Multi Vitamins for Athletes

“Do I really need a multivitamin??”

It’s a question I get frequently as a sports dietitian. Everyone wants to know whether taking that daily pill is a must or a waste. Typically, this question is asked with the intention of receiving the answer of either ‘yes, a multivitamin will supercharge your health!’ or ‘don’t waste your money, food has all you need!’. Well folks, like most nutrition questions, the answer just isn’t that cut and dry.

My general statement on the matter is: If you eat a varied & balance diet that meets your energy needs, you’re likely to get what you need through food. However, taking a multivitamin won’t hurt!

While I stand by that statement, it doesn’t apply to most athletes. Many athletes train indoors exclusively, do not meet energy needs, eat repetitive meals, and have higher nutrient needs than the average person. Unfortunately, these unique factors put them at an increased risk for not meeting nutrient needs through food alone. Enter the multivitamin. It’s easy to take each morning and designed to provide your basic vitamins and minerals. Each brand varies in exactly which and how much vitamins and minerals are provided. Typically calcium and iron are given in tiny doses while B vitamins, particularly B12, are provided in mega doses of up to 3000% (not a typo) of your daily needs. When you’re looking for a multivitamin, I suggest choosing one that is more tailored to providing nutrients you might be lacking or more at risk of needing. To figure that out, obtain a vitamin/ mineral profile from your physician or speak to a sports dietitian about your training and eating habits.

Don’t think you’re alone in opting to take a multivitamin. 87% of recreational athletes and 59% of elite athletes report using dietary supplements. Less elites may take a multi due to paying more attention to overall diet quality or to being more cautious about taking supplements that may risk positive drug testing as vitamins count as supplements and are not regulated by the FDA.

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When should athletes take a multivitamin?

  • When they’ve tested insufficient in a nutrient

  • When the athlete is at high risk for insufficiency or deficiency

  • When the athlete is following a limited diet

  • When the athlete is training mostly indoors

  • When the athlete is excluding several ingredients or entire food groups

  • When the athlete is at a very low weight

  • When the athlete is trying to lose weight

  • Prior to entering training camps or heavy race blocks

  • When the athlete is traveling and will have unknown food availability

What can a multivitamin actually do for you? In short, help keep you from developing a vitamin or mineral insufficiency or deficiency which are not completely uncommon for athletes and would be a huge hindrance to optimal performance.

The next question I get on this topic is which multi I would suggest. That would be the Swisse Wellness Women’s Ultivite (yes there is a men’s version as well). It has 50 ingredients in it, which definitely goes above and beyond the standard vitamins and minerals. That’s great as it takes more than the standard to create a body capable of performing at the elite and professional athletic levels. An important part of what the Swisse Ultivite offers in phytonutrients, a group of plant compounds that may aid in your body’s ability to adapt to stress, maintain energy and stamina, and optimize health overall.

Lori Nedescu