Take Your B’s to Build Huge Bis
Few people know the 8 B vitamins by name, but were you aware that they all contribute to the body’s ability to build muscle? They are often referred to as the vitamins that provide immune support and while this is helpful when training hard which can place a stress on the immune system, their role extends far beyond this.
Each plays a role in the metabolism, which is the processing of the foods we eat to ensure the release of energy needed to power muscle function, but also helps to support the nervous system to make co-ordinated movement possible. Here we take a look at each in turn, considering their importance and where they can be sourced from the diet, as well as how else you might be able to top up your intake of these essential nutrients.
Also known as thiamine, this vitamin is needed for the production of ATP, the substance which the body uses for energy release to enable muscle contraction to occur during weight training. It’s therefore no surprise that tiredness can be a sign that you aren’t getting enough of this micronutrient, which can interfere with the effort you are able to put into training.
Thiamine also controls the movement of electrolytes across cell membranes, which is needed for the nerves and the muscles that they control to function. The richest sources of this B vitamin are meats, brewer’s yeast, whole grains or cereals that have been fortified with b vitamins; in many countries it is mandatory that refined flour and white rice have thiamine added to them, as the processing removes the majority of this vitamin.
Referred to as riboflavin, this B vitamin plays a similar role to thiamine in the energy cycles within the body and allows the storage of energy in the muscles for when they are worked. Both meat-eaters and vegetarians alike can obtain a good supply of this vitamin from their diet, as in addition to being present in protein from animal sources, wholegrains (wholewheat cereals, bread and pasta, or brown rice), pulses, green vegetables, sweet potatoes and avocados provide a useful helping of riboflavin.
Besides having a role in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats for energy production and the release of amino acids for new muscle tissue formation following resistance training, niacin helps to support the nervous system to enable the signals to be effectively transferred to the muscles for them to work. Although this vitamin can be produced by the body from tryptophan (one of the amino acids), it can also be sourced from animal proteins, pulses, nuts and wholegrains.
Pantothenic acid boosts hemoglobin levels in the blood. This component of red blood cells is essential for the transport of oxygen to the muscles, which is one of the substrates of respiration for energy release; the better their oxygen supply, the more they can be worked. Pantothenic acid also plays a crucial role in protein synthesis, which is the key to muscle-building.
Not only this, but vitamin B5 additionally plays a role in nerve function, through the production of acetylcholine, one of the neurotransmitters that allow the nerve and muscle cells to communicate with each other. It can be sourced from poultry, organ meats, milk, pulses, mushrooms, green leafy vegetables, potatoes and yeast, and as a result of this wide range of sources, deficiency is rare. Biotin is another B vitamin vital for metabolism where deficiency is unknown due to the extensive range of foods in the diet that contain it, and also the fact that bacteria within the intestines synthesize it.
Sometimes called pyridoxine, this is another vitamin responsible for the formation of neurotransmitters, but is also required for the production of hemoglobin for oxygen delivery to the muscles and the processing of dietary protein to ensure the building blocks for new muscle tissue are available. Although a true deficiency is rare, a mild deficit in the vitamin can manifest as muscle weakness and problems with co-ordination. The richest sources of vitamin B6 are chicken, turkey, tuna, milk and dairy produce, wholegrains, beans and lentils, bananas, avocados and nuts.
Along with vitamin B12, vitamin B9, or folate as it is more widely known, is needed for red blood cell formation. If the red blood cell count drops, anemia develops, which hinders performance not just at the gym, but in your everyday life owing to the extreme fatigue that is experienced. Apart from liver, folate is found in the greatest quantities in a variety of plant-based foods including pulses, green leafy vegetables, berries and breakfast cereals to which the vitamin has been added.
Apart from its role in blood cell production, this B vitamin preserves nerve function, which is why numbness is usually a feature if a deficiency is present. This deficiency, causing pernicious anemia, usually occurs due to an inability to absorb vitamin B12 owing to a lack of intrinsic factor, caused by autoimmune destruction of the cells in the stomach that manufacture intrinsic factor.
The only way that this can be corrected is through vitamin B12 injections, as no matter how much is consumed in the diet, the lack of intrinsic factor makes dietary efforts futile in this case. Vitamin B12 deficiency can also be a problem in strict vegetarians or vegans, as plant-based foods are lacking in this vitamin, though the likes of fortified cereals, dairy-free alternatives and yeast spreads provide a helping hand.
Supplementing vitamin B intake
While vitamin intake should always be promoted first by way of increasing nutrient dense foods in the diet, as a result of the increased requirements for B vitamins held by anyone bodybuilding a supplement for these might be beneficial. This may take the form of a multivitamin tablet or one that offers the full B vitamin complex.
Whichever option you choose though, it is best to avoid high dose supplements owing to the fact that B vitamins are water-soluble so the body isn’t able to store them, and any excess is merely excreted via your urine; you really are literally throwing your money down the drain if you invest in these extreme formulations.
A personal trainer can provide guidance on your individual needs for B vitamins for bodybuilding, taking into account your requirements and current dietary intake. However, instead of using a vitamin pill, you may be interested in using a sports drink to which these are added, as according to Glyco Energy the presence of B vitamins in energy supplements helps to enhance the effects of the other components to get maximal results.
Through the ability of B vitamins to support the metabolism, aiding the release of energy to fuel your workouts and the way in which they also promote a healthy blood supply, nerve and muscle function, putting efforts into ensuring a good intake of these each day can really help to assist your training, leading to increased strength, size, and better conditioning.