Because exercise stresses metabolic pathways that depend on thiamine, riboflavin, and vitamin B-6, the requirements for these vitamins may be increased in athletes and active individuals. Theoretically, exercise could increase the need for these micronutrients in several ways: through decreased absorption of the nutrients; by increased turnover, metabolism, or loss of the nutrients; through biochemical adaptation as a result of training that increases nutrient needs; by an increase in mitochondrial enzymes that require the nutrients; or through an increased need for the nutrients for tissue maintenance and repair.
Biochemical evidence of deficiencies in some of these vitamins in active individuals has been reported, but studies examining these issues are limited and equivocal. On the basis of metabolic studies, the riboflavin status of young and older women who exercise moderately (2.5–5 h/wk) appears to be poorer in periods of exercise, dieting, and dieting plus exercise than during control periods. Exercise also increases the loss of vitamin B-6 as 4-pyridoxic acid. These losses are small and concomitant decreases in blood vitamin B-6 measures have not been documented.
There are no metabolic studies that have compared thiamine status in active and sedentary persons. Exercise appears to decrease nutrient status even further in active individuals with preexisting marginal vitamin intakes or marginal body stores. Thus, active individuals who restrict their energy intake or make poor dietary choices are at greatest risk for poor thiamine, riboflavin, and vitamin B-6 status.