Every grocery store, drug store, and gym is full of Vitamins for sale. And everyone will tell you the perks and benefits of taking a multi vitamin. Vitamins are great for overall health. The common advice ends there. Vitamins come in a lot of shapes and sizes. Some vitamins are required, others are beneficial. Some are great for fat loss, and some are great for muscle building.
What Are Vitamins?
Vitamins are organic compounds. These compounds are required for essential bodily function. The primary use would be cellular growth and turnover. But vitamins have a variety of uses. Essential Vitamins are vitamins required for proper bodily function. Vitamins also come in two varieties based on solubility.
What is Solubility and Biological Value
Solubility is the chemical process of a substance to dissolve. This is important, because vitamins have very different solubility, as well as biological value. Vitamins are either fat soluble, or water soluble. Fat soluble vitamins are vitamins which bind in the stomach with fat and are stored for later use.
The fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K. We are far less likely to be deficient in vitamin A, D, E and K because our body will store them until they are needed. This also makes us more prone to an overdose. On the other side of the spectrum, we have water soluble.
Water soluble vitamins would be the rest of the Essential Vitamins. Water soluble vitamins are absorbed directly in the cells and the excess is flushed out. We require daily doses of water soluble vitamins for proper bodily function.
Then we have bioavailability. Bioavailability is the rate at which nutrition transports from food to the cells in our body for use. The rate your body absorbs vitamins is a huge issue in the vitamin industry. The fact is not all vitamins absorb equally into our cells.
I want you to take all the vitamin bottles you have, and remove one of each vitamin. Get out a bottle of vinegar. Pour the vinegar into a small sauce dishes, one for each vitamin. Drop one vitamin in each dish. Wait thirty minutes.
The purpose of this test is to reenact what our stomach acid does to vitamins. You will measure the breakdown, and see what is not digested. You will see that most vitamins will not break down much at all. You will not absorb what is required. Bioavailability also varies by age, metabolism, sex, etc.
Every vitamin has a different bioavailability. When looking for a vitamin, or multivitamin, you want one with a high bioavailability. Normally this means to consume it as it is found in nature. The small, one a day multi vitamin? Not likely to be very bioavailable.
This is reinforced by all studies on the bioavailability of vitamins compared to food. Studies on Calcium intake has proven that people who take calcium supplements do have a higher intake of calcium daily. But, people who eat a diet rich in calcium have stronger bones. This means, natural is better than popping a pill.
The Jargon of Vitamins
Before we jump into the use and requirements, we need to understand the language used by science. First is RDA, or recommended daily allowance. Then we have AI, or adequate intake. RDA and AI differs for vitamins we do not have sufficient data on to give strict requirements. Then we have UL, or the upper limit. The upper limit would be the point it becomes toxic to consume. Lastly, we have the measurement. First Is milligram (mg). Second is micrograms (mcg). One mg is 1,000 mcg.
The Thirteen Essential Vitamins
Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Vitamin B3 (niacin)
Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin)
Folate (folic acid and B9)
As last, we have the fun part, where we dig into the use and benefits for all of the vitamins. Keep in mind, these are guidelines and recommendations by the FDA and the most up to date research. This can change, but we will update this article as it does.
The Essential Vitamin FAQ:
Other Names: Comes in three primary forms in the body, Retinol, Retinal and Retinoic Acid.
Uses: Vitamin A is essential for vision, healthy teeth, mucus membranes, bone growth and tissue health.
Fat Loss and Muscle Building: Helps grow tissue (Muscle) and keep bones strong when exercising. Essential for muscle development and retention while exercising as well as preventing injury.
RDA/AI: 900 mcg.
UL: 3,000 mcg or 3 mg.
Sources: Beef, Liver, Shrimp, Milk, Cheese.
Known as: Ascorbic Acid.
Uses: Assists in the formation of collagen and bolsters the immune system.
Fat Loss and Muscle Building: The improved immune system helps prevent sickness while in a caloric deficit.
RDA/AI: Women – 75 mg; Men – 90 mg.
UL: 2,000 mg.
Sources: Primarily found in fruit, fruit juice. Also found in Broccoli, Peppers, Spinach and Tomatoes.
Known as: Calciferol.
Uses: Helps the development and strength of teeth and bone.
Fat Loss and Muscle Building: Helps prevent injury while muscle building and exercise.
RDA/AI: 5 mcg to 15 mcg.
UL: 50 mcg.
Sources: Milk, Margarine, Fatty Fish.
Known as: Alpha-Tocopherol.
Uses: Acts as an antioxidant, promotes the neutralization of unstable cells, and may prevent Alzheimer’s.
Fat Loss and Muscle Building: Helps prevent sickness during caloric deficiencies.
RDA/AI: Minimum 15 mg.
UL: 1,000 mg.
Sources: Oils, Leafy Greens, Whole Grains and Nuts.
Known as: Phylloquinone, and Menadione.
Uses: Activates Protein and Calcium for Blood Clotting.
Fat Loss and Muscle Building: Helps promote blood clotting after injury from training.
RDA/AI: Women – 90 mcg; Men – 120 mcg.
Sources: Milk, Eggs, and Green Vegetables such as Broccoli, Spinach and Kale.
Known as: Thiamine.
Uses: Converts food into energy. Helps the development and maintenance of hair, skin, muscles and brain.
Fat Loss and Muscle Building: Assists partition nutrients to promote fat loss, muscle growth, and maintain muscle on a caloric deficit.
RDA/AI: Women – 1,100 mcg; Men – 1,200 mcg.
Sources: Pork (Ham and Pork Chops), Soy and Watermelon.
Known as: Riboflavin.
Uses: Converts food into energy. Helps the development and maintenance of hair, skin, blood and brain.
Fat Loss and Muscle Building: Assists partition nutrients to promote fat loss. Also assists in exercise recovery.
RDA/AI: Women – 1,100 mcg; Men – 1,300 mcg.
Sources: Milk, Yogurt, Cheese, and Whole Grains.
Known as: Niacin.
Uses: Helps the development and maintenance of skin, blood cells, nervous system and brain.
Fat Loss and Muscle Building: Directly helps product blood cells for exercise and improves skin elasticity after fat loss.
RDA/AI: Women – 14 mg; Men – 16 mg.
UL: 35 mg.
Sources: Meat, Poultry, Fish and Whole Grains.
Known as: Pantothenic acid.
Uses: Helps the production of fats (Lipids), neurotransmitters, and steroidal hormones.
Fat Loss and Muscle Building: Directly assists in the products of muscle and fat growth hormone.
RDA/AI: 5 mg.
Sources: Chicken, Whole Grains, Mushrooms, Broccoli, Avocados and Tomatoes.
Known as: Vitamin B7
Uses: Assists the conversion of food into energy and create glucose, improves hair and skin health. Assists the creation and breakdown of fatty acids.
Fat Loss and Muscle Building: Assists partition nutrients to promote fat loss and use body fat for nutritional benefit.
RDA/AI: 30 mcg.
Sources: Whole Grains, Egg and Soybeans.
Known as: Pyridoxal, Pyridoxine, and Pyridoxamine.
Uses: Assists in serotonin creation, which is essential for mood, sleep and appetite. Helps create red blood cells, and promotes immune function.
Fat Loss and Muscle Building: Directly assists muscle recovery and appetite control for fat loss due to serotonin creation.
RDA/AI: 1.3 mg (This number can be as high as 1.7 based on study).
UL: 100 mg.
Sources: Meat, Fish, Beans, Soy Products, and noncitric fruits.
Known as: Cyanocobalamin.
Uses: Assists in making new cells, plus breaking down fatty acids and amino acids. Promotes red blood cell production.
Fat Loss and Muscle Building:
RDA/AI: 2.4 mcg.
Sources: Meat, Poultry, Fish, Milk, Cheese, and Eggs.
Known as: Folic Acid and Vitamin B9.
Uses: Essential for new cell creation.
Fat Loss and Muscle Building: Directly helps the growth and development of new muscle fibers.
RDA/AI: 400 mcg.
UL: 1,000 mcg.
Sources: Whole Grains, Spinach, Asparagus, Broccoli, Tomato Juice, and Orange Juice.
Am I saying EVERY Vitamin will help Weight Loss or Muscle Building?
Absolutely. That is the point. The entire point of this article is to tell you that you need vitamins to both grow muscle and lose fat. Dieting is not easy. Dieting is needed to gain muscle or lose fat. When you ignore your instincts to eat a specific way, you are ignoring your body’s natural urges to consume the food to receive the nutrients it needs.
Not all vitamin sources are created equal. Bioavailability does play a huge role in what you should be willing to take a pill to receive your nutrients or eat whole foods to receive your nutrients. The best way to ensure you have the vitamins you need to live and lose weight is to eat real, healthy food. Here is our list of healthy food high in vitamins and minerals.
Find all the resources used in this article and the scientific basis of all our article at The Science Behind Fitness.