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Vitamin and mineral supplements are frequently used by competitive and recreational athletes. Dietary deficiencies of most vitamins are not very common among athletes except in those who restrict their food intake in order to maintain body weight. Vitamins most likely to be deficient in the diet are folate, , , and E. Biochemical evidence of vitamin deficiencies in some athletes have been reported for thiamine, riboflavin, and . When the diet is deficient, vitamin supplements may improve performance but are not likely to be effective if the dietary intake is adequate. Some female athletes' diets are low in calcium, iron, and zinc. Low calcium intake may reduce peak bone mass in young women. Iron deficiency may impair performance and needs to be corrected with an iron supplement. Zinc supplements that exceed the RDA interfere with the absorption of copper and lower HDL-cholesterol.
Emily M. Haymes is with the Department of Nutrition, Food & Movement Sciences, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306.