Should I Take Vitamins Before Exercise?

LIVESTRONG.com may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.
Taking vitamins before working out could blunt your performance.
Image Credit: Olesia Bekh/iStock/GettyImages

A vitamin may already be a part of your daily routine, but you may be wondering about the best time to take multivitamins. If you exercise regularly, taking your supplement before working out may be beneficial. The info below sums up the benefits and risks of a pre-workout vitamin.

Tip

Although taking a vitamin before exercise could help improve your performance, it may also blunt the effects of exercise on the body. It should be carefully considered, and your doctor may have some useful advice on whether or not this is right for you.

Best Time to Take Multivitamins

While there is no substitution for conditioning your body with regular exercise, taking a multivitamin before hitting the gym may help ensure you're getting the most out of your workout. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, many different vitamins are necessary to properly fuel your fitness routine.

For example, vitamin B6 helps break down the macronutrients in food, like carbohydrates, into smaller units. These units are then used by your body for energy. Without these vitamins, you may not be able to keep up the activity level needed to complete an exercise.

Vitamin B12 supports the metabolic processes that help produce the energy you need to work out. Because the substance is found mostly in animal products, supplements may necessary for vegan or vegetarian athletes.

Vitamin A acts as an antioxidant and may help prevent muscle breakdown during endurance exercises. Therefore, it could be a valuable workout supplement. This is especially true for people looking to maintain a high level of effort for a long period, such as those running a marathon or going for a long swim.

Read more: Confused About Multivitamins? Here's How to Choose the Best One for You

Vitamin D plays an important role in bone health by ensuring that your body can withstand the heavy forces associated with running or jumping. It aids in calcium being absorbed into your bones and thus helps increase their overall strength.

This is especially pertinent for older individuals who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, a disorder that affects bone density and causes bone loss. This subset of the population, which is estimated by the National Osteoporosis Foundation to cover 54 million Americans, is more prone fractures than the average person. Preventing osteoporosis will allow you to stay active and continue with your workouts for years to come.

Get Enough Vitamin C

One additional substance that is typically contained in many store-bought multivitamins is ascorbic acid, or vitamin C. While many people reach for it when attempting to ward off a cold, active individuals debating whether to take vitamins before or after a workout may be surprised to hear about its other potential benefits.

According to a June 2013 meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), athletes who took vitamin C before exercise saw less bronchoconstriction, or narrowing of their airways, after participating in a workout. Given that this narrowing occurs in about 10 percent of the general population and 50 percent of athletes, taking vitamin C pre-workout may help relieve exercise-induced respiratory symptoms.

Read more: Little-Known Side Effects of GNC Mega Men Dietary Supplement

Furthermore, a review published in the July/August 2012 issue of Current Sports Medicine Reports has found that individuals who took in vitamin C by eating five servings of fruit and vegetables daily experienced less oxidative stress on the cells in their body after exercising.

It is important to note, however, that several studies in the review noted reduced mitochondrial biogenesis (one of the ways the body regulates your metabolism) when vitamin C was taken in the form of a supplement. Further research is needed to determine the appropriate timing and dose of vitamin C for athletes.

Know the Risks

While there is some evidence suggesting that the best time to take multivitamins is before you exercise, this may be only half the picture. In fact, some research claims that pre-workout vitamins may inhibit the benefits that exercise provides. According to an August 2012 review article published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, taking vitamin C and E supplements, in particular, can have some unintended side effects.

Regular exercise may help improve your body's ability to combat harmful substances called free radicals. These are unstable molecules in your bloodstream and can cause cellular damage.

The above review points out that taking vitamin E or C before exercise may decrease the body's ability to fight free radical damage. Because of this, you may want to think twice about taking that multivitamin right before you head down to the gym to workout.

Read more: The Best Vitamins and Supplements That Won't Upset a Sensitive Stomach

Instead, it may be best to grab a snack before you start exercising (the American Council on Exercise suggests string cheese or a banana with peanut butter) and take your vitamin at another point in the day. Also, it's important to note that getting your vitamins from fruits and vegetables is considered safe and beneficial and is usually the preferred option.

Determine the Value of Multivitamins

After reading the evidence for and against a pre-workout vitamin, it may also be important to consider whether you even need to be taking a daily multivitamin at all. While the vitamins discussed above may be valuable to certain people in the right quantities, most individuals can easily obtain them from food.

New research is raising questions about taking a daily vitamin. According to Harvard Health Publishing, there is little evidence to support the notion that taking a daily dose of vitamins and minerals benefits your health. While people taking a multivitamin did see small decreases in their risk of developing cataracts and cancer (about 8 percent less in men), there was no decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases like stroke and heart attacks.

Read more: Is It Better to Take Vitamins in the Morning or at Night?

Furthermore, daily multivitamins provided no greater protection against death from cardiovascular diseases than a placebo pill and showed no power to stave off age-related cognitive decline. While each person's dietary and vitamin needs are unique, it is always best to consult with a nutritionist or dietitian before beginning a supplement regimen.

references
Show Comments