The reason that a trace mineral is required in extremely small amounts is that it serves as a coenzyme, permitting the active enzyme to work over and over again in catalyzing a chemical reaction. In the same way only a small daily intake of a vitamin may be required, but through its catalytic activity it produces a far larger amount of some vital substances.
Nobel prize–winning chemist Linus Pauling suggests that powerful small substances in the background are actually responsible for enhancing and/or jump-starting the activity of many, perhaps all, of the heavy hitters that are part of your bodybuilding supplement routine. So vital are vitamins and minerals to the body’s proper metabolic and anabolic functions that without them you would be unable to convert your food into hormones, tissue and energy.
A One-Minute Primer
Vitamins are essential nutrients required for normal chemical processes to occur in the body. They are components in enzymes and coenzymes. Enzymes are molecules involved in speeding up chemical reactions necessary for human physiological functions to occur, such as energy production or the assembling of tissue components. Coenzymes are partners that help the enzymes conduct chemical reactions. Vitamins and minerals are essential components in many metabolic processes, as well as building and sustaining the structure and integrity of the body.
The Mineral Connection
The human body uses minerals for the proper composition of bone and blood and normal cell function. As discussed above, they are, along with vitamins, essential components of enzymes and coenzymes. If an enzyme is lacking the necessary mineral, it can’t function properly, no matter how much of the vitamin is available. In other words, vitamins are useless without their mineral partners. Paradoxically, while carbohydrates, proteins, fats and vitamins are all organic substances, the nonorganic minerals are responsible for starting and sustaining the metabolic actions of organic nutrients.
Like most supplements, vitamins and minerals are classified as either water- or fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins aren’t stored in the body and must be readily replenished. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored to some degree, usually in the liver, and require some fat for assimilation when taken. So taking your supplements with a full meal is advised to ensure proper breakdown and assimilation.
The water-soluble vitamins are vitamin C and all the B vitamins—B1 and B2, niacin, B6, folic acid, biotin and pantothenic acid. The fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E and K. Minerals are classified as either major or minor. Major minerals are needed in the body in dosages of 100 milligrams or above. Minor, or trace, minerals are needed in quantities of less than 100 milligrams. The essential major minerals are calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and sulfur. The minor minerals are chromium, cobalt, copper, fluorine, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and zinc.
Anabolic Spark Plugs
While no brief account can cover all of the anabolic capabilities of these dynamic firestarters, here’s an overview of some widely used vitamin and mineral supplements, sometimes referred to as anabolic spark plugs.