Let us talk a little bit about mineral and vitamin supplements (also known as food supplements, vitamin supplements, mineral supplements, sports supplements, food supplements) . These are very fashionable pills that we can buy mainly in pharmacies (now also in supermarkets). Their aim, in theory, is to prevent or reverse situations of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which in principle would be caused by a low consumption of vitamins and minerals (if we eat little and / or badly) or an increased need in special situations such as sport (or stress situations etc.).
In recent years we have also seen a large increase in these supplements of vitamins and minerals aimed at athletes, specifically antioxidant supplements. Its purpose is to protect the body against oxidation and wear during sports practice and / or increase performance. Are they necessary? Can we get these antioxidant effects with a normal diet?
During sport, when we contract our muscles, harmful molecules called free radicals are produced, which, in addition, the greater the intensity of the exercise, the more muscle contraction and the more free radicals are produced. The appearance of tiredness and fatigue is largely due to the overproduction of these radicals in our body.
BUT, our organism has its own systems to neutralize these radicals, our cells produce a series of antioxidant molecules that neutralize the radicals. In addition to external consumption of fruits and vegetables provide us with vitamins, minerals and other antioxidant substances that also eliminate these radicals.
So if the athlete meets their daily needs for energy and nutrients will not be necessary to take any supplement.
This circumstance is not always met, think of the athlete (for example a long-distance runner) who is going to compete in another country is very possible that you can not program your diet to meet their needs. Another case would be, for example, strenuous training and competitions in which the necessary energy is hardly covered by a normal diet. We could say that the athlete should consider taking vitamin and mineral supplements in these situations:
- High altitude sports where the lack of oxygen favours the appearance of free radicals (mountaineering and vitamin E).
- Contact sports where trauma occurs such as rugby.
- In beginners until the body adapts to training.
- During trips in which the athlete can not eat as usual to meet their daily needs for vitamins and minerals.
- At the end of the season (e.g. footballers).
- When there is a vitamin and/or mineral deficiency diagnosed by a qualified health professional.
- In training and/or strenuous competitions in which the daily energy needs are not reached.
Regarding the increase in performance, today it has not been shown that taking vitamins and minerals above the daily needs of the athlete produce benefits, so there is no point in overflowing with vitamins and minerals if we cover the daily needs of these nutrients.