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Myth Busters: Do Young Athletes Need B Vitamins to Support Performance?

You may have heard about the importance of B vitamins for young people, especially athletes. But before you head to the store to buy a supplement for your athlete, let’s dig into a few of the nuances you should know about when it comes to vitamin B supplementation through food and other sources.

Here, TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, is digging into the science of vitamin B, and everything you need to know as a parent.

Why do we need b vitamins in the first place?

“B vitamins control many important functions of the body’s nervous system and nerve transmission, which obviously are going to be important for performance as well as general health,” says Ziesmer. That’s why they’re one of the essential vitamins required for anyone, but especially growing athletes.

If we need them, shouldn’t we supplement with them?

Ziesmer explains that supplements that are ‘packed with vitamin B’ might sound great but won’t do much good. “B vitamins are water soluble, so you can’t expect one big dose to do something,” she explains. “If you’re not deficient in them and you take in a big dose of the B vitamin, your body is only going to be able to utilize a small amount at that time—about as much as you can get from a food source that has B vitamins in it—and you’ll be peeing out the rest of the vitamins.”

What about taking vitamin B for energy?

Often, B vitamins are seen in energy-boosting drinks as well as supplements. Ziesmer says those claims are misleading, and young athletes should definitely stay away from high-caffeine energy drinks or supplements. The B vitamins in those energy drinks also won’t boost your energy unless you happen to be severely deficient, she adds, so they aren’t a quick fix.

Is it possible to be deficient in vitamin B?

Absolutely—but deficiencies should be diagnosed and treated by a medical professional. “There are certain medical conditions that would make you not absorb certain vitamins, including vitamin B,’ Ziesmer says. “Different types of anemias may be causing issues with absorption, as can some gastrointestinal problems like celiac disease.”

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