Always looking to better themselves in their respective sports, athletes focus on nutrition often as mightily as their training. To get ahead of the competition, athletes should know the best multivitamin brand for their nutrient needs to supplement the healthy foods they already consume.
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Nutrient Requirements for Athletes
Athletes often have higher caloric and nutrient needs than an average person. Depending on how much they burn each day, they could require more than 3,000 calories per day. Because energy for working out is derived from their nutrient intake, the University of Wisconsin – Madison's School of Medicine and Public Health recommends the following types of macronutrients:
- Dietary fat
- Good hydration (not a macronutrient, but very important for overall health)
Carbohydrates are recommended as a primary source of energy for physical activities with high intensity and to keep athletes from getting sick. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, and breads and pastas with whole grain are best. Athletes should limit their intake of refined grains, sugary cereals and white breads, as well as try to eat whole foods instead of processed ones. The University of Wisconsin recommends at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, including a variety of colors. One serving is about the size of a baseball.
Dietary fat is important for supporting healthy hormone levels and meeting all your high energy needs. Healthy sources of fats include salmon, whole eggs, chia seeds, nuts, avocados and olive and coconut oils.
Protein is required for its role in muscle growth and repair. This nutrient helps athletes recover faster with less downtime between workouts. Healthy protein sources include whole eggs, dairy (Greek yogurt, non-fat milk and string cheese), lean fish, healthy meats (such as turkey, pork chops with the fat cut off, lean ground meat, chicken and tuna without mayonnaise) and legumes.
Good hydration, though not a macronutrient, is necessary for proper recovery. Healthy hydration options include water, milk and 100 percent fruit juice. You can add sports drinks for their electrolyte content for hydration, but you should be aware that they are higher in sugar than fruit juice. As a general rule, per the University of Wisconsin, you should take in 2 cups of fluid prior to training and 4 to 6 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes of exercise. After exercise, for every pound lost, you should take in 16 ounces of fluid.
On game day, the University of Wisconsin says that proper nutrition doesn't happen on that day alone. You need to prep your body with the appropriate nutrition months before the event. You should also never experiment with nutrition the day of competition. This includes anything from even taking a new multivitamin. You should try out new foods and multivitamins/supplements during your training to make sure your body can tolerate everything and you experience no gastrointestinal issues.
However, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion's Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 Edition, your nutritional needs should come primarily from foods rather than multivitamins. Foods should contain essential vitamins and minerals, dietary fiber and naturally occurring substances. You can take multivitamins when nutrients are consumed in less-than-recommended amounts.
The University of Wisconsin also recommends that you eat a small meal before your competition. You should cut down on dairy, fat and fibrous carbohydrates in case of any stomach problems you might face.
Best Multivitamin for Athletes
Peruse any health foods store or supplement section of any supermarket and you'll find hundreds of bottles with anything from multivitamins to unfamiliar herbs. This can leave any athlete feeling overwhelmed. To help, the best multivitamin for sportsmen and sportswomen includes a variety of vitamins and minerals.
A 2019 study from Consumer Reports researched the top-rated multivitamins using key review factors, such as the following:
- Potency. The vitamin had to meet the recommended daily values for vitamins and address as many potential nutrient deficiencies as possible. In short, researchers looked for vitamins offering more "bang for their buck." Because athletes can develop vitamin deficiencies through their caloric losses and strenuous exercise, these vitamins can help replenish what they need for training and competition.
- No or less fillers. Each multivitamin had to offer at least 90 percent of their capsule or tablet filled with an active ingredient rather than a harmful filler you can find in low-grade brands.
- Positive reviews. Consumer Reports combed through hundreds of online reviews to find the ones with top-rated remarks in addition to the substance they found inside the capsule or tablet.
- Money-back guarantee. Consumer Reports sought companies that stand behind their product with a 90-day money back guarantee. They wanted products that give you time to decide if it works for you or not. Not everyone's body is the same. Athletes who do find they need something else can return any of these multivitamin products.
After their reviews, Consumer Reports found that the best multivitamin brands are as follows:
- Dr. Tobias Adult Multivitamin, which offers 42 different natural raw fruits and vegetables and no synthetic ingredients or cheap fillers.
- Centrum Adult, which is the most complete multivitamin and is also age adjusted for adults under 50 who need further key ingredients to support energy and metabolism. This multivitamin is also the number one brand recommended by the medical community.
- Nature's Way Alive! Rather than use extracts or concentrates of foods, this product encapsulates the natural fruits and vegetables into each tablet.
- Nature Made's Multivitamin, which works for athletes because this vitamin focuses on minerals necessary for bone and joint function.
- Muscletech Platinum, which is also a solid choice for athletes because the product's vitamin complex was created with a goal of maintaining joint mobility and promoting tissue repair. According to Consumer Reports, this vitamin works well for those looking to support a rigorous and active lifestyle.
Shopping for Multivitamins
The National Institute of Health (NIH) offers the following special considerations when shopping for a multivitamin, which can apply to athletes:
- You need to read the package.
With some manufacturers, they require you take two pills per day rather than the standard one. If you are an athlete who finds taking pills causes gastrointestinal issues, you might want to opt out of such a product.
- To enhance your performance or energy level, the NIH says to look for sterols, coenzyme Q10, probiotics and glycosamine on the ingredient list.
- If you're an athlete over the age of 50, you should look for vitamin B12 on the ingredient list because you might not absorb this vitamin as well in food.
- Vegan athletes should also look for vitamin B12, as they might not eat enough of it in their protein intake.
- A multivitamin with calcium and vitamin D can increase bone mineral density and decrease fracture rates.
- If you take medicines to reduce blood clotting, you should speak with your medical professional before taking a multivitamin containing vitamin K. This vitamin is involved in blood clotting.
- If you are an athlete who follows a healthy diet and eats fortified foods and beverages reaching your recommended intake, you could exceed the upper level of intake. This might increase the possibility of an adverse effect. If you think this could happen to you, you should seek the advice of a medical professional or registered dietitian.
- Because of how much you exercise, you might need a supplement of calcium and magnesium for good bone health. Most multivitamins contain low levels of these nutrients.
- You should look for a multivitamin for your age and gender, if possible.
If you feel nervous taking a multivitamin and worry you might put something in your body you shouldn't, the NIH says that taking a basic multivitamin shouldn't pose any risk to healthy people.
Look for These Multivitamin Ingredients
Athletes require certain vitamins to reach top-tier performance level. No matter what brand you choose, athletes should look for multivitamins that include the following:
Zinc, which is helpful for athletes in sports that produce a lot of injuries such as football (collisions) and soccer (sliding into the grass and collisions). According to a March 2018 consensus report from the British Journal of Sports Medicine, zinc can help promote wound healing and tissue repair.
Iron, especially for endurance event athletes such as marathon runners. According to an August 2015 review in the Journal of Sports Medicine, iron-deficient anemia has negative and significant implications on performance in adults and youth. This is most apparent in activities with high aerobic demands. In fact, athletes should include foods high in ascorbic acid in their diet to improve iron absorption. Foods with ascorbic acid include citrus foods (oranges, lemons and limes), tomatoes, berries, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and bell peppers.
B-vitamins, especially for women. In a March 2017 nutrition assessment published in Nutrients, researchers suggest that female athletes and active women need vitamin B6 for performance. This vitamin functions in significant pathways used during physical activity, and female athletes especially could be at risk for poor status of such macronutrients.
Calcium, which is valuable for endurance female runners. In a November 2016 article from Nutrients, researchers studied the bone mineral density between endurance female runners and sprinters. After adjusting for spine and total bone less, bone mineral density was significantly higher in sprinters than in endurance runners. This suggests that long-distance runners lose bone mineral mass, and should be supplemented with multivitamins or supplements containing calcium.
- National Institute of Health: “Multivitamin/mineral Supplements”
- University of Wisconsin – Madison’s School of Medicine: “Eating for Peak Athletic Performance”
- Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 Eighth Edition”
- Consumer Reports: “Top Rated Multivitamins of 2019”
- British Journal of Sports Medicine: "IOC Consensus Statement: Dietary Supplements and the High-Performance Athlete"
- Journal of Sports Medicine: "Nutritional Considerations for Performance in Young Athletes"
- Nutrients: "Nutrition Assessment of B-Vitamins in Highly Active and Sedentary Women"
- Nutrients: "Comparison of Site-Specific Bone Mineral Densities between Endurance Runners and Sprinters in Adolescent Women"