Should I supplement B12
as a Vegan Athlete?
About 4:00 minutes ⚡
In this post, you will learn about:
- How much B12 you really need.
- If you should supplement B12 or not.
- Different types of sources depending on your diet goals.
- Symptoms of low B12.
What You Need to Know
- B12 Functions in helping the body produce red blood cells and repairing your DNA. Your body can’t produce it, meaning it needs to get it from diet.
- B12 is mostly found in animal meats and products, because it is produced by the animal’s gut bacteria.
- In the past, B12 was highly present in the soil, which was rich in live enzymes and bacteria that would produce their own ingestible B12. There, those who could only find plants to survive still had healthy B12 levels.
How much You Really Need
If you’re a healthy athlete over the age of 16, you would need at least 2.5 mcg per day. This is about equal to 1 ½ cups of soy milk.1
To Supplement or Not to Supplement
Ask any Vegan if they take B12 supplement, and most will answer yes. It is a medically approved recommendation and the safest road. But to think one needs a supplement to thrive on the diet is missing the point. Isn’t one of our goals to not have to take part in the pharmaceutical industry?
There are other ways to maintain healthy B12 levels as a vegan athlete, we should need to know where to look.
We Found the B12!
Why look for whole food sources of B12? It has been shown that plants such as spinach and types of radish which absorb the B12 from the soil are much easily absorbable by the human body, versus certain B12 supplements.1
The Washington Institute of Medicine found that 50% of the B12 found it whole foods was absorbed versus less than 2% from B12 pill supplements.
The modern Vegan Approach
If you eat any type of commercial vegan products like cereals, milks, fake meats and others, you certainly get enough b12, as it is often reinforced with it.
If you choose to go a little bit more “nature,” you can still get it though.
When looking for natural ways for adequate intake, think Fermented; Unpasteurized.
Anything ranging from types of Tempeh and sauerkraut to types of reinforced Kimchi, which has been fermented yet unpasteurized is bound to hold quantities of B12.
That is simply because B12 is produced during the fermentation process where bacteria are at play.
What does unpasteurized mean?
This label which will be indicated on the food packaging, means that it hasn’t been sterilized or otherwise heated to very high temperatures to kill bacteria and prolong shelf life.
Fortified Soy Milk
If you dislike the fermented taste or have no access to such foods, fortified soy milk is a less natural but nonetheless viable option, and is more versatile. Make sure it is organic though, as soy crops are one of the most heavily pesticide-bombarded when inorganic.
My personal Favorite is Nutritional Yeast, which holds a distinct cheesy flavor which can be used for any recipe. Watch out that yours contains B12, and that you keep it away from direct sunlight. The sun degrades the quality of the B12, and can make it non-existent.
Yet, if you enjoy the taste and eat generous amounts, you should be good to go.
A truly amazing superfood, Spirulina is high in protein, zinc, iron and B12.
Why is it so macro and micro-rich? Take a look at the evolution of life. Alga where among the first to roam the planet, meaning we have evolved from them. Therefore, they contain all the essential components for life – in minerals, vitamins, and macronutrients (protein, fats and carbs).
Yet, you might want to pay attention to the recent studies showing that most of the B12 present in Algae (about 64%) isn’t absorbable by the human body.
Here is one of these studies. https://www.cyanotech.com/pdfs/spirulina/spbul52.PDF
- Nutritional Yeast
- Fortified soy milk and products
- Fermented fruits and veggies (not to be mistaken with rotten! You will notice the smell 😉)
What You Should Remember
- B12 can be found in any plant-based foods which have been fermented yet not pasteurized. Aim to eat these foods in unrestricted quantities.
- Any type of modern vegan alternative like cereals, milks and “meats” will usually contain added B12.
- If you’re a healthy athlete over the age of 16, you would need at least 2.5 mcg per day. This is about equal to 1 ½ cups of soy milk.
Am I Getting enough?
Symptoms of B12 deficiency usually appear after 3-4 months of low ingestion. If you have pale skin, low energy levels and lightheadedness, constipation, diarrhea, and mood swings, you might want to check with your doctor, to make sure your levels are stable.
There is of course no issue with overconsumption of B12, as it is safely evacuated through the urinal track.
As always, listen to your body. I can’t state it enough: it always gives the best advice.
Athlete at Chickpea Powered