Podium Gym CrossFit

You hear about protein all day, but what about the other dietary substances, particularly micronutrients? You don’t hear much about them, but they are just as important for anyone staying physically active, athlete or not. So, let’s review some essential micronutrients for optimal athletic performance. Consume them to get the most out of your time at the gym and reach your fitness goals faster!

What Are Micronutrients?

Micronutrients are dietary substances required by the body in extremely minute quantities. However, their effects on one’s health cannot be overstated. They aid in producing enzymes, hormones, and other compounds essential to healthy development and growth.

Which Micronutrients Are Most Important for Athletic Performance?

You can attribute much of your athletic success to the micronutrients in your diet. They can directly impact your stamina for work, your ability to repair and maintain muscles, and even your resistance to disease and harm.

While it’s true that you should be paying attention to all nutrients, the following micronutrients are especially crucial for physical fitness.

Vitamin B12

Muscles rely on oxygen carried by red blood cells and protein synthesis for growth and repair, both of which are aided by vitamin B12.

Your body needs 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 per day. Good sources include:

  • Clams (3 ounces (oz) contain 84 mcg, which is 1,400% of your daily value)
  • Salmon (3 oz contain 4.8 mcg, 200% DV)
  • Tuna (3 oz contain 2.5 mcg, 104% DV)
  • Beef (3 oz contain 1.4 mcg, 58% DV)
  • Milk (1 cup contains 1.2 mcg, 50% DV)
  • Egg (1 (large) contains 0.6 mcg, 25% DV)

Anemia can result from inadequate intake, which substantially impacts overall energy levels and performance. But there is insufficient evidence to support the idea that athletes have different needs than the rest of the population. Nevertheless, vegan athletes and those severely restricting their caloric intake may be particularly vulnerable to deficiencies.

Vitamin D

Increasing vitamin D consumption in athletes has been linked to reduced joint pain, increased muscle growth, greater strength, and better performance.

Your body needs 600 IUs of vitamin D per day. Good sources include:

  • Salmon (3 oz contain 715 IUs, 119% DV)
  • Fortified orange juice (1 cup contains 137 IUs, 23% DV)
  • Fortified milk (1 cup contains 115 IUs, 19% DV)
  • Egg (1 (large) contains 41 IUs, 7% DV)

The body absorbs and stores vitamin D from sunlight. In addition, meat, particularly shellfish and eggs, are a dietary source. However, plants do not have the same mechanisms for absorbing and storing vitamin D as animals. This means that vegans should get as much of this vitamin as possible from the sun or fortified foods like plant milks, orange juice, and cereals.

Vitamin E

Athletes who frequently train at high intensities may be more susceptible to upper respiratory infections. This “open window” hypothesis proposes that immune function may be inhibited for several hours after exercise, making the athlete more vulnerable to infection. Thus, a diet rich in vitamins C and E may help you avoid illness if you’re doing intensive conditioning.

Your body needs 15 mg of vitamin E per day. Good sources include:

  • Wheat germ oil (1 Tbsp contains 20 mg, 133% DV)
  • Sunflower seeds (1 oz contain 7.4 mg, 50% DV)
  • Almonds (1 oz contain 7 mg, 47% DV)
  • Peanut butter (2 tbsp contains 3 mg, 20% DV)
  • Cooked spinach (½ cup contains 2 mg, 13% DV)

Furthermore, vitamin E can reduce the adverse effects of physical stress and even boost your aerobic capacity thanks to its antioxidant properties.

Essential Micronutrients for Improved Athletic Performance


All of your heart’s muscular contractions, and every other muscle contraction in your body, depend on calcium. This mineral is crucial to muscles’ proper functioning and bones’ integrity, both of which are vital for active people.

Your body needs 1,000 mg of calcium per day. Good sources include:

  • Plain yogurt (1 cup contains 415 mg, 42% DV)
  • Mozzarella cheese (1.5 oz contain 333 mg, 33% DV)
  • Canned sardines (3 oz contain 325 mg, 33% DV)
  • Fortified orange juice (1 cup contains 345 mg, 35% DV)
  • Fortified soy milk (1 cup contains 299 mg, 30% DV)
  • Milk (1 cup contains 275 mg, 28% DV)
  • Tofu (½ cup contains 138 mg, 14% DV)
  • Turnip greens (½ cup contains 99 mg, 10% DV)

High-calcium diets, particularly those rich in dairy products, may also aid in fat-burning and weight control.


The iron in your body transports the oxygen your muscles need to keep going. During training and rest, this is crucial. Inadequate iron intake can lead to sluggishness and a compromised immune system.

Your body needs 8 mg of iron daily (men) and 18 mg/day (women). Good sources include:

  • 50% fortified breakfast cereals (1 serving contains 9 mg, 50% DV)
  • Oysters (3 oz contain 8 mg, 44% DV)
  • Dark chocolate (3 oz contain 7 mg, 39% DV)
  • Lentils (½ cup contains 3 mg, 17% DV)
  • Tofu (½ cup contains 3 mg, 17% DV)
  • Kidney beans (½ cup contains 2 mg, 11% DV)

Non-heme iron, which comes from plants, is not as easily absorbed and utilized by the body as heme-iron, which comes from meat. This means that vegan athletes may require more iron than meat eaters (supplements can help).

If you’re concerned about your iron consumption, studies show that eating it alongside vitamin C-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, can enhance your absorption by as much as four to six times. Also, caffeine-containing beverages, such as coffee, tea, and dark sodas, should be avoided during meals to maximize iron absorption.

Essential Micronutrients for Improved Athletic Performance


Magnesium is essential for various biological processes, from building strong bones and teeth to keeping our muscles working correctly. Studies show that athletes may need more magnesium in their diets than the average person since the mineral is lost in sweat.

Your body needs 420 mg of magnesium daily (men) and 320 mg/day (women). Good sources include:

  • Almonds (3 oz contain 80 mg, 20% DV)
  • Cooked spinach (½ cup contains 78 mg, 20% DV)
  • Cashews (3 oz contain 74 mg, 19% DV)
  • Black beans (½ cup contains 60 mg, 15% DV)
  • Peanut butter (2 tbsp contain 49 mg, 12% DV)
  • Brown rice (½ cup contains 42 mg, 11% DV)

Most foods containing the mineral only give 10-20% of your daily requirement; therefore, including a range of sources is crucial.


Potassium is commonly linked to hydration, recovery, and cramp prevention because of its central role in regulating electrolyte and fluid balance throughout the body.

Your body needs 4,700mg of potassium per day. Good sources include:

  • Dried apricots (½ cup contains 1,101 mg, 31% DV)
  • Lentils (1 cup contains 731 mg, 21% DV)
  • Raisins (½ cup contains 618 mg, 18% DV)
  • Baked potato (1 (medium) contains 610 mg, 17% DV)
  • Kidney beans (1 cup contains 607 mg, 17% DV)
  • Orange juice (1 cup contains 496 mg, 14% DV)
  • Banana (1 (medium) contains 422 mg, 12% DV)

Sweating causes a loss of potassium, which is exacerbated in warm climates. Fortunately, many plant-based foods (not only bananas) are rich in this essential mineral.


Zinc aids in immune system health, protein production, and wound recovery. And while you may only need a trace amount, not obtaining enough can decrease energy levels and slow muscle recovery for athletes.

Your body needs 11 mg of zinc daily (men) and 8 mg/day (women). Good sources include:

  • Oysters (3 oz contain 74 mg, 493% DV)
  • King crab (3 oz contain 6.5 mg, 43% DV)
  • Beef patty (3 oz contain 5.3 mg, 35% DV)
  • 25% fortified breakfast cereals (1 serving contains 3.8 mg, 25% DV)
  • Dark meat chicken (3 oz contain 2.4 mg, 16% DV)
  • Baked beans (½ cup contains 2.9 mg, 19% DV)
  • Cashews (1 oz contains 1.6 mg, 11% DV)

While seafood and meat are the finest natural sources of zinc, vegetarians and vegans can get plenty of the mineral from fortified cereals, nuts, and beans.

Don’t Be Shy to Ask for Coaching!

Not sure how to maintain a healthy diet on your own? Managing your weekly calorie, macro, and nutrition targets requires commitment. If you need assistance, why not consult with a coach at Podium Gym CrossFit?

The next time you visit the gym, be sure to ask for advice on how to improve your diet. Each of us here wants nothing more than to see our current and prospective members succeed in their fitness endeavors, and a crucial part of that success is making healthy food choices.