B1, B2, B3, B6… vitamins for athletes

21 September, 2012 | Written by Recuperat-ion Recuperat-ion
Overview about vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6
Vitamins B1,
B2, B3, B6 belong to the vitamin B group. They are particularly important
because intense physical activity increases the need for vitamins in athletes
compared to the general population. These vitamins play the role of catalyst in
chemical reactions inside the cell, especially during exercise. They allow the
metabolization of carbohydrates, lipids and amino acids, in other words the
transformation of these substrates inside the cell to produce ATP energy. They
are highly mobilized during exercise and can be a major limiting factor of
muscular work, in case of repeated needs and food deficiency intake or bad absorption
(digestive disorders). They are mainly found in animal products and unprocessed
foods (raw cereals, pulses …)
Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
Vitamin B1
intervenes in the metabolization chain of carbohydrates (glucose or sugar …).
Vitamin B1 is highly found in pork as well as in raw cereals (it is
concentrated in the cereals cuticle, e.g. rice cuticle, but the grinding
removes 2/3 of this amount) and pulses. Milk, other animal sources (beef,
poultry, fish …), eggs, potatoes … are secondary sources. Vitamin B1 is
very fragile (highly susceptible to heat including microwave), which reduces its
The vitamin B1
need is proportional to the amount of carbohydrates consumed. Logically the more
muscular work increases, the more the need for vitamin B1 increases. Thus,
particularly in athletes, a lesser presence of this vitamin can cause a decrease
in carbohydrate metabolization potential and thus indirectly the cardiac and
muscular capacity. In addition, a Vitamin B1 deficiency, by inhibiting the carbohydrates
metabolization consumed during effort, is likely to promote digestive disorders
(fermentation…). Finally, Vitamin B1 highly intervenes in the functioning of
the brain and the central nervous system, since they get their energy from the glucose
oxidation. Meeting the daily quantitative requirements through diet is
relatively hard because the body does not store this molecule and it must be
consumed daily. That is why all carbohydrate sport products (drinks, gels, bars
…) are enriched with vitamin B1, in accordance with French legislation on
“intense exercise products”.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Vitamin B2
intervenes in the metabolization chain of all three energetic substrates:
carbohydrates, lipids, amino acids. It is because of this feature that it is
called a vitamin of nutritional use. We found an exceptional amount in offal
(heart, kidney, liver … which makes sense since these organs are major
consumers of energy, including fatty acids, concentrating part of the vitamin
B2 in animals) and cheese mold (or blue-veined). Meat, fish, eggs present
interesting amount. Cow’s milk and raw cereals are secondary sources. Vitamin
B2 is very sensitive to light, UV and a little to heat. It can be produced in
small quantities by the body (found in the colon).
Vitamin B2 is
found in a large number of reactions that produce energy for the cell,
including the muscular work. It also plays an essential role in the vision, the
integrity of the skin and mucous membranes. Therefore significant losses may
occur during frequent sports activities in a hot environment, since Vitamin B2
located in the dermal cells is being lost through sweating. Athletes who eat
less animal products may also be found deficient in Vitamin B2. In all cases,
physical exercise significantly increases the need for Vitamin B2.
Vitamin B3 or PP (niacin or nicotinic acid on packaging)
Vitamin B3
intervenes in the metabolization chain of carbohydrates, lipids and amino
acids. It is mainly found also in offal, meat and fish, raw cereals. Pulses and
potatoes are secondary sources. However dairy products and eggs are poor in
Vitamin B3. Vitamin B3 is not particularly fragile. Part of vitamin B3 in the
body is produced by the digestive flora of the colon (entérosynthèse) from
L-Tryptophan (an essential amino acid found in the same food) and vitamin B6
and B2. This is why a deficiency in L-Tryptophan can cause a deficiency in
vitamin B3. Note that Vitamin B3 inhibits the cholesterol synthesis and lowers
the triglyceride level in the blood.
Vitamin B3
intervenes, among others, in the formation of red blood cells that carry oxygen
to the muscles, sex hormones and neurotransmitters. In case of intensive sport the
needs for vitamin B3 are doubled. This can be explained by the greater need for
energy in athletes, knowing that the energy release from food is one of the Vitamin
B3 properties.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine on packaging)
Vitamin B6
intervenes in the metabolization chain of muscular glycogen (degradation of the
muscle stored glucose in ATP energy) and amino acids. It is mainly found in
offal, cheese mold, meat, fish, raw cereals, pulses. Potatoes, vegetables and
fresh fruits, eggs, milk are secondary sources. Vitamin B6 is sensitive to
light and UV and a little to heat and oxygen.
deficiencies in Vitamin B6 are factors of anemia, because this vitamin plays an
essential role in the formation of red blood cells. In female athletes, oral
contraceptives increase the need for this vitamin. A Vitamin B6 deficiency reduces
the muscle potential to mobilize its glycogen reserve during exercise, which creates
a critical situation. Finally, Vitamin B6 helps to stimulate anabolism (protein
synthesis and muscle tissue regeneration), the functioning of the nervous
system, the neurotransmitters synthesis. Intake via food is generally
insufficient to meet the needs in vitamin B6.
















work and functioning of the nervous system
cereals*, pulses, pork, offal, wheat germ, brewer’s yeast …
work, vision, integrity of the skin and mucous membranes,
Meat, fish,
eggs, offal, cheese mold, ,
brewer’s yeast, wheat bran …
of red blood cells and functioning of the nervous system, hormone production
Meat, fish,
offal, raw cereals*, brewer’s yeast, rice or wheat bran…
work, synthesis of hormones, neurotransmitters, amino acids
Meat, fish,
offal, raw cereals*, pulses, cheese molds, brewer’s yeasts
* Unprocessed
cereals (integral)


David Padaré :
Dietetitian and Nutritionist  specialized in endurance sports and outdoor sports as running,  cycling, trail, triathlon, swimming….
David PADARE accompany several athletes in their different challenges:
ultra trail, marathons, 100kms, 24h….

 You can find David on:  magazines Running Coach and Cyclo Coach Cyclosport, Running attitude
trail magazine running 100% feminin, nutricycle.com, courirdeplaisir.com, nutritiondusportif, traileur outdoor zsport.com…..



Recuperat-ion – Hydration and Nutrition Experts

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  1. great post, very informative. I wonder why the other experts of this sector don’t notice this. You should continue your writing. I’m sure, you’ve a great readers’ base already!



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