By Rhiannon Harris
Vitamins play into chemical reactions inside your cells, contributing to everything from the release of energy, to the production of enzymes. Don’t have enough? Well, you’re in for a low-energy ride to Mediocreville. You can view them as the invisible workers that slave to defend your body from diseases (the bad guys) and keep you happy and healthy.
Vitamins play a crucial role in the metabolic process (making everything run smoothly) - activating body functions with the help of various enzymes produced by your body.
To be honest, there are a ton of different vitamins and each of them performs a specific function. Now, aside from vitamin D, our body cannot make vitamins. This is the reason we need to get them from good food sources and from supplements.
When you don't get enough vitamins, you expose yourself to a world of health problems. So, obviously, all of you ladies should ensure that you’re taking in enough vitamins, and in the right ratios.
The truth is that most women (especially when dieting) don’t take in enough fruits and vegetables, which are our primary sources of vitamins. As a result, they are at a high risk of suffering from diseases and conditions resulting from vitamin deficiencies. On the other side of the coin, women who don’t get enough animal protein will be equally at risk.
“Diseases and conditions” is all well and good, but what does that actually mean for your everyday life? Well, being deficient in a few essential nutrients can mean the difference between jumping out of bed and smashing your workouts with energy, or lazily flopping out of bed, feeling like skipping your session entirely. Not so much fun, hey?
Mood swings. Harsh cravings. Fatigue. Unhealthy and blotchy skin. No thanks…
So, what to do?
If you are like the majority of women who don’t eat enough vegetables and fruits (I’m guilty!), you may need to take vitamins in the form of supplements. It’s convenient, healthy, and most even taste okay! On top of this, the food quality today is getting worse, just because of the poor quality soil we have. So, even if you’re getting your greens in, chances are high that you’ll still be at a loss.
Now, vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, stored in tissues, and can become toxic if you take in a massive amount. So, keeping an eye on the amount of these vitamins that you’re taking is a good idea. Vitamin D levels are something that I recommend checking quite often, because even if you’re a sun bunny like me, it’s fairly easy to have low levels!
Some bad news: The need for supplements increases when we age. As you become older, your body may lose the ability to absorb some vitamins naturally, resulting in vitamin deficiencies.
Again, we don’t want that, because your performance in the gym, the bedroom (yup), and life will go down the drain. Not to mention the cravings! Oh, and did I leave out the part where you actually make yourself age faster if you let some vitamin levels slide? I don’t know about you, but I want to keep my skin young and glowing for as long as possible.
Some good news: You don’t have to live with all of that. There are dozens of different types of vitamins, and no single food contains all of them. Simply taking in a high quality greens powder and multivitamin, while doing your best to vary your diet, is often all that’s needed to bring you up to snuff.
There are dozens of these vitamins out there, but here are some that are essential for women, and how they can help you live a happier, healthier, more energetic life.
Vitamin A contains retinol, retinoid acid and provitamin. We ladies like this one. It plays a big role in the building and strengthening of bones, soft tissues, skin and cell membranes. It is needed by the retina of the eye for normal vision. So, for nice smooth skin, a strong immune system, and clear vision, Vitamin A is our friend.
Where to find it: fruits and vegetables like apricots, guava, papaya, watermelon, carrot, broccoli, pumpkin, red pepper, tomatoes and spinach.
Why you need it: strong bones, young and healthy skin, boosted immunity, and eyesight.
Vitamin B6 plays an important role in metabolism (yay!) and brain function. It is involved in the production of serotonin and norepinephrine, chemicals that send signals to the brain to make you feel freaking awesome. Not getting enough vitamin B6 can result in anemia and breakouts on your skin, especially a week before your period hits. Your immune system will also slow down which makes it much easier to get sick.
Where to find it: banana, avocado, beans, seeds, cereals, oatmeal, poultry and meats.
Why you need it: clear skin, healthy metabolism, and keeping your mood high when times are tough, and helping with period symptoms.
Vitamin B9 is used for the development of the central nervous system. It helps in the formation of DNA and RNA, the building blocks of life. LIFE is kind of a big deal. It also prevents alterations in the DNA than can cause cancer. Folate is required by our body to build normal red blood cells, and develop healthy babies. Folate deficiency can be very serious when it comes to causing brain development disorders in fetuses.
Where to find it: leafy green vegetables, asparagus, beans, legumes, citrus fruits, strawberries, melons, eggs, liver and organ meats.
Why you need it: an antidepressant, ensures healthy baby development, combats heart disease and can prevent cervical cancer.
Absolutely in love with B12. This plays an important role in metabolism, cell division and protein synthesis. So, it contributes to the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system and also in the formation of blood. Without it, your energy is going to be tanked, your ability to recover from training is reduced, and will feel like junk all around. As you age, your may have difficulty in absorbing it in its natural form, and you may need two or three monthly injections. No worries, though. That’s just the best way to absorb it!
Vegans and vegetarians watch out! You’re probably low in this one.
Where to find it: eggs, fish, meat, cheese, milk and yoghurt.
Why you need it: energy, recovery, muscle building, and generally feeling good (noticing a trend yet?).
Vitamin C plays an important role in the formation of collagen (healthy skin again), carnitine, amino acids and various hormones. It also aids in the healing of wounds and helps absorb iron. If you’re lacking it can cause fatigue, depression and connective tissue defects.
Vitamin C is also really important in a lot of liver detox pathways. Want lean legs, ladies? This one’s important.
Where to find it: oranges, strawberries, grapefruit, kiwi, broccoli, tomatoes and potatoes.
Why you need it: detoxification, healthy skin, immunity, hormone production, and energy levels.
Unlike other vitamins, Vitamin D functions as a hormone in our body. Cool, I know. Get leaner? Have more energy? Handle more carbs while staying lean? Brain health? Immune function? Strength and muscle growth? Yeah…Vitamin D packs all of those punches and many, many more. Lack of vitamin D can result in calcium and phosphorus deficiency, leading to osteoporosis, a condition in which your bones become thin and brittle. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though. New research is coming out all the time that tells us just how essential this baby is.
Where to find it: fish, and getting some sun! Your body can produce vitamin D from the sun, but over 70% of your skin needs to be exposed for at least 20 minutes. How many of us actually make this happen? Sunglasses, hats, and other clothes all prevent us from producing enough. So, like I said before, go get yourself checked.
Why you need it: Why DON’T you need it?
Vitamin E, helps with healthy skin, eyes, and strong immunity. This is another reason for you girls to get enough healthy fats in your diet. Vitamin E deficiency can lead to skin aging more quickly(!), and becoming sick quite often.
Where to find it: eggs, cod-liver oil, sesame seeds, peanut butter, hazelnuts, there nuts and wheat germ.
Why you need it: keeps your immune system running smoothly, especially as you age, and works to keep skin looking and feeling young.
Vitamin K is essential, and it plays an important role in promoting bone strength and maintaining normal blood clotting. It may also help with insulin sensitivity, cancer therapy, and anti-aging! Vitamin K deficiency can result in uncontrolled bleeding, which can be fatal during childbirth, as well as brittle bones. Oh! And it’s a great idea to take this along side your vitamin D. It’s hard to get enough of this from food alone.
Where to find it: leafy green vegetables, broccoli, natto, fish oil and cooked spinach.
Why you need it: bone health, blood clot prevention, and cardiovascular health
So What Does All Of This Mean For You?
Well, as you can see, there is a ton of information on all of these different vitamins. That’s just a snap shot. But do you see the kind of varied diet we need to have in place to make sure we’re getting enough and all the vitamins we need?
It can be really tough. I know some of you (myself often included) struggle with low morning energy, mood swings, skin breakouts, bad cravings, and less drive to train hard. Vitamin deficiencies can be the cause of all of this. On top of that, stubborn fat areas can just stay stubborn if you’re lacking in certain vitamins.
Your performance in the gym will drop. Your health in almost every area will start to fade. And if you’re trying to have kids, well, there’s just too much that can go wrong.
What you want and need, is to feel energetic, lean, healthy, and look younger than your actual age. You can do this with just a couple of simple steps.
So, I want you to do two things for me when you’re done reading this article:
- Take a look at your current diet, and really ask yourself if you’re getting a wide variety of foods. Changes are, you’re eating the same 10 foods every single day, week and month!
- Invest in a high quality multivitamin or greens powder. Trust me, this covers all of your bases, even when your diet isn’t 100% perfect.