Most amateur tennis players don’t go to the extremes of performance enhancing drugs, but many do seek to maximize performance through diet and dietary supplements. Vitamins are one such form of supplementation, but effective use is not as simple as it may seem.
In the May 10, 2004 issue of the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (JISSN), a group of researchers condensed their findings and recommendations, as well as those of others, into a report containing a summary of vitamins and appropriate supplementation. The results should lead to a better understanding of vitamins and their effective usage.
Research has long demonstrated that specific vitamins (such as vitamin E, niacin, folic acid, vitamin C, etc.) are beneficial to general health. To the contrary, according to the JISSN report, few vitamins have been found to provide direct ergogenic (increased performance) value for tennis players, despite what may be commonly believed.
The news isn’t all bad, though. According to the report, some vitamins, such as vitamin E and vitamin C, may help athletes better tolerate training by reducing oxidative damage (vitamin E) and maintain a healthy immune system (vitamin C). Though not a direct performance enhancement, since specific vitamins lead to better toleration of training, it is at least possible they could also lead to increased performance in that manner.
Aside from vitamin E and C, most other vitamins provide little ergogenic value to athletes partaking of a healthy diet. Whether due to the amount of calories they burn or for some other reason, the diet of athletes is generally deficient. As a result, many nutritionists recommend that all athletes, including tennis players, consume a low-dose daily multi-vitamin, or a post-workout carbohydrate/protein supplement during heavy training.
Vitamin E and vitamin C are both water soluble, meaning excess levels are eliminated through urine. Excess levels of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) are not as easily disposed. Over-ingestion of fat solubles is dangerous and can lead to toxicity.
Overall, that seems to be good news. Dietary vitamin supplementation doesn’t directly correlate to increased performance, but that one-a-day is all that is needed to better tolerate training, the same training leading toward the tennis player’s particular goal. For everyone, vitamin supplementation can likely lower cholesterol levels (niacin), act as antioxidants (vitamin E), and decrease the risk of heart disease (niacin and vitamin E), all of which are of greater value than mere athletic training.
More information on sports nutrition can be found in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. This article is located in the May 10, 2004 edition of the JISSN (1: pp. 1-44).