Ah yes. I remember like it was yesterday. My 15 year old self would surf Bodybuilding.com back in 2002 and purchase whatever they told me to. I sunk hundreds, no, thousands of dollars into that site back in the day. One of the things that was pumped to consumers then was a multi-vitamin. They told me it was the crux of all you do nutritionally, and if you’re not taking one, you’re likely to have some sort of terrible imbalance that could give you a disease or create a serious deficiency. In other words, if you don’t take one, you’re essentially going to die sooner than most people.
Thankfully i’m not dead yet.
New science has been found on multi-vitamins and jury is out: mainly, that they don’t really make a difference. There are other strategies for improving nutrient/vitamin and mineral intake, but with over 50% of Americans still using multi-vitamins, I thought we should explain some other ways to take in those vitamins more efficiently.
But wait, aren’t Multi-vitamins a “catch-all” incase you miss some nutrients?
That’s what I was told as a teenager over 13 years ago. While a multi-vitamin might provide a blanket amount of nutrients, it cannot compensate for imbalances many of us already have. Translation: every person is different and needs a different mix of vitamins.
So some of us need more of certain vitamins and there is no way for the vitamin to know that. It also doesn’t take into account what you ate that day. If you’ve had a diet rich in, say Vitamin C, and you decide to have a vitamin like Centrum that has lot’s of vitamin C, you may find yourself headed to the toilet more often!
The other sneaky problem is supplement companies that claim to have all vitamins in their multi-vitamin put very little amounts of the costly vitamins and lot’s of the cheaper vitamin! And quite often, you need more of that expensive vitamin. This is how supplement companies keep their costs down.
Non-suspecting consumers listen to their doctor who tells them out of habit to take a multi-vitamin and then they get one high in stuff they don’t need and low in stuff they do. There are also “aged-based” multi-vitamins that try to predict your imbalances based on how old you are. While this has some merit, it is often incorrect.
To sum up, it’s nearly impossible for an honest supplement company to provide you a legitimate catch-all vitamin. In fact, it’s hard to find a legit supplement company in general without research.
Yeah, but at least i’m getting high quality ingredients in my multi-vitamin, right?
Unless you are paying for quality supplements, you likely aren’t getting quality vitamins. If you are getting your supplements from Wal-Mart, Costco, Walgreens or even sometimes a GNC or Vitamin Shoppe, you likely aren’t getting a quality product. Most supplements contain fillers and lower quality vitamins that are poorly absorbed through the body. Translation: You “pass” a lot of that supplement. And some of that filler my have additives you are allergic to, causing rashes or inflammation.
The truth is that most quality supplements cost money. You will need to fork up premium dollar for good supplements. Centrum silver won’t get the job done.
Should you take vitamin supplements at all?
Absolutely, but trying to cut corners with a ‘catch-all’ supplement or trying to save a dollar by going with low quality stuff will be counter productive. Here are a few things that can help improve performance and get you all the nutrients you need:
1. Figure out what you’re deficient in
There are a number of tests out there that test for nutrient deficiencies. Getting one of those done has been amazing for me. I felt like garbage for a long time until I discovered what I was deficient in and began supplementing. Once I did that, I began taking huge steps towards performing at my best. For instance many Americans are Magnesium deficient. If you take a multi-vitamin that has a normal vitamin amount of magnesium in it (say, 200-250mg) you aren’t getting enough to cover for your deficiency. You need to supplement with a stand alone Magnesium supplement or a stack like ZMA.
2. Take the Supplements that almost everyone absolutely should take
There are certain supplements that everyone should take without question. Omega 3’s, Magnesium and Vitamin C are a few. Here’s a list of a few that you can start taking now.
3. Get most of your vitamins through a nutrient dense diet
If you skip meals or eat lots of processed foods you likely are missing several key nutrients, vitamins and minerals. The reason this idea of a multi-vitamin came about was because a lot of people had deficiencies due to poor diet. Start with a diet rich in greens and high in quality proteins and saturated fat. You can learn more with my quick start guide here.
By the way, if you think you are doing this, you should check again. It takes a bit of meticulousness to nail your vitamin and nutrient. Even world class athletes, trainers and nutritionists can miss every now and then.
4. When you do take a supplement, take a quality one
Do your research in the company to make sure they believe in what they are selling. Usually companies that are passionate about their field and care about the people they sell to will make sure they have quality ingredients. Make sure they just aren’t trying to sell you some caffeine laden junk. Otherwise, you’ll end up taking something like this: