To 'B' or not to 'B' . . . Vitamin B is the Question!
Chett Binning is both a Nutrition and Health Coach and former competitive athlete. He finished his hockey career with Carleton University, where he also completed an Honours BA in Psychology. After this, he completed a Masters in Neuroscience (MSc) from Western University, and started his own company known as Brain Ignition. Chett offers health and nutrition consulting services to athletes and everyday people and is also the Scientific Specialist and Educator with ATP Labs, helping educate about ATPs unique formulations. You can find him online at www.brainignition.ca or on Instagram @brainignition
Many of you taking the time to read this choose to make health and fitness a main priority in your life. This often involves spending significant time and research on what you fuel your body with both in food choice and supplement selection. This can be made difficult when you are trying to determine what is best for you in the oft-used Instagram and TikTok communities. Picking out supplements becomes even more of a headache when taking into consideration that supplements are not a one-size-fits-all approach. Depending on your goals, lifestyle, and a myriad of other factors, you may need an entirely different set of supplements than someone else!
For these reasons, this article is all about helping you make an informed choice by examining B-Vitamins: what they do, who will get the most out of them and most critically, what separates a high-quality B-Vitamin complex from a low-quality one.
B-Vitamins are a set of 8 unique, water-soluble vitamin forms that are essential to our body at a cellular level. Like EFAs and EAAs, we must obtain sufficient amounts from our diet. B-Vitamins help us with many key aspects of day-to-day life such as energy, mood regulation, and much more!
B-Vitamins: Basics & Beyond
One of the most important aspects of B-Vitamins is their involvement in different pathways that affect our mood and our response to stress. This is of particular concern, given the well-known negative effects of chronic stress.
A full range of B-Vitamins are involved in the clearance of homocysteine - an amino acid associated with dementia as well as cardiovascular disease when left unmanaged. In fact, high homocysteine has been found to increase the risk of depression by two-fold or more.(1)
Additionally, vitamins B6, B12, and B9 are cofactors in the methionine and folate cycles. These cycles are important to the production of neuromodulators such as dopamine and serotonin, among others, whose importance cannot be overstated. These chemicals have a huge influence on daily mood, and affect other areas of health such as:
- Rest & Recover: Ensuring you receive a good sleep since serotonin is the precursor for melatonin
- Kick us in the Butt: Having sufficient dopamine release in response to acute stressors. This is the brain’s evolutionary way to “motivate” our response and overcome stress (which in 2022 comes from work or school or other). Are you lacking focus, motivation, and often experiencing low mood? This is ultimately a good indicator of low dopamine, and in some instances B vitamins can help with this. (2)
Who Benefits From B-Vitamins?
Individuals who train intensely and/or are starting a new training program have higher B vitamin requirements. (3) There are several reasons for this including:
- Athletes have energy producing metabolic pathways that are being pushed to the limits, and B-Vitamins are a requirement for these metabolic pathways
- As your metabolism adapts to a new training program your micronutrient requirements tend to increase
- Exercise leads to a loss of micronutrients in sweat, urine, and feces
- Vitamin requirements increase with greater muscle mass
Many restrictive diets require an uptake in vitamins and micronutrients acquired through supplementation. Eating a less diverse range of food reduces the number of vitamins and micronutrients being taken in.
For example, people who follow a plant-based diet and consume either none or a limited amount of animal products but not meat, have a higher risk of developing B12 deficiency because natural food sources of B12 are limited to animal foods.
Studies assessing vegan populations consistently find that 50-70% of vegans consume suboptimal amounts of B-vitamins - especially B12 - (4) making B-Vitamins a must have for anyone following a plant-based diet.
Anemic populations often suffer from B-Vitamin deficiencies. Vitamins B9 and B12 are required to make red blood cells and thus presence of anemia can be an indicator of insufficient B-Vitamins. This is why a good B-Vitamin complex can greatly assist in alleviating the symptoms of anemia.
Those Suffering from Stress, Low Energy, and Low Mood
As mentioned earlier, B-Vitamins are involved in several different pathways that affect our mood and our response to stress. To recap, this is due to roles that B-vitamins play in sleep quality, production of neuromodulators, and folate cycle.
Thus, people who work high-stress jobs, suffer from symptoms of depression or anxiety, or have consistently low energy may find relief from a good B-vitamin supplement.
How to Identify a High-Quality B-Complex
In comparison to other supplements, remembering the differences between the different B-Vitamins can be a lot harder due to the variety of benefits. So, let’s use just one form of B-Vitamin as an example and you’ll see how you can use this as a kind of blueprint to find one that’s best for you.
As you can see, folic acid is not an immediately usable form of folate and must be converted several times before it can be used. Furthermore, several factors impair these conversion steps including (5-7):
- Some pharmaceuticals including aminopterin or methotrexate that inhibit the DHFR enzyme.
- Excessive intake of folic acid fortified food may ‘overrun’ our capacity to convert folic acid into folate.
- Approximately 12% of the population carries an MTHFR mutation which dramatically impairs their ability to convert the intermediate 5, 10- Methylene THF into the active form 5-methyl THF (75% reduction).
This makes 5-MTHF, the active form and form which represents 90% of folate found in foods, the ideal supplemental source of folate.
Other example active form B-Vitamins to look for in your B complex include:
Benfotiamine (Vitamin B1)
- 6x higher bioavailability vs other forms like thiamine hydrochloride (8)
- Riboflavin 5-Phosphate Sodium (Vitamin B2)
- Pantethine (Vitamin B5)
- Pyridoxal 5-Phosphate (P5P) (Vitamin B6)
- Methylcobalamin (Vitamin B12)
ATP Labs Methyl Syner-B is formulated with active form B-Vitamins. Non-active form B-Vitamins require enzymatic conversion before they can be used, which can be a problem for many due to environmental toxins, chronic illness, poor diets, or various genetic mutations (like the MTHFR example shown above) which impair conversion.
ATP has also added 250mg of the methyl donor Trimethylglycine to the formula. By donating methyl groups, TMG supports all of the B vitamin dependent pathways that support cardiovascular health, energy levels, and keeps inflammation down.
If you are following a plant-based diet, are an athlete in any capacity, or feel overly stressed and/or sluggish consider picking up a B-Vitamin complex! Feel free to visit our vitamins and wellness section as well to find other products to support your healthy lifestyle.
1 - Tolmunen T, Hintikka J, Voutilainen S, et al. Association between depressive symptoms and serum concentrations of homocysteine in men: a population study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;80(6):1574-1578. doi:10.1093/ajcn/80.6.1574
2 - Kennedy DO. B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy--A Review. Nutrients. 2016;8(2):68. Published 2016 Jan 27. doi:10.3390/nu8020068
3 - Kim YN, Choi JY, Cho YO. Regular moderate exercise training can alter the urinary excretion of thiamin and riboflavin. Nutr Res Pract. 2015;9(1):43-48. doi:10.4162/nrp.2015.9.1.43
4 - Woo KS, Kwok TC, Celermajer DS. Vegan diet, subnormal vitamin B-12 status and cardiovascular health. Nutrients. 2014;6(8):3259-3273. Published 2014 Aug 19. doi:10.3390/nu6083259
5 - Scaglione F, Panzavolta G. Folate, folic acid and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate are not the same thing. Xenobiotica. 2014;44(5):480-488. doi:10.3109/00498254.2013.845705
6 - Houghton LA, Sherwood KL, Pawlosky R, Ito S, O'Connor DL. [6S]-5-Methyltetrahydrofolate is at least as effective as folic acid in preventing a decline in blood folate concentrations during lactation. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;83(4):842-850. doi:10.1093/ajcn/83.4.842
7 - Lamers Y, Prinz-Langenohl R, Brämswig S, Pietrzik K. Red blood cell folate concentrations increase more after supplementation with [6S]-5-methyltetrahydrofolate than with folic acid in women of childbearing age. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;84(1):156-161. doi:10.1093/ajcn/84.1.156
8 - Loew D. Pharmacokinetics of thiamine derivatives especially of benfotiamine. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1996;34(2):47-50.
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