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Vegemite to the rescue?

Vegemite to the rescue?


Is Vegemite the new super food?

Ross Johnston


A preliminary study on recovery of competitors after completing the Western States 100 mile (161 km) run (Hoffman et al. 2017) provides some interesting ideas about how diet, specifically riboflavin (vitamin B2), affects post-race recovery. To keep it simple, this preliminary research suggests that the athletes who consumed 100 mg of riboflavin before and again part way through the race reported considerably less muscle pain and soreness in the subsequent days than those who were given a placebo (Fig. 1). Moreover, 3 and 5 day post-race 400 m times among the riboflavin group were closer to their pre-race 400 m times than the placebo group (Fig. 2).


Figure 1: Mean lower-body muscle pain and soreness ratings for the 2 groups. *p = .043 for group comparison considering only the during race and finish data. Error bars represent 1 SD and are shown only in 1 direction for clarity. Figure from Hoffman et al. 2017

What does this mean for you? Less post-race pain with consequent shortening of recovery time provided you have enough riboflavin in your race nutrition plans. Where does vegemite come into the story? One serving of vegemite has 0.43 mg of riboflavin or 25% of daily nutritional requirements, or just under half the 100 mg applied in the study (Hoffman et al. 2017). Of course, riboflavin is present in other foods as well, so I have provided a list of the main sources at the end of this article.

Figure 2: Mean 400-m run times for the 2 groups. *p < .05 for post testing group comparison. Error bars represent 1 SD and are shown only in 1 direction for clarity. Figure from Hoffman et al. 2017.

For those interested in more details these are the riboflavin-exercise links that are most interesting to athletes. Riboflavin aids in the breakdown of food, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, thus playing a vital role in our energy supply. Riboflavin is necessary for the conversion of carbohydrates into Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) a compound vital for energy storage (Nordqvist 2017). Riboflavin is also essential for health of eyes, nerves, skin, muscles, mucous membranes in our digestive system, and absorbing and activating iron, folic acid, and vitamins B1, B3, and B6. Together, the B-group vitamins help build red blood cells (Carey 2016) which are crucial for delivery of oxygen to muscles (Coin & Olson 1979, Gill & Bell 2004), and repair of damaged muscle tissue (Gill & Bell 2004).
I don’t recommend stuffing your face with vegemite even though there are no reported serious side effects of overdosing on riboflavin (Wiley 2015) and, as always, you should make sure you don’t have allergies to products containing riboflavin. The worst reported symptoms are a yellowing of your urine. This is because riboflavin is water soluble and any excess is expelled in your urine (Nordqvist 2017). Recommended daily intakes of riboflavin for people without a doctor’s prescription, based on age, sex, and condition (Wiley 2015, Nordqvist 2017), are as follows:

  • Babies 6 months and under: 0.3 mg
  • Babies 7 to 12 months old: 0.4 mg
  • Children ages 1 to 3: 0.5 mg
  • Children ages 4 to 8: 0.6 mg
  • Children ages 9 to 13: 1.3 mg
  • Males 14 and older: 1.3 mg
  • Girls ages 14 to 18: 1 mg
  • Women older than 18: 1.1. mg
  • Pregnant women: 1.4 mg
  • Breastfeeding women: 1.6 mg

Please remember this information comes from a preliminary study with limited numbers of samples and I don’t find the statistics convincing, however because there is so little likelihood that consuming riboflavin could cause health problems, I though this was a good piece of research to pass on. So get out there and give it a try, after all what have you got to lose other than a bit of post-event pain! Below is a list of foods containing riboflavin and there is bound to be something that addresses everyone’s taste. Just remember, at least 100 mg pre-race and 100 mg during the race if it is a long one (Hoffman et al. 2017), so check the amount of riboflavin (vitamin B2) in your preferred foods.
Foods containing riboflavin include1:

  • Meat
  • Fish, meat, and poultry, such as turkey, chicken, beef, kidneys, and liver
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products – yoghurt, milk, cheese
  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes
  • Avocados
  • Cayenne
  • Currants
  • Fortified cereals
  • Kelp
  • Lima beans, navy beans, and peas
  • Molasses
  • Mushrooms
  • Nuts
  • Parsley
  • Pumpkins
  • Rosehips
  • Sage
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, dandelion greens, and watercress
  • Whole-grain breads, enriched breads, and wheat bran
  • Yeast extract
  1. Vitamin B2 is water soluble, so cooking foods can cause it to be lost. About twice as much B2 is lost through boiling as it is through steaming or microwaving (Nordqvist 2017).



Carey E (2016) Vitamin B-2: What Does It Do? Healthline
Coin J, Olson J (1979) The Rate of Oxygen Uptake by Human Red Blood Cells*. J Biol Chem 254:1178–1190
Gill A, Bell C (2004) Oxygen uptake into intact and reconstituted human red blood cells was measured using dual wavelength, stopped flow techniques. The rate of oxygen uptake by human erythrocytes is roughly 40 times slower (tl,z = 80 ms at 0.125 mM 02, 25°C) than the correspo. Q J Med 97:385–395
Hoffman M, Valentino T, Stuempfle K, Hassid B (2017) A Placebo-Controlled Trial of Riboflavin for Enhancement of Ultramarathon Recovery. Sport Med – Open 3:14
Nordqvist C (2017) Benefits and sources of vitamin B2.
Wiley F (2015) What Is Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)? Everyday Heal

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