eight micronutrients important for efficiency and the place to get them

Micronutrients play an important role in supporting your performance. They can have a direct impact on your energy levels for performance, muscle recovery and maintenance, and potentially reduce your risk of disease or injury (1). While all nutrients are important, here are the main micro to look out for when it comes to fitness:

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Raw salmon slices are a good source of the micronutrient vitamin D.

Ocean wave

1. Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is important for all muscle function. Studies have shown that increasing vitamin D intake in athletes can help relieve joint pain, promote muscle growth, increase strength, and improve performance. (2)

Because vitamin D is absorbed by sunlight and stored in the body, meat, including seafood and eggs, is a natural source. Plants are not able to absorb and store vitamin D immediately. For vegans, direct sunlight or fortified foods like orange juice, plant-based milk, and grains are the best sources of vitamin D.

How much do you need? 600 IU / day

Get it from:

  • 3 oz. Salmon – 715 IU or 119% of your daily value
  • 1 cup of fortified orange juice – 137 IU or 23% of your daily value
  • 1 cup of fortified milk – 115 IU, or 19% of your daily value
  • 1 large egg – 41 IU, or 7% of your daily value

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Wheat germ oil is a good source of the macronutrient vitamin E.

Evan Lorne

2. Vitamin E.

Upper respiratory tract infections may be more common in athletes who do a lot of endurance or high-intensity exercise. This phenomenon could be due to what is known as the "open window" theory, which says that immune function can be suppressed for several hours after exercise, making you more susceptible to infections (4).

Some research suggests that a diet high in vitamins C and E, with heavy conditioning, can help keep you from getting sick (5). Vitamin E acts as a natural antioxidant to help calm the effects of physical stress and can also help improve aerobic fitness (6).

How much do you need? 15 mg / day

Get it from:

  • 1 tbsp wheat germ oil – 20 mg or 133% of your daily value
  • 1 ounce sunflower seeds – 7.4 mg, or 50% of your daily value
  • 1 ounce of almonds – 7 mg, or 47% of your daily value
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter – 3 mg or 20% of your daily value
  • ½ cup of cooked spinach – 2 mg, or 13% of your daily value

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Steamed mussels with the micronutrient b12

Di Gregorio Giulio

3. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is important for the production of red blood cells, which supply oxygen to your muscles, and for protein synthesis for building and repairing muscles. Poor intake can lead to anemia and a significant impact on overall energy levels and performance. While research suggests that higher demands for athletes are limited, vegan athletes and those who limit calories may be at higher risk of deficiency (7).

How much do you need? 2.4 µg / day

Get it from:

  • 3 ounces of mussels – 84 mcg, or 1,400% of your daily value
  • 3 ounces of salmon – 4.8 µg, or 200% of your daily value
  • 3 ounces of tuna – 2.5 mcg, or 104% of your daily value
  • 3 ounces of beef – 1.4 mcg, or 58% of your daily value
  • 1 cup of milk – 1.2 µg or 50% of your daily value
  • 1 large egg – 0.6 µg or 25% of your daily value
  • 1 serving of 25% fortified breakfast cereals – 0.6 µg or 25% of your daily value

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Raw oysters contain the micronutrient iron

Subbotina Anna

4. Iron

Iron transports oxygen through your body to your muscles to help keep your energy levels in check. This is extremely important during exercise and recovery. When iron is lacking in the diet, muscles can feel tired and the immune system can suffer.

Vegan athletes may need more iron in their diet than meat eaters because the type of iron from plants called non-heme iron is not as easily absorbed and used by the body as iron from meat or heme iron (8).

If you're worried about your intake, research suggests that you can combine iron foods with options high in vitamin C like fruits and vegetables to increase your absorption by 4 to 6 times (9). Avoid having coffee, tea, or dark soda with meals as the caffeine in these drinks can decrease iron absorption.

How much do you need? Men: 8 mg / day, women: 18 mg / day

Get it from:

  • 1 serving of 50% fortified breakfast cereals – 9 mg or 50% of your daily value
  • 3 ounces of oysters – 8 mg, or 44% of your daily value
  • 3 ounces of dark chocolate – 7 mg, or 39% of your daily value
  • ½ cup of lentils – 3 mg, or 17% of your daily value
  • ½ cup of tofu – 3 mg, or 17% of your daily value
  • 1/2 cup kidney beans – 2 mg, or 11% of your daily value

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Alaskan king crab legs on a wooden platter containing the micronutrient zinc

RUKSUTAKARN studio

5. zinc

Zinc plays a role in immune function, protein synthesis and wound healing. And while you only need small amounts in your diet, inadequate nutrition can lead to fatigue and impair muscle recovery in athletes (10).
The best sources of zinc are shellfish and meat. Hence, plant-based diets should include fortified sources or nuts and beans for adequate intake.

How much do you need? Men: 11 mg / day, women: 8 mg / day

Get it from:

  • 3 ounces of oysters – 74 mg, or 493% of your daily value
  • 3 ounces of king crab – 6.5 mg, or 43% of your daily value
  • 3 ounce beef patties – 5.3 mg, or 35% of your daily value
  • 1 serving of 25% fortified breakfast cereals – 3.8 mg or 25% of your daily value
  • 3 ounces of dark meat chicken – 2.4 mg, or 16% of your daily value
  • ½ cup of baked beans – 2.9 mg, or 19% of your daily value
  • 1 ounce of cashew nuts – 1.6 mg, or 11% of your daily value

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A bowl of almonds is a good source of the micronutrient magnesium

Krasula

6. Magnesium

Magnesium supports hundreds of physical activities, including normal muscle function, bone formation, and energy metabolism. And because you lose magnesium through sweat, studies suggest that athletes may need more in their diet (11).

Unlike some other nutrients, whose daily needs can be met by 2 to 3 servings of rich sources, most foods containing magnesium provide only 10 to 20% of their daily value. Hence, including a wide variety of sources in your diet is crucial.

How much do you need? Men: 420 mg / day, women: 320 mg / day

Get it from:

  • 3 ounces of almonds – 80 mg, or 20% of your daily value
  • ½ cup of cooked spinach – 78 mg, or 20% of your daily value
  • 3 ounces of cashew nuts – 74 mg, or 19% of your daily value
  • ½ cup of black beans – 60 mg, or 15% of your daily value
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter – 49 mg or 12% of your daily value
  • ½ cup of brown rice – 42 mg, or 11% of your daily value

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A bowl of dried apricots is a good source of the micronutrient potassium

SMarina

7. Potassium

Potassium is key to maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance throughout the body – which is why it's often associated with hydration, recovery, and preventing muscle spasms (12, 13).

Potassium is also lost through sweat, especially in hot environments. Fortunately, this key mineral is easy to find in many plant foods, not just bananas!

How much do you need? 4,700 mg / day

Get it from:

  • ½ cup of dried apricots – 1,101 mg, or 31% of your daily value
  • 1 cup of lentils – 731 mg, or 21% of your daily value
  • ½ cup of raisins – 618 mg, or 18% of your daily value
  • 1 medium baked potato – 610 mg, or 17% of your daily value
  • 1 cup kidney beans – 607 mg, or 17% of your daily value
  • 1 cup of orange juice – 496 mg, or 14% of your daily value
  • 1 medium banana – 422 mg, or 12% of your daily value

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Natural yogurt is a good source of the micronutrient calcium

New Africa

8. Calcium

Calcium is needed for every muscle contraction in your body, including your heartbeat. For active individuals, this mineral is important for maintaining healthy muscle function and bone health. Research also shows that diets high in calcium, especially dairy products, can even play a role in better weight control and increased fat burning. (14.15)

How much do you need? 1,000 mg / day

Get it from:

  • 1 cup of plain yogurt – 415 mg or 42% of your daily value
  • 1.5 ounces of mozzarella cheese – 333 mg, or 33% of your daily value
  • 3 ounces of canned sardines – 325 mg, or 33% of your daily value
  • 1 cup of fortified orange juice – 345 mg, or 35% of your daily value
  • 1 cup of fortified soy milk – 299 mg, or 30% of your daily value
  • 1 cup of milk – 275 mg, or 28% of your daily value
  • ½ cup of tofu – 138 mg, or 14% of your daily value
  • ½ cup of beet greens – 99 mg, or 10% of your daily value

Do you need help keeping your diet in check? Juggling your calorie, macro, and nutritional goals weekly can take some serious effort. Why not skip food prep entirely and let Trifecta do the hard things like shopping, cooking and cleaning dishes so you can spend your time where it matters most, like the gym!

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