Five Vitamins that Help Build Muscle Strength and Tone
by Dr. John Cuomo
Muscle is mainly made up of protein. Therefore, protein metabolism (breaking protein down into amino acids and combining those amino acids into new proteins) is critical for muscle building. Collagen is also made of protein and is the connective tissue in muscle that anchors muscles to bone. In addition, muscle function is dependent on energy production. The energy used by all cells is called ATP. Glucose (carbohydrate) is a key fuel for ATP production. We use glucose as the main fuel to produce energy in all cells, including muscle cells.
1. Vitamin D plays an important role in immune and muscle function. There are numerous studies showing that vitamin D is essential for overall immune system function. Studies have shown that proper vitamin D levels in the body are associated with muscle strength and performance.
Research shows that to have an optimal range of vitamin D in the body, most people need to take 4000 to 6000 IU supplemental vitamin D every day. Keep in mind that vitamin D is also required for the uptake and utilization of calcium and phosphorous—and both of these minerals are required for muscular contraction and function as well as bone growth and strength. Phosphorous is also required for ATP production and energy metabolism.
2. Fish oil or the omega-3 fats in fish oil may decrease muscle protein breakdown. This may be through improvements in insulin sensitivity, and insulin resistance is associated with muscle breakdown. There is also a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showing that fish oil helps enhance the effect of strength training in elderly women. Fish oil is most commonly obtained through supplements and food, such as a variety of fish.
3. Vitamin C is important for our muscles, and 'we need it to function properly. Vitamin C is required for collagen and elastin synthesis, and it is also an important supplement to take daily because it's responsible for the health of the blood vessels, which support the muscles' needs for oxygen and nutrients. Good sources of vitamin C include broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries and grapefruit.
4. Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that helps cell membrane recovery from oxidative stress. Cell membrane reliability is essential for cellular function and growth. To add vitamin E into your diet, try almonds, spinach, carrots and avocados. Many different oils are also good sources of vitamin E, such as olive oil, corn oil, canola oil and sunflower oil.
5. An array of B vitamins are essential to muscle strength and tone. B1 (thiamin) is important for protein metabolism and the formation of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to cells, including muscle cells, and without oxygen energy, production is compromised. B1 nutrients can be found in cereal, bread, meat, rice and nuts.
B2 (riboflavin) is involved in energy metabolism, glucose metabolism, the oxidation of fatty acids, with some effects on protein metabolism. B2 nutrients can be found in cheese, eggs, milk and peas.
B3 (niacin) is essential for energy production. B3 nutrients can be found in milk, eggs, fish, legumes and potatoes.
B6 (pyridoxine) is important for protein metabolism, growth and carbohydrate utilization. B6 nutrients can be found in soybeans, butter, brown rice and fish.
B12 (cyanocobalamin) is important for the maintenance of nerve tissue and is essential for the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates, energy metabolism and cell regeneration. B12 nutrients can be found in milk, poultry, eggs, meat and liver.
B7 (biotin) is important for amino acid metabolism, and amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Good sources of B7 include mushrooms, egg yolk, beef liver and brewer's yeast.
Dr. John Cuomo is executive director of research and development for USANA Health Sciences.
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