Monday, February 25, 2013

Vitamin B12 injections for bodybuilders? By Vic Goyaram

An analysis of the usefulness of Vitamin B12 injections for bodybuilding

Researched and composed by Vic Goyaram

Vitamin B group and in particular Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin) injections have been a long-standing practice among Mauritian bodybuilders and athletes around the world for its publicised ergogenic benefits in terms of performance, boost in oxygen capacity and metabolism. B12 injections, in addition to being very painful because of an alcohol base preparation are administered far in excess of daily recommended amounts. Common dosages of B12 injections are about 5000mcgs per shot, representing about 1000 times the recommended daily allowance for the average healthy individual.

Vitamin B12 is not new to the bodybuilding supplements industry as I remember that during the early to mid-90s Vitamin B12 had a short stint on the shelves as a very potent steroid-like anabolic agent especially in the form called Coenzyme B12 or Dibencozide. It was more hype as B12 rapidly faded from the bodybuilding supplements market. It however remained quite popular among endurance athletes, wrestlers and some bodybuilders.
A dibencozide supplement from the 90s
Who need B12 injections and supplements?
Vitamin B12 injections were generally intended for those having problems absorbing the vitamin from the stomach. Remember that the absorption of oral B12 takes place in the mouth and ends in the stomach. A protein called “Intrinsic factor” is needed for B12 absorption and this protein is sometimes not produced in certain people. Furthermore, vegans sometimes resort to B12 supplements because their food choices are quite poor in B12, a vitamin found primarily in animal-based foods (see picture). Some people also develop absorption problems because of stomach bypass surgery and stomach complications like gastritis and therefore taking gastric medications like Omeprazole. For such people B12 injections are definitely warranted because injections go directly into the blood stream, bypassing the intrinsic factor issue. Keep in mind that in some cases B12 injections are also used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome.

In cases where B12 deficiency is not related to absorption problems, as explained above, B12 oral supplements work fine to prevent any deficiency. Good oral B12 products that I was using in Mauritius were Princi-B Forte and Bevidoxine Forte which contained about 250mcg of B12 in addition to good amounts of Vit B1 and Vit B6. Any other good B-complex supplements contain decent amounts of B12 as well and you may consider these (E.g. Cenovis B-complex).
Princi-B-Fort is a high potency Vit B1, B6 and B12 supplement
Recommended if you don't require injections
B12 for Sports performance and fat loss?

Much of sports performance and metabolic boosting effects of B12 in athletes come from athletes who were already deficient in the first place, notably vegan athletes. In such athletes supplementation through tablets and injection brought about a good effect. In numerous studies, supplemental B12 provided no additional benefit in the absence of any nutritional deficit of the vitamin (1). Because B12 is involved in red blood cell production (erythropoiesis), endurance sportspersons use it. It doesn’t work if they already have normal B12 levels. Indeed, in many instances B12 provides a mental boost which is a huge performance enhancer itself. There is a huge psychological dimension to sports supplements.

Similarly, B12 injections are being promoted as a weight loss product. Bear in mind that B12 is not involved directly in the fat burning process but rather as an extrapolation of its function in maintaining healthy metabolism. If B12 promotes a healthy metabolism it does not mean that taking megadoses will increase metabolism even further to make you ripped and give you more energy. Very often supplement companies use such doubtful extrapolations to sell you products. Again, if ever a metabolism boosting effect was seen it would be in those deficient in B12 in the groups mentioned above and not in individuals with normal levels.

Summary and take-home message
  • v  B12 is involved in many vital processes like red blood cell production and energy systems

    v  B12 is often deficient in vegans and those with the above-mentioned stomach problems

    v  If you want to know your vitamin B12 status a visit to the medical laboratory may be helpful. Biochemical tests for B12 status include blood tests for parameters like (hematocrit, hemoglobin, and erythrocyte indices), serum or plasma vitamin B12.

    v  If you need to take B12 and don’t have any stomach problems, take tablets or even better resort to food sources.

    v  Positive effects of B12 on metabolism and performance were seen in deficient athletic populations and not in people with healthy B12 levels.

    v  B12 injections are painful. If you love pain, do squats until you drop.
Vitamin B12 injections are quite a pain in the ass
mark my words
Lukaski H. Vitamin and mineral status: effects on physical performance. Nutrition. Volume 20, Issues 7–8, July–August 2004, Pages 632–644

My Bio: I am a Mauritian originally from Roche Bois, Port Louis and now based in Cape Town, South Africa where I am busy with my postgraduate studies in molecular biology of exercise. My research, supervised by Prof. Edward Ojuka, looks at the influence of nutrition and exercise in gene expression in muscle, research which is relevant and applicable to exercising individuals, sports persons and diabetic individuals. The knowledge that I share with you stems from my 18 years of experience in bodybuilding and 8 years (and counting) of university education in the field. I have also published work in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism (2013), International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (2013) and co-authored two book chapters on exercise and diabetes. I also presented my research work at the 2012 International Sports and Exercise Nutrition Conference (UK). I am grateful to each and everyone at the UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine. "Knowledge without sharing is worth nothing"
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  1. Well all in all we shouldn't forget to get all vital minerals and vitamins, not just protein, i think it's better to choose to eat low fat meat, milk products, tofu, salmon, in the worse case cheap whey protein, canned tuna... instead of spending huge amount of money for medicine after ruining immunity with all the chemicals - "food supplements". Bu still i like bodybuilding and sometimes use sport supplements, but am afraid of their negative effect on immunity...

  2. What a nice information you have kept in your blog. The work is grateful.
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