Is it worth periodically supplementing our body with vitamins and minerals?

We often hear that a properly balanced diet is sufficient to cover the body’s needs for about 60 nutrients needed for the body to function properly. Is it really?

We will not find information on the need for nutrients (vitamins, minerals) in any textbook or dietary recommendations for athletes – I agree, it is difficult to calculate the need, because it depends on many factors, as is the case in dietetics and life – it depends.
At the beginning of my professional career, when I was making the menu, I was very annoyed that we have standards for the demand for the usual Kowalski, but unfortunately, only residual information about the demand for a competitive athlete (also an amateur who trains intensively), so you must compare the athlete with Kowalski, who is sitting on the couch. and eating sandwiches.

Is this what an advanced nutritionist should look like? Is this the only way to do it? Comparing an athlete 1:1 to a normal person? There is still no research on athlete nutrients and no one is trying to develop such a requirement, I understand it is difficult.
However, if you look at interesting studies, it may turn out that during the training use of the body, in the season, after some time something may be missing … I already wrote about the increased demand for supplementing with additional nutrients in the article “Water is uneven in water”.

In a nutshell – systematic physical activity leads to additional metabolic changes in the body, which can increase the need for certain vitamins and minerals.

This trace of the increased demand for certain micronutrients in a group of athletes, without which we cannot function normally, continues in the following text.
Some time ago, I found an article that tested well trained athletes (VO2max> 66 ml / kg / min). During the six months of the training period, each person ran more than 3200 km, approximately 120 km per week (!) during training and competition, changing the intensity from moderate (aerobic threshold) to high (anaerobic threshold or higher).
What happened after 6 months of such intense training? It would seem nothing special, but from my point of view of dietary recommendations in the summary of the study, we can read that among people who exercise, concentrations of almost all (except vanadium) trace elements tested in urine and blood differ significantly, and these changes reflect adaptive responses in body for training.
What does such research give us? In my opinion, they should give dietitians, physicians or personal trainers a basis for changing the athlete’s menu during the season and introducing possible additional supplements depending on the training period – as part of the periodization of long-term nutrition.

Who would like to read more …

Which elements have been tested and what is their significance to the body?

The authors of the cited studies reviewed the following trace elements:

  • molybdenum (Mo),
  • copper (Cu),
  • mangan (Mn),
  • zinc (Zn),
  • cobalt (Co),
  • selenium (Se),
  • wanad (V)

Changes in concentration and differences betwee a control group and athletes are presented in Tables 1 and 2.

What do these elements do?


Vitamins and Minerals in dieting and nutritional foods - bodybuilding-wiki

Cobalt (Co) is an essential element of vitamin B12 that improves erythropoiesis. In addition, Ko dilates blood vessels and has a hypotensive effect (lowers blood pressure).


Copper (Cu) is required as part of the mitochondrial oxidase of cytochrome c, an enzyme that catalyzes the final stage of oxygen respiration. There are three enzymes in the human body, including copper (ceruloplasmin, cytosolic superoxide dismutase and extracellular SOD), whose main task is antioxidant activity.


Manganese (Mn) is part of mitochondrial SOD, an enzyme that protects mitochondria from free radicals, just like copper does. Mn is an integral part of other important metabolic enzymes such as pyruvate carboxylase, which is a key enzyme in gluconeogenesis (the production of glucose in the body).


Molybdenum is a component of xanthine oxidase involved in the metabolism of purines (xanthine oxidase activity is directly proportional to the amount of molybdenum in the body) and is critical in the production of uric acid. It is considered an essential antioxidant. Molybdenum concentration also affects protein synthesis, metabolism, and growth.


Selenium is a part of the so-called enzymatic proteins, which are necessary in many biochemical processes in the body, including glutathione peroxidase (GPx). This enzyme also plays an important role in the protection against oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation and is responsible for the detoxification of lipid peroxide and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2).
It protects red blood cells and cell membranes from the harmful effects of hydrogen peroxide. It is also important for the immune system and thyroid gland to function.


One of the few known effects of vanadium is its insulinomimetic properties, which can affect glucose metabolism.


Zinc is an integral compound in the structure of more than 70 enzymes involved in cellular functions, such as the metabolism of carbohydrates (glycolysis and gluconeogenesis), lipids, proteins and DNA, has an anti-inflammatory function, reduces the production of cytokines, participates in mineralization of the bones, wound healing, immune system, proper secretion of insulin by the pancreas and regulates the concentration of vitamin A and cholesterol.
This is necessary for the correct activity of cytosolic SOD, which protects cells from superoxide anion. In addition, there are studies showing that high serum zinc levels are associated with decreased lactate production and increased blood glucose levels during exercise.
Zinc is lost through sweat, which makes supplementation of this mineral very important for athletes.

Study results and conclusions

In addition to vanadium, there were significantly different values ​​of the tested trace elements in both serum and urine between groups. This may be related to mechanisms of adaptation to high-intensity aerobic training. It turns out that if you are an athlete, you are made of other elements (?!).
Table 1. Concentrations of trace elements in blood serum in athletes from the control group and at the beginning and after the training program (CG – control group / AH – group of athletes).

Table 2. Concentrations of microelements in urine in the control group and athletes at the beginning and after the training program (CG – control group / AG – group of athletes).


Six months of aerobic training in well-trained athletes can cause significant changes in serum and urine concentrations of several essential elements.
The main results of this study was an increase in serum zinc concentration and a decrease in serum manganese, selenium and vanadium, which may affect adaptation and physical performance of the athlete.

During the “season”, the body can regulate changes in the excretion of certain elements by decreasing or increasing the excretion of minerals in the urine to keep the body in good health.

It can be concluded that, in addition to vanadium, all the minerals studied showed different concentrations in serum or urine in athletes compared to people with a sedentary lifestyle. This may be related to mechanisms of adaptation to high-intensity aerobic training.
The results obtained from the study indicate a possible increased need of the body for certain elements, such as:

  • manganese,
  • selenium,
  • copper,
  • Zinc: This may indicate a higher body need and additional supplementation of certain minerals throughout the season to meet the body’s training adaptation needs.

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