Vitamins and minerals fall under the category of micro nutrients, meaning nutrients we need in small amounts. Vitamins are organic compounds that regulate numerous bodily processes. They are essential for life. Due to the role they play, a lack of any one vitamin can have wide spread negative effects.
Vitamins are divided into two groups: fat-soluble and water-soluble. There are 4 fat soluble vitamins: A,D,E and K and 9 water soluble vitamins: C and the eight B-vitamins: B-1, B-2, B-3, B-6, B-12, folic acid, pantothenic acid and biotin.
Minerals are structurally simple, inorganic substances. There are at least 16 and they are essential to health: sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and sulfur – these are called the macro minerals because the body needs larger quantities – the remaining are known as trace minerals because the body needs them in smaller amounts: boron, copper, zinc, manganese, molybdenum, chromium, selenium, iodine, flouride and vanadium. The functions of minerals is, like vitamins, diverse having structural roles (bones and teeth) as well as regulatory roles ( fluid balance and regulation of muscle contraction).
People don't realize how important vitamins and minerals are. They tend to think that because multiples are not flashy and exotic they can't be any good. What they don't realize is the importance of each individual function and the role of that function to your overall health. Listed below is a brief function statement for each vitamin and mineral with some of the key functions as they relate to muscle growth underlined.
VITAMIN A: Promotes skeletal growth, normal tooth structure, healthy skin, eyes and hair; essential for night vision.
VITAMIN D: Promotes bone and tooth development and normal growth; aids utilization of phosphorus and calcium; maintains nervous system and heart action; prevents rickets.
VITAMIN E: Protects the body's store of Vitamin A, tissues and fat from destructive oxidation, and breakdown of red corpuscles; strengthens capillary walls; regulates menstrual rhythm; prevents loss of other vitamins; aids blood flow to heart; lowers blood cholesterol and fatty acids; vital to cell health; regulates protein and calcium metabolism.
VITAMIN C: Essential for the formation of collagen; needed for absorption of iron, some proteins and folic acid; prevents oxidation of other vitamins; aids in metabolism of amino acids and calcium; stops internal bleeding; strengthens blood vessels, maintains hard bones and teeth; promotes stamina; holds body cells together, prevents infections, colds, fatigue and stress; reduces allergies; heals wounds and burns.
NIACIN: Aids normal functioning of tissues, particularly skin, gastrointestinal tract and nervous system; used with other vitamins in converting carbohydrates to energy.
VITAMIN B-6: Aids metabolism of protein, carbohydrates and fats; helps control cholesterol levels; aids chemical balance between blood and tissue; prevents water retention; builds hemoglobin.
VITAMIN B-1: (Thiamine): Helps convert sugar and starches into energy; promotes digestion, strong heart muscle, prevents fatigue, helps prevent fat deposits in arteries.
VITAMIN B-2: (Riboflavin): Aids in releasing energy to body cells; enables utilization of fats, proteins and sugars.
VITAMIN B-12: Promotes utilization of protein, fats and carbohydrates; essential for formation of red blood cells; builds nucleic acid; prevents pernicious anemia; helps nervous system.
FOLIC ACID: Essential for function of Vitamins A, D, E, and K, forms red blood cells and nucleic acid; improves circulation; aids digestion of proteins. May help prevent neuro tube defects (pina bifida). Reduces the risk of coronary heart disease.
CALCIUM: Builds bones and teeth; aids in proper function of muscles, heart, nerves, and iron utilization; helps blood coagulation; regulates the passage of nutrients in and out of cells; relieves pain and cramps; eases insomnia.
MAGNESIUM: Reduces blood cholesterol; forms hard tooth enamel and fights tooth decay; aids in converting blood sugar into energy; helps regulate body temperature; aids nerve function and bone growth; helps utilize Vitamins B, C, E; promotes absorption and metabolism of other minerals; activates enzymes for metabolism of carbohydrates and amino acids; prevents calcium deposits in the bladder.
IRON: Present in all cells; one of the constituents of hemoglobin which carries oxygen to the tissues by blood circulation.
IODINE: Aids thyroid gland and prevents goiter; helps burn fat; converts carotene into Vitamin A; aids absorption of carbohydrates from small intestine; promotes growth; regulates energy production; maintains hair, nails skin and teeth.
COPPER: Facilitates iron absorption; synthesizes enzymes and skin pigments; promotes protein metabolism; aids Vitamin C oxidation; produces RNA; forms hemoglobin, red blood cells, and hair color.
ZINC: Eliminates cholesterol deposits; aids in absorption of B-Vitamins, manufacture of enzymes and insulin, and metabolism of carbohydrates; essential for growth; aids healing essential for proper function of prostate gland; keeps hair glossy and smooth.
SODIUM: Sodium regulates the total amount of water in the body and the transmission of sodium into and out of individual cells also plays a role in critical body functions. Many processes in the body, especially in the brain, nervous system, and muscles, require electrical signals for communication. The movement of sodium is critical in generation of these electrical signals.
FLUORIDE: Acts systemically to strengthen developing teeth. For the prevention of dental caries by increasing tooth resistance to acid dissolution. Promotes remineralization and inhibits the cariogenic microbial process.
SELENIUM: is an antioxidant that works closely with vitamin E in actions like production of antibodies, binding of toxic metals like mercury, amino acid metabolism and promotion of normal body growth and fertility. Selenium protects the cell "machinery" that generates energy. It is also necessary for the production of prostaglandins, substances which affect blood pressure and platelet aggregation.
MANGANESE: s an antioxidant, activates numerous enzymes and has roles in protein, carbohydrate and fat metabolism. It is necessary for blood sugar regulation, healthy nerves and brain, sex hormone production, normal skeletal development, production of mother's milk and a healthy immune system.
MOLYBDENUM: lays an essential role in several enzymes including xanthine oxidase which aids in mobilising iron from liver reserves; aldehyde oxidase which is necessary for oxidation of fats and sulphite oxidase. It modulates metabolism of calcium, magnesium, copper and nitrogen and may also be an antioxidant.
BORON: appears to affect calcium and magnesium metabolism and membrane function. It is essential for efficient absorption of calcium in the body.
PHOSPHORUS: is an essential component of bone mineral and needs to be in correct balance with calcium for both of these minerals to be used effectively in the body. It also plays a role in almost every chemical reaction in the body.
CHROMIUM: is required for normal glucose absorption. It appears to increase the effectiveness of insulin and its ability to regulate blood sugar levels. It may also be involved in protein synthesis.
VANADIUM: or, Vanadyl sulfate is a nutrient that is involved in bone development and growth. Vanadyl sulfate mimics insulin, breaking down glucose more quickly for energy.
Now that is quite a list of underlined functions! And you thought a multiple wasn't important!
Choosing a multiple can be a confusing experience. Below is a list of some common terms and types of vitamin formulas you will encounter:
Natural: a concentrated nutrient derived from a quality natural source. The idea is maximum retention of the natural material; no artificial colors, sweeteners, or preservatives are used.
A natural source contains co-factors that come with the nutrient in nature. For instance, some co-factors that are usually found with Vitamin C are various bioflavonoids. This is the thought process as to why a natural vitamin is better than synthetic vitamins: they do not contain the natural co-factors, they're just the isolated vitamin.
Synthetic: Synthetic vitamins are made in a laboratory setting from coal tar derivatives. No co-factors are present. Most of the food supplements sold on the market today are synthetic and often cheaper to produce than natural vitamins.
Organic: Organic is currently a big term. Vitamins are organic compounds ( minerals are not) so in reality all vitamins are organic but in this context the idea is, are the natural sources of the vitamins grown without the use of pesticides and are the binders and fillers natural, grown without pesticides? A play off the idea of natural and organic vitamins is the reasonably new concept of whole food vitamin/minerals: the nutrients are derived from whole food concentrates so you get all that occurs in that food source.
Mega Potency: Many multiple vitamin/mineral products provide high potency, much more-so than what you could buy at a drugstore or what a typical doctor would advise. This ties into the old RDA's and current Daily Values. When the RDA's for vitamin and minerals were established, they were set up to just barely prevent people from getting deficiency diseases, they were never intended to provide optimal health benefits. The idea with mega potency is to provide optimal health while still staying within the realms of safety.
Specialized formulas: this refers to the current options available today: men's formulas, womens formulas, over 50 formulas, one a days, 2 a days, 3 a days, sport formulas. Many of these formulas will add nutrients that do not fall into the vitamin or mineral categories, such as CoQ 10 for the heart ( among many other benefits ) or Glucosamine for the joints.
So we can see the choices are many. I recommend a natural product that contains all the nutrients I've listed in this guide at reasonably high potencies. You can choose tablets, capsules (n dru two-piece or softgels). With capsules and softgels, less materials are required to make the capsule, cutting down on fillers, coatings and binders. These slide down your throat easier too. Most 1 or 2 a day products will have compromises in potency because you can only get so much into a tablet, even if it's 2 a day, so I recommend multi packs, these are packets containing 5 or 6 pills providing a more complete, balanced potency ratio.
The most important thing is to always take your vitamins with food for complete absorption. Beyond that is simply realizing, as shown in this guide, how important they are and adding them to your supplement program.