Together with resistance exercise and a healthy diet high in protein, certain vitamin supplements may promote muscle growth. Most of these muscle-building vitamins work by supporting metabolic processes like protein synthesis and cellular energy use, according to fitness magazine Flex. However, whenever possible, it is best to get vitamins from whole foods rather than supplements.
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Taking a multivitamin aids muscle growth by preventing nutritional deficiencies and repleting vitamin loss from exercise, according to Flex. Health publication Muscle and Fitness says that the nutrients in multivitamins are best absorbed when taken in the morning, and with whole foods. Muscle and Fitness recommends taking a multivitamin supplement that provides "100% of the Daily Value (DV) of vitamins C, D, E and most of the B-complex vitamins, as well as 100% DV of zinc, copper and chromium."
Vitamins with antioxidant properties, such as vitamins C and E, prevent free radical damage to muscle cells, thereby enhancing muscle functioning and growth, according to Flex. In addition to its antioxidant effects, Flex says vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is also involved in amino acid metabolism, absorption of iron, and the formation and release of natural steroid hormones including testosterone -- all functions which promote muscle growth.
B vitamins, particularly B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12, help build muscle in a variety of ways. According to Flex, vitamins B6 (pyridoxine) and B1 (thiamine) affect protein synthesis, which is critical for building muscle tissue, whereas Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is primarily responsible for stimulating nerve communication between the brain and the muscles, assisting muscle contractions which lead to muscle growth. Vitamins B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacin) also aid the metabolic processes related to muscle growth, says Flex.
Vitamin D is involved in a number of bodily functions, including the growth and development of muscle fibres. While not many studies have examined the effect of Vitamin D on athletic performance, those that have, suggest a positive correlation, according to The New York Times health blog, Phys Ed. Vitamin D is involved in absorption of calcium and phosphorus, nutrients which play important roles in enhancing the muscle contractions necessary for muscle growth, according to Flex.
Warning: The case against antioxidant supplements
According to The New York Times' Phys Ed, many scientists now believe that taking high doses of antioxidant vitamins may actually diminish some of the positive effects of exercise, as suppressing the body's natural production of free radicals has been shown to also suppress other healthy adaptations to exercise. Some research indicates that antioxidant supplements may be dangerous to health. A 2004 Johns Hopkins University study concluded that high-dose supplementation of vitamin E is associated with higher mortality rates, and should be avoided. However, while antioxidant vitamin supplements may be dangerous in large doses, taking a daily multivitamin is not likely to lead to toxic levels of vitamins, according to Flex.
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