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Vitamin B6: What runners should know about Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 allows the body to access Glycogen reserves --- an important source of energy in distance running. 

Vitamin B6 is a water soluble vitamin of the B-complex. Vitamin B6 is found in a wide variety of foods. The richest sources of vitamin B6 include fish, beef liver and other organ meats, potatoes and other starchy vegetables, and fruit (other than citrus) [1]. Grains are a common source because - at least in the U.S. - grains are fortified with Vitamin Bs.

Like all Vitamin B's, Vitamin B6 is involved in the energy production system of the body. Vitamin B6 enables the breakdown of glycogen into glucose that enters the aerobic cellular respiration cycle. 

Glycogen is one of the body's two long-term energy storage devices --- the other being fat. Glycogen is nothing more than a long chain of glucose molecules connected together. It is stored in the liver and can be converted to glucose when needed for energy. Glycogen is the infamous molecule behind the "wall" in marathon running that occurs when the body depletes its final reserves. 

Glycogen must be broken down into single glucose molecules to be used in cellular respiration. Vitamin B6 enables glycogen breakdown. The phosphate end of Vitamin B6 creates an enzyme that cleaves the glycogen chain to free single glucose molecules. 

Vitamin B6 is an important vitamin for runners for several reasons:

  • Avoiding the "Wall" - Glycogen reserves are tapped to complete a marathon or longer distance events because it is difficult to eat and digest enough calories to offset expenditure. The better your body can access glycogen, the longer you can delay hitting the "wall". 
  • Efficient Energy – Efficient energy production is important to you as a runner. Accessing glycogen reserves provides a long-term, stable supply of energy while running.   
  • Metabolism - Vitamin B6 is a versatile molecule that participates in more than 100 metabolic reactions beyond glycogen breakdown.  

Best wishes chasing your running goals!

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