Vitamin A

Just as your body requires you to feed it adequate amounts of macronutrients in order to stay healthy, so too does it need a proper supply of vitamins and minerals. These are not the same as macronutrients, however, because your body typically does not need nearly as much of these to function properly compared to macronutrients.

Some vitamins your body can synthesize naturally, such as Vitamin D from sunlight. This is not true for all vitamins, though, and some will need to either be supplemented or completely supplied by your diet. Avoiding a vitamin deficiency is important; many symptoms that are typically blamed on a chronic or more serious illness can also be caused by a vitamin deficiency.

Ensuring that you are getting the proper nutrients in your diet is one way to enable you to look more clearly at your health by eliminating another possible culprit of unpleasant symptoms.      

What Is It?

Vitamin A is a term that actually refers to a group of similar chemical compounds that provide nutrition;[1] these include retinol, retinal, retinoic acid, and beta-carotene which turns into vitamin A when absorbed by the body.

Vitamin A occurs naturally in many of the food we eat and is a fat-soluble vitamin. Fat-soluble vitamins are those that your body cannot fully or properly absorb without the help of fats in the body.

What Is Its Biological Role?

Vitamin A helps maintain a healthy immune system, and contributes to cell growth and vision. Vitamin A supplements are also commonly used to holistically treat acne and other skin problems.

How Does It Help Bodybuilders and People Who Work Out?

No one particular group of people needs Vitamin A more than the other. This vitamin is required for good health by everyone. However, it may be in the best interest of bodybuilders and folks who like to hit the gym to make sure you are taking enough Vitamin A, because without it you may be more susceptible to illnesses, which may prevent you from properly adhering to your fitness regime.

What Foods Contain It?

Anyone who consumes a balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables can get at least half their vitamin A from these sources alone. Sweet potatoes, carrots, apricots, and spinach are all good sources of vitamin A.

Animals sources of vitamin A include liver, eggs, and milk. Generally whole milk will have the most vitamin A, though skim milks and cereals sometimes have Vitamin A added for a more balanced nutritional profile.

How Much Of It Do You Need?

Women should get 700mcg per day, and men are recommended to consume slightly more [2] at 900 mcg per day. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may want to take more than this to help your body cope with the additional stresses of pregnancy and milk production, but you should discuss this with your physician.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Much Of It?

It would be difficult to consume too much Vitamin A from food alone, as you do not start experiencing problems from Vitamin A until you have consumed several times the daily recommended amount.

However, if you choose to take Vitamin A supplements and take too many, you may experience Vitamin A toxicity. Symptoms of Vitamin A toxicity include joint pain, headaches, confusion, nausea or vomiting, and dry skin.

You should also ask your doctor before taking Vitamin A supplements if you take prescription medications--the supplement may prevent certain medications from working the way they should--or have liver or kidney problems.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Little Of It?

Vitamin A deficiency [3] is typically only found in people who eat very poor diets, nutrient wise, or people with certain digestive diseases that may prevent them from properly absorbing the vitamin from the foods they eat. Symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency include dry skin or eyes, frequently getting sick or contracting infections, and problems seeing well in low light.

Final Take

Hopefully now it is starting to become more apparent why you should take an interest in consuming enough vitamins every day. Some individuals may choose to ensure they are receiving enough of each vitamin by taking a daily supplement that provides most vitamins and nutrients.

If you suffer from a particular vitamins deficiency a supplement for that individual vitamin may be useful. For the most part, however, your body is much more able to handle vitamins as an integral part of nutrient-dense foods. 

Making a point to eat food that are more nutrient-dense and varying your diet can go a long way towards helping you get the proper nutrients in their most natural and bioavailable form. An easy way to try this is to make sure your plate at every meal is at least half fruits and veggies, and to play around a little bit with color (colors naturally occurring in food are frequently influenced by what nutrients that possess).


[1] Wikipedia. Vitamin A. Wikipedia, 2017.

[2] Office Of Dietary Supplements, National Institute of Health. Vitamin A-Consumer Fact Sheet. US Department of Health and Human Services, 2013.

[3] Wikipedia. Vitamin A Deficiency. Wikipedia, 2017.