Vitamin B12 injections have been the subject of debate for years, often being marketed as a miracle cure for everything from weight loss to fatigue to depression, while others claim it’s a case of modern-day snake oil.
Serious sports competitors are rumoured to take these injections to help boost energy and performance. So, should you be getting a B12 injection to help your athletic performance? We dig deeper to find out what the research has to say.
Why your body needs B-vitamins
B-vitamins are vital for the cellular metabolic process, and without an adequate supply of B12, your body’s cells will struggle to take in an appropriate amount of oxygen. Not having enough oxygen will affect your concentration, your mood, and your energy levels. According to the National Institutes of Health, symptoms of B12 deficiency can include pale skin, constipation or diarrhea, and shortness of breath.
How much B12 does your body need?
Adults require 2.4 micrograms of B12 a day, and most people receive that dose through animal protein, such as beef, fish, eggs, and milk. Therefore, strict vegans or vegetarians are most at risk of being B12 deficient. In these cases, supplementing B12 through an injection or a pill may help improve symptoms such as memory loss, mood changes, weakness, and fatigue.
There’s not much of a role for a B12 injection unless you are deficient, however, research has linked B12 injections with the treatment of myalgic encephalomyelitis and fibromyalgia.
Should I be taking it?
You can find B12 injections in wellness centers and spas, but we recommend talking to your doctor before spending money on a shot. A medical test will be able to prove if you really are B12 deficient, and your physician can help you find the underlying cause.
Bottom line is that if you’re often foggy brained or feeling depleted even after sleeping for the recommended number of hours, take a B12 supplement for a couple of weeks, or get a B12 injection and see how your body reacts.
The good thing about the B12 vitamin is that its water soluble, so your body takes the amount it needs and discards the rest through urine. Therefore, an injection or supplement won’t harm you. However, if you are still fatigued or showing other symptoms, go to your doctor and get a blood test for any nutritional deficiencies. And perhaps a B12 injection is just what the doctor ordered.
Impact on physical performance
With so many athletes injecting large amounts of vitamin B12 before a big competition with the aim of boosting performance and improving endurance, surely there must be something to it? Well, according to research published in The British Journal of Nutrition and Calcified Tissue International, not really.
Essentially, in the absence of nutritional deficit, B12 injections were not found to positively impact physical performance. If you want to improve your performance, then you’re better off focusing on other techniques.
So, while B-vitamins are an important factor in athletic performance, you should only be worried about taking supplements if you are found to be lacking in these vitamins. For most, the best way to ensure you are getting everything you need, is to enjoy a nutrient-rich diet.