Stefan Angheli, CSCS
Vitamins are substances derived from plants and animals that are needed
in small amounts in the body. These micronutrients are not a source
of energy to the body but some are heavily involved in converting
macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fats) into usable forms of
energy. They are necessary for the normal growth, maintenance and
repair of the body.
Vitamins can also function as coenzymes in the body. That means they
help enzymes do their job of promoting all of the body's biochemical
reactions. Enzymes are so essential that out of the trillions of chemical
activities occurring in your body, none would be possible without
them. Enzymes are especially critical in nerve transmission, blood
formation, muscle contraction, protein metabolism and energy production.
In addition, vitamins are so necessary that every organ in the body
won't be able to function without them.
In general, the body can't make vitamins and so it is extremely important
they are obtained from your diet or vitamin supplements. There are
two exceptions however; vitamin D, which can be obtained through sunlight
and niacin (B3), which can be made inefficiently from an amino acid
Vitamins can be broken down into two groups; fat-soluble (A, D, E
and K) and water-soluble. Fat soluble vitamins are absorbed with the
assistance of dietary fats and are stored in the body's tissues. The
fact that they are stored in the body is significant because toxic
levels can accumulate if some vitamins are consumed consistently and
in high amounts. The ones to watch out for in particular are A, D
and K, too much can be problematic.
The water-soluble vitamins on the other hand, are excreted by the
body through urination and perspiration and are unlikely to buildup
in the body. This again is significant because that means that we
need to make sure that we are consuming these vitamins on a regular
basis. This is especially true for Vitamins B and C.
Minerals and Electrolytes:
Even though vitamins may have received more attention, minerals are
equally important. Like vitamins, they are also absolutely necessary
for the growth, maintenance and repair of the body. These inorganic
substances come from soil and water and are absorbed by plants and
animals that make up our diet.
They too are micronutrients, but the body needs many minerals in larger
amounts compared to vitamins. Like vitamins minerals act as coenzymes,
working with enzymes to necessitate the body's processes. In addition
they help the body build strong bones and teeth and aid in the manufacture
of hemoglobin which helps carry vital oxygen.
Minerals are split into two groups: the macro minerals and the micro
minerals depending on the amounts used by the body. The macro minerals,
sometimes called the major minerals are magnesium, chloride, calcium,
potassium, sulfur, sodium and phosphorus. The micro minerals sometimes
called trace elements are needed in relatively smaller amounts.
Some minerals are also known as electrolytes. These minerals form
salts that conduct electrical energy needed to keep the body functioning.
They are heavily involved in muscle contraction and nerve transmission.
Electrolytes are composed of the minerals, chloride, sodium, potassium