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Why Runners Shouldn't Skip The Multivitamin

7 minute read

By Becky Wade Firth — 24.07.2021

If you’re a goal-chasing runner, chances are, you’re conscious about what you put into your body. That’s not to say that you don’t appreciate the occasional burger and beer, or that you steer clear of all processed foods and desserts. But if you tune into your body, gravitate toward natural and wholesome ingredients, and generally fuel in a way that feels good and serves your training, you’ll likely land in a good place nutritionally. 

Good enough and optimal aren’t the same, however. And that’s where multivitamins come in. Rather than substitutions for a poor diet, they’re best thought of as complements to a mostly-there fueling plan. They ensure that you’re ticking your major nutrition boxes while filling in gaps that are hard to do with food alone. In essence, they bring you one step closer to your optimal self.

Here’s a glimpse into some of the key the Essential Multi ingredients, with details on how each one can benefit you as an athlete:

Vitamins K1 and K2

K vitamins have been shown to play an important role in blood clotting, bone health, and heart health. Athletically-speaking, it may also have a positive impact on fitness levels; a 2017 study  by Brian K. McFarlin et al found an association between vitamin K2 supplementation and a 12% increase in maximal cardiac output.

The majority of the K vitamins that humans consume is in the form of vitamin K1, which is produced by plants, especially of the leafy green variety. Unfortunately, very little of the K1 that a person eats is actually absorbed. Vitamin K2, on the other hand, is produced by gut bacteria as well as present in fermented foods and animal products. There’s reason to believe that K2 is better absorbed by the body, but more research is needed to know for sure. 

With 450 mcg of vitamin K, which is 375% of the recommended daily value (DV), one serving of the Essential Multi acts as a buffer between you and a possible vitamin K deficiency.

Vitamin D

Most runners know that vitamin D is imperative to strong bones. But it also impacts muscle health, nerve firing, and immune system functioning. For athletes in particular, according to an article called Vitamin D Supplementation in Athletes by Enette Larson-Meyer, getting enough vitamin D “may reduce stress fractures, total body inflammation, common infectious illnesses, and impaired muscle function, and may also aid in recovery from injury.”

Since vitamin D doesn’t naturally appear in many foods—the richest sources are fatty fish—most people in the U.S. rely on fortified foods. These commonly include milk (both animal as well as many plant-based alternatives), breakfast cereals, orange juice, and yogurt. You can also increase your vitamin D levels from sun exposure, but that can be a challenge in the winter months and in places that don’t get much sunlight.

Athletes who train in cold or dark climates, or whose skins don’t see much sun by nature of their sport or schedule, might benefit from vitamin D supplementation. One serving of the Essential Multi doles out 450 mcg (2000 IU) of the vitamin, which amounts to 250% of the DV.

Vitamin B12

B12 is a vitamin that many runners are familiar with, having taken it as a supplement or even as a legal injection. But few probably know exactly what it does in the body. A 2020 paper on B12 and elite athletes headed by Jarosław Krzywański describes how, in addition to its participation in the metabolic process, the vitamin is involved in red blood cell formation and proper immune functioning. A 2017 study by Kathleen Woolf et al adds that running low on vitamin B can diminish an athlete’s performance and increase the odds of fatigue and injury.

Animal products like fish, poultry, meat, eggs, and dairy are good sources of B12, as are fortified cereals, enriched milk, and specialty ingredients like nutritional yeast, miso, and yeast. While not impossible to do, vegans and vegetarians have to be extra diligent about meeting their B12 quotas, since their diets omit many of the richest and most common sources.

The Essential Multi contains a whopping 200 mcg, 8,333% of the DV, of Vitamin B12 per serving. If that sounds frightening, keep in mind that the vitamin is generally considered safe, even at high levels, and a Tolerable Upper Intake Level has not been established for it since it has a low toxicity level and the body gets rid of whatever it doesn’t use.

Vitamin C

A runner is only as good as his or her ability to recover and rebuild. Vitamin C, an antioxidant, plays a big role in the healing process and is vital to the production of blood vessels, cartilage, muscle, and collagen. Beyond that, it’s involved in your body’s absorption of iron—critical for all endurance athletes, especially females—which explains why iron supplements are commonly chased with orange juice or other drinks containing vitamin C.

The human body doesn’t make vitamin C on its own, meaning that you get your fill (or not) from food. Sources high in the vitamin include citrus fruits, berries, melons, peppers, and cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower. When you eat the whole rainbow, vitamin C is bound to be included.

With one serving of the Essential Multi, you’ll boost your body’s healing capacity with 400mg of vitamin C, or 444% of the DV.

Phytonutrients

Phytonutrients is a fancy name for chemicals or compounds made by plants. They’re primarily known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and they’re also supportive of eye health, immune system functioning, cardiovascular disease protection, and cancer prevention. Phytonutrients don’t just appear in colorful fruits and vegetables; they give them their color, along with their unique tastes and aromas.

Although they’re abundant in foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, tea, nuts, beans, and spices—think natural and colorful—thousands of types of phytonutrients have been identified, many of which are not often found in western diets. The Essential Multi covers a wide array of phytonutrients, including some that you’re unlikely to consume if you live in the U.S.

Takeaways

No matter how diligent you are with your fueling, you may be inadvertently missing out on some important vitamins and nutrients. The harder you push your body in training and the more that you ask of it in racing, the more glaring those gaps become. A safe and thoughtfully crafted multivitamin like the Essential Multi will never replace a wholesome, balanced diet. But with high levels of vitamins K, D, B, and C, a variety of phytonutrients, and a whole lot more, it will expand your nutritional repertoire and ensure that your diet is on par with your training and your goals.

Resources:

1 - Keith Pearson, “Vitamin K1 vs. K2: What’s the Difference?” Healthline, 2017, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-k1-vs-k2.

2 - Brian K. McFarlin et al, “Oral Consumption of Vitamin K2 for 8 Weeks Associated with Increased Maximal Cardiac Output During Exercise,” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 2017, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28646812/.

3 - National Institutes of Health, “Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Consumers,” National Institutes of Health, 2021, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/.

4 - Enette Larson-Meyer, “Vitamin D Supplementation in Athletes,” Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop Series, 2013, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23765355/.

5 - Jarosław Krzywański et al, “Vitamin B12 Status and Optimal Range for Hemoglobin Formation in Elite Athletes,” Nutrients, 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7230602/.

6 -  Kathleen Woolf et al, “Nutrition Assessment of B-Vitamins in Highly Active and Sedentary Women,” Nutrients, 2017, https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/9/4/329.

7 -  Elizabeth Quinn, “Best B Vitamins for Athletes,” Verywell Fit, 2021, https://www.verywellfit.com/should-athletes-take-b-vitamins-supplements-3120660.

8 -  Jillian Kubala, “How Much Vitamin B12 Is too Much?” Healthline, 2018, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/too-much-vitamin-b12.

9 -  Mayo Clinic Staff, “Vitamin C,” Mayo Clinic, 2020, https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-c/art-20363932.

10 -  Verena Tan, “How to Increase the Absorption of Iron from Foods,” Healthline, 2017, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/increase-iron-absorption.

11 -  Natalie Olsen, “What Are Phytonutrients?” Healthline, 2019, https://www.healthline.com/health/phytonutrients.

12 -  Katherine D. McManus, “Phytonutrients: Paint Your Plate with the Colors of the Rainbow,” Harvard Health Blog, 2019, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/phytonutrients-paint-your-plate-with-the-colors-of-the-rainbow-2019042516501.

13 -  Momentous, “Increase the Diversity of Your Diet,” Momentous, 2021, https://www.livemomentous.com/article/how-a-multivitamin-can-help-you-increase-the-diversity-of-your-diet/.


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