Staying on track with a fitness routine can be a challenge. You set goals, you make time and you get moving. But if muscle soreness and fatigue set in, it can set back your routine, making it harder to maintain.
The good news is that you can give your body a hand with muscle recovery without rifling through your medicine cabinet for pain relief meds or muscle rubs. In this article, we look at 5 naturally-occurring vitamins renowned for their ability to speed up recovery and also assist with muscle growth. What’s more, you can include most of them in your pre and post-workout meals for optimal results.
1. Vitamin A
It may be at the start of the vitamin alphabet, but vitamin A is one of the often forgotten vitamins. It’s most commonly known for its benefits for eye health, but it also has many other benefits that people don’t know about. Also known as retinol, vitamin A is beneficial to muscle recovery and growth as it regulates and supports protein synthesis, a process that is essential for muscle growth. When levels of vitamin A decrease, protein synthesis increases. This is because vitamin A is required for the breakdown of protein during the muscle repair process.
Vitamin A also plays an important role in the structural strengthening of muscles by helping with the development of bones and stimulating young cells so that they mature at a faster rate.
Good Sources for Pre and Post-Workout: Dairy products, carrots, broccoli, cantaloupe, fortified low-fat spreads, eggs and oily fish.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is essential for the repair of connective tissue. As an antioxidant, it may have the ability to reverse some of the oxidative damage that can be caused by exercise. This damage, caused by free radicals in the body, can cause cells to function differently and is believed to play a role in a number of different health conditions, including cancer, heart disease and acceleration of the aging process.
A 2006 study showed that people who took a vitamin C supplement for two weeks prior to intense exercise and then for the following four days, experienced significantly reduced muscle soreness compared to another group of people in the study who took a placebo.
Good Sources for Pre and Post-Workout: Citrus fruits, red peppers, green peppers, broccoli, raspberries, sweet potatoes, cabbage, cantaloupe, pineapple, blueberries.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D has several health benefits, including keeping teeth and bones in good shape and potentially protecting us against diseases like diabetes and certain forms of cancer. Studies also suggest that vitamin D can also help muscle strength and recovery.
Also known as the “sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D is not actually technically a vitamin at all. It is actually considered a pro-hormone and is synthesized through our skin when it is exposed to sunlight. Once created, vitamin D gets to work on a number of tissues and cells throughout the body to stimulate growth.
Of course, the best way to get your daily dose of vit D is by spending time outdoors. However, if you have dark skin or you live at latitudes above 35 degrees, which is most of the U.S., it might be best to take a supplement.
Good Sources for Pre and Post-Workout: oily fish, liver, red meat, egg yolks, fortified foods, and of course, lots of natural sunlight!
4. B Vitamins
When it comes to muscle recovery and growth, B vitamins are power players. Let’s take a look at their benefits.
Vitamin B12 is responsible for delivering oxygen to the muscles during normal daily activities and when you are working out. The good news is that this vitamin is in most of the foods you eat, such as fish, dairy and poultry. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, be sure to get your plant milks, soy and soya beans and fortified cereals to ensure you are getting enough.
Vitamin B3 (also known as niacin) helps to support muscle growth and give you better pumps during workouts. This is why so many fitness models and bodybuilders load up on B3 before photo and video shoots. It is also beneficial in promoting the metabolism of glucose and supporting healthy hormone production. You’ll find it in lots of foods, including seeds, meats, fish, bananas and eggs.
Vitamin B6 is definitely a vitamin you’ll want to get enough of. Not only does it promote red blood cell production for muscle recovery, but it also helps to create health levels of nitric oxide which can support endurance and performance. To get this vitamin into your diet naturally, you’ll want to include plenty of fatty fish, such as salmon and albacore tuna, chickpeas and bananas.
4. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is well-known for its skin-loving properties, but it isn’t just for your skin. Vitamin E not only slows down aging and scavenges free radicals (substances from the environment or toxins that are harmful to our health and can cause chronic illness), but also helps flush out metabolic waste.
When you workout, your body is prone to oxidative stress and this can cause more free radicals in your system. The good news? Vitamin E undoes a lot of the damage caused by these toxins, helping your body to work at optimal levels including regulating and promoting the processes responsible for muscle recovery.
Good Sources for Pre and Post-Workout: nuts and seeds, olive oil, wheatgerm found in many cereal products
Get Some Extra Help
A balanced diet and plenty of fresh air and safe sunshine should help you to include as many of these muscle restoring vitamins into your day as naturally as possible. From time to time, you may want to review your diet or add supplements if you feel you aren’t getting enough of a particular nutrient. A nutritionist or personal trainer can also help you to build these vitamins into your daily diet.