When it comes to exercise and fitness, the focus tends to be on protein first and everything else comes a distant second. Or third. But, our micronutrients are just as important as our macros when it comes to performance and B vitamins are the ones to watch.
The family of B vitamins ranges from thiamin to riboflavin through to Vitamin B12. B vitamins have a variety of jobs in our bodies but a key one is “energy yielding metabolism” i.e. helping to release energy from food. Essentially, B vitamins help support the enzymes that turn food into energy in your cells.
Apart from this, B vitamins such as B12 help to make healthy red blood cells and many B vitamins specifically help to reduce tiredness and fatigue. Some help to support normal mental performance and psychological function – and any athlete will tell you that the mental game can be just as important as the physical when it comes to endurance events.
So where do we get B vitamins?
There are lots of different B vitamins so a balanced diet is the place to start. Including lots of different foods from different food groups is essential. Fish are an excellent source of many of the B vitamins we need. Fortified breakfast cereals are also good sources as well as wholegrains and nuts. We take a look at some of the specific B vitamins and where to find them.
Thiamin (Vitamin B1) is found in wholegrains, salmon, almonds and pork.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) is found in mushrooms, mackerel and fortified breakfast cereals.
Niacin (Vitamin B3) is found in tuna, mackerel, sardines and salmon as well as Brazil nuts and cheddar cheese.
Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5): This special vitamin contributes to normal mental performance and is found in salmon, eggs and hazelnuts
B12: Fish, especially salmon and mackerel, is very rich in vitamin B12. You will also find it in milk, cheese, chicken and beef.
Want to know more? See below for your B vitamin Master Class…
Thiamine (Vitamin B1): Thiamin contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism as well as normal functioning of the heart and nervous system.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): Riboflavin contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue as well as normal, energy-yielding metabolism and the maintenance of normal vision and red blood cells.
Niacin (Vitamin B3): Niacin contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and to the normal functioning of the nervous system. Niacin contributes to the maintenance of normal, healthy skin as well as normal psychological function and energy-yielding metabolism.
Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 contributes to normal protein and glycogen metabolism (glycogen is the fuel used by your muscles when you exercise). Vitamin B6 contributes to normal psychological function and the normal function of the nervous system. B6 also helps reduce tiredness and fatigue.
Folic Acid: Folic acid contributes to a reduction in tiredness and fatigue, to the normal function of the immune system to normal amino acid synthesis. It also contributes to normal blood formation and normal psychological function.
Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism and a reduction in tiredness and fatigue. B12 also contributes to normal red blood cell formation and to the normal function of the immune system.
Pantothenic Acid: Pantothenic acid contributes to a reduction in tiredness and fatigue and to normal energy yielding metabolism. It also contributes to normal mental performance as well as to the normal synthesis and metabolism of steroid hormones.
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Sarah Keogh in association with John West
Consultant Nutritionist - MSc., BSc., MINDI
Sarah has a degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from Trinity College and a Masters in European Food Regulation.
She runs a food and nutrition consultancy giving one-to-one advice on nutrition and diet as well as working with some of Ireland's leading food companies.