Tag Archives: zinc


6 Essential Nutrients For The Athlete

Optimizing nutrition when you’re an athlete (or even if you workout regularly) can make a significant difference in your health and performance on the court, field or at the gym.

Just like exercising your muscles through cardiovascular workouts or strength training is important, so is fueling your body properly through your diet. Unfortunately, when this doesn’t happen it can negatively affect performance, and in some cases, impair immune function. [1] [2]

Increased Energy and Nutrient Needs

Focusing on some key nutrients can not only increase endurance in the athlete but also improve overall health by bolstering the immune system, improving bone health and minimizing oxidative stress.

Eating adequate amounts of micronutrients and vitamins is vital to muscle building and recovery from the physiological stress of intense activity or playing sports. Nutrient needs are increased when metabolic and biochemical pathways are taxed via exercise which is used to repair lean tissue.

Supplements can help but the idea is to make food your primary source of nutrients because your body utilizes food differently than supplements. [3]

Food also includes fibre, other vitamins and essential nutrients that work together to create energy and fuel cells.  These important components in the diet are more depleted in athletes that don’t consume adequate calories and/or restrict or eliminate food groups.

The 6 Most Essential Nutrients For Athletic People:

Zinc

Individuals who are athletic are especially susceptible to being low in zinc mainly because they aren’t eating enough rich food sources of this mineral.

Zinc plays a part in immunity, protein utilization, and metabolic efficiency as well as thyroid function, and all of these affect athletic performance in some way.

Foods that are high in zinc include meat and poultry, whole grains, oysters, milk and dairy, legumes and fortified breakfast cereals.

Those that are most at risk for a deficiency are vegetarians who don’t eat enough whole grains or meat. It must be noted that overdoing zinc supplementation can result in a copper deficiency. Be sure to consult your healthcare practitioner to discuss supplementation.

Iron

Iron is necessary for the metabolism of carbohydrates, protein, and fat as well as its capacity to carry oxygen.  A deficiency may inhibit endurance as well as immune and cognitive functions.

Foods that are high in iron include red meat, fortified cereals eaten along with fruit or vegetables that are high in vitamin C.  This vitamin will enhance iron absorption and improve iron status in an individual.

Calcium

Calcium aids in muscle contraction and nerve impulses, as well as bone growth and increasing bone mass. Poor calcium intake can lead bone-related issues such as stress fractures.

Foods high in calcium include cheese, milk, yogurt, spinach, collard greens, almonds, sardines (with the bones!), fortified cereals and juices.

Vitamin D

This vitamin is needed for adequate calcium absorption in the gut, to control serum calcium and phosphorus and to build strong bones.  It also contributes to a well functioning nervous and skeletal system.

If a person lives in an area with little sunlight and they spend most of their time indoors, and because there aren’t many foods that contain vitamin D without fortification, they’re at a greater risk of having low Vitamin D – in this case, supplementation may be prudent.

The best sources are fatty fish like salmon, tuna or mackerel, and eggs. Fortified milk offers most of the vitamin D in the average diet with fortified orange juice beverages and certain cereals contributing a small amount. Again, supplementation is a wise choice!

Magnesium

Magnesium aids in more than 300 biochemical processes in the body that include:

  • helps produce ATP, essential to the metabolic activities of every cell
  • protein synthesis for muscle building
  • relaxes muscles and nerves
  • calms the mind
  • aids in calcium absorption
  • regulation of blood pressure & heart rhythm

All of which are concerns to an athlete!

Sources of Magnesium include green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains, seeds, meat and dairy. Some breakfast cereals are also fortified with Magnesium.

However, as we explained in “Nutrient Deficiencies: Why Nearly Everyone Has Them!”, the composition of what we eat and the quality of our foods has drastically changed over the past hundred years, and this has made it difficult to get enough of many key minerals, especially magnesium.

DOWNLOAD MAGNESIUM: The Complete Primer or go to Magnesium.ca

B Vitamins

B vitamins all play a rather large role in energy metabolism and blood health along with building and repair of muscle tissue.

A deficiency can lead to fatigue, muscle soreness and apathy along with poor cognitive function. Meat, fish and poultry, as well as enriched grains, are good sources of B vitamins.

The bottom line on essential nutrients for everyday athletes: 

Regular exercise and sports participation increases the turnover and loss of nutrients from the body, so greater calories, vitamins, and minerals are needed to cover these losses through the diet and in some cases supplementation.

Eating a wide enough variety of foods from all the major food groups is what is needed for proper functioning of muscles, a strong immune system, and optimal performance during athletic endeavours.

Referenced content: 

[1] Science Direct. Vitamin and Mineral Status: Effects on physical performance, Elsevier Volume 20, Issues 7–8 (July–August 2004)

[2] Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology. Nutritional Strategies to Minimise Exercise-Induced Immunosuppression in Athletes (2001)

[3] JAMA Network. Essential Nutrients: Food or supplements? Where should emphasis be? (July 2005)

What Do My Fingernails Have To Do With My Health?

You probably don’t think about them too much, except maybe which polish colour to choose next? But, you would be surprised what those little keratinized extensions of our fingertips (your fingernails) can tell us about our nutrition, and our health status overall.

Naturopaths often include an examination of a patient’s nails as part of their routine health evaluations. Signs on the nails may be an indication of certain conditions or deficiencies. However, it is not a definitive diagnosis without also looking at many other aspects of an individuals health in order to get the most informed view and create a holistic treatment plan.

What’s considered normal differs in everyone, but generally, fingernails should be clear, smooth, pliable and peachy-pink in colour.

There are numerous conditions that can affect the nails – too many to mention here, but in many cases, it is a nutritional deficiency that may be causing your nails’ odd appearance. However, it may also be that your body is not effectively absorbing nutrients or you may even be low in stomach acid – vital to digestion.

The 5 nail health signs to watch out for 

White spots

Ever noticed white spots on your nails? While this is most often due to mild trauma (like nicking your nail), it can also indicate a zinc deficiency.

Zinc is found in such foods as oysters, red meat (especially lamb), legumes, nuts, egg yolks, oats, pumpkin seeds, green leafy vegetables, and cocoa or dark chocolate.

Hangnails 

Lack of Vitamin C can cause pesky and often painful hangnails. Vitamin C-rich foods are citrus, berries, mango, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, and leafy greens.

Horizontal lines, ridges and spoons 

What about horizontal lines or ridges across your nails? Sometimes called Beau’s lines – these may also be due to a zinc deficiency but could be indicative of low iron or anemia. Nails can be spoon-shaped at the tips with iron deficiency as well.

To pump more iron into your day, try spinach and other dark leafy greens like kale. Also, red meat, liver, egg yolks, beans, shellfish, dried fruit and blackstrap molasses – are all good sources.

It’s a good idea to pair those iron-rich foods with sources of Vitamin C for better absorption.

Example: fresh spinach and strawberry salad, topped with lean chicken for extra protein – also vitally important for healthy looking nails.

Dry, brittle and peeling

Dry, brittle, thin or peeling nails? Could just be dry nails, but possibly a lack of protein, Vitamin D &/or B Vitamins in your diet.

Food sources of Vitamin D are limited as it’s naturally attained by exposing your skin to sunlight, hence being dubbed the Sunshine Vitamin. However, fish, liver and egg yolks are reasonable sources, as well as many fortified Dairy products.

Be sure to incorporate Vitamin B-rich foods into your diet as well, such as whole grains like brown rice and oats, eggs, yogurt, milk and cheese, poultry, lamb, mushrooms, pumpkin, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, tomatoes, cauliflower and many types of beans.

No half moons? 

Ever noticed the lighter-toned half-moons at the base of your fingernail? Or perhaps you haven’t noticed them because they’re absent!

This is usually due to a Vitamin B12 deficiency and is associated with anemia. Vegetarians often have trouble attaining enough B12 as it’s found primarily in animal foods, so they’re encouraged to sprinkle cheesy-tasting nutritional yeast onto foods – or supplementation may be prudent.

As always, getting your full complement of nutrients is encouraged through whole food sources, but sometimes our diet just isn’t meeting all of our needs and this is where supplementation may be necessary – for all of the reasons we discussed in the article “Nutrient Deficiencies: Why Nearly Everyone Has Them!”

Check your nails weekly for something that may be out of the “norm” for you and inform your health practitioner. Be sure to discuss what nutritional deficiencies, digestion and/or absorption issues may be a contributing factor to the problem.

CanPrev recommends 

Vitamin D3 + K2
Zinc 
Iron 
Synergy B