Nutritional values unfortunately are often overlooked during the course of a busy life.

Nutrition is most often resorted to when we are faced with challenges of obesity or a medical condition that necessitates a change of diet and/or lifestyle. Essentially, nutrition comes as an ‘aftermath to ill health’ rather than a ‘precursor to good health’. The truth is we all need to balance our nutritional intake. There is no substitute for healthy living and a healthy diet. A healthy diet that has its fair share of fruits, vegetables, clean proteins, carbohydrates and plenty of water to name a few.

But for high percentage of us around the world, our daily routines and erratic social behavior often causes disruptions in our diets. Given the fast evolving lifestyles in this age of jet-set travel, stressed work environments, increased social and professional commitments and the lure of an array of alluring cuisines; it is becoming increasing challenging to maintain a balanced and nutritional diet. But just like the advances in other fields, the field of nutrition has made some giant strides in making available dietary supplements help in achieving a nutritional balance despite the travails of modern-day life.

Be it an athlete who is a professional competitor or a casual sports enthusiast; their individual bodies do not know the differences. The human body works at a much higher level of performance during sporting activities such as running, cycling or weight training than it does during what may be considered as normal daily activities, such as working at a typical 9-5 desk job. Therefore, in order to keep athletic bodies working at optimum performance levels, the intake must be enhanced with daily supplements included in an already healthy diet and lifestyle. The combination of a healthy diet coupled with supplements is one of the best ways for athletes to ensure a daily nutritional balance and achieve peak performance.

This article focuses on the benefits of supplements and how supplements can naturally enhance an athlete’s performance through balancing ones daily nutritional intake. In order for supplements to be  effective, there must be a basic nutritional foundation for them to build upon. An minimum level of adequate diet including the basic food groups provides the foundation for the nutritional supplements to act on; especially for athletes who constantly pine for enhanced performance.

For example, focusing on a long distance runner’s nutritional balance could be very challenging. Long distance runners, be it a professional or casual require their bodies to be lean with minimal fat and yet maintain tone strong muscles to be competitive and to help stay injury-free. This highly sought after anatomically perfect body composite is often thrown out of balance due to inconsistencies in a person’s diet. Even the most diet conscious and rigid professional athletes will occasionally fall prey to bad food choices or inadequate food sources that do not contain enough vitamins and nutrients. Hence, the requirement for supplements becomes a major factor directly related to optimum performance and of course general health.

Nutrition for athletes is an evolved science; and many factors need to be given due consideration to achieve maximum results. All these considerations revolve around a) types of foods (complex carbohydrates, lean meats, fruits, vegetables etc.) and a) quantity of each of these food types that should be consumed for proper daily intake. These nutritional food groups are a good start to achieving maximum nutritional efficiency needed for high performance. However, even with accurate calculations to determine size of portion relative to body weight and activity, an athlete may still fall short of his or her peak performance potential due to the previously discussed imbalance in his or her daily nutrition.

Each individual athlete may react differently to each food group and therefore there is a genuine necessity to mix and match food types and substitute one food type for another. Likewise all food types are not created equal. Food quality and nutritional contents vary from each food type to the other and that presents another level of complexity that athletes have to contend with. All this mix and match, variances in quality and substitutions is bound to bring about  some level of inconsistency in an athlete’s diet. That’s where inadequacies creep in and are unfortunately seldom noticed until performance is jeopardized during competition.

For maximum performance and health, eating the right proportions and amounts of both essential and non-essential nutrients is important. Plus let’s not forget there are other performance factors like herbs, metabolites (creatine, inosine, L-carnitine), and photochemical that are not essential for survival, but are essential for improved performance. Nutrition, especially sports nutrition, is a quantitative science. While the non-athlete may survive day to day by following general guidelines, the athlete needs a more sophisticated and precise approach to nutrition to achieve performance excellence. This is the very reason why supplements are a must in an athlete’s diet and a key to unlocking ones full potential and optimal performance.


The following PDI (performance daily Intakes) values are intended as a guideline for physically active, healthy adults. PDIs should be obtained from a total nutrition plan, consisting of food and dietary supplements. PDI ranges for each nutrient reflect the different needs of individuals based on size and activity level. Always consult a health professional with questions on special nutrition requirements.

While following table recommended PDI’s (performance daily Intakes) and could serve as a handy guide to achieve a balanced diet,  it is always advisable to consult a health professional with specifics on nutrition requirements.




Vitamin A Vitamin A Acetate, Beta Carotene, Vitamin A Palmitate

5,000IU – 25,000IU

Beta Carotene Beta Carotene

15,000IU – 80,000IU

Vitamin D (D2) Ergocalciferol, (D3) Cholecalciferol

400IU – 1,000IU

Vitamin E Mixed Tocopherols, D-alpha Tocopheryl Succinate, DL-Tocopherols

200IU – 1,000IU

Vitamin K (K1) Phylloquinone, (K2) Menadione

80mcg -180mcg

Vitamin C Ascorbic Acid, Rose Hips

800mg – 3,000mg

Vitamin B1 Thiamine Hydrochloride (HCl)

30mg -300mg

Vitamin B2 Riboflavin

30mg – 300mg

Vitamin B3 Niacinamide, Niacin

20mg – 100mg

Vitamin B6 Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (HCl)

20mg – 100mg

Folate Folic Acid

400mcg -1,200mcg

Vitamin B12 Cyanocobalamin

12mcg – 200mcg

Biotin Biotin

125mcg – 300mcg

Pantothenic Acid d-calcium pantothenate

25mg – 200mg

Calcium Calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, calcium malate, calcium glycinate

1,200mg – 2,600mg

Phosphorus Phosphorus

800mg – 1,600mg

Magnesium Magnesium oxide, magnesium glycinate

400mg – 800mg

Iron Ferrous (iron) fumarate, Iron glycinate

25mg – 60mg

Zinc Zinc citrate, zinc arginate

15mg – 60 mg

Iodine Iodine from kelp

200 mcg – 400 mcg

Selenium Selenomethionine

100 mcg – 300 mcg

Copper Copper lysinate, copper gluconate

3mg – 6mg

Manganese Manganese arginate, manganese glycinate, manganese gluconate

15mg – 45mg

Chromium Chromium dinicotinate glycinate, chromium picolinate, chromium polynicotinate

200mcg – 600mcg

Molybdenum Molybdenum chelate

100mcg – 300mcg

Sodium Sodium chloride*

1,500mg – 4,500mg

Chloride Sodium chloride*

1,500mg – 4,500mg

Potassium Potassium chloride

2,500mg – 4,000mg

Boron Boron tri chelate, boron glycinate, boron citrate

6mg – 12mg

Choline Choline bitartrate, choline dihydrogen citrate, phosphatidyl choline

600mg – 1,200mg

Inositol Myo-inositol

800mg – 1,200mg

Bioflavonoids Citrus, rutin, hesperidin bioflavonoids

200mg – 2,000mg

IU = International Units, mg = milligrams, mcg = micrograms

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Now that we’ve examined the types of supplements and their necessity to an athlete’s diet, we must discuss their application in everyday living. For example, supplements are meant to augment good nutrition and fill in the gaps where certain nutrients are missing for a balanced performance orientated diet. Therefore using supplements on a daily basis is mandatory to achieve a higher level of performance and healthier living. Always consult a physician before taking above RDA recommended dosages. The following are some recommended supplements and their benefits:

  • Fish Oil: Daily intake promotes heart health, recovery and injury prevention. Absorbing the omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil will also help a runner ward off the damaging effects of inflammation.
  • Super B complex: Daily intake promotes energy metabolism, improves performance and endurance especially in the case where there is a nutritional deficit in an athlete’s diet.
  • L-Arginine: Daily intake supports blood flow. Nitric oxide is produced by breaking down the amino acid Arginine into L-citruline via enzymes known collectively as Nitric Oxide Synthase (NOS). Nitric oxide is actually a gas that works as a signaling molecule in the body and is an important messenger in many physiological and pathological functions, regulating the actions of the brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, stomach and other organs. It also increases blood circulation, which is important to muscular growth.
  • Vitamin E: Daily intake promotes heart and immune system health. Supplementation with 100 to 200mg of vitamin E daily can be recommended for all endurance athletes to prevent exercise-induced oxidative damage and to reap the full health benefits of exercise.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is an essential mineral that demands attention when it comes to health assessment. It is required by virtually every cell, and it’s vital in more than 300 chemical processes that sustain basic human health and function, including muscle contraction and relaxation, nerve function, cardiac activity, blood pressure regulation, hormonal interactions, immunity, bone health and synthesis of proteins, fats and nucleic acids. Magnesium is also crucial for energy metabolism by the activation of enzymes known as ATPases, which are needed to generate ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
  • D-3: Daily intake promotes bone, colon, and breast health. Of importance to athletes is the function of Vitamin D as it relates positively to overall health of the immune system, muscle wasting, and exercise-related inflammation.
  • Multi Vitamin: Daily intake ensures a minimum requirement of all essential and non essential nutrients make it into the dietary plan. If taken daily with other supplements be sure to read the label to assure the proper amounts of nutrients and vitamins are being consumed according to your body weight and athletic activity.
  • Protein Powder: Daily intake promotes healthy muscle repair and rapid recovery. Serious endurance athletes do need considerable amounts of protein, far above the normal adult RDA, because maintenance, repair, and growth of lean muscle mass all depend on it, as well as optimum immune system function.
  • Potassium: Potassium is the primary electrolyte located inside the body’s cells (intracellular) and stored in muscle fibers along with glycogen. It plays a critical role by helping transport glucose into the muscle cell. Potassium also interacts with both sodium and chloride to control fluid and electrolyte balance and assists in the conduction of nerve impulses. Replenishing lost potassium during and after exercise is important, but athletes should be aware that hyperkalemia (high serum potassium levels) can cause electrical impulse disturbance, irregular heart beat, and possibly death. Individuals should never take potassium supplements in large doses (beyond normal supplementation) without the advice of a physician.
  • Glucosamine: Cartilage, tendons, and ligaments are comprised of dense connective tissue. Evidence shows that glucosamine supplementation aids in dense connective tissue synthesis. This is important to athletes because the repair and growth of this type of connective tissue is never-ending. In addition, because athletes endure so much collagenous tissue damage, it is possible for them to develop osteoarthritis in later years. The sulfate form of glucosamine (e.g., glucosamine sulfate) may be better absorbed by your body. Also, glucosamine is often combined with chondroitin in the treatment of the symptoms of arthritis.

The key factors discussed in this article reflect the importance of supplementation as a form of ensuring an athlete’s body is getting the vitamins and nutrients needed in order to reach its maximum performance potential during training and competition. As discussed previously not even the most rigid diet will guarantee required nutrition due to inconsistencies in food quality and nutritional content. Therefore, the absolute best way for an athlete to stay on top of their game, maintain nutritional balance and hone their competitive edge is through daily supplementation. Proper daily dosage of supplements, a nutritional diet and healthy lifestyle are among the key elements to enhancing performance and unleashing the athlete within you.

Editor’s note:

Author of this article is Madhusmita Jena, a qualified, practicing nutritionist, currently working at Gold’s Gym in Egypt. To ask her questions related to this article, please use the comments box below. 

She offers paid consultation as well, for nutrition and training. To seek her consultation or advice, please write to her at

You will find more articles written by Madhusmita and other health and training related information at