Like the other seven B vitamins, vitamin B5 -- also called pantothenic acid -- helps you convert carbohydrates into glucose to produce energy. Pantothenic acid also is important for manufacturing red blood cells, as well as stress- and sex-related hormones. But pantothenic acid has a lesser-known benefit -- the ability to reduce or prevent the buildup of lactic acid during exercise.
When you perform high-intensity exercises, you start breathing faster to get more oxygen to your muscles. The most efficient way to produce energy is through oxygen, but when you need energy faster than oxygen can provide it for you, your muscles generate energy without it in a process called glycosis. Glycosis produces energy but is less efficient than aerobic energy production. In addition to being inefficient, glycosis also can result in the buildup of lactic acid.
Lactic Acid Buildup
Increased lactic acid can result from a variety of metabolic problems. Accumulation of lactic acid in muscle tissue produces the burning sensation and inflammation you feel while your muscles are still active. This pain is a defense mechanism that can get you to stop overworking your body and allow you to recover after your body clears the lactic acid. Amateur athletes have a low threshold for lactic acid, but highly trained athletes can efficiently convert lactic acid to glucose, avoiding a buildup.
Vitamin B5 to Prevent Buildup
Pantothenic acid -- as well as alpha-ketoglutaric acid, malic acid, fumaric acid, succinic acid, citric acid and pyruvic acid -- is vital for the generation of cellular energy for tissue fuel. Taking vitamin B5 supplements, as well supplementing the other acids mentioned, can prevent and clear lactic acid buildup. These acids also may generate muscle energy, increase aerobic capacity and prevent fatigue. Vitamin B5 can be more effective when used with phosphates, carnosine and bicarbonates.
Sources of Vitamin B5
While vitamin B5 is available in a variety of foods, it is hard to absorb vitamin B5. Fresh meats, vegetables and whole grains are all sources of vitamin B5, with corn, cauliflower, leafy greens, tomatoes, avocados, legumes, egg yolks, beef, organ meats, poultry, milk, peanuts, soybeans, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, lobster, wheat germ and salmon, being some of the best sources. Vitamin B5 also is available in B-complex vitamins.
Though vitamin B5 is considered safe, taking vitamin B5 in excess can cause diarrhea and increase the risk of bleeding. Vitamin B5 also may interact with various medications. As with any dietary supplement, consult a doctor before consuming vitamin B5.