Role of micronutrients in sport and physical activity

Role of micronutrients in sport and physical activity

Ron J Maughan

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Aberdeen Medical School

Many micronutrients play key roles in energy metabolism and, during strenuous physical activity, the rate of energy turnover in skeletal muscle may be increased up to 20-100 times the resting rate. Although an adequate vitamin and mineral status is essential for normal health, marginal deficiency states may only be apparent when the metabolic rate is high. Prolonged strenuous exercise performed on a regular basis may also result in increased losses from the body or in an increased rate of turnover, resulting in the need for an increased dietary intake. An increased food intake to meet energy requirements will increase dietary micronutrient intake, but athletes in hard training may need to pay particular attention to their intake of iron, calcium and the antioxidant vitamins. Prof. R J Maughan, Department of Biomedical Sciences. University Medical School, Foresterhill,Aberdeen

For normal health to be maintained, a wide range of vitamins, minerals and trace elements must be present in adequate amounts in the body tissues, and the dietary intake must be sufficient to meet the requirement. Many vitamins and minerals play key roles in energy metabolism, and the adverse effect of deficiencies of these components is well recognised and easily demonstrated. Marginal deficiency states may have little effect on the sedentary individual, but small impairments of exercise capacity may have profound consequences for the serious athlete. Regular intense exercise training may also increase micronutrient requirements, either by increasing degradation rates or by increasing losses from the body. Consequently, there is a great interest shown by athletes in some of these dietary components because of their role in maintaining or enhancing physical performance. There is often, however, a failure to appreciate that it is not inevitably, or indeed even generally, the case that increasing micronutrient intake to levels above those that are adequate for maintaining health will improve athletic performance.

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