Is a vitamin deficiency keeping you from making the most of your gym time? Learn which vitamins are essential for muscle growth and recovery.
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is arguably the most important vitamin when it comes to muscle growth and recovery. Vitamin D is unique in that the body needs exposure to direct sunlight in order to stimulate its production. Sure, we all know that vitamin D is important to keep disease away, and we know that large populations are deficient, but how can it support muscle growth and recovery?
Well, vitamin D is the most important of all vitamins when it comes to testosterone production! Some research studies even show that vitamin D supplementation can significantly increase explosive power in adults, alongside a strength-training program, in comparison to placebo subjects. Vitamin D even plays a key role in protein synthesis, which is partly due to its impact on testosterone production. In fact, a study conducted on men with low testosterone found that supplementation with vitamin D led to a 20% increase in free testosterone.
In addition to its effects on testosterone and muscle growth, vitamin D can also improve bone health. Vitamin D works alongside calcium and magnesium, which are essential minerals for bone development.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is one of the most talked about vitamins on the planet. We’ve all had a common cold and been given advice such as, “Make sure you increase your vitamin C intake,” but what about benefits for muscle growth and recovery?
Well, first of all, vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that works to protect muscle cells from damaging free radicals. In addition, it works to aid in the formation of testosterone and other anabolic hormones. The benefits to muscle don’t stop there.
Vitamin C also aids in collagen formation. Since collagen is the primary constituent of connective tissue, vitamin C becomes an essential component in keeping bones and muscles free from injury. By strengthening collagen, joints are more capable of handling heavier weight resistance, with less chance of injury.
In one study at the University of North Carolina, researchers found that supplementation with vitamin C before and after training reduced muscle soreness and prevented the oxidation of glutathione, a very potent antioxidant. This is very important to note because delayed-onset-muscle-soreness (DOMS) is not exactly the most pleasant of feelings, and Vitamin C has been proven to decrease the soreness, while working as an antioxidant at the cellular level.
3. Vitamin E
Vitamin E has many practical applications. Many people know it as a remedy for stretch marks and skin problems, but don’t know much about it beyond this.
Good news for athletes and bodybuilders though! Vitamin E is a very powerful antioxidant that works to protect the integrity of cells in the body. Exercise and intense training produces free radicals in the body, which are toxic by-products of cellular respiration.
As these free radicals accumulate, the body becomes more toxic, leading the way to impaired performance, muscle growth, recovery, and immune health. Vitamin E works to attack these free radicals and flush them out of the body. The end result is less oxidative stress and a decrease in muscle damage.
In addition to the aforementioned benefits, vitamin E has been studied as a natural prevention and treatment of carotid atherosclerosis, which is a narrowing of the carotid artery due to oxidative stress. As such, Vitamin E is able to further support muscle growth and speed recovery by means of its positive effect on blood pressure, allowing more nutrient-rich blood to reach working muscles.
4. B Vitamins (B6, Folate & B12)
Vitamin B6, folate and B12 are arguably the most important B vitamins when it comes to muscle growth and recovery! Both vitamins B6 and B12 have a direct role in protein metabolism. In fact, studies have demonstrated that the higher the protein consumption, the more vitamin B6 that’s needed to support the metabolism of the increased protein intake.
Another interesting fact is that vitamin B6 is needed to support the absorption of vitamin B12. Together, these B vitamins are essential in the production of red blood cells and immune system cells, both of which are invaluable to muscle growth and repair. Taking folic acid (vitamin B9) in combination with vitamins B6 and B12 can reduce homocysteine levels and improve nitric oxide production and endothelial function. The end result is improved blood flow and nutrient delivery to working muscles!
5. Vitamin A
Vitamin A seems to be one of those forgotten vitamins. It’s well known for its positive effects on eye health, but many of its other benefits are often ignored. For athletes and bodybuilders, vitamin A is useful because it supports protein synthesis, which is essential for muscle growth. Vitamin A levels decrease as protein synthesis increases. This is related to the fact that vitamin A is needed for the breakdown of protein during the muscle repair process.
If its role in muscle growth and repair is not enough, vitamin A also has a direct effect on testosterone, the body’s most powerful muscle-building hormone. In a study of 102 teenage boys with delayed puberty, supplementation of vitamin A and iron produced similar maturity to that of the group receiving exogenous testosterone. This demonstrates that vitamin A deficiency can have a significant impact on healthy testosterone production in males of all ages.
Finally, vitamin A plays an important role in providing more structural strength to muscles by promoting bone development and stimulating young cells to mature at a quicker rate.