What is the purpose of Vitamins in Training ?

By Thomas Mulvey M.S., P.T., M.B.A.

Vitamins are micronutrients that act to catalyze specific processes within the body.

They are obtained mainly by consuming a well balanced diet. Today, however, the well balanced diet is a challenge to most families. The following is a brief overview of the types of Vitamins/ Minerals and what specifically they are used for.

There are two main types of Vitamins: Water–Soluble and Fat-Soluble. The classification results from the Vitamins ability to be maintained in the system and stored.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins are so named because they are dissolved and stored in the fatty tissues of the body. Replacement of these Vitamins is not immediately necessary because they remain in the fat for prolonged periods. The following is a summary of the Fat Soluble Vitamins.

  1. Vitamin A (Retinol) : Retinol is a constituent of Rhodopsin (visual pigment) and is important for seeing in the dark. It is also important for the production of epithelial tissues (layers of cells that line the inner body) and mucous membranes. Vitamin A is found in green leaf vegetables (contain Beta-Carotene that can be converted to Retinol), milk, butter, cheese, and fortified margarine. When deficient, the result can be visual impairment and/ or night blindness.
  2. Vitamin D : Vitamin D promotes the growth and mineralization of bone and increases. The absorption of Calcium that is needed for proper development of the bone. Vitamin D is found in Cod-Liver Oil, eggs, dairy products, fortified milk, and margarine.
  3. Vitamin E (Tocopherol): Vitamin E plays an essential role in protecting the body against dangerous and toxic substances . It is an essential antioxidant that helps prevent cell membrane damage. Vegetable oils, vegetables, fruit, potatoes, milk, and dairy products are especially rich in Vitamin E.
  4. Vitamin K (Phylloquinone): Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting as it is involved in the formation of the glycoprotein Prothrombin. Prothrombin is used to form Thrombin, which is necessary for proper blood clotting.

Water- Soluble Vitamins are so named because since they are water soluble, they are transported in the bodily fluids and not stored to any extent. Therefore, these Vitamins should be consumed on a daily basis as excess is excreted in the urine.

  1. Vitamin B-1 (Thiamine ): Coenzyme Thiamine Phosphate is involved in reactions that remove Carbon Dioxide. Thiamin plays an essential role in converting Carbohydrates into energy. The higher the body’s Carbohydrate intake, the more Thiamin it needs. Thiamin also plays a small role in the breakdown and utilization of proteins. Thiamin is found in mainly cereals, egg yolk, Pulses/ Legumes (such as Kidney beans, Navy beans, Pinto beans) meat, and meat products.
  2. Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin): Vitamin B-2 / Riboflavin is a constituent of two flavin nucleotide coenzymes involved in energy metabolism (FAD and FMN). Riboflavin is very important in the breakdown and utilization of proteins. Riboflavin is present in whole-wheat cereal products, milk, dairy products, meat, and meat products.
  3. Niacin: Niacin is a constituent of two coenzymes involved in oxidation-reduction reactions that occur in the body during the metabolism of energy (NAD and NADP).

    Liver, lean meats, grains, and legumes all contain Niacin.

  4. Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine): Vitamin B-6 is essential for the breakdown and utilization of proteins and amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). It is needed for the formation of a Coenzyme/ Pyridoxal Phosphate that is needed for amino acid metabolism. Pyridoxine is present in whole grain cereals, potatoes, pulses, eggs, fish, and meat.
  5. Folacin: Folacin Coenzyme is used in the transfer of single carbon units in nucleic acid and amino acid metabolism. Folacin is found in legumes/ pulses, green vegetables,
    whole wheat products.
  6. Vitamin B-12: Coenzyme involved in the transfer of single carbon units in nucleic acid metabolism. Vitamin B-12 is found in meats, eggs, dairy products.


Minerals are essential for the proper formation of bodily tissues, conduction of impulses from the brain , through nerves, to muscles. They are vital for Cellular metabolism.

They are, however, lost with perspiration.

  1. Sodium- plays an important role in Acid/ Base Balance, Body/ Water Balance ( Blood
    Pressure ), and Nerve Impulse conduction.
  2. Potassium- plays an important role in Acid/ Base Balance, Body/ Water Balance (Blood Pressure), and Nerve Impulse conduction.
  3. Calcium- plays an essential role in Bone Formation / Strength, Tooth Formation/ Strength, Blood Clotting, and Nerve Transmission.
  4. Phosphate- plays an essential role in Bone and Tooth Formation, Blood Clotting, and Nerve Transmission.
  5. Magnesium- plays an essential role in activation of enzymes for all energy processes.

This accelerates the conversion of nutrients into fuel for muscles and the body. It is also involved in the functioning of muscle and protein synthesis.

Trace Minerals

These minerals are present in only small amounts, within the body. They do, however, have important roles.

  1. Iron- Iron is an important constituent of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein in the blood that transports oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. A decrease in the amount of Iron, results in a decline in the amount of hemoglobin. An iron deficit can result from a decrease in consumption from the diet, perspiration, and/ or menstruation . Iron also has a role in energy metabolism. Iron is found in Eggs, lean meats, legumes, whole grains, green leafy vegetables.
  2. Zinc- Zinc is a constituent of enzymes involved in digestion and the breakdown and utilization of Carbohydrates. The balance of Zinc is disrupted by perspiration. Zinc can be found in vegetables, nuts, cheese, and meats.
  3. Copper- Copper plays a role in the formation of new body tissues and protects the body against free oxygen radicals (reactive cells that contain oxygen) . These cells are highly reactive (due to the number of valence electrons within their atom) and damage healthy cells. Copper also is a constituent of coenzymes that function in Iron metabolism.
    Copper can be found in nuts, Cereal products, potatoes, and liver.
  4. Chromium- Chromium stimulates the activity of the hormone Insulin. This causes muscles to absorb more sugar from the blood. Thus, it allows for more efficient utilization of Glucose by the body. Chromium can be found in broccoli, mushrooms,
    oysters, fats, vegetable oils, and meats.

“The Primary source of providing Vitamins and Minerals to your body is eating a well BALANCED diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans), and lean protein sources,” says Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D. .

“ When we compare recommendations for vitamin and mineral intakes to actual consumption, many Americans do not even come close to getting what they need for several nutrients,” says Meir Stampher, M.D., DrPH, Professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Stampher and Dr. Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, (director of Antioxidants Research and professor of Nutrition, Tufts University), both advocate multivitamins as a way to shore up diets low in nutrients. They both agree, however, multivitamins are dietary supplements and not substitutes for healthy eating.

The American Dietetic Association takes the position that the best nutrition based strategy for promoting optimal health is to chose a wide variety of nutrient rich foods.

If you chose to use a dietary supplement , such as a multivitamin, please consult a physician or a dietary/ nutritional expert.


  1. American Dietetic Association (
  2. Darrah, Lindsay . “ Vitamins: The Who, What, Where, Why, and How’s. Vanderbilt
    University Department of Psychology ( .
  3. McArdle, William D. “ Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human
    Performance.” Lea& Febiger, Philadelphia, 1981.
  4. Verheijen, Raymond, PhD., “ Conditioning for Soccer, Reedswain Inc., Spring City, PA, 1998 .
  5. Ward, Elizabeth, M.S., R.D., “ Millions of Americans take multivitamins in the name
    of better health. Should you ? from WebMD(