Heal Tendons Faster and Elevate Testosterone
Hardly anyone ever talks about vitamin B5, aka pantothenic acid. That's probably because deficiencies are rare. Even its name, taken from the Greek pantothen, means "from all quarters," suggesting that you can find the vitamin in just about every natural food you could eat, from sesame-crusted aardvark to zucchini carpaccio.
However, if you exercise a lot while on a low-carb diet, or are deficient in some other B vitamin (which plays a part in the metabolism of vitamin B5), you could easily be deficient in pantothenic acid.
Deficiencies of this vital nutrient can translate to restlessness, sleep problems, that "pins and needles" feeling, and stomach cramps. It could also lead to testosterone deficiency, because the testes, biochemical artisans that they are, require the vitamin to help convert cholesterol to testosterone.
So yeah, let's agree that a deficiency of vitamin B5 is a bad idea and should be remedied, at the very least for the sake of your testicles. However, there's also evidence that skin or tendon injuries could be made to heal quicker by taking relatively large doses of the nutrient.
B5 and Testosterone
Relatively recent research by Japanese scientists revealed that lots of exercise, in conjunction with a high fat diet (which is often accompanied by low carbs, at least in physique conscious lifters), seriously impedes B5 levels, at least in rats.
The researchers noted that this decrease in B5 levels led to, or was at least associated with, a notable decline in testosterone levels. As such, it's a mere deductive layup to assume that adequate levels of vitamin B5 are needed for having normal testosterone levels.
B5 and Injuries
It's not uncommon to find older studies that seemingly unearth valuable clues to increased performance, clues that were somehow ignored and swallowed up by time. This seems to be the case with some French researchers who found in the 80's that supraphysiological (but not extreme) doses of vitamin B5 resulted in damaged skin and tendons healing much faster.
This, of course, could be a big boon to the tens of thousands of athletes who fold, spindle, or mutilate their tendons each year. To test their premise, the researchers divided rabbits into three groups:
- A group given standard food
- A group given food with reduced levels of B5
- A group given food plus supplemental B5
They then operated on the bunnies, giving them incisions on the skin and tendon tissue of the abdomen. In the days, weeks, and months that followed, the food-plus-B5 group showed significantly faster and improved healing. In fact, by day 10, the scar tissue of the B5 group was stronger than that of the other groups, while the healing of tendons was even more impressive.
Unfortunately, the researchers couldn't come up with a biochemical reason why this was happening. Still, it's intriguing for the tendon-gimpy among us.
Possible Applications of the Research
- If you're eating a "normal" diet with appreciable percentages of fat and carbs, you probably don't need B5 supplementation. Vegetarians, however, might think about supplementing because they're not getting any/much cholesterol in their diets.
- If you're working out hard while limiting your carbs (and presumably replacing them with higher amounts of fat), you should consider taking a B5 supplement. One daily tablet or capsule of 500 mg. (oral) should easily suffice and presumably keep testosterone sufficiently elevated.
- If you've suffered a tendon injury in the gym, or are recovering from a surgery where the skin was damaged, consider taking 1 gram daily (oral) of vitamin B5 to possibly speed up healing.
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- Yamamoto, T, et al. "Effects of pantothenic acid on testicular function in male rats." J Vet Med Sci. 2009 Nov;71(11):1427-32.
- Aprahamian M, Dentinger A, Stock-Damgé C, Kouassi JC, Grenier JF. "Effects of supplemental pantothenic acid on wound healing: experimental study in rabbit." Am J Clin Nutr. 1985 Mar;41(3):578-89.