Every once in a while there appears to be an unwarranted attack against a vitamin or nutrient. In this case, “a vitamin B3 delusion” has taken the blogs by storm. Let’s demystify this mistake being made with science—and nothing but science! Here are the facts that even the novice nutrition expert should know.
Basics of Vitamin B3
There are two primary forms of vitamin B3 and they are called Niacin and Niacinamide (Nicotinamide)
The latter, in the form of Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), is a coenzyme found in all living cells. And you are only as healthy or energized as your collective cellular essence. Note: Niacinamide is NOT the flushing form of vitamin B3, rather niacin (nicotinic acid) is the FLUSHer. Bottom line: NOT ALL B3 vitamins flush!
Why is Niacinamide in Pre-workout?
First and foremost, niacinamide is NOT the flushing form, but everyone knows that right?! Thus, this mistake which is being propagated that niacinamide is the same form as flushing niacin is hands down mistaken! Niacinamide is placed in pre-workout formulas for the specific focus of fueling your biochemistry, as it does not flush! As you can readily see in the graphic below that protein, carbs and fats all migrate down through the citric acid energy pathway (Kreb Cycle) down to NAD to support ATP production (your cellular currency). Your body is constantly seeking nourishment and it makes sense that when “plowing through your energy reserves” it is critical to help maximize both your dietary and cellular fuel via optimized biochemical enzyme pathways. This is why it makes sense that you would want a non-flushing vitamin B3 on board.
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Let’s see what experts say at the world-renowned Linus Pauling Institute located at Oregon State University:
Over 400 enzymes require the niacin coenzymes, NAD and NADP, mainly to accept or donate electrons for redox reactions. NAD functions most often in energy-producing reactions involving the degradation (catabolism) of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and alcohol. NADP functions more often in biosynthetic (anabolic) reactions, such as in the synthesis of all macromolecules, including fatty acids and cholesterol.
A good work out is a challenge to the body, a good stress so to speak, a stress that triggers the body to grow stronger. Supporting the NAD biochemical pathway helps the body while under stress. Here is a quote from the 2014 scientific literature: “This provides a mechanism to increase the cytosolic pool of NAD+ quickly in response to a stimulus like cell stress.
For Hardcore Nutrition Devotees
An overt vitamin B3 deficiency is called Pellagra, just like a vitamin C deficiency leads to scurvy. As a nutritionally oriented physician that focuses on the “optimal” function of the trillions of cells that comprise the human body, the first thing I must share is this “NEVER pigeonhole a nutrient's benefits”. What I mean by this last statement is simple; we are still discovering benefits of virtually every single nutraceutical each and every day. As I share with my patients:
What we know now, we did not know 10 years ago, and 10 years from now we shall know more. Thus staying humble and a perpetual student is a must for pupils and teachers alike.
But when it comes to vitamin B3, there is “no-brainer knowledge” that everyone knows or should know. Here are “5 Major Biochemical Pathways” that are altered without sufficient vitamin B3 as reported in the scientific literature.
The Five Major Vitamin B3 Biochemical Pathways:
- The tryptophan-kyneurenic acid pathway;
- The mitochondrial ATP generation related abnormality;
- The poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) pathway;
- The BDNF-TRKB Axis abnormalities;
- The genetic consequences of niacin deficiency.
Let’s take a look at #2 and ponder why we would want to make sure we have vitamin B3 onboard in times of working out. Well, #2 is a no-brainer, without sufficient niacin your body can’t make optimal levels of ATP. When working out, competing or just wanting peak performance making sure you are fueling your ATP pathway is essential in a constant fashion.
Point to Ponder: The Smart Phone ComparisonI describe this concept to my patients all the time in relation to a “smartphone”. If your smartphone (virtual portable computer) is low in battery charge its performance and staying power is dramatically diminished. When it runs out of charge it becomes a glorified paperweight. So in desperate times like connecting between flights across the country or world, there are times that “you will hit the wall” when it comes to your cell phone charge (much like your body), you may use up the battery to the point that your phone auto-shuts off and you lose connectivity. The smart, smartphone user knows NEVER to let themselves get to that point and they take every chance possible to get some strategic recharging. (Can we all say, Niacinamide!) Bottom line: A committed athlete does not go to the gym or competition under-fueled, whether it be food or supplementation to fuel the complex demands of a giving it your all!
Don’t wait until after you have worked out to charge up your body!