Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that are needed in small amounts in the diet to prevent deficiency diseases and to support optimal health. They have many important functions in the body which include:
- Energy metabolism
- Bone growth and health
- Improve immune system health
- Build muscle
- Formation of blood cells
- Muscle repair
- Protection against tissue damage
- Assist recovery and injury healing
Many players may compete with or experience a nutrient deficiency for a variety of reasons:
- Elite players have up to 30% more requirements for many vitamins and minerals compared to non-athletes, due to the energy costs of playing tennis and of muscle repair and building.
- If total energy intake or dietary variety is restricted, as may occur if a player tries to change their weight.
- During prolonged periods of travel, particularly to countries with a limited or unfamiliar food supply.
- During a heavy competitive schedule and intense physical training load which is common amongst elite players.
- During times of growth, such as puberty and bone maturation.
Where possible, vitamin and mineral rich foods should be eaten to provide all the player’s nutritional needs. Even with the best diet, it may be difficult to meet these high nutritional demands. In these circumstances, players may be advised to take supplements to ensure they receive all their nutritional needs for intense exercise.
Types of supplements
There are two main types of supplementation that athletes may need:
- Contain nutrients usually found in food.
- Used to help meet nutritional demands, especially when the diet is inadequate and during times of heavy training, illness or injury.
- Conveniently packed products that meet physiological and nutritional needs to assist in sport performance.
- Bars are often used as a recovery snack to supply easily digested carbohydrates, protein and energy.
- Sports drinks include electrolytes and carbohydrates to promote hydration, fluid intake, and glycogen repletion.
- Sports Gels are easily consumed, semi-solid foods; they maintain blood glucose levels.
Supplements: why and how?
Why? Signs that you may be lacking certain nutrients can include symptoms like ongoing fatigue, recurrent illnesses or slow to heal injuries.
How? Each player’s nutritional needs are different, and you should first consult with your doctor or a Sports Medicine Therapist / Trainer (SMTT) or a qualified sports dietician for a nutrition assessment.
- Speak to a SMTT to obtain your own food diary and to learn how to use it.
- A sports dietician can analyse the food diary to determine if extra nutrients are needed.
- Consult your doctor to check for medical reasons for deficiencies.
- Blood tests may be required to accurately determine the extent of the problem and to assist your team to determine the best supplementation for your needs.
Remember you are 100% responsible for any supplement you take.
A-Z of vitamins and minerals
Vitamin A Promotes strong teeth and bones, keeps the skin healthy, supports night vision, boosts the immune system and aids would healing. Betacarotene has about 1/6 of the most active form of Vitamin A. Can be found in carrots, sweet potatoes, sliced cheese and butter or margarine.
Vitamin B This group consists of 11 individual vitamins that have specific roles in the body. They are necessary for energy and macronutrient metabolism. Can be found in liver, germ and bran of cereal grains, legumes and nuts.
Vitamin C It is a powerful antioxidant and is necessary for healthy connective tissue, bones, teeth and cartilage; enhances immune system. Can be found in oranges, green peppers, papaw and strawberries.
Calcium Required for healthy bones and teeth and essential for proper muscle contraction. Can be found in milk and yogurt.
Vitamin D Needed for calcium and phosphorous metabolism and for healthy bones and teeth. Can be found through sunshine, and skimmed milk.
Folic Acid It is required for cell division, production of red blood cells and transmission of genetic code to offspring. Can be found in liver, spinach leaves and wheat bran.
Iron Necessary component of haemoglobin, the protein that transports oxygen. If deficient, you are likely to fatigue easily. Can be found in lean beef, and chicken breast.
Magnesium Important in energy metabolism, maintaining a healthy nervous system, blood vessels and regulation of blood sugar. Can be found in nuts, whole wheat bread and wheat Bran.
Zinc Part of more than 100 enzymes needed for proper body function. Essential for removing CO2 from your muscles. Can be found in pork, and turkey breast.
The information provided within this article is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological, health care or health management advice. If you have any health or related questions or concerns, please contact your medical advisor.
Reproduced by kind permission from the WTA Tour.