Whether you’re an athlete or just trying to stay fit, tracking macronutrients—carbohydrates, proteins and fats—is usually a big part of everyday life. These nutrients supply energy, measured in calories, to the body. They’re the cornerstone of most diet plans and workout regimens. This makes them very easy to track and observe—that, and they’re printed on most food labels. However, do you track vitamin intake?
Micronutrients, or vitamins and minerals, don’t contain calories or provide energy. However, they do support essential bodily processes, including regulating metabolism. In short, micronutrients help macronutrients turn into the energy the body needs to survive and thrive. Unfortunately, these aren’t always as easy to track.
If you’re looking to preserve or enhance your overall health and you’re not tracking your daily vitamin intake, you should be. Read on to discover why.
Most athletes track their macros religiously
From runners to bodybuilders, keeping track of macros is just part of the daily grind for athletes. Whether you’re looking to lose fat, build muscle or simply improve performance, counting macros is a great way to make sure you stay on track toward your fitness goals.
Counting macros is a way to avoid following a restrictive diet. Completely cutting out sugar and fried foods can severely limit your choices. However, macro dieting gives athletes the flexibility to have that donut for breakfast. It just needs to fit into the number of carbs, proteins, and fats they should have for the day.
It takes hard work and dedication to count macros—you need to know exactly what you’re consuming in every meal. Using nutrition labels and a kitchen scale, you can determine how what you’re eating fits into your daily macro levels. The number of macros you should be consuming each day depends entirely on your training program and goals. It’s often best to talk to a dietician rather than winging it or following a generic food plan found online.
Unfortunately, tracking vitamin levels is less common
If you’re tracking macros, it only makes sense to track micros, too: vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals aid the body in processing the macros you eat, turning them into energy. Therefore, you need to be sure you’re maintaining adequate levels in the body to support your health and help you meet your fitness goals.
But tracking micros is difficult. While there are ways to find out the vitamin content of whole foods, measuring them is much more difficult. Even foods that list vitamins and minerals on the label can be hit-or-miss in terms of the true content of the food. Moreover, many athletes don’t track vitamin intake because they’re not a priority. Often, they simply take a multivitamin and call it a day.
In short, you’re likely not tracking vitamin and mineral intake each day—but you should be.
What are recommended vitamin levels?
There are so many nutrients that are essential to everyday bodily functions. From promoting bone health to providing the material that assists in blood clotting, get to know the essential vitamins below. You should also know how much you should be getting in your diet and track vitamin intake:
- Vitamin A. This fat-soluble nutrient helps the body form healthy bones, teeth, skin and soft tissue. It also assists in warding off bacterial and viral infections. Recommended daily intake is 700mcg/day for women; 900mcg/day for men.
- Vitamin B (complex). B complex includes essential vitamins B-6, B-12 and B-9. These vitamins are vital for proper nerve and brain function; red blood cell formation and DNA synthesis. Recommended daily intake is 425 mg/day for women; 550mg/day for men.
- Vitamin C. Also known as ascorbic acid, this powerful antioxidant protects cell health and promotes a strong immune system. This helps the body ward off infection. Recommended daily intake is 75mg/day for women; 90mg/day for men.
- Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a special vitamin that can be absorbed both from the foods you eat and from sunlight. It’s an essential nutrient that supports healthy bones and immune function and aids in calcium absorption. Recommended daily intake is 15mcg/day for ages 1-70; 20mcg/day ages 70 and older.
- Vitamin E. Like vitamin C, vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. This prevents free radicals from prematurely damaging or killing cells throughout the body. It’s believed to aid in prevention of serious diseases including cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Recommended daily levels are 22.4IU/day or 15mg/day for both men and women.
- Vitamin K. Without vitamin K, blood in the body wouldn’t be able to clot—even a small cut could cause uncontrollable bleeding. It also helps maintain bone strength for older adults. Recommended daily intake is 122 mcg for women; 138 mcg for men.
Attack low vitamin levels with dietary adjustments
The foods you eat do so much more than fill you up when you’re hungry. And when you’re counting macros, you’re already paying close attention to what fuels your body.
Whether you’re looking to build muscle or trim down, you should be making sure your micros are appropriate for your daily needs, too. After all, a vitamin-rich diet will boost your immune system, promote healthy muscle function and provide many other performance-related benefits.
Make the following dietary adjustments to help you get the nutrition you need:
- Vitamin A. This vitamin is found in several fruits and vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, cantaloupe and apricot.
- Vitamin B (complex). The richest sources of B vitamins are animal products like meat, poultry, fish, oysters and eggs are.
- Vitamin C. Most fruits and vegetables contain at least moderate amounts of vitamin C. Foods that are particularly rich in the nutrient are strawberries, broccoli and dark leafy greens.
- Vitamin D. Most of the body’s vitamin D is absorbed from sun exposure. However, there are several foods that are rich in the “Sunshine Vitamin”. These include milk, eggs, salmon and oysters.
- Vitamin E. The richest sources of vitamin E are foods that are high in healthy fats. These include almond oil, sunflower oil, nuts and fatty fish.
- Vitamin K. Consume more vitamin K by including kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts and broccoli in your diet.
Supplementation provides a reliable source of vitamins
For most people, consuming enough vitamins from dietary sources alone is almost impossible. It’s simply too hard to eat that much food each day! It’s often safe, convenient, and effective to supplement, but always ask your doctor to determine whether it’s right for you.
Eat a balanced diet, plan meals as needed, and supplement when recommended. By doing this, you’ll give your body the nutrients it needs to function properly. You don’t have to meticulously track vitamin intake, but understanding rough estimates can be extremely valuable. It’s yet another thing you can do to help yourself reach your fitness goals.