Boost your Bs!

Power up with these energy-enhancing micronutrients, says nutritionist Louise Pyne.

There’s a secret group of nutrients that help keep energy levels high for your runs: B vitamins. There are eight types of B vitamins, and the more active you are, the more your body needs, as exercise uses up your supply. A study by Oregon State University found that athletes require higher levels of B vitamins to maintain lean tissue mass and, when levels are low, performance and the ability to repair and build muscle post-exercise are both hindered.

Each of these eight micronutrients plays a specific role in the body. Sticking to a varied and healthy diet will ensure you receive adequate levels.

B1 (thiamine)

Thiamine converts carbohydrates, protein and fat into energy. It also maintains the functioning of the nervous system and gastrointestinal tract. Thiamine is found in eggs, so poach a couple and eat them with a slice of wholemeal toast.

B2 (riboflavin)

This macronutrient metabolises fat, carbohydrates and protein and helps maintain cellular processes. You can easily get your riboflavin fix by nibbling on a handful of almonds.

B3 (niacin)

Niacin is crucial for energy metabolism within cells, plus it helps to produce stress and sex hormones and removes toxins. Products made with wheat flour such as wholemeal bread are rich in niacin: mash a banana on wholemeal toast for an energy-revving snack.

B5 (pantothenic acid)

Vitamin B5 helps to metabolise carbohydrates and proteins. Tomatoes are rich in vitamin B5 and, when cooked, they’re even more nutrient-rich. So grill some cherry tomatoes and add them to a salad.

B6 (pyridoxine)

Vitamin B6 enables the body to use and store energy from protein and carbohydrate and also helps to make haemoglobin, which transports oxygen around the body. Poultry, such as chicken, are high in pyridoxine, so grill one breast fillet and serve with dark green leafy vegetables.

B7 (biotin)

Biotin helps keep cells healthy, contributing to strong nails and hair. It also regulates blood sugar levels and metabolises fats. Biotin can be found in broccoli. Steam some florets and throw them into salads.

B9 (folic acid)

Folic acid helps the body synthesise new cells and can help prevent birth defects of the foetal brain and spine. Eat dark green leafy veg such as kale and spinach; add a portion as a side accompaniment to meals.

B12 (cobalamin)

Vitamin B12 produces red blood cells and helps maintain the nervous system. It’s found in dairy and red meat, as well as in fortified foods such as plant milks and cereals. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include pins and needles and a burning sensation in the feet.


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