Five Common Nutrients Athletes Need – and often are deficient in

It’s proven: 31 percent of people in the United States are at risk for a deficiency in at least one vitamin or mineral essential for good health. And often, active people need even higher levels. It may be hard to imagine that we don’t get enough nutrition when we see an abundance of food available 24/7, but it’s true. A recent study showed the top five nutrients many of us need more of.

Should you be concerned about being low in one or two vitamins or minerals? In a word, yes. That’s because vitamins and minerals are essential for optimal health. Being low may not cause immediate symptoms, but it puts you at risk for many serious diseases that can affect your brain, heart, blood, immune system, metabolism, bones, mental health, gut health, and more. Nutrients are key pieces your body needs to maintain all of your systems in good working order. Missing just one or two pieces can throw off the delicate balance you need to be healthy and feel great. That’s because most nutrients don’t have just one vital role to play within the body, they play many, many vital roles.

How would you even know if you’re at risk for a nutrient deficiency? It’s not always obvious. Sometimes symptoms aren’t felt for a long time and sometimes they’re very vague and non-specific. For example, fatigue, irritability, aches and pains, decreased immune function, and heart palpitations can be signs of many things, including a nutrient deficiency. This article goes over the five most commonly deficient nutrients, some of the more obvious symptoms, and foods that are high in each so you can get enough.

1. Vitamin B6 – blood, brain, and metabolism

The number one most common nutrient deficiency in the US was Vitamin B6. This vitamin is important for your blood, brain, and metabolism. Vitamin B6 helps the formation of hemoglobin in the blood (the part that carries oxygen around). It also helps to maintain normal levels of homocysteine (high levels of homocysteine are linked with heart disease). In addition, this vitamin plays an important role in the production of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers allowing nerve cells to communicate with each other). Not to mention the fact that it’s also involved with over 100 enzyme reactions in the body, mostly for metabolism.

Some of the main symptoms of a serious deficiency in Vitamin B6 are depression, confusion, convulsions, and a type of anemia called “microcytic” anemia. Symptoms of a less serious deficiency are no less serious. They include increased risks for heart disease and Alzheimer’s. These wide-ranging health effects are why Vitamin B6 is so essential for health.

Sources: Vitamin B6 is found in all food groups. People who eat high-fiber cereals tend to have higher levels of the vitamin because cereals are often fortified with it. Vitamin B6 is also found in high quantities in potatoes, non-citrus fruits (e.g., bananas), and various animal-based foods such as poultry, fish, and organ meats.

2. Vitamin B12 – Nerves, anemia, and energy

Like Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 is also very important for your blood and brain. It is needed for the creation of healthy red blood cells and the formation of the outer coating of nerve cells (myelin) which is very important for their optimal functioning.

Vitamin B12 can be a bit difficult to absorb from your food. To improve absorption, it’s important to have adequate acid and digestive enzymes in the stomach. This is because the vitamin is very strongly bound to the proteins in food, and stomach acid and enzymes help to break those bonds and free the vitamin so your body can take it in.

Having a Vitamin B12 deficiency can be caused by a type of anemia called “pernicious” anemia. Pernicious anemia is an autoimmune disease that affects the stomach and reduces its ability to absorb Vitamin B12. A deficiency in Vitamin B12 can then lead to a different type of anemia called “megaloblastic” anemia. Low levels of Vitamin B12 can also cause neurological damage (due to impaired myelination of nerve cells).

Sources: Vitamin B12 isn’t naturally present in most plant-based foods, except it is found in some nutritional yeast products. It is naturally found in dairy, eggs, fish, poultry and meat and is particularly high in clams, beef liver, trout, and salmon. Many breakfast cereals are fortified with Vitamin B12.

If you are consuming Vitamin B12 supplements or eating foods that are fortified with Vitamin B12, your levels of stomach acid and digestive enzymes aren’t as critical as they are for the absorption of the vitamin directly from foods. This is because when adding Vitamin B12 to foods and supplements, it’s not tightly bound to their proteins and this makes it much more easily absorbed.

3. Vitamin C – collagen support

Vitamin C is important for wound healing and assisting in the absorption/synthesis of a protein called collagen. It helps in the production of neurotransmitters, metabolism, and the proper functioning of the immune system. Vitamin C also acts as an antioxidant to reduce the damage caused by free radicals that can worsen several diseases such as certain cancers and heart disease. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb the essential mineral iron, which is one of the top five nutrient deficiencies also included in this article.

Collagen is a vital component of connective tissue and this describes some of the symptoms of its deficiency disease, scurvy. Symptoms of scurvy include weak connective tissue such as bleeding, wounds that won’t heal, and even the loss of teeth. We think of scurvy as an old, irrelevant condition, but you can still start to notice some of those issues due to lack of healthy connective tissue and collagen support. A lot of joint pain, instability, frequent strains or sprains, heavy bruising, and more may indicate a lack of collagen integrity.

Sources: You can get Vitamin C from many fruits and vegetables. Ones particularly high in Vitamin C include bell peppers, oranges, and orange juice. Other good sources of the vitamin include kiwifruit, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, tomato juice, cantaloupe, cabbage, and cauliflower. Vitamin C is not naturally present in grains, but some breakfast cereals are fortified with it.

When choosing foods for Vitamin C, choose the freshest options because levels of the vitamin naturally reduce over time the longer the food is stored. Try, as much as possible, to eat Vitamin C-rich foods raw. If you do cook them, then choose steaming and microwaving instead of prolonged boiling because the vitamin is destroyed by heat and is water-soluble.

4. Vitamin D – part of healthy bones and reducing inflammation

Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is very important for your bones. It promotes the absorption of the mineral calcium. When your body has enough calcium, it can maintain normal bone mineralization and prevent problems in the muscles that lead to cramps and spasms. Getting enough Vitamin D and calcium can also help protect against osteoporosis. In addition to all of these bone and muscle impacts, Vitamin D helps to reduce inflammation and modulate both immune function and sugar metabolism.

Without enough Vitamin D bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen. Vitamin D prevents these issues known as rickets (in children) and osteomalacia (in adults).

Sources: Your skin makes Vitamin D when it’s exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun and very few foods naturally contain it. The few Vitamin D-rich foods include fatty fish and fish liver oils (e.g., salmon, trout, cod liver oil). Other foods that naturally contain small amounts of Vitamin D include egg yolks, beef liver, and cheddar cheese. Some mushrooms can contain Vitamin D—particularly those exposed to UV light.

Food: Most of the dietary Vitamin D that people in the US get is from fortified foods and beverages. These include some dairy products (mainly milk), certain plant milks (e.g., soy, almond, or oat milks), various breakfast cereals, and a few types of orange juice. Be sure to look at the nutrition labels to see if and how much Vitamin D is in each serving of the food or beverage.

5. Iron – carrying oxygen to your body

Iron is a mineral essential for healthy blood so that it can transport vital oxygen throughout your body every second of every day. This happens via a compound in your red blood cells called “hemoglobin.” Iron also supports your muscles (like Vitamin D) and your connective tissue (like Vitamin C). Having adequate iron is necessary for physical growth, neurological development, hormone production, and the function of your cells.

A deficiency in iron is commonly known as “anemia.” Menstruating women tend to be lower in iron simply because of their regular loss of blood.

Most iron in the body is in the blood, but there is some stored in the liver, spleen, bone marrow, and muscles. This is why iron deficiency progresses slowly from depleting your stores (mild iron deficiency), to reducing the number of red blood cells (marginal iron deficiency), before you get to full-out iron deficiency anemia.

Sources: Iron is naturally found in many foods in one of two forms: “heme” and “nonheme.” Animal-based foods contain the more absorbable heme form. Plant-based foods naturally contain nonheme iron. This is where Vitamin C comes in. Vitamin C helps your body absorb the nonheme iron from plants, which is why, if plants are a main source of iron in your diet, it’s important to combine iron-rich plants with Vitamin C-rich plants in the same meal.

Some of the best sources of iron include fortified cereals, oysters, white beans, dark chocolate, beef liver, lentils, spinach, and tofu.

Bottom Line

Up to one-third of people in the US are at risk for at least one nutrient deficiency. Most commonly, that deficient nutrient is Vitamin B6, but there are also many people deficient in vitamins B12, C, and D, as well as the mineral iron. Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients because everybody needs them on a regular basis for good health. Lacking in any one nutrient can have far-reaching consequences.

Eating a nutrient-rich diet with a variety of foods can help everyone achieve their health and nutrition goals.

Steps you can take to minimize risk:

  1. Focus on the above-mentioned food sources, aim for a variety of color on your plate every day. Mix it up week to week.
  2. Take the Thorne Elite Multivitamin, specifically created for athletic people who are putting their body through more stress – physically and emotionally. It’s a helpful safety net of nutrition.
  3. Sign up for the Flex Menu to have a nutrient-rich meal plan written for you! Or upgrade to the VIP Nutrition Group for the menus plus group coaching all month long
  4. Test, Don’t Guess” – purchase the SpectraCell Micronutrient Profile test, and lab review with Kate

References

Bird, J. K., Murphy, R. A., Ciappio, E. D., & McBurney, M. I. (2017). Risk of Deficiency in Multiple Concurrent Micronutrients in Children and Adults in the United States. Nutrients, 9(7), 655. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9070655. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537775/

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. (2020, February 28). Iron fact sheet for health professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. (2020, February 4). Vitamin B6 fact sheet for health professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-HealthProfessional/

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. (2020, March 30). Vitamin B12 fact sheet for health professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. (2020, February 27). Vitamin C fact sheet for health professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. (2020, October 9). Vitamin D fact sheet for health professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

E-Lyte

E-Lyte mimics electrolyte levels in the body for optimal hydration. Formulated with the three ingredients you need – Sodium, Potassium and Magnesium.

It is helpful for people doing a “detox” with their diet, starting the ImmunoCalm Program and flushing water, or athletes looking for a more natural source of electrolytes.

In 1984 the founder began to make E-Lyte in his bathtub after realizing that there was nothing on the market that truly mimicked the needs of the human body. Since then, E-Lyte has become a best seller for anyone looking for deeper hydration without all the “junk,” or fake sweet flavor found in most electrolyte products.

Sugar can harm the teeth and add to unwanted calories; and even electrolyte drinks with artificial sweeteners pose a risk to your gut microbiome, nervous system, and more.

BodyBio E-Lyte is the perfect combination of sodium which contracts muscles; potassium, which relaxes them; and magnesium, which plays a role in more than 300 enzymatic processes and is the force that drives potassium to relax a contracted muscle. Ideal for everyday athletes, pregnant women, or anyone looking to reduce painful cramps and stay energized all day—without all the unnecessary ingredients.

Most electrolyte concentrates are formulated specifically for professional athletes and contain levels of sodium and sugar that are way too high for daily use. That’s why we formulated E-Lyte with more potassium, less sodium, and no sugar to mimic human blood and give the body exactly what it needs! It is a proprietary blend of purified water, potassium, phosphate, sodium, magnesium, bicarbonate, sulfate, and potassium iodide as a preservative.

Pro-tip: Replace that afternoon coffee with E-Lyte for a brain and body boost sans sleepless nights.

Specially formulated to:

  • Naturally relieve cramps*
  • Improve stamina and reduce fatigue*
  • Boost energy*
  • Aid neurological function and enhance nerve signaling*

Suggested Use: Take 2-3 capfuls of concentrate to 8 oz. of water, or 8 ounces into 1 gallon of water. Drink an 8 oz. serving 1-2 times daily, or as directed by your physician or HCP.

Caution: Children, those with high blood pressure or on sodium restricted diets should consult your physician before use.

Gut Check Guest – Stephanie Shaw: Even one word a day can start to shift your life!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s out there! To the women who work hard, care for others, and forget sometimes to take care of themselves…

𝗔𝗿𝗲 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝘀𝘁𝗿𝘂𝗴𝗴𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗼 𝗳𝗶𝘁 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗹𝘁𝗵 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘀 𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗼 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗽𝗿𝗶𝗼𝗿𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗲𝘀?

In today’s episode, I talk with Stephanie Shaw, founder of The Mind Body Business Method – a lifestyle and nutrition coaching company that helps executive divorcees find the time to prioritize themselves again. Not only does she help you reach your health and weight goals, but also boost your energy and renew your confidence!

Stephanie and I discuss some tips for mindset and self-care, when you feel like you have no time. Even one word a day can start to shift your life!

Feeling overwhelmed with health eating? Check out the customizable menus plans for help here! Get healthy, dietitian-approved, chef-created menus for you and your whole family. Reach out for additional eating patterns. “Flex” and “Low FODMAPS” currently available, or be alerted when more roll out: Plant-Based, Low-Histamine, 28-Day Refresh, and more!

Follow Stephanie:

Real Talk with a Pharmacist – What Your Doctor Didn’t Tell You About Your Medications

(Listen on-the-go on Spotify, or here for your other podcast platforms)

A lot of people are starting to understand that antibiotics can screw up your gut microbiome, but did you know there are other medications that are detrimental to your digestive system as well? Or that over half of the people on a PPI acid reducer are being taken without appropriate need? And if you are, you shouldn’t be on it for more than 8 weeks max? 

In an older episode, I shared about the risks behind treating supplements like candy. Medications are no different – and come with even more risks! But we have become a society that doesn’t balk at the massive side effect lists on even the most benign-seeming prescription drug. We have normalized the idea of “prescribing cascades” and the vicious cycle it creates; and this is a topic that is critical to look at, because  70% of adults are on a prescription medication. 

Licensed Pharmacist Victoria Shea Swick has an open and candid discussion with us today about the good, bad, and ugly in the medication world. Medications have their place, but should be used mindfully. You should be empowered to understand what you are putting in your body, and what limitations doctors sometimes have on their ability to take time to fully vet multiple medications if you are seeing multiple specialists.

We discuss:

  • Drugs that can negatively impact gut health, flora, and nutrient status
  • Long-term problems with chronic PPI use 
  • The differences in brand name vs generic products 
  • Gluten and corn as fillers in tablet vs capsule
  • How much attention people need to pay to those extensive “possible side effects” lists with medications
  • Taking medications to offset side effects from other medications, which are for other medications. polypharmacy and the prescription cascade
  • The new push for “de-prescribing”
  • Medications that can inhibit weight goals
  • How pharmacists can help you understand your medications and options
  • The common medication athletes use that can cause GI damage

Pharmacists are an under-utilized resource, and I encourage you to reach out to yours, or to Shea, for guidance, especially if you are taking multiple medications or worried about potential side effects of polypharmacy issues!

Related Podcast:

Connect with Shea: 

 Shea’s Recommendations:

War-X OCR: Chaos with a Cause. Interview with Jake Moore

(You can find the Podcast version of this on Spotify and Amazon Music as well)

Are you an Obstacle Course Race (OCR) fan? Or OCR-curious? Listen in and lean about an Ohio-based race course with Jake Moore . He is one of the creators and minds behind the event, War-X (War-Experience) obstacle course race. And it has grown into a full trilogy weekend for those who want to fill a weekend with not one, but THREE, events!

So what is War-X? Jake and I discuss:

  • The origins and true purpose
  • Their partnership with Operation Enduring Warrior 
  • Real guns and explosives??
  • Behind-the-scene info and sneak peaks
  • The Eliminator
  • Mindset and preparation
  • And more!

You don’t have to have been in the military to find and practice your own inner strength, or to tap into your inner warrior. We can all work on our Alpha minds, our resilience, in all parts of life.

Want to join War-X this year? Jake has extended a discount to listeners and friends. Let me know if you’re joining, so we can meet up and say hello!

Use this link, and discount code KCX10 to save 10% on registration

  • Facebook: @thisiswarx
  • Instagram: @thisiswarx
  • Operation Enduring Warrior: @operationenduringwarrior

Need some help figuring out how to eat or train for an Obstacle Course? Email Kate@DublinDietitian.com for some FREE resources to get you started, or discuss a coaching program to guide you along the way!

A few examples, depending on your goals/needs:

  1. Protein Basics – where to find good protein
  2. Collagen, Joint Health, and Athletics – preventing injury and boosting power
  3. Struggling to lose weight even though you’re “doing everything right”? Check out this past Podcast Episode.
  4. Join The EMPOWERED HEALTH group of Facebook, helping active people overcome migraines, GI issues, or joint problems

Remember to Use this link, and discount code KCX10 to save 10% on registration if you want to join War-X or the Trilogy!