NASM CNC Chapter 10: Micronutrients

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Chapter Goals:

  • Compare the micro and the macronutrients and their roles in metabolism in the body.
  • Find the differences in the different types of vitamins and minerals.
  • Find the common sources of food with essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Discuss the factors through which the bioavailability of foods is affected.
  • Be able to calculate the DRIs and the values for each micronutrient,
  • Discuss the role that supplementation plays in diets and how it may be needed for meeting your dietary needs.
  • Find the myths and hot topics for micronutrients.
  • Discuss the general recommendations and the considerations for incorporating micronutrients into diet programs. 

Introduction to Micronutrients

Both macro and micronutrients are defined by the quantity in which they are needed. This is the biggest difference in micro and macro. We need hundreds of grams of the macros, but only mg and micrograms of the micronutrients. 

Micronutrients are to be used as cofactors and coenzymes for most metabolic reactions and are used extensively within the mitochondria to facilitate the electron transport chain. Both vitamin B1 and vitamin B2 are needed in using the Krebs cycle. Other minerals, such as iron and sulfur, are also critical for the electron transport chain. 

Water-Soluble Vitamins

These are vitamins that have the ability to dissolve into water. They will not be stored in any tissues in the body but instead present throughout the blood and other water like fluids in the body. Many of these vitamins are essential, so we must consume them from foods or supplements. The vast majority come from the B-complex family. Some others are like vitamin C.

Vitamin B1

This is more commonly called thiamine. This is critical for metabolizing sugar and amino acids and is sometimes used for the function of the central nervous system. We find this vitamin in high concentration within the skeletal muscle, and those who are more physically active may also have low levels of the and should aim to take in more.

Deficiencies can lead to bad health problems like beriberi and Wernicke encephalopathy. 

We find this in enriched grains and animal meats more often.

Vitamin B3

Also known as Niacin, this shares many things with vitamin B2. It is needed for the metabolism of the three big macronutrients. It also plays a role in Krebs’s cycle and electron transport chain.

Deficiencies are rare with niacin but may result in skin inflammation, headaches, memory loss, and possibly death.

We find niacin in the same foods as B1 and B2 pretty much.

Vitamin B5 

We also know this as pantothenic acid. It is a vital component in Coenzyme A. 

Deficiencies of this is also rare and only happen in severely poor nutrition.

We find this in fortified and enriched grains, fish, lentils, mushrooms, and beef.

Vitamin B6

This represents a few related molecules that are important for our health. These are pyridoxal, pyridoxamine, and pyridoxine. It is important for breaking down glycogen and producing both glucose and neurotransmitters.

Deficiencies are uncommon in healthy people, but supplementation may be needed for people with diabetes. This vitamin also appears to have some role in energy for metabolism when exercising. 

This is found in fortified grains, dairy, and other veggies and fruits. 

Vitamin B7

This is also known as biotin and it used to be called vitamin H. it is used as a cofactor in many carboxylase enzymes that are used for transferring CO2 and metabolizing carbs, fats, amino acids, and cholesterol.

Deficiency is very rare but can result in hair loss, dermatitis, and nail issues. 

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We find biotin in foods that have B6. It is needed in very small quantities in the body.

Vitamin B12

This one stands out in the B vitamins since it is the biggest and has many forms. It is involved in many of our metabolic processes, the synthesis of DNA, the production of red blood cells, and the maintenance of proper function neurologically.

This deficiency will lead to anemia, neurologically disorders, and many other disorders and diseases.

We find vitamin B12 in fortified grains, shellfish, and dairy.

Folic Acid

We also know this as folate. It is a unique b vitamin as it only has a small narrow role in our metabolism. It helps to regulate the transfer of single carbons. 

Pregnant women typically supplement their folate intake to improve their hemoglobin levels and reduce complications during birth. 

Deficiencies are uncommon for the general population but may present more in lower socioeconomic groups.

This is found in foods just like vitamin B12

Vitamin C

This is commonly known as ascorbic acid and is a more robust vitamin. It plays many roles within the body, so it is vital. 

A deficiency in vitamin C can lead to diseases such as scurvy or really dry skin. 

We find it in bright colored fruit, many veggies, and some other fruits. 

Roughly 7% of the population will have a deficiency in this, even though it is found in so many things.


This plays many roles in the body, but mainly it is used for aiding the structure of cell membranes and a vital role in producing the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. 

Deficiencies in this will lead to organ dysfunction, fatty liver, and damage occurring to muscle tissues. 

We find this mainly in organ meats and egg yolks. 

Water-Soluble vitamins summary

Your diet should include these things if you wish to avoid the main deficiencies in these critically important vitamins:

  • Meats from animals and/or by-products like dairy or eggs.
  • Green leafy veggies and other really bright colored ones.
  • A variety of different nuts and seeds.
  • Legumes and grains are rich in micronutrients.
  • Fortified or enriched grains or oils in a moderate amount.

Fat-soluble Vitamins

These vitamins will dissolve in fats and oils only, not in water like the previous ones. These are thus going to be stored in our body’s fat stores. They are also absorbed along with fats in our diet. The Fat Soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K.

Vitamin A

This is a group of compounds that are called retinoids. The most common ones are retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid. Vitamin A has many important roles in the body like vision, the function of the immune system, and human development.

Deficiencies lead to impaired vision and possible blindness when it is extreme enough. 

We find this mainly in fish, butter, eggs, some cheese, and then veggies, especially carrots.

Vitamin D

This vitamin plays a big role in human health. This has a part in the immune system, formation of bones, and calcium metabolism. 

Rickets is a well-known disease caused by deficiencies. Deficiencies often result from people spending too much time indoors and not receiving adequate sunlight. 

We find vitamin D in the same foods that have vitamin A.

Vitamin E

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This is like vitamin A in that it is a class of compounds. Our most common are going to be tocotrienols and tocopherols. This is a primary antioxidant and it protects cells from oxidative damage. 

Vitamin E deficiency can lead to many neurological disorders, slurred speech, and poor control of movement. 

We find vitamin E in many nuts and seeds and the oils that come from them. 

Vitamin K

It is a family of compounds that we call phylloquinones and menaquinones. It plays a role in controlling clotting and regulating blood homeostasis. Bone formation and remodeling is also a part of its job.

Deficiencies lead to bleeding problems due to the inability to stop. 

This is found mainly in dark and leafy green veggies.

Fat-soluble vitamins Summary

The deficiencies in these vitamins can be avoided by trying to achieve these goals:

  • Consume fatty fish a minimum of one time per week.
  • Take in several servings of vitamin rich nuts and seeds per day.
  • Take in several servings of dairy per day.


These are naturally occurring compounds needed for life. They are not produced in the body, just like with vitamins, and so we must take them in through the foods we eat and/or supplementing our diets. Minerals are inorganic, compared to vitamins being organic. Unlike vitamins, minerals are not broken down by air, acid, or heat. Most minerals would be considered to be metals. They will be vital for the structure of ones, antioxidants, the function of the thyroid, transporting oxygen, and many other essential needs. These are very often overlooked when looking at our diets.


The amount of calcium in the blood is controlled very well. This is usually between 8.4 – 9.5 mg/dL. It is an essential nutrient and we must take in a sufficient amount to prevent our bones from degrading and osteoporosis to become prevalent. 


This is a trace element. This means that it is required in very minute amounts by the body. It is as low as 0.2 – 45 micrograms every day. Chromium has two main forms that we take in. it has a role in regulating insulin signaling.


This is an essential mineral used for balancing our redox system. We usually need around 600 – 700 micrograms per day. It is rare to see a deficiency.


This is a non-essential mineral and for the most part only used in preventing cavities in your teeth.


Like chromium, this is a trace mineral found in foods and also supplemented by many others. It is used as a precursor for thyroid hormone.


This is used in many of the metabolic processes. It is one of the more common deficiencies, especially in developing countries. 

We have two forms of iron that we take in. heme iron is the kind that is found within animal meats. Nonheme iron is the kind that is found in the plant-based foods. 


This involves more than 300 biochemical reactions spanning the entire human metabolism. It is very important. 


This trace element has no necessary function and is highly toxic to the body. Especially so when it is present in the development and early childhood. 


This is found everywhere in the body and is needed for producing energy and keeping cellular viability. 


This is found within all body tissues and is needed for keeping the concentration gradients, cardiac rhythm, and fluid volume.


A main component in several selenoproteins that are used as antioxidants or the replenishment of the antioxidants. 


Like potassium, it is found in all body tissues and is essential for keeping a gradient balance, fluid status, and cardiac rhythm. It is mainly an extracellular fluid, the opposite of potassium. 


This is used for giving structure to cells and helping many reactions occur. It is found most intracellularly, and deficiencies are not rare. These deficiencies may lead to impairments in growth.

Common Food Sources of Minerals

Minerals are found in many foods, both animal and plant. They are found in the highest amount in dairy foods, beef, shellfish, whole grains, and the darker leafier veggies. 

Applying Knowledge of Minerals to the Real World

The USDA guideline are:

  • 3 – 7 servings of green leafy vegetables in one week.
  • Eat fish weekly.
  • 3 – 7 servings of mineral rich tubers each week.
  • 3 – 7 servings of legumes or whole grains each week.
  • 3 – 7 servings of lean animal meat cuts or dairy per week.

Micronutrient Application

Bioavailability is the extent to which an ingredient or nutrient is absorbed by the body. 

Some foods are easier to digest and absorb than other foods are. Some factors affecting bioavailability are things like solubility, micronutrient type, where it is in the food, and the ingestion of other foods simultaneously. 


This is a popular one to look at when discussing bioavailability factors. 

Absorption of iron is usually enhanced when taking in vitamin C at the same time. This is more so true for nonheme iron. 

Total Daily Requirements

  • Estimated Average Requirement – a nutrient intake value estimated to meet the exact requirements of half of everyone in a group.
  • Recommended Dietary Allowance – the average daily intake that is enough to meet the needs of nearly all people in a group.
  • Adequate Intake – a value based on observed or experimentally determined guesses of nutrient intake when the RDA cannot be found. 
  • Tolerable Upper Intake Level – the highest amount of a daily nutrient that is likely to not have a negative effect in the general population.

The Effect of Physical Activity on Daily Recommended Intakes

We must consider that people with higher physical activity levels have increased energy demands, more muscle mass, a greater loss in solutes from excessive sweating, and more. So, some athletes will need to have more micronutrients taken in, just like with the macronutrient needs. 

Micronutrient Programming

Covering the Food Spectrum

There is no single diet or approach to get all of your macro and micronutrient needs. The importance is instead put on eating a large variety of foods. So, you would need servings of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats, and fish. For micronutrients, it is important to avoid diets that severely restrict macronutrients, omit whole food groups, or eat low energy levels for a long time (fasting). 


Most of your needs can and will be met through your diet when you are varying the foods you take in. but sometimes, it is a good idea to supplement some extra micronutrients. 

Multivitamins and minerals vs. individual nutrients

You can correct deficiencies that have been there for a long time by supplementing with higher doses.

People restricting energy and other populations of concern for deficiencies

It is often important to supplement the diet for people who restrict their diet too much. 

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Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read

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