Bodybuilders eat a lot of food, it goes with the job. They are probably already consuming a lot more nutrients than most people. So why do bodybuilders often take multivitamins? Do bodybuilders need more vitamins? Or are they just wasting their money?
The lifestyle of a bodybuilder requires more vitamins and minerals than that of regular people because intense exercise utilises more nutrients. Bodybuilders and elite athletes often take vitamin and mineral supplements to address this deficit.
This article will take an in-depth look at why bodybuilders require more vitamins and minerals. Why do so many use multivitamins, and whether bodybuilders can get enough nutrients from diet alone?
Vitamins play a crucial role in energy metabolism. They can turn carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into usable energy. The more energy that you require during the day, the more vitamins and minerals you will also need.
The recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamins and minerals is calculated based on the needs of the “average” male and female. This average is someone who exercises 2-3 times per week for 40 minutes or so at a low intensity. The RDI is not calculated for training 5-7 times per week for 2+ hours or more.
If a bodybuilder were to stick to the recommended daily intake of vitamins they may end up becoming deficient. This is a common concern for athletes, and it could be one reason why athletes and bodybuilders are more susceptible to the common cold than regular people.
Female athletes are a lot more likely to be deficient than male athletes, for a number of reasons, while sports that require you to reach a certain weight are also higher risk. With bodybuilding, this means that bodybuilders who are bulking are very unlikely to need additional vitamins and minerals, but during a cut, their need is going to grow.
Bodybuilders will take vitamin and mineral supplements for this reason, but they may also take them due to sponsorship deals. That last statement may sound a little inflammatory, but I don’t mean it as an insult. Sponsorship can make up a huge part of a bodybuilder’s income, and as there is a legitimate need for multivitamins during cutting season, it seems fair enough to me.
Bodybuilders need all the vitamins and minerals that regular people need, but may also need to top up certain ones when exercising at a high intensity. Female bodybuilders, in particular, need to pay attention to their vitamin and mineral intake. Here are some vitamins and minerals that bodybuilders may need to supplement:
Consuming these vitamins and minerals via your diet is obviously advantageous as multivitamins are not quite as effective, but if you are in a calorie deficit this can be difficult. If you are vegan then supplementation may be necessary, particularly for vitamin D, calcium, and B-vitamins.
You certainly need vitamins to generate the energy required to build muscle. Vitamins also play a crucial role in recovery. It is difficult to exercise optimally if you are deficient in any vitamin. If you are deficient in all of them then building muscle would be impossible.
You don’t, however, need a multivitamin to build muscle. You can get all the vitamins and minerals you need from diet. Provided your diet consists of lots of fruit, vegetables, and grains (as well as meat and seafood) you won’t need any supplements. Bodybuilders may need supplements for the reasons mentioned above, as do vegans or people on diets that avoid certain food groups or macronutrients.
If you are of average height, weight, and activity level then you can take the recommended daily intake (RDI) for your gender and avoid a deficiency. If you are of average height and weight but exercise at a very high intensity (i.e. follow a bodybuilding program) then increasing your vitamin D, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and B-vitamin intake may be a good idea. But doing so through food rather than supplements where possible is a smart idea.
If you are much larger than average (due to obesity or after years of building muscle) then you may require higher levels of vitamins and minerals to account for your size. However, if you are larger than average there is a good chance that you are getting more than enough vitamins and minerals from your diet (provided you are currently maintaining or gaining weight). If you are on a calorie-controlled diet, then talk to your doctor about your nutritional needs.
While taking a multivitamin is not as effective as improving your diet to gain vitamins and minerals naturally, most people aren’t even close to hitting their RDI’s and therefore a multivitamin is better than nothing. If you are bodybuilding and in a calorie deficit then a multivitamin is possibly a good idea. This really depends on what your current calorie total is, and whether you can get all the nutrients you need while staying within it.
Bodybuilders do need higher doses of vitamins and minerals, but most will get this through their diet. If you are trying to lose weight for competition and dropping your calorie intake drastically then a multivitamin is a good shout. While bodybuilders may benefit from topping up their vitamins and minerals, most will be fine provided they are hitting their recommended daily intake.
Always talk to your doctor before attempting anything drastic. Remember, it is still possible to have too much of a good thing, too much iron or vitamin C (or whatever) can lead to health complications, and multivitamins can be responsible for that.
Matt Smith is the owner of Beer N Biceps. He has a degree in Sports Science, 10 years of experience working in the fitness industry, and has written for hundreds of fitness websites. He is a lover of good quality beer and believes that drinking in moderation can form part of a healthy lifestyle.