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Sports Nutrition: Are You Getting Enough Vitamin B12 as a Vegan Athlete?

Are you a vegan or vegetarian athlete who is concerned about not getting enough B12? If so, you’re not alone. Vitamin B12 is essential for various reasons, including energy levels, moods, and heart health. 

While all the talk surrounding athletics and the vegan diet, most subjects of conversation center on topics like what’s the best vegan protein powder and which sources are adequate for plant-based athletes. But vitamin B12 is perhaps even more important, especially for recovery.

You may be wondering how to get B12 as a vegan athlete. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get your daily dose of B12 without eating meat or dairy products.

In this post, we’ll discuss some good sources of B12 for vegans and provide tips on ensuring you’re getting enough of this vital nutrient. Stay healthy!

Best Sources of Vitamin B12 for Vegan Athletes

Because B12 is only naturally found in animal products, those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet need to be mindful of their intake and seek fortified food sources, as well as take supplements as needed. This is especially the case for athletes and very active individuals.

So, what types of foods (fortified or otherwise) contain vitamin B12? Below are a few examples.

  • Nutritional yeast
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Fortified cereals
  • Fortified plant-based milk
  • Yogurt
  • Fortified soy
  • Almond milk
  • Chlorella
  • Nori Seaweed
  • Tempeh

On the other hand, B12 supplements are an alternative yet equally beneficial source of vitamins to avoid deficiency and fulfill your body’s needs.

There are a few different ways to get vitamin B12 if you don’t get enough from your diet. You can take supplements in the form of pills, capsules, or liquids. You can also get it through injections. Look for foods and supplements that are rich in B12. For vegans, certain protein supplements like Garden of Life protein powder help check multiple nutritional boxes for plant-based athletes.

If you have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from food, you may need to take higher doses of supplements or get shots. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements. They can help you figure out how much you need and what kind of supplement is best for you.

Why Is B12 Important?

Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient that plays a crucial role in many of the body’s essential functions. It helps to produce red blood cells, support nerve function and maintain a healthy brain. Vitamin B12 is also involved in the metabolism of fats and proteins.

A lack of vitamin B12 can lead to several health problems, including anemia, fatigue, neurological problems, and even depression. If you are concerned about your vitamin B12 levels, speak to your doctor about getting a blood test. This will help them guide you better if needed.

So why is vitamin B12 so important? Let’s take a closer look:

Red Blood Cells

Vitamin B12 is essential for producing red blood cells, which carry oxygen within the body, and a lack of them can lead to anemia. Symptoms of anemia include fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, and dizziness.

If you have low levels of vitamin B12, your red blood cells may not be able to function correctly. This can lead to megaloblastic anemia, which is characterized by large, abnormal red blood cells.

Nerve Function

Vitamin B12 is also essential for the proper function of nerves. It helps to produce myelin – a substance that covers and protects nerve cells. A lack of vitamin B12 can lead to neurological problems such as numbness, tingling, and even memory loss.

Brain Health

Vitamin B12 is involved in producing a chemical called SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine). This chemical is important for brain function and has been linked to mood disorders such as depression. Low vitamin B12 has been associated with cognitive decline, so it’s crucial to ensure you get enough of this nutrient to protect your brain health.


Vitamin B12 helps the body to metabolize fats and proteins. It also plays a role in the synthesis of DNA. A lack of vitamin B12 can lead to problems with metabolism, which can impact overall health and well-being.

A vegan might notice the following symptoms as a result of vitamin B12 deficiency:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Breathlessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Lethargy
  • Pale skin
  • Noticing sounds from within the body, for example, heartbeat.

Relationship Between B12 and Folate

B12 and folate are not only the two important nutrients that play a role in many of the body’s functions but are also interrelated.

As discussed earlier, B12 is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system and for producing red blood cells. Besides that, it is also necessary for the metabolism of folate. In other words, B12 helps the body to use folate more effectively.

Folate, on the other hand, is essential for cell growth and development. It also plays a role in the synthesis of DNA. Because of this, folate is essential for pregnant women, as it helps to prevent congenital disabilities.

So, B12 and folate are two nutrients that rely on each other to function correctly. If you’re deficient in either one of these nutrients, it can lead to serious health problems. That’s why it’s important to ensure that you’re getting enough B12 and folate in your diet.

Why Vegans Can Suffer from Low B12

One of the main arguments against veganism is that it can lead to deficiencies in essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Unsurprisingly, vitamin B12 is one of the most prominent ones.

Vitamin B12 is found naturally in animal products such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy. Because vegans do not consume any animal products, they are conclusively at risk for a vitamin B12 deficiency.

However, not all vegans are victims of vitamin B12 deficiency. People who educate themselves on their diet consumption and things they should be aware of before turning vegan helps maintain a healthy and satisfactory lifestyle.

According to experts, knowing how much B12 should a vegan take daily or as directed to fulfill their nutritional needs is essential. Hence, getting tested and seeking help from a professional to guide every vegan about their supplementary needs is vital.

Can Vegetarians Suffer from Low B12

Vitamin B12 is responsible for the proper functioning of the nervous system and the formation of red blood cells. It is most commonly found in animal food products. While vegetarians can get some vitamin B12 from fortified foods and supplements, they may still be at risk of developing a deficiency.

There are several causes of vitamin B12 deficiency, including:

  • Not getting enough vitamin B12 from food sources
  • Poor absorption of vitamin B12 from the gut
  • Increased need for vitamin B12 due to certain medical conditions, such as Pernicious anemia
  • Side effects of medication

If you are a vegetarian or vegan concerned about your vitamin B12 status, be sure to speak with your doctor about getting tested.

How Can Vegans Know They Have Enough B12

Vegans need to make sure they are getting enough B12 in their diet. B12 is found in animal products, so it can be difficult for vegans to get enough of this vitamin. So, if you are wondering how to get B12 as a vegan, here are some tips:

  1. Include foods that are fortified with B12 in your diet. This includes things like cereals, non-dairy milk, and nutritional yeast.
  2. Take a daily supplement that contains B12. This will help ensure you get enough of the vitamin even if you miss out on some sources in your diet.
  3. Get your B12 levels checked regularly. This is usually done through doctors or labs. On the other hand, you can save time with an at-home blood test. This way, you can be sure that you are getting enough of the vitamin and catch any deficiencies early on.
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