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Like an Athlete: Vitamins & Minerals

Vitamins and minerals, or micronutrients, are crucial for bodily functions such as turning food into energy and keeping bones healthy. Vitamin and mineral supplements will not enhance athletic performance, but having a deficiency will negatively affect the body. Here are some nutrients and their sources to help keep you at the top of your game. 


  • Thiamin supports the breakdown of carbohydrates and branched-chain amino acids
  • Good sources: Whole grain products, pork, and black beans


  • Choose food sources before supplements! Too little or too much niacin can lead to diarrhea, dementia, rashes, and liver damage. 
  • Good sources: Poultry, peanuts, fish, brown rice, and enriched grains

Vitamin B6

  • Vitamin B6 is essential to the breakdown of foods.
  • Good sources: Poultry, pistachios, chickpeas, lentils, pork, bananas, and tuna

Vitamin B12

  • B12 is found naturally in animal products, putting vegan and vegetarian athletes at risk for a deficiency. 
  • Fortified foods including cereals, nutritional yeast, and plant-based meat alternatives provide vitamin B12 as well. 
  • Good sources: Seafood, meats, milk and cheese, eggs, and fortified breakfast cereals


  • Iron is essential for oxygen transportation, traveling throughout the body via your bloodstream. 
  • Not having enough iron in the body may cause fatigue and impact physical performance.
  • Good Sources: Oysters, turkey breast, fortified breakfast cereals, beef, beans, and spinach

Vitamin A

  • Vitamin A is necessary for your vision, and also may act as an antioxidant. 
  • Good Sources: Sweet potato, carrot, pumpkin, collard greens, spinach, and many kinds of cheese

Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D can be absorbed from exposure to sunlight, however, factors like the present season, time of day, cloud coverage, geographic location, and skin color all can affect how well vitamin D is absorbed. 
  • Good sources: Milk and soymilk, fatty fish, and mushrooms exposed to UV light


  • Calcium is important for nerve function and the proper release of hormones.
  • Good sources: Milk, soymilk, cheese, and 100% fruit juices

Vitamins and minerals often are taken for performance enhancement or to make up for missing nutrients on a restricted diet, but focusing on food sources is the best method to consume these micronutrients. 

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