B Complex Provides Energy But Does It Work As A Performance Vitamin

VITAMINS & GENERAL HEALTH -

B Complex Provides Energy But Does It Work As A Performance Vitamin

B complex vitamins have been studied as a performance vitamin due to these nutrients being energy producers. This article seeks to find if B complex vitamins can prolong endurance during physical activity.

What are B Complex Vitamins

B complex vitamins are a group of 8 vitamins. They are considered to be essential nutrients since they need to be obtained from the diet. They include the following [R]:

  • Thiamin (vitamin B1)
  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  • Niacin (vitamin B3)
  • Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
  • PyridoxineB6 (vitamin B6)
  • Biotin (vitamin B7)
  • Folate (vitamin B9)
  • Cobalamin (vitamin B12)

B vitamins are also water-soluble and not stored in the body. So they need to be replenished on a daily basis [R].

What Are B Complex Vitamins Function

B vitamins are responsible for a number of body processes. The largest role they play is in converting food into energy. Each vitamin also has specific roles they play in health:

  • Thiamine (B1) helps cells thrive and helps neurons function properly [R]
  • Riboflavin (B2) also acts as an antioxidant [R]
  • Niacin (B3) DNA production and repair [R]
  • Pantothenic acid (B5) helps create hormones and cholesterol [R]
  • Pyridoxine (B6): helps to digest amino acids, produce red blood cells and neurotransmitters [R]
  • Biotin (B7) plays an integral role in carbohydrate and fat metabolism and helps with the production of healthy skin and nails [R]
  • Folate (B9) helps with cell growth and the production of DNA [R]
  • Cobalamin (B12) is needed for DNA and red blood cell production along with neurological function [R]

B Vitamin Supplementation

B vitamin supplementation became popular to fill the gaps in a diet. Certain population groups are at risk for a certain vitamin B complex deficiency.

Vegetarians and Vegans

Vegetarians and vegans who do not consume animal products will be at risk for a B12 deficiency [R]. In order to prevent this from happening they will need to supplement this vitamin in their diet. They can get a good dose from a B complex.

The Elderly

B12 absorption relies on adequate stomach acid to be properly absorbed. As we age our ability to produce stomach acid decreases so we may not be getting as much B12 as we need [R].

The lack of this nutrient has been shown to cause depression and mood disorders [R, R].

Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women

Nutrient needs increase while pregnant and breastfeeding. B vitamins are especially important for fetal neurological development [R].

Pregnant or breastfeeding women who are also vegetarian and vegan will also have the need for certain B complex vitamins.

Medical Conditions

Medical conditions are known to cause nutrient deficiencies of B complex vitamins. These include thyroid disorders, Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, [R, R, R].

Certain Medications

Medications can also cause B complex nutrient deficiencies. These include the following:

  • Pain relievers
  • Antibiotics
  • Antacid and Stomach
  • Antidiabetic Drugs
  • Blood Pressure-Lowering Drugs
  • Anticonvulsant Drugs
  • Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs
  • Estrogens and birth control pills or patches
  • Corticosteroids and anti-inflammatory drugs

Exercise Effects On B Complex Vitamin Levels

Nutrient needs are increased in those who partake in strenuous activity. This is due to three things:

  • Energy requirements increase during physical performance
  • Changes in muscle mass require additional nutrients
  • Sweat leads to nutrient losses

Exercise may increase the need for certain B complex vitamins [R].

Thiamin

Low thiamin status could impact exercise performance but it does not seem to improve performance in high-intensity exercise. It was found to reduce fatigue. Three days of high doses (100 mg/day) of thiamin fared better than a placebo and reduced complaints after exercise in a subjective fatigue assessment [R].

Folate

It is not entirely clear if folate needs are increased during exercise and if folate will enhance performance. Only 8% of female athletes had poor folate status but about half of them were taking a supplement or consuming fortified foods. So supplementation may be the reason so many had adequate folate statuses [R].

Male and female athletes should increase their folate intake to at least the RDA of 400 micrograms per day until more is known about folate’s effect on performance [R].

B12

Intake surveys show poor B12 status among both male and female athletes. More insight needs to be provided to find the true effects of low B12 status on performance. One thing that is for certain is vegan and vegetarian athletes are most at risk for a deficiency and should supplement [R].

Pyridoxine (B6)

Exercise may increase the loss of pyridoxine. Marathon runners could lose about 1 mg of B6 during a race. Depending on how hard someone trains they may require 1.5 to 2.5 times the current RDA to maintain adequate levels of this vitamin [R].

Riboflavin (B2)

Moderate exercise of 2.5 to 5 hours per week was found to increase the riboflavin needs of women above the RDA. The addition of dieting and exercise also increased riboflavin needs. While there are no studies on strenuous exercise it can be assumed that the riboflavin needs of athletes will also increase [R].

Men with marginal riboflavin status were also found to have a decline in riboflavin status during a short period of increased physical activity [R].

B Complex Vitamin Benefits 14800

Research into B complex has shown it to have many health benefits including [R]:

  • Brain function
  • Immune system function
  • Digestion
  • Nerve function
  • Hormone production and function
  • Heart health
  • Cell health
  • Muscle health

One B complex vitamin uses of interest are the production of energy. This has led to the study of it as a performance vitamin.

Exercise Effects On B Complex Vitamin Levels

Nutrient needs are increased in those who partake in strenuous activity. This is due to three things:

  • Energy needs will increase an performance increases
  • Changes in muscle mass require additional nutrients
  • Sweat leads to additional nutrient losses

Current research suggests that exercise may increase the requirements for riboflavin and vitamin B-6, while data for folate and vitamin B-12 are limited [R].

Thiamin

Low thiamin status could impact exercise performance but it does not seem to improve performance in high-intensity exercise. It was found to reduce fatigue. Three days of high doses (100 mg/day) of thiamin fared better than a placebo and reduced complaints after exercise in a subjective fatigue assessment [R].

Riboflavin (B2)

Moderate exercise of 2.5 to 5 hours per week was found to increase the riboflavin needs of women above the RDA. The addition of dieting and exercise also increased riboflavin needs. While there are no studies on strenuous exercise it can be assumed that the riboflavin needs of athletes will also increase [R].

Men with marginal riboflavin status were also found to have a decline in riboflavin status during a short period of increased physical activity [R].

Niacin (B3)

Some research suggests exercise may increase the niacin requirements. Niacin deficiencies have not been seen among athletes indicating enough comes from diet if adequately nourished [R].

Pyridoxine (B6)

Exercise may increase the loss of pyridoxine (B6). Marathon runners could lose about 1 mg of B6 during a race. Depending on how hard someone trains they may require 1.5 to 2.5 times the current RDA to maintain adequate levels of this vitamin [R].

Biotin (B7)

The jury is out as to whether or not biotin needs are increased during exercise. To date, there is no research on this topic.

Folate (B9)

It is not entirely clear if folate needs are increased during exercise and if folate will enhance performance. Only 8% of female athletes had poor folate status but about half of them were taking a supplement or consuming fortified foods. So supplementation may be the reason so many had adequate folate statuses [R].

Male and female athletes should increase their folate intake to at least the RDA of 400 micrograms per day until more is known about folate’s effect on performance [R].

Cobalamin (B12)

Intake surveys show poor B12 status among both male and female athletes. More insight needs to be provided to find the true effects of low B12 status on performance. One thing that is for certain is vegan and vegetarian athletes are most at risk for a deficiency and should supplement [R].

B Complex Supplements

Studies have shown deficiency of more than one of the B complex vitamins can lead to a decrease in physical performance capacity. Symptoms of fatigue, loss of ambition, irritability, and pain and loss of efficiency during normal work have been seen [R].

B Complex As a Performance Vitamin

While supplements were created to prevent a vitamin b complex deficiency. The discovery of energy production created by these vitamins opened the quest to find if B complex could be a performance vitamin.

B Complex Effects on Mental Performance

B complex vitamins were found to have a beneficial effect on cognition among healthy men aged 30 to 55 years when compared with taking a placebo. Taking a high dose B complex plus vitamin C and minerals for 33 days had positive effects on brain function among 215 males [R].

B Complex Effects on Physical Performance

Thiamin (B1)

Evidence on thiamin and physical performance is lacking. The few studies that were conducted showed no positive effects of taking this supplement.

Levels of 5 mg per day for 1 week and 0.1 mg daily for 10 to 12 weeks showed no change in physical performance of arm endurance or grip, strength, and treadmill tests [R].

Two controlled studies showed no effect of the supplement on any measure of work performance at levels after taking either 5 mg per day for 1 week or 0.1 mg daily for 10 to 12 weeks [R].

Riboflavin (B2)

Riboflavin supplementation was found to have no effect on aerobic capacity.

Two groups of overweight women were given different doses of riboflavin over a 12-week exercise program. One group consumed 0.96 mg per 1000 kcal riboflavin per day, and the other group ingested 1.16 mg per 1000 kcal per day. There was no difference in aerobic performance [R].

Elite swimmers who supplemented with 60 mg per day for 16 to 20 days also had no change in their performance [R].

Niacin (B3)

Based on the results of this investigation we have demonstrated that acute niacin supplementation of 1000 mg significantly decreased resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and resting heart rate post-consumption. Follow up experiments are focused on the effects of niacin supplementation on pre-exercise, exercise, and post-exercise blood pressure and heart rate, in a cross-over fashion, in college-aged recreational athletes [R].

Eight male runners had a greater fat utilization when given 3 grams of nicotinic acid 1 hour prior to running on a treadmill [R].

Pantothenic Acid (B5)

The supplementation of pantothenic acid shows mixed results.

Highly trained endurance runners were found to have decreased oxygen consumption and lower lactate levels during prolonged exercise after two weeks of daily doses of 2 grams of pantothenic acid [R].

Another study of highly trained distance runners found no difference in run time or blood markers was found between 1 gram of pantothenic acid and placebo after running to exhaustion for 2 weeks [R].

Pyridoxine (B6)

There was no significant difference in 100-yard swimming times between swimmers given 51 mg of B6 and a placebo for 6 months [R].

Though pyridoxine supplementation does not seem to enhance performance it may help to lower free fatty acid production during exercise when combined with increased carb intake. Those on a high carb diet should not supplement B6 above the RDI [R].

Biotin (B7)

There are no specific studies on exercise and biotin but animal studies showed biotin can improve fat and carbohydrate metabolism.

Biotin supplementation was found to improve glucose and fat levels in exercise-trained rats indicating biotin may improve health [R]. It was also found to help improve metabolism in rats by increasing the enzyme glucokinase that helps to break down carbohydrates for fuel. Rats with a biotin deficiency showed to have a 40-45 percent decrease in glucokinase [R].

In humans, biotin was found to lower blood triglycerides in both diabetic and nondiabetic individuals [R].

Folate (B9)

There is no research indicating whether or not folate supplementation can improve athletic performance [R]

Cobalamin (B12)

B12 was found to have no impact on performance.

A double-blind study of 51 adolescent boys (ages 12 to 17) was given 500 mcg of B12 daily, a placebo, or placed in the control group. After 7 weeks there was no difference between the supplemented group and the placebo group in time to run a 0.5 mile. [R].

Performance capacity was studied in 36 healthy male subjects before and after injection of 1 mg cyanocobalamin given 3 times a week for 6 weeks. No significant improvements were seen among grip strength, pull-ups, leg lifts, or standing broad jump performances [R].

B Complex Supplements

Like other studies on B vitamin, B complex supplementation on performance has poor results with the exception of studies done in hot climates.

B Complex Supplements Exercise Research

Twelve men were placed on a thiamin-, riboflavin-, vitamin C-, and vitamin B6-poor diet for 8 weeks. At the end of the 8 weeks, blood levels of the four vitamins were borderline or moderately deficient. The men also had a decrease in performance capacity with a 9.8 percent drop in VO2 max and a 19.6 percent decrease in anaerobic threshold. According to the study, it was most probably due to the deficiency in the B vitamins [R].

Supplementation of 100 mg nicotinic acid amide, 5 mg thiamin chloride, and 100 mg ascorbic acid daily for 4 weeks among infantrymen doing a 15-minute treadmill test showed no improvement in physical performance when compared with a placebo.

Another group of 26 soldiers was given a supplement containing 5 to 17 mg thiamin, 10 mg riboflavin, 100 mg nicotinic acid, 10 to 100 mg vitamin B6, 20 mg calcium pantothenate, and 100 to 200 mg ascorbic acid for 4 to 6 weeks. After a strenuous treadmill run, there was no change in performance, endurance, and resistance to fatigue.

Physically active male college students were given a treadmill test after taking a supplement containing 5 mg thiamin, 5 mg riboflavin, 25 mg niacin, 2 mg pyridoxine, 0.5 µg vitamin B12, and 12.5 mg pantothenic acid. After 6 weeks of supplementation, there was no significant improvement in endurance capacity.

B Complex Supplements Exercise Research In Hot Climates

Research indicates that B complex may be helpful for exercising in hot climates. High school makes running 10 50-yard dashes in hot weather were given a supplement containing 100 mg thiamin, 8 mg riboflavin, 100 mg niacinamide, 5 mg pyridoxine, 25 mg cobalamin, and 30 mg pantothenic acid 30 minutes before performing.

The group with the supplement had less fatigue (drop-off) in running time than those given the placebo.

It was concluded that the number of supplements and ingredients may affect performance. Other studies may have had a lower dosage that was not effective to meet the needs of the vitamins lost during sweat and metabolic exertion from exercising in the heat [R]

Overall the improvements from these vitamins could be due to marginal deficiencies that the researchers were not aware of [R].

B Complex Vitamin Side Effects 5400

High doses of B complex supplements have been shown to cause negative side effects.

Thiamin (B1)

Though there is no upper limit for thiamin Side effects of thiamin use include warmth, severe allergic reaction, (anaphylaxis) skin discoloration, sweating, restlessness, rapid swelling of the skin, itching, hives, fluid in the lungs, weakness, tightness of the throat, and nausea [R].

Riboflavin (B2)

Riboflavin might cause diarrhea, an increase in urine, and other side effects [R].

Niacin (B3)

Large doses of niacin are associated with vomiting, flushing, liver damage, skin problems, and elevated blood sugar. Three to 9 grams of nicotinic acid per day may affect endurance performance [R].

Pantothenic Acid (B5)

Common side effects of pantothenic acid include bleeding, muscle pain, joint pain, sore throat, headache, weakness, fatigue, dizziness, creatine phosphokinase, increased nausea, abdominal pain, increased liver enzymes, constipation, flu-like illness, rash, itching, hives, swelling, diarrhea, and dermatitis [R].

Pyridoxine (B6)

Some side effects of B6 include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, loss of appetite, headache, tingling, sleepiness, High doses of 1000 mg or more per day can cause skin lesions along with brain and nerve problems [R].

Biotin (B7)

There is no actual resource on the side effects of biotin. No side effects have been reported on biotin use in up to 10 mg a day [R].

Others have reported high doses can lead to skin rashes, digestive upset, problems with insulin release, and kidney problems [R].

Folate (B9)

Doses higher than 1 mg daily may cause abdominal cramps, diarrhea, rash, sleep disorders, irritability, confusion, nausea, stomach upset, behavior changes, skin reactions, seizures, gas, excitability, and other side effects. Long term use of folate supplements may cause serious side effects. Doses of 800 mcg to 1.2 mcg daily may increase the risk of a heart attack in those with heart problems. These levels may also increase the risk of lung or prostate cancer [R].

Cobalamin (B12)

High doses of vitamin B12 can lead to dizziness, headache, anxiety, nausea, and vomiting [R].

B Complex Vitamins Dosage

B complex is made up of individual vitamins each with their own daily requirement intake (RDI). Some vary between men and women and include the following

Thiamin (B1)

  • Women 1.1 mg
    • Men 1.2 mg

Riboflavin (B2)

    • Women 1.1 mg
    • Men 1.3 mg

Niacin (B3)

    • Women 14 mg
    • Men 16 mg

Pantothenic Acid (B5)

    • Women 5mg (reflects Adequate Intake, no RDI standard set)
    • Men 5 mg

Pyridoxine (B6)

    • Women 1.3 mg
    • Men 1.3 mg

Biotin (B7)

    • Women 30 mcg (AI)
    • Men 30 mcg (AI)

Folate (B9)

    • Women 400 mcg
    • Men 400 mcg

Cobalamin (B12)

    • Women 2.4 mcg
    • Men 2.4 mcg

Multivitamins have B complex vitamins but you want to make sure you are not over supplementing. It is important to know your intake before choosing a B complex.

How to Choose A B Complex Supplement

When choosing a supplement you want to make sure you are getting one that has all-natural ingredients and no fillers. You also want to make sure it is certified and tested by a third party.

When in doubt talk to your healthcare provider before starting a supplement regimen. Especially if you have a health condition or are on any medications.

Food Sources of Vitamin B Complex

If you are not sure if supplementation is right for you can opt to eat more foods rich in B vitamins. A variety of foods contain B vitamins [R]:

  • Thiamine (B1) is found in pork, sunflower seeds, and wheat germ
  • Riboflavin (B2) is found in organ meats, beef, and mushrooms
  • Niacin (B3) is found in chicken, tuna, and lentils
  • Pantothenic acid (B5) is found in liver, fish, yogurt, and avocado
  • Pyridoxine (B6) is found in chickpeas, salmon, and potatoes
  • Biotin (B7) is Yeast, eggs, salmon, cheese, and liver
  • Folate (B9) is found in leafy greens, liver, and beans
  • Cobalamin (B12) is found meats, eggs, seafood, and dairy

Final Thoughts on B Complex As A Performance Vitamin

B vitamins are integral for many body processes to improve and maintain health. Most research shows there is little to no performance-enhancing benefits from supplementation of B complex vitamins. These vitamins may inhibit performance in those who have poor diets, are restricting their energy intake, or eliminating certain food groups from their diet. A deficiency of these nutrients can impair more than just physical performance. If you feel like you can’t go the distance the best thing to do is start with your diet and see what might be missing. If that doesn’t work, look to add a B complex supplement with an adequate amount of nutrients suited for your needs. Be sure to go easy when starting any supplement regimen due to the possible side effects. Talk to your doctor about any possible interactions if you are on mediations or have any health conditions before taking a B complex.

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