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Fact checked by Andrew Lenau, ISSA CPT & Sports NutritionistFACT CHECKED
May 21, 2022
We all know that you need protein and carbs for optimal muscle growth. That’s pretty obvious. And creatine, you gotta have your creatine! But what if your muscles still aren’t growing? Have you ever had that experience where your TV isn’t working and can’t figure out why? Then out of nowhere, a little kid comes over and points out it’s unplugged? Well, this is what it can be like when you find out a vitamin deficiency could be hindering your gains. That’s right, a little vitamin might be hindering your growth. We’d hate for you to suffer because you haven’t been eating your fruits and veggies, so we’re going to go over the most important vitamins there are for muscle growth.
This article will cover the following:
Time to go back to middle school and learn why it’s important to eat your fruits and veggies!
Vitamins are one of your body’s micronutrients which are usually seen alongside essential minerals, another micronutrient. A micronutrient, as opposed to a macronutrient, is a compound that your body requires in small quantities. Generally, this amounts to less than 100mg a day.
Further, a compound must be considered essential in order to qualify as a vitamin. This means your body must consume it through diet as it is unable to synthesize it alone. For example, there are some vitamins that can be synthesized by some animals but not in others.
Concerning the animal that can synthesize the compound itself, the compound is not considered a vitamin. However, it is considered a vitamin for the animal that can’t synthesize it. In other words, you must eat your vitamins!
Below are the vitamins you NEED to be eating!
Concerning what’s the most important vitamin for muscle growth, it’s a toss-up between Vitamin B and Vitamin D. However, it may be a bit unfair to compare the two as Vitamin B is actually a complex of 8 different vitamins that all have different functions.
Below are the different vitamins along with their RDA:
Regardless, these vitamins are responsible for converting other compounds into energy as well as controlling numerous metabolic processes. Some of these processes include:
Of these 8 different vitamins within the B-Complex, it’s generally agreed that B-6,b-12, and folate are the most important vitamins you need to promote muscle growth and cell function.
In order to ensure an adequate intake of all your B-Vitamins, you will need to eat a well-rounded healthy diet that includes eggs, milk, meat, vegetables, and fruit. In fact, a B-Vitamin deficiency is one of the more often quoted concerns of following a strict vegan diet.
Vitamin D is a crucial vitamin you need to be aware of when you’re trying to put on muscle. While previously, we believed it only plays a vital role in bone health and development due to its role in calcium metabolism. However, over the past few years, recent research has shown that it also plays several roles in muscle structure and health. It may even help increase testosterone production.
This is mainly due to a mechanism called the Vitamin D Receptor (VDR) that is found within muscle and tissue cells). The VDR is a receptor that controls the expression of various functions of Vitamin D. The fact that VDR is found within muscles is evidence enough that it obviously plays a vital role in muscle function. Studies have shown that it can influence muscle growth as well as morphology1. While this generally seems to be an issue in older adults, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to pay attention now. Again, we still don’t fully understand the mechanisms, so if there’s VDR within the muscle cells, we assume it’s there for a reason.
Unfortunately, Vitamin D is quite easy to get with sunshine! Just get outside! It's the sunshine vitamin!
Why is that unfortunate? Because even though all you need to do is step outside for 30-60 minutes a day, there are still parts of our population that aren’t able to get this, and thus vitamin d supplementation is necessary.
In fact, if you have read SET FOR SET for a long time, you have read our talk about the importance of getting outside and being involved in other forms of athletics or hobbies. This is yet another reason.
Vitamin E is one of the most powerful antioxidants your body utilizes to scavenge free radicals and can decrease the build-up of various stresses. It just so happens that when we train, we actually produce a lot of oxidative stress. While it was hypothesized that Vitamin E plays a role in mitigating the build-up of this stress, along with its negative consequences, we now have studies to prove this to be true.
For example, this study looked at the effect that a Vitamin E deficiency would have on muscular fatigue2. While this study was done on rats, they found that a lack of Vitamin E caused a 69% decrease in muscular fatigue after a fatiguing training protocol compared to a control group (sufficient levels of Vitamin E) who only saw a decrease of 38%. In other words, a lack of Vitamin E caused a drop in performance that was almost two times greater!
Yet another study found that Vitamin E can reduce muscle atrophy in immobilized muscles3. While we’re assuming you’re not laying in bed and not moving, this shows that Vitamin E definitely plays a role in avoiding poor muscle health, as well as keeping the immune system strong, which is important when recovering from strenuous workouts.
Like Vitamin E, Vitamin C is another powerful antioxidant and immune system booster. In fact, their antioxidant properties are so similar that they actually look at their effect together. That being said, most of the studies done on humans and Vitamin C have looked at endurance training and its ability to decrease fatigue and improve muscle recovery. As far as that’s concerned, studies do show that a Vitamin C deficiency can result in an impaired working capacity4.
As far as muscle growth, studies suggest this doesn’t become a major issue until you’re 505. A basic analysis of muscle mass and Vitamin C intake was compared from 13,000 individuals 42-82 years old. They found that individuals with the highest amount of Vitamins C also had greater amounts of lean muscle mass. Again, this is believed to occur due to Vitamin C’s role as an antioxidant. It can rid the body of free radicals, which could eat up muscle mass if left on its own.
The best way to consume your Vitamin C is through fruits such as kiwi and oranges. Also, some vegetables like broccoli and Brussel sprouts contain good amounts of Vitamin C.
That being said, while it’s still unclear, there seems to be evidence that high doses of Vitamin C could actually impede benefits from training as some of this oxidative stress is actually necessary for adaptations to occur. Therefore, a recommended dose of around 200mg/day is recommended for daily use. However, higher amounts may be justified for the exercise of a longer duration. Still, we know tons of guys, including ourselves, who eat a ton of vitamin C and haven’t had issues, BUT this is what some studies show.
Ideally you get all of your vitamins from your fruits and veggies while stepping outside to get your Vitamin D. It’s also important to realize that even with vitamins that show a stronger correlation with muscle growth, such as Vitamin B and D, most studies show that a deficiency causes a problem rather than excess shows an improvement. In other words, as long as you’re consuming enough, taking more won’t make a bigger difference. That being said, here are some of our favorite ways to ensure adequate intake.
We actually really like Emergen-C for a few reasons. For one, it obviously packs more than enough Vitamin C at 1,000mg a serving. However, different versions also supply other Vitamins such as B and D. In addition, Emergen-C contains electrolytes, tastes good, and is light. It's great for immune health, muscle tissue repair, and it can boost muscle growth. For these reasons, we love drinking a big glass in the AM to start our day of hydration as well as getting some vitamins.
That being said, keep in mind that these provide a large dose of Vitamin C, so you may want to cut a serving in half or even thirds. However, these higher doses will likely be ok if you're an endurance athlete.
Here is a multivitamin called Vita-XT Black Multivitamin that is specifically formulated for active men. It contains everything you need and more:
One thing that is cool about this multivitamin is the antioxidant vitamins (A, C, and E) aren’t mega-dosed and are around 130-150% of your daily value. Further, it’s reasonably priced at around $17-18 for a month’s supply.
Though not a supplement per se, Instant Knockout Complete offers all 27 essential vitamins and minerals, meaning it’s a great source as a catch-all for vitamins.
Instant Knockout Complete was designed alongside professional MMA coaches who wanted their fighters to lose weight without losing strength. This allowed them to meet weigh-in goals without losing their competitive edge in the octagon. What came of this is a meal replacement shake designed to help you gain strength, providing a whopping 35g of protein from various, high-quality plant-based sources, resulting in a complete amino acid profile that is great for muscle health. All within a 400-calorie shake that takes two minutes to make and tastes great.
Give Instant Knockout Complete a try today.
There are a few things our parents told us that happened to be really good advice for building muscle and muscle health:
We don’t care what time you go home at night, but you can easily mitigate any sort of vitamin deficiency by just eating a “healthy” well balanced diet. By this we mean whole foods, lean meats, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Again, keep in mind that you will more likely see performance issues from a vitamin deficiency rather than performance improvement from eating vitamins in excess.
Therefore, if you eat healthy, none of this should be an issue and you can concentrate on what really matters, protein (amino acids) and carbs for muscle protein synthesis...and if you want, creatine to keep your muscles functioning at full capacity. Just make sure your vitamins and minerals are fully in check! They play a vital role if you want to build muscle.
More Vitamin Resources:
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