They play an important role in our health and physical fitness but just what are micronutrients?
Simplify your nutrition with the best blenders for shakes and smoothies
While macronutrients like protein, carbohydrates, and fats often take the limelight, micronutrients play an equally important role in supporting overall health, says nutrition expert Laura Jennings…
Micronutrients are essential vitamins and minerals that the body requires in small quantities to function optimally. They’re the true powerhouses behind numerous physiological processes, including metabolism, immune function, energy production and muscle repair.
Each micronutrient serves a specific function in the body, and their collective impact is profound. From iron, which transports oxygen throughout the blood, to Vitamin C, an antioxidant that protects our cells from damage, these micronutrients work harmoniously to fuel our energy levels and pave the way for optimum health.
While there are numerous micronutrients that support overall vitality, some stand out as essential for men’s fitness. That’s due to their specific contributions to physical performance and health:
Vitamins B & D
B vitamins, including B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folate) and B12 (cobalamin), play a key role in energy metabolism, red blood cell production and nervous system function. They help convert carbohydrates, fats and proteins into useable energy, enabling efficient recovery and sustaining physical activity. To meet the body’s B vitamin needs, consider incorporating wholegrains, meat, poultry, eggs, and leafy greens into your diet.
For men seeking to improve muscle strength and recovery, vitamin D is the micronutrient of choice. This mighty vitamin plays a crucial role in calcium absorption, promoting bone health and reducing fracture risk. With adequate exposure to sunlight and consumption of Vitamin D-rich foods like fatty fish, fortified dairy products, egg yolks and cheese, you can ensure your vitamin D requirements are met.
Calcium, another micronutrient champion, goes beyond supporting strong bones; it plays a vital role in muscle contraction, nerve functioning, and blood clotting. For men engaged in resistance training or weight bearing exercises, maintaining sufficient calcium levels is crucial for supporting muscle function, preventing injuries, and combating osteoporosis. Boost your calcium intake with foods such as, cheese, yogurt, milk, sardines, salmon, and edamame beans.
No discussion of micronutrients is complete without mentioning magnesium, the muscle supporter. This micronutrient supports energy production and muscle function and promotes better sleep quality. Men who lead an active lifestyle and engage in regular workouts will benefit from optimum magnesium intake, as it helps prevent muscle cramps and helps post-exercise recovery. Low magnesium levels have been implicated in lactic acid build-up and delayed onset muscle soreness. Magnesium-rich foods include leafy greens, nuts, seeds and wholegrains.
Zinc is essential for testosterone production, making it a vital mineral for men’s hormonal health. Testosterone is responsible for new muscle development and tissue growth. This micronutrient also plays a vital role in immune functioning and DNA repair. Shellfish, wholegrains, dairy products, red meat, beans and seeds are good sources of zinc.
A balanced diet rich in nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, lean proteins and healthy fats, is the best way to ensure sufficient intake of essential micronutrients. If you suspect a deficiency or have specific health concerns, consult a healthcare professional for personalised advice before supplementing.