Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be found in foods like carrots, spinach, fish, and liver. It’s also available as a supplement.
Vitamin A is essential for healthy vision, growth and development, immunity and bone health. It supports the body’s ability to repair damaged tissue and maintain healthy skin. It helps to prevent infection by boosting your immune system.
It also plays an important role in maintaining healthy eyesight by enhancing night vision and enabling you to see better in dim light.
Vitamin A is also needed for normal growth and development of bones, teeth, skin, hair and nails. It helps keep your mucous membranes moist so they can protect your lungs from irritants like dust mites or pollutants found in cigarette smoke.
Vitamin A For Bodybuilding
This article, the first in a series, will focus specifically on the function of Vitamin A and its importance to bodybuilders.
When it comes to a bodybuilding diet, macro-nutrient intake of proteins, fats and carbohydrates are usually prioritized ahead of micro-nutrient (commonly known as vitamins and minerals) intake. It might be assumed that a sufficient level of vitamins and minerals, so crucial to anabolic processes, enzymatic and otherwise, can be obtained through a regular bodybuilding diet.
Research suggests otherwise. Studies have shown that vitamins used synergistically, and on their own, as part of the average persons diet can improve all manner of health problems (BASF. Human Nutrition, 2003). Bodybuilders, by the very nature of what they do, need to increase their intake of vitamins and minerals to help offset any catabolic effects of their training.
Vitamin and mineral research is a very complex area. Required intake varies from person to person and different vitamins and minerals perform different functions. This article, the first in a series, will focus specifically on the function of Vitamin A and its importance to bodybuilders.
Vitamin A is one vitamin often overlooked in favor of the “superstars’ of the vitamin world: C, B and E. Vitamin A however, is extremely important, as will be shown throughout this article.
Vitamin A is a water insoluble vitamin meaning it is stored in the bodies fat cells as opposed to the more transient water soluble vitamins (B and C), which are flushed through the system and used along the way.
Vitamin A occurs naturally in two forms: preformed vitamin A (retinol) and carotene, also known as pro-vitamin A. Carotene is converted to vitamin A when we eat carotene containing foods (plant sources: fruits and vegetables that are yellow-orange or dark green). About 30% of these foods are converted into vitamin A in the intestinal wall.
On the other hand when one eats animal tissue (fish, liver and dairy products primarily), retinol is provided directly as the animal has already converted carotene to vitamin A. In the U.S., approximately 26% and 34% of vitamin A consumed by men and women is provided by pro-vitamin A carotenoids (NIH Clinical center, 2003).
Beta-carotene, distinguished from carotene by its higher bioavailability (most easily used), is of the carotenoid family of vitamin A precursors and can be obtained from yellow-orange and dark green vegetables also. Alpha-carotene and b-cryptoxanthin, other carotenoids, are also converted to vitamin A but not as efficiently as beta-carotene.
Because it aids the repair and growth of body tissues, vitamin A is crucially important to bodybuilders. Other important functions of vitamin A are the development of the reproductive system, skin and mucosal lining protection and eye sight integrity. Many bodybuilders probably have marginally low vitamin A intakes, due to their emphasis on other dietary factors.
Intense physical activity, however, disrupts the absorption of vitamin A and can exacerbate the already fragile state of the vitamin A levels bodybuilders might have. A low-fat intake can also affect vitamin A status. Vitamin A and carotene can be lost in the faeces of one who is on a low fat diet as with a low fat intake very little bile gets to the intestine, where it helps to ensure that vitamin A is retained and absorbed.
Vitamin A also helps regulate the immune system through helping lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that fights infections, function more effectively.
Some carotenoids have also been shown to function as antioxidants to fight free-radical build-up and further aid the immune system.
Vitamin A promotes normal growth and development of the bones and teeth. It stimulates young cells to become mature, specialized cells that produce bone tissue and tooth enamel.
Vitamin a intake should not be compromised if one is serious about muscle building and overall health gains.
The following circumstances may jeopardize vitamin A status:
- Injury or illness
- Living in a polluted area
- Over-use of iron supplements
- Heavy alcohol use
- Low-fat diet (as discussed)
Signs of vitamin A deficiency are:
- Dry, scaly skin
- Poor vision (especially at night time)
- Predisposition to infections (particularly lungs, alimentary canal and urinary tract
The recommended USA dietary intake of vitamin A for male and female adults is 1000 and 800 micrograms per-day respectively. However, this depends largely on the type of vitamin A consumed. Retinol (preformed vitamin A) can be toxic in large doses.
Carotenoids (found in the aforementioned fruits and vegetables) on the other hand are converted to vitamin A in the body and can be consumed without fear of toxicity. Furthermore, bodybuilders can probably disregard the recommended daily allowances as they apply to the average adult human. Bodybuilders are far from average in terms of their energy output and consumption.
Hypervitaminosis A, or high vitamin A storage levels in the body, can lead to liver abnormalities, birth defects and reduced bone mineral density that may lead to osteoporosis. Given that vitamin A is fat soluble, it is stored, but it is also used on a daily basis to help regulate tissue growth, among other things.
For hypervitaminosis A to occur, one would have to consume a large amount of vitamin A over a short period of time. This is unlikely to occur with food. Supplementation is another matter, and supplement guidelines should be followed to avoid this scenario.
If one does ingest over the prescribed dose, nausea and vomiting, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, and muscular coordination problems may be experienced.
Training hard and eating accordingly might, for most, elicit great gains. However, if all nutritional factors, including vitamin A intake, are not addressed, ones progress may fall short.
Low fat eating, a stressed immune system, and intense physical training create an environment where muscular, skeletal and immune disintegration can occur. Vitamin A may be just the thing that ones nutritional program is missing and results might be observed with its inclusion.
best vitamins for muscle pain
When it comes to sports and athletics, injuries can sometimes be a part of the game.
However, no one likes to be sidelined for longer than necessary.
Fortunately, certain foods and supplements may help reduce the amount of time your body needs to recover from a sports injury.
This article lists 14 foods and supplements you can consider adding to your diet to help you recover from an injury more quickly.
Why are muscles sore after working out?
Working out can occasionally leave you with sore muscles, especially if you use your body in a new way, like trying a new sport or increasing the intensity or duration of an activity your body is used to.
Eccentric contractions (such as the lowering portion of a biceps curl), during which your muscles lengthen while under tension, can also lead to soreness (1Trusted Source).
But it’s important to know the difference between soreness from a challenging workout and soreness from injury.
Delayed onset muscle soreness
Soreness after working out, also known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), is believed to be caused by microdamage to muscle fibers and inflammation. This type of soreness usually peaks 2–3 days after the workout session (2Trusted Source).
DOMS is part of the process of your muscles becoming conditioned to a new activity. While some believe muscles become sore due to a buildup of lactic acid, lactic acid is not involved in DOMS (3Trusted Source).
Muscle pain from an injury, such as a strain or tendonitis, is distinct from DOMS.
While DOMS takes a day or two to come on, pain from an injury is usually felt immediately. Pain from an injury is also usually localized to one area. And typically, the pain from an injury can last anywhere from a week to months, while DOMS usually resolves within 5–7 days (4Trusted Source).
- Protein-rich foods
Protein is an important building block for many tissues in your body, including muscle.
After a sports injury, the injured body part is often immobilized. This generally leads to a decline in strength and muscle mass (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
However, getting enough protein can help minimize this loss. Furthermore, a protein-rich diet may help prevent inflammation from getting too bad and slowing down your recovery (5Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
Moreover, slightly increasing your protein intake once you start training the newly healed body part again helps you rebuild any lost muscle (8Trusted Source).
For all these reasons, make sure to include protein-rich foods like meat, fish, poultry, eggs, tofu, beans, peas, nuts, or seeds in your daily menu.
How you distribute these foods throughout the day also seems to matter (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
Research shows that spreading your protein intake equally over four meals may stimulate muscle growth more than an uneven distribution (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
Experts also suggest that eating a protein-rich snack before bed may enhance your body’s muscle-building process while you sleep (12Trusted Source).
Eating protein-rich foods at every meal and for snacks may help lessen muscle loss following an injury. Protein-rich foods may also help you regain muscle mass faster once you return to training.
- Fiber-rich foods
Recovery from injury often involves immobilization or limited use of the injured body part. And when you move less, you use less energy throughout the day.
To help manage your weight while you’re recovering, you’ll likely want to eat a little differently than you did when you were hitting those workouts before an injury.
One way to reduce your calorie intake without feeling hungrier is to consume a diet rich in fiber. This, along with consuming the protein-rich foods mentioned above, may help you eat less without feeling deprived (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
That’s because fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains help promote feelings of fullness after meals (13Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source, 17).
As a bonus, fiber-rich foods tend to be high in several other nutrients essential for your recovery, including vitamin C, magnesium, and zinc (9Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).
However, note that restricting calories too severely can reduce wound healing and promote muscle loss, both of which negatively affect recovery (8Trusted Source).
Therefore, if you were attempting to lose body fat before the injury, consider postponing your weight loss efforts. Instead, focus on maintaining your body weight until your recovery is complete.
Consuming fiber-rich foods while recovering from an injury can help with healing and weight management during recovery.
- Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C
Vitamin C helps your body make collagen, which helps maintain the integrity of your bones, muscles, skin, and tendons (9Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).
Vitamin C is also important for wound healing (9Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).
Therefore, getting enough vitamin C in your diet is a great way to help your body rebuild tissue after an injury.
Moreover, vitamin C has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help speed up your recovery by preventing excessive levels of inflammation (21Trusted Source).
Luckily, vitamin C is one of the easiest vitamins to get enough of through your diet.
Some of the foods highest in vitamin C are citrus fruits, red and yellow bell peppers, dark leafy greens, kiwi, broccoli, berries, tomatoes, mango, and papaya.
Research is mixed on whether vitamin C supplementation can actually improve athletic performance or speed recovery, especially for those already getting enough vitamin C from their diet (22Trusted Source).
Nevertheless, the small number of people who can’t consume enough vitamin C-rich foods may want to consider taking supplements.
Vitamin C-rich foods can help your body produce the collagen that’s required to rebuild tissue after an injury. It may also help prevent excessive inflammation from slowing down your recovery.
- Omega-3 fatty acids
After an injury, the first phase of wound healing always involves some inflammation. This inflammatory response is beneficial and needed for proper healing (9Trusted Source).
However, if this inflammation remains too high for too long, it may slow down your recovery (9Trusted Source).
One way to prevent excess inflammation from delaying your recovery is to eat enough omega-3 fats.
These fats, which are found in foods such as fish, algae, walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds, are known to have anti-inflammatory properties (23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source).
You can also prevent excess or prolonged inflammation by limiting your consumption of omega-6 fats, which are commonly found in corn, canola, cottonseed, soy, and sunflower oils.
Consuming too many omega-6 fats may promote inflammation, especially if your intake of omega-3 fats is low (25, 26Trusted Source).
In addition, some studies report that omega-3 supplements may help increase the creation of muscle protein, reduce the loss of muscle during immobilization, and promote recovery from concussions (27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source, 29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source).
However, high intakes of omega-3 fats from supplements may reduce your body’s ability to regain muscle mass once you return to training. Therefore, it may be best to increase your omega-3 intake through foods rather than supplements (31Trusted Source).
Foods rich in omega-3 fats may help speed up your recovery by helping to prevent excessive or prolonged inflammation. Limiting your intake of omega-6 fats can also be helpful.
- Zinc-rich foods
Zinc is a component of many enzymes and proteins, including those needed for wound healing, tissue repair, and growth (32Trusted Source).
In fact, studies show that not getting enough zinc from your diet can delay wound healing (33Trusted Source).
Therefore, consuming zinc-rich foods such as meat, fish, shellfish, pulses, seeds, nuts, and whole grains may help you recover more effectively from an injury.
Some people may be tempted to simply take zinc supplements to ensure they meet their recommendations.
But zinc competes with copper for absorption, so receiving high doses of zinc from supplements may increase the likelihood of copper deficiency (34Trusted Source).
Overall, if your zinc status is good, additional zinc from supplements probably won’t speed up wound healing. However, getting enough from your diet is important.
Regularly consuming zinc-rich foods can help speed up wound healing and tissue repair and growth.
- Vitamin D- and calcium-rich foods
Calcium is an important component of bones and teeth. It’s also involved in muscle contractions and nerve signaling (35Trusted Source, 36Trusted Source).
That’s why it’s important to ensure you get enough calcium at all times — not just when you’re recovering from an injury.
Calcium-rich foods include dairy products, leafy greens, sardines, broccoli, okra, almonds, seaweed, and calcium-fortified tofu and plant milks.
Vitamin D serves an equally important function because it helps your body absorb the calcium found in the foods you eat. Together with calcium, it plays an instrumental role in recovery from a bone injury (37Trusted Source, 38Trusted Source).
Also, getting enough vitamin D may increase the chances of a good recovery after surgery. For instance, studies have found that good vitamin D status can enhance strength recovery following an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery (39Trusted Source, 40Trusted Source, 41).
Few foods naturally contain vitamin D, but your body can make vitamin D from exposure to the sun.
Those who live in northern climates or spend a limited amount of time outdoors may require supplements to get enough vitamin D (42Trusted Source, 43Trusted Source).
Eating enough calcium-rich foods is necessary for proper recovery from fractures. Getting enough vitamin D can also help.
Creatine is a substance naturally found in meat, poultry, and fish.
It helps your body produce energy during heavy lifting or high intensity exercise. The human body can also produce about 1 gram of it per day (44Trusted Source).
Creatine has become a popular supplement commonly used to increase muscle mass and improve performance in various sports (44Trusted Source, 45Trusted Source).
Interestingly, it may also help you recover from an injury (45Trusted Source).
One older study reported that creatine supplements enhanced the gain of muscle mass and strength lost during a 2-week immobilization period more than a placebo (46Trusted Source).
Another study found that individuals supplementing with creatine lost less muscle in their upper body during a weeklong period of immobilization than those given a placebo. However, not all studies have found these results (47Trusted Source, 48Trusted Source, 49Trusted Source, 50Trusted Source).
In both studies that showed positive results, participants took the creatine supplement in four doses of 5 grams each day.
It’s important to note that there is currently no consensus about creatine and sports injury recovery. However, no studies to date have found any serious side effects.
Creatine remains one of the most-studied, safest supplements around, so it may be worth trying (44Trusted Source).
Creatine may enhance your recovery by reducing the amount of muscle you lose immediately after your injury. It may also help you regain muscle more quickly once you go back to training.
Glucosamine is a natural substance found in the fluid that surrounds your joints. It’s involved in the creation of tendons, ligaments, and cartilage.
Your body naturally produces glucosamine, but you can also increase your levels through supplements. Supplements are generally made from either shellfish shells or fermented corn.
Research in people with arthritis suggests that glucosamine may be useful in decreasing joint pain (51Trusted Source, 52Trusted Source).
Also, studies in people without arthritis or other joint conditions show that supplementing with 500 milligrams to 3 grams of glucosamine per day may help reduce joint deterioration (53Trusted Source, 54Trusted Source, 55Trusted Source, 56Trusted Source).
Based on these findings, some people take glucosamine supplements to help reduce pain after joint and bone injuries. However, more research is needed before strong conclusions can be made.
Glucosamine supplements may pose a risk to people who are allergic or sensitive to shellfish, those who have asthma, and those taking diabetes medications or warfarin. If you fall into any of these categories, talk with your doctor before trying glucosamine (57Trusted Source).
Glucosamine may help reduce joint pain and deterioration. However, more research is needed.
9–14. Other beneficial foods for bone fractures
In addition to getting enough calcium and vitamin D, good intakes of the following nutrients may contribute to a speedier recovery from bone fractures:
Magnesium. This mineral promotes bone strength and firmness. Higher magnesium intake is associated with higher bone mineral density and lower risk of bone fracture. Magnesium is found in almonds, cashews, peanuts, potato skins, brown rice, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, and milk (58Trusted Source, 59Trusted Source).
Silicon. Silicon plays an important role in the early stages of bone formation and may help improve bone mineral density. The best sources include whole grains and cereals, carrots, and green beans (60, 61).
Vitamins K1 and K2. These vitamins direct calcium toward bones and help improve bone strength. Deficiency is associated with bone fractures. The best sources are leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, prunes, sauerkraut, natto, miso, organ meats, egg yolks, and grass-fed dairy products (62Trusted Source).
Boron. This element promotes bone health by increasing calcium and magnesium retention and enhancing vitamin D’s effect. Prunes are the best dietary source (63Trusted Source).
CoQ10. This important antioxidant has anti-inflammatory effects and can increase bone formation while decreasing bone resorption. CoQ10 is primarily found in organ meats, pork, beef, chicken, fatty fish, soybeans, peanuts, and whole grains (64).
Arginine. This amino acid is needed to produce nitric oxide, a compound necessary for fracture healing. The best sources are meat, dairy, poultry, seafood, nuts, and oatmeal (65).
Those recovering from bone fractures should consume foods rich in these nutrients daily, if possible.
The nutrients described above are necessary for the health of your bones. Therefore, getting enough of them may help you recover from a fracture more quickly.
The bottom line
When you’re recovering from a sports injury, many elements come into play.
While not all of them are under your influence, you likely have some control over the nutrients you provide your body.
Therefore, regularly consuming the foods and supplements mentioned in this article is one way you can speed up your recovery.
If you’re considering supplements, it’s always a good idea to talk with your doctor before adding any to your daily regimen, especially if you’re taking any prescription medications.