The vitamin B complex is a series of nine vitamins that are all basic daily nutritional requirements:
- B1 (Thiamine)
- B2 (Riboflavin)
- B3 (Niacin)
- B5 (Pantothenic acid)
- B6 (Pyridoxine)
- B7 (Biotin)
- B9 (Folic acid)
- B12 (Cobalamin)
- Bp (Choline)
The B vitamins are water-soluble, which means that any amount that the body doesn't presently need is excreted (so there's no advantage to taking more than your daily nutritional requirements).
Uses and benefits
Collectively, B vitamins are needed to regulate nearly every physiological process that occurs in the body. You'll need a certain amount of each daily for these purposes (the amount varies according to age and gender).
Supplementation is done simply to ensure that you're meeting your daily requirements. Supplements are of particular interest to athletes and bodybuilders, however, studies have found that a deficiency of B vitamins hinders athletic performance, the ability to repair damaged muscles, and that strenuous exercise may deplete certain B vitamins faster.[1,2] This is why you'll see some or all of the B vitamins frequently added to pre-workout formulas.
Here's a brief look at exactly what the body uses each of the B vitamins for:
|B1 (Thiamine/thiamin)||In addition to supporting brain, nervous system, heart, and muscle function, it's also needed to process carbohydrates.|
|B2 (Riboflavin)||Needed for digestion of all types of food, as well as for cell function.|
|B3 (Niacin)||Needed by the cardiovascular system and regulates cholesterol and body fat storage.|
|B5 (Pantothenic acid)||Metabolizes food.|
|B6 (Pyridoxine)||Needed in the creation of hemoglobin and for metabolizing glucose and amino acids.|
|B7 (Biotin)||Needed to metabolize fatty acids and the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).|
|B9 (Folic acid)||Creates and repairs cells and DNA.|
|B12 (Cobalamin)||Creates blood for proper brain, nervous system, and cell function.|
|Bp (Choline)||Needed by the digestive system for proper neural transmission and to repair cells.|
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has published a handy chart breaking down dietary needs by age and gender:100mg p/d
|B1 (Thiamine)|| Men: 1.0mg/d |
|B2 (Riboflavin)|| Men: 1.1mg/d |
|B3 (Niacin)|| Men: 12mg/d |
|B5 (Pantothenic acid)|| Men 5mg/d |
|B6 (Pyridoxine)||100mg p/d|| Male/female: 1.1mg/d|
|B7 (Biotin)|| (AI)Men: 30mcg/d |
|B9 (Folic acid)|| Men: 400mcg/d |
|B12 (Cobalamin)|| Men: 2.0 IU/d |
Women: 2.0 IU/d
|Bp (Choline)|| (AI) Men: 55mg/d* |
Since the B vitamins are water soluble, it's extremely difficult to overdose on them. Vitamins B3 and B6 have been found to have side effects if you take too much at one time. Taking more than the recommended dosage of B3 can potentially cause skin flushing, itching and rashes. Too much B6 can cause motor control problems and general pain and numbness. It should be noted that the amounts required to induce toxicity are well beyond anything that would occur in any kind of typical diet.
The B vitamins are found in a wide range of foods, but you won't find adequate amounts of the entire complex in just one type of food. A reasonably varied diet will provide the necessary amounts.
Here are some of the foods richest in each of the vitamin types:
How many B vitamins are there?
There are actually many more B vitamins, but these are the ones that are essential to humans and must be part of a through diet.
- B1: Trout, Pork, Macadamia Nuts, Sunflower Seeds, Whole Wheat Bread
- B2: Almonds, Red Meat, Mackerel, Eggs, Pork
- B3: Yellowfin Tuna, Chicken Breast, Turkey, Pork, Liver, Peanuts
- B5: Shiitake Mushrooms, Trout, Avocados, Eggs, Pork
- B6: Sunflower Seeds, Pistachios, Tuna, Turkey, Chicken
- B7: Yeast, Liver, Kidney, Egg Yolk, Soybeans
- B9: Black Eyed Peas, Lentils, Spinach, Asparagus, Romaine Lettuce
- B12: Clams, Beef Liver, Mackerel, Crab, Silken Tofu, Bran
- BP: Shrimp, Eggs, Scallops, Chicken, Turkey, Collard Greens
If you're concerned about getting enough of the entire B complex but aren't sure which specific vitamins your diet is deficient in, it's safe (and much more economical) to simply take a B-complex multivitamin that provides the daily amounts appropriate for your age and gender. Toxicity thresholds are so high that it's unrealistic that you'll exceed them.
Though toxicity from B vitamin supplementation is very unlikely, it's still always wise to speak to a doctor and/or nutritionist before making major changes to your diet.
Where to buy
B vitamin supplements are available right here at PricePlow and at 30% to 50% off of retail pricing.
- Woolf, K, et. al; International Journal of Sport, Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism; "B-vitamins and Exercise: Does exercise alter requirements?;" 2006
- Manore, M, et. al; The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; "Effect of physical activity on thiamine, riboflavin, and vitamin B-6 requirements;" August 2000
- Benyo, Z, et. al; The Journal of Clinical Investigation; "GPR109A (PUMA-G/HM74A) mediates nicotinic acid–induced flushing;" December 2005
- Katan, MB; Nederlands TVG; "How much vitamin B6 is toxic?;" November 2005