Vitamins And Minerals To Power Up Your Muscle Repair

Alicia RennollPerformance, Recovery1 Comment

As new research highlights the importance of vitamin D for muscle strength, it’s a good opportunity to review the range of vitamins and minerals currently present in your diet.  For gym-goers and athletes, it’s particularly important to focus on those nutrients which can optimize muscle function, improve repair, and keep your body strong and active.  Proteins, carbohydrates and fluids may be key to quick muscle recovery – particularly when combined with sensible rest and sleep patterns – but by ensuring the presence of certain vitamins and minerals in your diet, you can build on these nutritional pillars and give your muscles an even better chance of staying injury-free, and ensure a speedy return to fitness if necessary.  The right nutrients can also help to boost your immune system, leaving you more resilient against common illnesses which could derail your training or other fitness goals.

Vitamin D and Calcium: Perfect Partners

Vitamin D is known to be important for strong bones, but as the recent study indicated, it’s also key for muscle health as it helps the body to absorb calcium, which is essential for muscle contractions and energy release.  At present, it is estimated that 40% of the US population are lacking in vitamin D.  Government health guidelines recommend addressing this primarily through your diet; oily fish such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon, eggs, yogurt, and soybeans are all good choices, but you can also top up your stores through exposure to sunlight within safe levels, and potentially by taking supplements too.  Your healthcare provider can easily assess your vitamin D levels and advise as to the best approach for you. With effective vitamin D levels, your body will be better able to absorb calcium, one of the most important nutrients in the body.  Calcium is responsible not only for bone health but also for the efficient functioning of your heart, muscles and nervous system.  Ensure you make it a priority with dairy products, green leafy vegetables, almonds, and seeds. As an added benefit, these foods are also rich in magnesium, which also helps muscles to release energy and prevents cramps.

Iron Man (or Woman)
Iron is important for keeping your energy levels up, and is a key element of hemoglobin, transporting oxygen in the blood to your muscle tissues.  In nutritional terms, low iron is the most common deficiency in the US, affecting around 10% of women according to CDC data. If your iron levels are too low, your muscles will be less able to replenish themselves during exercise, making fatigue, weakness or slow recovery more likely.  It can also weaken your immune system, making you more prone to the colds and bugs that plague the winter season and make great workouts seem impossible. Boost your iron levels with a diet that’s rich in red meat or tofu, lentils, spinach and eggs, and ideally combine these with food or drinks containing vitamin C – such as citrus fruits and leafy green vegetables – since these aid in the absorption of iron into the body. 

Strong and steady
The next two nutrients are important for maintaining a strong and efficient muscular system.  Copper is an essential trace mineral which protects the cardiovascular, skeletal and nervous system and strengthens the tendons, helping to make injuries less likely and improving recovery time from tears.  Good sources of copper include liver, oysters, nuts and sunflower seeds. Happily, dark chocolate is also a good provider of copper! Working well alongside copper is Vitamin B12, which enables the brain and muscles to communicate, promoting better muscle growth and coordination.  Animal products including eggs, milk, and fish are a rich source of this vitamin. For vegans, reliable B12 sources are usually fortified foods such as plant milks, breakfast cereals, and certain soy products. By ensuring that copper and vitamin B12 are present in your diet, your muscles should have a strong foundation for their work in the gym and be less prone to injuries.

Recovery and Healing
When it comes to aiding the recovery and healing process, zinc and vitamin C are two key nutrients to have on board.  Zinc enables your body to produce testosterone and helps it to recover more quickly between workouts.  It can also help to speed wound healing and support a strong immune system. Good sources of zinc include meat, shellfish, legumes, nuts, and whole grains.  Vitamin C is an amazing all-rounder, with a range of functions including boosting your immune system, helping your body to produce collagen and aiding iron absorption.  It also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to relieve aches and pains and facilitate quicker recovery times. Experiment with smoothies packed with vitamin C; papaya, oranges, kiwi fruits, spinach, and kale easily combine for a quick, easy and delicious boost to your system that you can fit in on the go or at any time of day.  It’s worth remembering, of course, that vitamin C can’t be stored in the body, so you will need to include it in your diet on a daily basis to ensure that your body has enough of it at all times.

While the majority of athletes and gym-goers recognize the importance of protein and carbs in their diets, some of the lesser-known vitamins and minerals may go unappreciated.  However, they can all play a valuable role in protecting and healing your muscles, so it’s worth taking the time to ensure that they’re present at the optimum levels in your diet.  Fortunately, many foods such as leafy green vegetables or nuts and seeds offer a range of useful vitamins and minerals, making them an efficient healthy choice. In the event that you’re unable to get all the vitamins you need from your diet, speak to your healthcare professional about potentially adding supplements to cover the missing elements.  By building a strong base with your nutrition, you can protect and build up your muscles and get back to full fitness quickly and confidently in the event of an injury or setback.

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Alicia Rennoll

Ali Ivory has a long standing interest in health and nutrition, having worked as a nurse in a previous life - she was always surprised by the number of people she saw who had little to no idea about nutrition, vitamins and what constituted a good, varied diet. She now works as a full time mom and writer and in her free time volunteers for a number of local mental health charities

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