The importance of vitamins in post-training recovery

The importance of vitamins in post-training recovery

The muscle recovery phase is frequently overlooked, despite its significance in the training regimen of every athlete. The recovery process of muscle fibers commences shortly after the conclusion of a training session, whether it be anaerobic training involving strength exercises like weightlifting and bodybuilding, or aerobic training involving low-intensity, longer-duration activities like endurance sports and cycling. Indeed, during this cooldown phase, muscles return to a state of relaxation while simultaneously growing stronger.

The role of macronutrients

Giving due importance to muscle recovery entails not only focusing on nutrition but also considering the incorporation of select supplements. Protein powder is a well-established supplement that is widely recognized for its positive impact on muscle metabolism. It promotes muscle protein synthesis and aids in the rebuilding and repair of muscle tissue that was broken down during training, thus contributing to muscle growth. Moreover, the incorporation of fast-digesting carbohydrates is crucial for replenishing skeletal muscle glycogen stores, as they play a fundamental role in energy production.

Mineral and vitamin supplementation post-training

However, during the recovery phase, it is important to note that muscles require micronutrients, specifically minerals and vitamins, that are essential for their restoration to their original condition and for the stimulation of myogenesis, the process of forming new muscle fibers and ultimately increasing muscle mass. Naturally, the first step is to replenish the fluids lost. If one tends to consume less water during training in order to avoid feeling full and bloated, it is recommended to hydrate adequately immediately after. Although water itself contains valuable minerals, the use of specific sports drinks can also be beneficial as they help to replenish the electrolytes lost during training.

The importance of magnesium and potassium for muscle tissue

Among the minerals important to muscle recovery, there are zinc and sodium that play a vital role; zinc acts as a potent antioxidant, while sodium is crucial for maintaining fluid balance. It goes without saying that magnesium and potassium, which play vital roles in muscle metabolism and the prevention of muscle tears and cramps, are essential. Magnesium contributes to proper nerve impulse transmission, thus preventing mood swings related to psychophysical stress, while potassium plays a pivotal role in cardiac and cardiovascular function.

Post-training vitamin supplementation

B group vitamins are highly effective in combating tiredness and fatigue during the recovery phase. Despite being unable to directly supply the body with energy, they are fundamental to the mechanisms responsible for producing energy within our cells. Studies have shown that athletes require greater amounts of B vitamins, especially during the recovery phase, as a lack thereof can adversely impact performance.

Primary B group vitamins

Among the various vitamins belonging to this group, the ones most useful to supplement with post-workout are:
  • Vitamin B1, beneficial in the case of muscle pain. Plays a key role in carbohydrate metabolism;
  • Vitamin B2, possesses anti-inflammatory effects and is used by the body to metabolize fats;
  • Vitamin B6, part of protein metabolism and thus necessary to muscle recovery. It also helps to keep blood cholesterol levels low;
  • Vitamin B9, better known as folic acid, is extremely useful in cases of tiredness, weakness, and fatigue;
  • Vitamin B12, essential in the synthesis of new cells, including red blood cells. It combats anemia and nervous system disorders, favors the absorption of sugars and proteins, and is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system.

Vitamin C for athletes

Beyond the B-group vitamins, Vitamin C also warrants recognition. Vitamin C, known as ascorbic acid, plays an important role in the recovery phase due to its antioxidant and immunostimulant effects. Indeed, it counteracts free radicals produced during physical activity. Given that it cannot be naturally produced or stored within the body and is indeed expelled through perspiration, it is essential to supplement with it immediately after a training session. Furthermore, vitamin C has been shown to affect neurotransmitter synthesis and thus aids in the proper functioning of the nervous system. Its ability to sustain energy metabolism helps to effectively combat fatigue. It also boosts iron absorption and, therefore, plays a critical role in muscle metabolism.

The antioxidant and immunomodulatory effects of arginine in CrossFit and intense gym workouts

The antioxidant and immunomodulatory effects of arginine in CrossFit and intense gym workouts

As a training regimen, CrossFit has been experiencing a surge in popularity over the last few years, leading to an increasing number of gyms offering it throughout Italy. It is a complex strength training program, whose chief characteristic is its high intensity in terms of energy consumption. It is founded upon a diverse range of exercises, techniques, and, thus, equipment. As a result, it offers a broad range of stimuli to the muscles, enabling rapid growth. Clearly, however, with such a growth in muscle mass, nutrition and supplementation have a pivotal role to play. Indeed, both ought to supply the necessary energy for strenuous training sessions while also facilitating muscle recovery and providing an antioxidant effect that benefits the entire body.

What should CrossFit athletes eat?

CrossFit athletes, but also bodybuilders and individuals engaging in intense and prolonged gym workouts, must definitely consume a substantial amount of protein. Hence, one method for achieving such a rapid growth in muscle mass relies on protein intake, both from plant and animal sources, as well as supplements for much higher quantities. Carbohydrates are also fundamental, as they serve as the main energy source needed to best tackle training sessions. It is also important to ensure an adequate supply of fats and essential micronutrients. The latter are indispensable in balancing energy and muscle functions and are commonly found in vegetables and fruits, which occupy the base of the food pyramid.

Arginine and Nitric Oxide (NO)

CrossFit practitioners are often on the receiving end of a barrage of advertisements touting all sorts of dietary supplements. This choice should most definitely depend on a few select micronutrients that are particularly beneficial to muscle and energy metabolism. Worth noting among these is arginine, an important contributor to muscular well-being when subjected to intense strain. By increasing nitric oxide synthesis, it promotes blood flow to the muscle fibers and allows for more effective removal of waste metabolites.

The antioxidant and myoprotective effects of arginine

Arginine is an amino acid essential to protein synthesis. Athletes who practice CrossFit or work out at the gym in general should definitely consider supplementing arginine. The intake of this amino acid solely through our diet often proves to be insufficient, as it is almost exclusively found in fresh fruits, nuts, and legumes. While our body generally produces it in quantities that suffice to carry out its basic functions, those are often inadequate for individuals engaging in high-intensity sports. Beyond its key role in muscle metabolism, arginine is essential for glycogen and creatine synthesis, while also having immunostimulatory and antioxidant effects, which are invaluable for bodybuilders and athletes working out at a gym in general. Additionally, it has a myoprotective effect and promotes the functional restoration of damaged muscle tissue, such as in the case of an injury.

The importance of creatine, magnesium, and potassium

Bodybuilders and CrossFit athletes can also benefit from creatine, magnesium, and potassium supplementation. It is not by chance that these three nutrients are often present in (pre and post workout) supplements aimed at athletes with intense training regimens. Creatine is particularly useful post workout in the muscle recovery phase, but also in cases where training has been halted due to injury. It is capable of mitigating damage caused as a result of injury by triggering myogenesis, i.e., the formation of new muscle cells. Magnesium and potassium supplementation also aids muscle metabolism. Indeed, magnesium is involved in numerous enzymatic processes and plays a role in energy metabolism and neuromuscular transmission. Similarly, potassium plays a decisive role in muscle strength and integrity, as well as in the central and peripheral nervous system. Both help to combat weakness and fatigue, which are inevitable in CrossFit and other workout routines with an elevated energy impact, particularly in the absence of sustained training.

The diet of a professional cyclist: energy requirements and supporting metabolism using arginine

The diet of a professional cyclist: energy requirements and supporting metabolism using arginine

Cycling is a sport that involves large amounts of energy expenditure, something we can notice ourselves by merely looking at the exhaustion displayed on the faces of elite athletes that tackle the roughest trails out there. The number of kilocalories expended by a cyclist while ascending an incline is comparable to that an average individual would expend over the course of a couple of days, possibly more. Just like athletes involved in anaerobic training, such as bodybuilders, professional cyclists — and endurance athletes in general — must approach their nutrition and dietary supplementation with utmost care to support proper muscle metabolism.

What is the diet of a cyclist?

The breakfasts of cyclists typically consist of hearty meals rich in carbohydrates, which serve as their primary source of energy. At least two to three hours prior to a race, during training, and just before races, they supply their body with a sufficient amount of carbohydrates and protein by consuming snacks comprising bread and ham, cheese and other options. Carbohydrates also serve as a complement to their diet for muscle recovery, particularly through small post-competition meals consisting of boiled potatoes, fruits, and protein in yogurt and supplements in powder form.

The importance of vitamins

Apart from macronutrients, specifically carbohydrates and protein mentioned earlier, cyclists often supplement with several other micronutrients, notably group B vitamins. Among these, B1 is vital for carbohydrate metabolism, B2 for fat metabolism, B6 for protein metabolism, and B12, which aids the absorption of sugars and proteins and is indispensable for the correct functioning of the nervous system. Furthermore, supplementation of the minerals found in cells and bodily fluids is essential, as they facilitate the delivery of oxygen to cells. Calcium and phosphorus, vital to the musculoskeletal system, and sodium for water balance, are particularly crucial in cycling and endurance sports as a whole.

Nitric oxide (NO) in the metabolism of cyclists

When considering muscle metabolism, it is crucial to note that providing nourishment to the muscle fibers is essential in more challenging and steep trails. This is particularly important because the leg muscles require significant amounts of oxygen in these conditions. Nitric oxide (NO) is key to this process. Through its ability to relax the vascular smooth muscle, it increases blood flow at the muscle level, while also aiding in the elimination of excess fat, waste, and toxins, resulting in an overall increase in performance.

Supplementing with arginine...

Arginine supplementation is often recommended to professional cyclists as a way of facilitating nitric oxide (NO) production, for which it is the biological precursor. Arginine is at times combined with citrulline, an amino acid with potent antioxidant properties derived from watermelon rind. Furthermore, arginine is essential for glucose synthesis and, thanks to its immunomodulatory mechanisms, is beneficial in high-intensity training sessions and lengthy races, as well as muscle recovery following sporting competitions. Lastly, arginine is a precursor also for creatine, the latter being critical for athletes as it promotes the reduction of muscle damage due to its myogenetic effect, i.e., the formation of new skeletal muscle tissue cells.

... magnesium and potassium

Rounding out the dietary supplementation of professional cyclists are micronutrients, which are key to muscle and cardiac function, prominent among which are, of course, magnesium and potassium. Indeed, these are the “fuel” that keeps them functioning properly and they play an important role in preventing muscle cramps and tears. Additionally, magnesium plays a part in ensuring proper nerve impulse transmission, while also preventing mood swings related to psychophysical stress. Potassium‘s role is to combat fatigue, as it contributes to proper muscle function and aids in the regulation of arterial pressure.

Magnesium and potassium, the reasons they are fundamental for muscle metabolism

Magnesium and potassium, the reasons they are fundamental for muscle metabolism

Individuals practicing sports must pay particular attention to their nutrition, as the food we consume can significantly support muscle metabolism. This holds especially true for individuals engaged in rigorous physical activity and endurance sports.
Among all the elements, the two that may be tied to muscular activity the most are the minerals magnesium and potassium. Neither of the two ought to ever be lacking in sufficient quantities from an athlete’s diet.

The role of minerals in the muscle

Magnesium is involved in hundreds of enzymatic processes, and is pivotal in energy mechanisms and neuromuscular transmission. It therefore contributes to the preservation of normal muscle function, but also to cardiac activity regulation.
Similarly, potassium is crucial for muscle and nerve function. On one hand, it allows for the prevention of muscle fatigue while exercising, while on the other, it, alongside magnesium, is essential in supporting mental functioning.

In which sports are they fundamental?

When engaging in endurance sports, i.e. sports in which performance is sustained over a prolonged period, such as cycling, swimming, running, cross-country skiing, triathlons, as well as tennis or padel — the need for magnesium and potassium increases.
In these cases, supplements may be used to increase one’s normal intake of these minerals from their diet.
There are many supplements on the market. The most effective and proven allies for replenishing energy are the combination of magnesium and potassium with other micronutrients, including creatine, carnitine, vitamins, minerals, and arginine.

Arginine and muscle recovery

The latter in particular, an amino acid, is necessary for the production of proteins, such as collagen, and other essential biological components, such as insulin and hemoglobin. Furthermore, arginine also plays a role in muscle metabolism, particularly in athletes.
It is indeed essential for glycogen synthesis, and contributes to the detoxification of nitrogen waste originating in protein metabolism, and plays a role in nitric oxide synthesis, with a vasodilating effect. It has significant immunomodulatory and antioxidant effects, which makes it very useful for endurance sports specifically, but also for more intense training sessions and lengthy sports competitions in general.
It is beneficial in sports because, among other things, it delays lactic acid production during the recovery phase, which results in improved competitive performance. As a matter of fact, it is important to keep in mind that the muscle recovery process constitutes a crucial phase in an athlete’s training, during which it is important to rehydrate the body, to supply it with the necessary protein, but to also “recharge” it by replenishing the minerals that are best suited for aiding muscle function. Additionally, arginine can also elevate blood flow to the exercising muscles.

Post-injury recovery

That’s not all, however! Magnesium, potassium, as well as arginine, are crucial for injury recovery and muscular trauma. Think of muscle contractions, which are common in endurance sports such as cycling and running but also in others like soccer, tennis or padel.
As they are a response mechanism to very intense muscular effort, the contraction may be a result of excessive strain, the muscle being in a fatigued state, or due to insufficient training or warm-up. In this case, as with a simple muscle cramp, it is necessary to massage the area affected by applying firm pressure, which raises muscle temperature, while also supplementing with magnesium, potassium, arginine, carnitine, and vitamin C at the same time.

The role of Vitamin C

While the latter is generally given little consideration by athletes, it is, in fact, important to support intense physical activity. Indeed, ascorbic acid — the scientific name of this precious vitamin present predominantly in citrus fruits and many vegetables — plays a powerful antioxidant role and stimulates immune function. Therefore, supplementing with Vitamin C is helpful in reducing cortisol response when exercising, but also in the case of injury/accidents, and to support many functions necessary for the health of the muscles and skeletal system.
In general, it should be noted that all these nutrients are beneficial in the case of traumatic injury but also for preventative purposes: an adequate diet alongside proper hydration and electrolyte intake allow for a reduction in muscle tears and/or cramps.

Carnitine and aerobic exercise: the reasons it is beneficial for runners

Carnitine and aerobic exercise: the reasons it is beneficial for runners

Running, walking, and cycling are considered aerobic exercise, meaning they rely on endurance and cellular energy metabolism through sufficient oxygen supply and consumption. The body’s major muscles engage in a rhythmic pattern over an extended duration, resulting in heightened oxygen consumption by the body. To meet the increased demand, the latter raises both the breathing and heart rates.
Muscle metabolism plays a pivotal role in this type of activity; supplementing with carnitine is recommended as a means of supporting it.
Carnitine is an amino acid derivative and a naturally occurring cell component. It can be found in skeletal muscle, the heart, and kidneys, and is synthesized within the body by the liver and the kidneys themselves. It is also supplied nutritionally, primarily through animal products, particularly red meat. Furthermore, it is now a common ingredient in numerous supplements aimed at athletes.

Why supplement with carnitine?

The benefits of carnitine supplementation in physical exercise, specifically in endurance sports, running, and intense aerobic training in general, lie in the fact that as an ergogenic aid, it effectively combats tiredness, muscle mass reduction, as well as physical and mental fatigue.
Using it is valuable in improving endurance and thus performance, facilitating muscle recovery in activities such as running, for example. Moreover, carnitine mitigates the oxidative stress incurred as a result of strenuous physical exercise.

Energy metabolism: the purpose of carnitine

An increase in carnitine concentration in the muscle can support the delivery and use of fatty acids, which are primarily destined for muscle tissue cells. By enabling the transportation of long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria, membrane-bound organelles within cells, this substance enables the production of energy essential for cellular processes and muscle metabolism.
This energy is stored and released via a molecule known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). It is not by chance that the human body stores carnitine where it is most needed, namely within skeletal muscle and the myocardium (the heart muscles).
Furthermore, carnitine can aid in the detoxification of mitochondria from waste deriving from the oxidation process.
It also seems to have the capability to reduce lactic acid buildup and lessen muscle tissue damage resulting from a reduction in oxygen supply.

Carnitine, arginine, magnesium, and potassium

However, it is imperative to remember that proper nutritional supplementation must be complete, especially in the context of endurance sports and muscle recovery. Indeed, besides carnitine, there are other fundamental micronutrients that can be found alongside it in commercial supplements aimed at athletes that engage in aerobic endurance training.
Arginine, along with magnesium and potassium, plays a crucial role in enhancing muscle tissue performance and energy metabolism.
Arginine is an essential amino acid in the production of proteins such as collagen, and contributes to the detoxification of nitrogen waste originating in protein metabolism, as well as serving as a powerful antioxidant and immunomodulator.
It plays a key role in the recovery phase, as it elevates blood flow to the muscles. Conversely, magnesium and potassium, which are involved in various enzymatic reactions that form the basis of energy systems, contribute to optimal muscle and nervous system function, including cardiac function.

Supplements are not enough...

It is however important to underscore that when considering nutrient supplementation, including substances like carnitine, arginine, magnesium, and potassium, despite the indisputable evidence of their positive impact on athletic performance, particularly in muscle recovery in endurance sports, running and cycling specifically, the actual effect need always be considered on an individual basis.
Of course, athletic performance, after all, is a combination of several factors, of which nutrition is only one.
Supplementation alone, while important, does not suffice for an immediate and quantifiable improvement. It is therefore fundamental for individuals to give due consideration to their training styles, as well as particular psychological factors, and to embrace a healthy lifestyle and habits overall.
On the other hand, magnesium and potassium are essential elements in multiple enzymatic reactions that form the basis of energy systems, thereby promoting optimal muscle and nervous system function, including cardiac function.