here!

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