Health & Wellness Vitamin B3 [Niacin]

Exercise increases the need for Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Dennis Wolf shoulder workout

Niacin (also known as vitamin B3, nicotinic acid and vitamin PP) is an organic compound composed of two structures: nicotinic acid and nicotinamide (also known as niacinamide and nicotinic acid amide) and is one of the 40 to 80 essential human nutrients. Little less than 70% of niacin required by an adult can be converted from the amino acid tryptophan. For the formation of 1 mg of niacin 60 mg of tryptophan is needed.[2] Niacinamide can be made from niacin in the body [3].

Niacin and niacinamide action and uses

Niacin is a component of two important cofactors: nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate. These two cofactors serve as hydrogen acceptors and donors in glycolysis, fatty acid oxidation, and in the electron transport system. So its deficiency may impair glycolysis and oxidation process in Krebs cycle (citric acid cycle). This can result in decreased aerobic and anaerobic performance. There are no direct studies on the effects of niacin deficiency on performance but because of its important role in mitochondrial metabolism, niacin deficiency has the potential to affect both muscular and nervous function.[2] On the other hand, high-dose supplementation blocks release of free fatty acids from adipose tissue. This could result in decreased availability of fuel resource and would force muscles to rely more on its glycogen stores which would adversely affect prolonged exercise performance. [4,5]

According to MedlinePlus [3] niacin and niacinamide are likely effective for treating high cholesterol and niacin deficiency and possibly effective for osteoarthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, reducing the risk of heart attack, diabetes type 1 and 2.

Aerobic exercise and niacin are frequently used strategies for reducing serum triglycerides. However, more recent trial with 1500 mg niacin per day showed no trend for improvements in total cholesterol, LDL-C, HDL-C or triglycerides.[6]

Sources and RDA

The RDA for niacin has been set to about 14-18 mg per day for adults [1]. Its requirements are usually linked to energy intake. So athletes with high energy intake need a proportionally higher niacin intake. Due to its high availability in plants and animals, athletes show no evidence of niacin deficiency except those on restricted weight control diet.[2] Vitamin B3 can be found in yeast, milk, meat, fish, eggs, beans, green vegetables, and many vitamin b complex supplements [3].

Safety concerns

Niacin and niacinamide are likely safe for most people when taken by mouth. [3]


  1. Jacobson, EL (2007). Linus Pauling Institute. Retrieved 23. Feb 2013.
  2. Maughan, Ronald J. Nutrition in sport. Ed. Ron J. Maughan. Blackwell Science, 2000.
  3. Therapeutic Research Faculty, publishers of Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Retrieved from at 16. May 2013
  4. Williams, Melvin H. “Vitamin supplementation and athletic performance.” Int J Vitam Nutr Res Suppl 30.163-91 (1989).
  5. Thomas, Adrian G. “Vitamins and trace elements.” Current Paediatrics 2.3 (1992): 172-174.
  6. Benjó, Alexandre M., et al. “Accumulation of chylomicron remnants and impaired vascular reactivity occur in subjects with isolated low HDL cholesterol: effects of nicotinic acid treatment.” Atherosclerosis 187.1 (2006): 116-122.