Sports Performance — Vitamins and Mineral Electrolytes


IMPROVE YOUR STAMINA & FOCUS —  By: Richard Williams, Sports Nutritionist

Sodium is the most important mineral that is lost in sweat during prolonged exercise. Marathon runners are particularly susceptible to hyponatremia, a deficiency of sodium. Other important electrolytes include magnesium, potassium and calcium. In addition to electrolytes, several key vitamins that are important for energy metabolism, including vitamin B3, B5, B6, B12 and folic acid.

Zinc and chromium are co-factors for the enzymes involved in energy production.

Vitamin C and zinc are antioxidants that help reduce oxidative stress that occurs after strenuous activity.

Recent studies have shown an increase in plasma homocysteine in athletes after strong physical activity. Vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid help reduce homocysteine levels.

Calcium, vitamin C and Aloe vera may also aid in recovery after strenuous physical activity.



Calcium participates in muscle contraction and nerve transmission.

Calcium is a component of bone, and is particularly important for female athletes. [1, 2]

One study showed that one year of supplemental calcium intake prevents cortical but not trabecular bone loss in young adult female distance runners. [1]

Calcium levels rise and urinary excretion increases after intense exercise. [3, 4] This is due to a burst of osteoclastic (bone destruction) activity, which can be suppressed by calcium supplementation. [2]



Magnesium is central to muscle relaxation and nerve transmission. Magnesium also activates enzymes involved in energy metabolism.

A significant positive correlation was reported between plasma magnesium and aerobic capacity in male university athletes [5]

Plasma magnesium concentrations decrease during prolonged, intense exercise, which may reflect redistribution from plasma to the working muscle. [6]

Magnesium deficiency can result in a significant reduction in exercise performance. [7]

One study found that magnesium supplementation may benefit strength training. [8] Another demonstrated improved swimming, cycling, and running times in triathletes. [9]




Excessive sweating during prolonged exercise can result in an electrolyte imbalance, including a deficiency of sodium (hyponatremia). It is common in marathon runners, cyclists, and hikers.

A recent New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) study found that 13 percent of Boston marathon runners studied had a serious imbalance of fluid and electrolytes. [10]

Several studies have shown that sodium and other alkaline minerals may improve sports performance. [11-17]



Potassium is needed for electrical activity of nerve and muscle cells. Potassium deficiency (hypokalemia) results in muscle weakness, muscle pain, cramping, and fatigue.



Zinc is required by enzymes that for energy metabolism. Zinc is a component of carbonic anhydrase, an acid base balance enzyme, and lactate dehydrogenase, a critical muscle enzyme.

Zinc may reduce post-exercise free radical activity. [18]




Chromium participates in carbohydrate and fat metabolism. It facilitates insulin action. Chromium may have an anabolic effect on body composition.

Preliminary research in animals suggests that chromium picolinate increases fat loss and lean muscle tissue gain when used with a weight-training program. [19] However, several recent studies have found little to no effect of chromium on body composition or strength.


Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Vitamin C may prevent the formation of exercise-induced free radicals. [20]

Vitamin C to decrease the susceptibility of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) to oxidation during acute exercise [21, 22]

Vitamin C supplementation may exert a protective effect against eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage. [23]

Vitamin C may improve recovery after strenuous endurance exercise [24, 25]



B Vitamins

A restricted intake of vitamins B1, B2, B6 and C may lead to decreased endurance capacity within a few weeks. [26, 27]

Vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid are needed to reduce homocysteine levels. Several studies have shown an increase in plasma homocysteine in athletes after strong physical activity. [28-31]

Ten male field-track athletes were exercised using a fixed workload treadmill test. Tests showed a consistent low value in the total percentile of vitamins B1, B2, folate, and biotin. [32]

Supplementation with vitamin B1, B6 and B12 was been found to improve target shooting in marksmen in two different studies. [33]

Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide)

Vitamin B3 is a constituent of the coenzymes, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP), which are required for energy metabolism.

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenate)

Vitamin B5 is involved in the Kreb’s cycle of energy production and is essential in producing, transporting, and releasing energy from fats. Pantothenic acid also activates the adrenal glands. [34]

One study showed that a mixture of propionyl-L-carnitine (PLC), coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), nicotinamide (NAM), riboflavin and pantothenic acid improved motor performance of skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle in rats. [35]

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

The metabolically active coenzyme form pyridoxal 5′ phosphate (PLP) is required for protein and fat metabolism, and glycogen phosphorylase to release glucose from muscle glycogen (stored carbohydrates).

Vitamin B6 is needed to reduce homocysteine levels, which may become elevated after strenuous levels.

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

Vitamin B12 is only available from meat, and is particularly needed by vegetarian athletes.

Vitamin B12 is needed to reduce homocysteine levels, which may become elevated after strenuous levels.

One study’s findings suggested that vitamin B12 metabolism may be altered in ultra-endurance runners. [36]


Folic Acid

Folic acid is needed to reduce homocysteine levels, which may become elevated after strenuous levels.


Aloe Vera leaf

Aloe vera contains acemannan, a potent immune stimulant. [37]

Aloe vera has been used for decades, both topically and internally, to enhance wound repair. [38]





* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These comments are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.



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