Women's Health

7 Important Micronutrients for Ladies

You can’t go wrong by taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement every day. However, if you’re active and athletic, that might not be enough — especially if you’re training at a high intensity. Active women tend to need higher dosages of certain vitamins and minerals than a standard multi provides, and coming up short on these needed elements could mean diminished results in strength, recovery and fat loss.

These seven micro-nutrients are crucial for women looking to maximize their health, physique goals and athletic achievements. Add good whole-food sources to your regular diet of clean eating, and consider supplementing with these stand-alone vitamins and minerals where you might be diet deficient.

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Consider supplementing these vitamins and minerals where you might be diet deficient.

Vitamin C

Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a powerful water-soluble antioxidant that works to rid the body of harmful free radicals, thereby supporting faster recovery from exercise. It also bolsters your immune system to stave off short- and long-term adverse events such as colds, infections and even some forms of cancer. It helps support connective tissue, keeps capillaries healthy and aids the absorption of iron, which as you know is particularly important for women, especially around that time of the month. And since iron is also a component of hemoglobin, vitamin C becomes vital for those who work out intensely to efficiently deliver oxygen to working cells.

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Timing and Dosage

Because your body cannot synthesize or store vitamin C, it must be a part of your regular dietary intake, so aim for at least 500 milligrams per day from both food and supplementary sources. You can take up to 2,000 milligrams a day for additional recovery and immunity support, but build up slowly because large doses often cause diarrhea.

Good whole-food sources: Strawberries, pineapple, kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts.

Salmon

Salmon — along with herring, sardines, egg yolks and mushrooms — is a good source of vitamin D.

Vitamin D

This fat-soluble antioxidant is one that your body can synthesize in the presence of sunlight, and along with calcium, it is critical for bone health. According to research, vitamin D helps regulate insulin levels, leading to improved fat loss and muscle building for active women. Those seeking to support increases in lean muscle tissue should emphasize vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) because this form encourages the production of the hormones that support this goal.

Timing and Dosage

Take 400 to 1,000 IU twice daily with whole-food meals.

Good whole-food sources: Salmon, herring, sardines, egg yolks and mushrooms.

Folate

Folate (B9) is a crucial water-soluble vitamin, and in its synthetic form, it is known as folic acid. When ingested, it converts to L-methylfolate, a compound that encourages the production of new cells by helping your body replicate DNA and RNA. It also helps replace damaged cells with new, healthy ones, making it beneficial for women who are pregnant or those seeking to recover or grow from intense workouts. Consider taking folate or folic acid with arginine, an amino acid that encourages production of nitric oxide, to increase the flow of blood and nutrients to the muscles you’re training.

Timing and Dosage

For best results, take 400 to 800 micrograms of folate or folic acid one to two times a day.

Good whole-food sources: Garbanzo beans, liver, lentils and avocado.

Calcium supports bone health.

Calcium supports bone health.

Calcium

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body, and it is crucial for many physiological processes. One of the most important roles calcium plays for women is supporting bone health. When you are deficient, your body removes calcium from bones to support intense workouts, putting you at greater risk for fractures and other bone-related injuries — even osteoporosis down the line. Calcium is also an electrolyte, helping regulate heart rate and blood pressure and improving the speed and intensity of muscle contractions, which makes for better workouts.

Timing and Dosage

Take 500 to 600 milligrams two to four times a day with food or between meals. Avoid taking stand-alone calcium with other minerals such as magnesium and zinc because these minerals compete for absorption.

Good whole-food sources: Dairy, chia and sesame seeds, sardines, beans and lentils.

Iron

Iron is a mineral primarily associated with healthy red blood cell production and the delivery of oxygen to working cells. Iron also helps generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in muscle cells, which is crucial for driving muscle contractions: The harder you train, the more ATP must be replaced in order to continue at intensity. Women have a greater need than men for iron, particularly because of blood loss during that time of the month, and one of the first indications of iron deficiency is a decrease in brain function: You may feel sluggish or depressed and may have trouble with cognitive processing. If these symptoms occur, then bump up your iron intake and talk to your doctor.

Timing and Dosage

Get in at least 18 milligrams of iron each day through diet, a multivitamin or a stand-alone supplement.

Good whole-food sources: Turkey, chicken, soybeans, spinach and beef.

Magnesium

Despite the fact that we have a large need for magnesium, this mineral is not rich in our diets because not a lot of food sources contain it in abundance. This mineral is also readily lost through sweat, and very active women might be deficient, leading to muscular weakness, fatigue and even insulin resistance. As with calcium, magnesium plays a key role in maintaining bone and heart health, and of particular interest to athletic women, studies show that magnesium may help reduce cortisol, the stress hormone that delays recovery. Taking magnesium before bed may promote deeper sleep, according to research: It helps regulate neurotransmitters and the production of melatonin, the primary hormone that helps you sleep.

Timing and Dosage

Take in 300 milligrams of magnesium per day — including one dose right before bedtime — in the absence of calcium, which could impede absorption. 

Good whole-food sources: Buckwheat flour, trail mix, oat bran and halibut.

Oysters

Oysters are a great source of zinc.

Zinc

Like iron and vitamin C, zinc supports your body’s ability to make hemoglobin, facilitates cell growth and replicates genes. It has been shown in clinical trials to raise the levels of the hormones that promote lean muscle gains and increase metabolism while also helping destroy free radicals, supporting faster recovery from intense exercise. As an antioxidant, zinc supports immune function and the healing of wounds, and it works as a powerful anti-inflammatory and recovery aid. Active women should consider taking zinc as a stand-alone or in a ZMA supplement — a combination of zinc and magnesium that is best taken on an empty stomach before bedtime.

Timing and Dosage

Women should get in at least 8 milligrams of zinc per day through food and supplementation but can take up to 20 milligrams. As with magnesium, zinc is best supplemented in the absence of calcium.

Good whole-food sources: Oysters, beef, crab, lamb, baked beans and dark chocolate.

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