In this article I will cover the many health benefits of Vitamin B12 and how you can use it to improve your gym performance or enhance your health.
You will also learn about its different forms, what works best and what to avoid in order to stay safe.
CAUTION: Medical Disclaimer
Table of Contents
My experience with Vitamin B12
The power of the Vitamin B spectrum is undeniable. In today’s world people are under the impression that they can get B vitamins by eating fortified foods. That is a great misconception since most of these added vitamins tend to be extra toxic and often unstable. This is where supplementation comes in handy.
In the last couple of decades, individual vitamins of the B complex came to light in the fitness industry. One of them is Vitamin B12. Ideally you should be getting the complete spectrum of B Vitamins and not individual ones but it is also good to know how B12 can benefit you in isolation.
As we age, our body is unable to properly absorb B12 from foods so this is when supplementation with B12 (and B vitamins in general) becomes a must for people over 40.
I used sublingual B12 back in 2004 with great results. I was able to be really focused during my workouts and feel so strong during my squat workouts. However, with all the different products in the market today, getting the right B12 can be a bit tricky. For example, 10 years ago Dibencozide was all the hype. Today there are more than 4 forms out there, which we will discuss shortly.
What is Vitamin B12?
B12 is a vitamin, part of the Vitamin B complex. The B-Vitamins are responsible for energy production in the human body. Vitamin B12 specifically, is essential for blood cell production and proper function of the brain, nerves and other parts of our endocrinology. It is found in meat, fish and dairy products.
As with all supplements, there are forms of B12 that have been studied, new forms with limited research and even plant-derived sources of vitamin B12.
I would avoid the latter, since B12 might be derived from seaweed or other plant sources that may be unstable.
B12 is very sensitive when it comes to its stability. You must always buy B12 supplements that come in a dark glass bottle to protect B12 from light, as they tend to get unstable when exposed to it (the light can interfere with the cyanide in some forms).
Also, you should NEVER take B12 with any supplements that are acidic or contain ascorbic acid or anything with vitamin C as these can destroy B12.
Vitamin B12 benefits include:
- Treating Vitamin B12 deficiency. This deficiency can occur due to malnutrition, which can be fixed with supplementation taken for a brief period of time. Or it could be due to hereditary issues (Imerslund-Grasbeck disease) in which case, treatment becomes part of people’s lives forever.
- People with gastritis, anemia, depression, Crohn’s disease or other conditions that affect the small intestine (such as parasites or bacteria growth), immune system disorders, heavy drinkers and vegans or vegetarians often show signs of B12 deficiency.
- The most usual symptoms of B12 deficiency include weakness, low energy levels, pale skin, rapid heartbeat, bleeding gums, stomach issues and bowel/digestive issues (diarrhea or constipation).
- Lowering high levels of homocysteine in the blood when taken in combination with folic acid and B6. High levels of homocysteine in the blood (aka hyperhomocysteinemia) is a risk for cardiovascular disease and is responsible for bone fractures in the elderly.
- Increasing low energy levels and overcoming fatigue.
- Showed promise in the battle against Alzheimer’s disease (more evidence is required).
- Treating some skin conditions by reducing symptoms of eczema and psoriasis (externally) or canker sores (internally).
- Improving power output when used before power-related activities (weight lifting).
- Reducing cholesterol and high triglyceride levels when taken along with fish oil.
When and how to take it
The forms on the market today are:
- Adenosylcobalamin (aka Dibencozide)
1.Cyanocobalamin is perhaps the most stable form of B12. It has been extensively studied and found to be effective (and cheap). As the name implies, it contains a molecule of cyanide but is in a very insignificant amount to create any damage to the human body. The body removes the cyanide (by detoxifying it) and then converts cobalamin to methylcobalamin, which can be used by the cells.
However, because of its cyanide molecule, it should be avoided by people who have kidney problems, cyanide poisoning, the eye condition called Lebers, hereditary optic neuropathy and people who smoke because cyanide levels can easily build up in these situations.
2.Adenosylcobalamin (aka dibencozide) is one of the two coenzyme forms of B12 (also active B12), ready for immediate use by the cells. It is also found in the body in an “active “ B12 form, making this coenzyme immediately available for use.
It became really famous in the bodybuilding world back in the 2000s mostly because it was found in liver tissue in the human body. This form is also chemically unstable and if it is not stored properly, it can convert back to regular B12. This form is able to cross the blood brain barrier.
3.Methylcobalamin (also known as active B12) is the other coenzyme form of B12 and the most natural one of the lot. Unlike cyanocobalamin, it does not contain cyanide and it can be readily available. However, it is the least stable form because cyanide keeps the vitamin stable. This means it has a very short shelf life and can convert back to hydroxycobalamin. Also a higher dose is required to make it effective in the body. This form is also able to cross the blood brain barrier.
4.Hydroxocobalamin is the latest form of B12 which is not found in the body and is made by bacteria. It can be converted to useable B12 form in the human body.
Out of all the forms, I do not recommend this one as I do not see any extra benefits that make it stand out more than the other 3 forms.
The normal dose for adults is 25 to 100 micrograms of vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) per day. As mentioned earlier, if you take methylcobalamin, you need a higher dose (10 to 40 times) with 1,000 micrograms per day as the minimum.
B12 is available in 4 forms (see above) and can be found in tablet form, sublingual or chewable and even liquid form. There are also skin patches but I have no experience with them and therefore cannot recommend them.
Avoid any type of tablet form that is not sublingual or chewable as these products get absorbed in the stomach and have a lower rate of absorption.
The liquid form is good because you can regulate the dose but sublinguals are the best form for taking B12 in my experience. This is because with this form of delivery (sublinguals) the vitamin will be absorbed by the mucus membranes in the mouth and released directly in the bloodstream without any losses from the digestion system.
Safety and side effects
Vitamin B12 is considered to be LIKELY SAFE when taken orally, through the nose, via a skin patch or administered via injection and if kept within normal doses (the safety of higher doses has not been established). There are currently no reported side effects.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
According to WebMD, Vitamin B12 has been deemed as LIKELY SAFE for pregnant women when taken orally in the recommended doses (2.6 mcg per day). For breastfeeding women, the same applies if staying within the 2.8 mcg per day dose.
The safety of larger amounts has not been established so avoid taking higher doses if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Do not give B12 supplements to a child unless instructed by a doctor.
Contraindications or interactions with other medication/substances:
Consult with your doctor before using this supplement especially if you have any of the following conditions or take the following medication/substances:
- Allergy or sensitivity to cobalamin (or cobalt).
- Kidney problems.
- Problems metabolizing cyanide.
- Any problems with blood cells such as polycythemia vera (high number of red blood cells) or megaloblastic anemia.
- Any eye problems especially Leber’s disease as it can lead to blindness.
- Post-surgical stent placement: as B12 may increase the risk of blood vessel narrowing.
Do I need to cycle off?
Depending on how I feel and the duration of my supplementation, I will use B12 for 2-3 months and then switch to a Vitamin B complex. (You might want to remember that B vitamins tend to get easily depleted in stressful situations.)
I do not usually take Vitamin B12 for more than twice per year.
I am currently working on an ebook about the Most effective Supplements where I will reveal the dosages I use for different purposes and the brands I personally recommend for optimal results. So make sure you bookmark this page and come back to check for more info or subscribe to my newsletter and receive the latest website updates and articles directly to your email!
Vitamin B12 is a very inexpensive supplement that can give you an extra boost in the gym and protect your overall health. I highly recommend giving it a try but first make sure you get a blood test done to see your levels and of course make sure that your exercise and diet are in check.
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by Nick Sigma
CWC, EH, E-YRT200
Vitamin B12 Studies:
- Serum folic acid and B12 in 272 psychiatric in-patients .
- Vitamin B(12) deficiency and depression in physically disabled older women: epidemiologic evidence from the Women’s Health and Aging Study .
- Vitamin B12 and folate serum levels in newly admitted psychiatric patients .
- Depression and folate status in the US Population .
- Association between vitamin b12 levels and melancholic depressive symptoms: a Finnish population-based study .
- Association between folate intake and melancholic depressive symptoms. A Finnish population-based study .
- Vitamin B12, folate, and homocysteine in depression: the Rotterdam Study .
- High vitamin B12 level and good treatment outcome may be associated in major depressive disorder .
- Association of Vitamin B12 Deficiency with Fatigue and Depression after Lacunar Stroke
- Effects of vitamin B12 supplementation on cognition, depression, and fatigue in patients with lacunar stroke .
- Structures of the human GTPase MMAA and vitamin B12-dependent methylmalonyl-CoA mutase and insight into their complex formation .
- Role of vitamin B12 on methylmalonyl-CoA mutase activity .
- The effect of vitamin B supplementation on homocysteine metabolism and clinical state of patients with chronic epilepsy treated with carbamazepine and valproic acid .