Essential Vitamins and Supplements
Beginning the search for adequate supplements is undoubtedly overwhelming. The first question one should ask when considering what to potentially take is “what am I trying to accomplish?” There is an array of over-the-counter supplements on the market claiming to cater to a variety of individuals. It is important to note that there are still many different needs among individuals.
The best way to approach one’s personal needs is by adjusting food intake rather than attempting to make up for deficiencies through supplements. By following the advice posted in past blogs, it is relatively easy to develop an idea of how an optimal athletic diet should look. With that being said, there are a few basic supplements that are beneficial to most people.
I conducted a survey using 50 people and asked them what supplements they took on a daily basis to identify trends, beliefs, and ideas, about the health/wellness and performance market.
Demographics of the survey
-30 professional athletes between ages of 20 and 30 years old (NFL, NHL, AHL, Professional Golf, were some of the individuals surveyed)
-20 physically active people or fitness enthusiasts ranging from 20 to 60 years old (Both men and women)
-Most of the athletes were in-season and mentioned that the amount of performance enhancers they take (such as protein and creatine) were generally increased in the off-season. Here are the results.
- The difference in vitamin/supplement intake was extremely widespread
- I had 3 Responses that indicated ZERO vitamins/supplements were taken on a daily basis.
- Here is the other end of the spectrum for a typical day:
- 1 multi vitamin,
- 2 kre alkalyn 1500mg,
- 1 fish oil 1000 mg,
- 1 vitamin D 5000 IU,
- 1 b-12 1000 mcg,
- 3 zinc liver chelate,
- 1 protein shake
- 3,000 mg fish oil
- Multi vitamin
- 500-1000 mg green tea extract
- 800 iu vitamin D
- 1000 mg acetyl-L-Carnitine
- 400 mg alpha-lipoid acid
- Beta-Alanine-about 3000 mg-ish
There is no right or wrong answer here. I just wanted to show you the difference in the entire spectrum. Below is a synopsis of the most abundant vitamins reported in the survey.
A well-balanced multivitamin will probably seal up any cracks in one’s diet, provided the individual is consistently getting proper nutrition. Reportedly, 35% of people in the U.S use some sort of multivitamin-multimineral supplement. However, some of the most important nutrients like fiber and omega 3 fats are not present in any multi-vitamins. Even if you have an extremely healthy diet, you are likely missing out on some things depending on the time of year and foods available at your store/market.
Remember that less is more when choosing which multi-vitamin to take. You can probably get a high quality vitamin by purchasing something like a USANA multi-pack vitamin which is 130$… or get nearly the same contents by paying 10$ for a generic brand. It is hard enough for our body to break down and effectively use the contents of any pill. Some multi-vitamins are flawed on the side of having more nutrients in a single pill than the human body is capable of breaking down and effectively using. With that being said, I strongly suggest everyone take a multivitamin every day. The following guidelines will help one find the most effective daily vitamin:
- Look for a vitamin that is formulated around 100% DV(daily value) for most nutrients
- Most B vitamins may be higher than 100% DV
- Make sure it has at least 100% DV for Vitamin D
- Avoid vitamins with more than 100% DV for Vitamin A, Zinc, and Iron
- Don’t be lured by added herbs. There is little evidence multi-vitamins with added herbs have any benefits
Here is an example of a generic daily multivitamin. (You can basically get 2 year’s worth for 10$)
The other supplement that would be beneficial, barring the right product and serving size is being used, is a Whey Protein/BCAA’s (Branch Chain Amino Acids)/Carbohydrate replacement shake. It is hard to say exactly which brand is the best because each product caters to different individuals. A shake can beneficial for helping to restore muscle fibers, ensure adequate protein levels, or refuel after exercise. I don’t want to get too specific on this subject because I will be doing a separate blog on recovery where I will go more in depth in a couple weeks. In general, evidence supports that the faster an athlete consumes a shake after a workout, the faster the supplement can begin to help muscles recover. Those that were surveyed drank some sort of protein/carbohydrate/glutamine/greens combination post exercise. So again, this is highly recommended, but more on the specifics to come later this month.
When choosing a fish oil, add up the EPA/DHA portion of omega 3’s, as these are the most important. At a minimum, you should be getting 500 mg/day of EPA/DHA, and several studies and people I surveyed had up to 4000 mg of DHA/EPA per day. Some studies show that too much fish oil can increase LDL (bad cholesterol levels) and If you have a diet filled with foods like salmon, flax seeds, walnuts or kale, you may not need a supplement. However, most people can greatly benefit from a fish oil supplement. It seems like the list is never-ending, but here is a list of the most important potential benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil.
#1 – Improves Mental Health
#2 – Lowers Cholesterol
#3 – Lowers Triglyceride Levels
#4 – Reduces Inflammation In The Body
#5 – Eliminates Joint Pain
#6 – Improves Your Skin
#7 – Promotes Weight/Fat Loss
#8 – May Prevent Schizophrenia
#9 – Improves Brain Function In Babies
#10 – Increases Your Focus
#11 – Reduces Post-Partum Depression
#12 – Improves Vision
#13 – Reduces Soreness From Weight Training
#14 – Reduces Risk Of Heart Disease
#15 – May Slow Breast Tumor Growth
#16 – Improves Cardiovascular Health
#17 – Eases The Effects Of Alzheimer’s Disease
#18 – Improves Cognitive Function
#19 – Stabilizes Mood
#20 – Decreases Blood Pressure
Vitamin D (focusing mainly on Vitamin D3)
In the winter, Vitamin D deficiency is a world-wide epidemic, with recent estimates indicating greater than 50% of the global population is at risk. Some studies show that up to 75% of the US had an insufficient amount of Vitamin D. Reportedly, two sessions of 15 minutes of sunlight each week is adequate for your body to naturally produce the necessary amounts of vitamin D. However, in the winter(especially here in Norway) the body cannot absorb these natural levels of vitamin D from the sun. In this case, a supplement is needed. Recomended intake: between 500 and 5000 IU’s (international units). I take a 3000 IU supplement in the winter.
Probably the “best known” vitamin and most popular in the health and wellness market. The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is 50-60 milligrams per day, but higher levels can strengthen your immune system even more. Vitamin C helps form collagen and maintain such body parts as bones, cartilage, muscle, veins, capillaries, and teeth. Here is a list of some of the benefits.
- Repairs tissue
- Heal bones and wounds
- Maintains health skin
- Fights infection
- Helps your body absorb iron
- Building strong bones and teeth
- Acting as an agent to hold new cells together
- Supporting various metabolic processes
- Boosts immune system
- Potent antioxidant
Foods high in Vitamin C
If you are consuming these foods, a vitamin c supplement is not necessary. However, during cold and flu season, aiding your immune system with a vitamin C tablet could be beneficial.
A Vitamin B-complex is used for ENERGY PRODUCTION and increases your metabolism. Vitamin B is needed to help convert the carbohydrates we eat into glucose and eventually to usable energy. Deficiencies in Vitamin B can lead to lethargy and fatigue. The best forms of B vitamins are from natural/unprocessed foods such as meat, turkey and tuna, whole grains, potatoes, bananas, lentils, chili peppers, and beans. Because there are several Vitamins the make up a B complex, recommended daily allowance is tough to pinpoint. If you have a healthy diet filled with these foods, you are most likely reaching your recommended Vitamin B levels. With that being said, if you feel lethargic or fatigued, give a vitamin B-complex a shot to see if it aids in your energy levels.
Calcium’s best-known role in the body is strengthening your bones and teeth. But, it also facilitates muscle activities including lifting, pushing and pulling, and plays an important role in the circulatory system by keeping blood moving efficiently. The recommended daily intake of calcium is 1,000 mg daily. Like calcium, magnesium supports bone and tooth structure and plays a role in muscle contraction and relaxation, as well as helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Recommended daily amount is between 300 and 400 mg. Paired calcium and magnesium supplements are a powerful combination of minerals that complement one another. For instance, calcium primarily causes contraction of muscles and vessels while magnesium primarily causes relaxation. If your intake of any of the foods below are adequate you can probably do without a calcium/magnesium supplement.
Foods high in magnesium
There is no “correct” universal supplementation plan. Supplement intake should be based on what areas you think you are lacking in your diet. I strongly encourage everyone to take a daily multi-vitamin because as discussed before, it can help seal up any cracks in your otherwise, well-balanced diet. Other than that, each daily supplement regiment is very individualized. My general recommendation;
- 1 Daily Multi Vitamin
- 1 Fish oil supplement (aim for at least 800 mg DHA/EPA)
- 1 Recovery Shake (post exercise)
- 1 Vitamin d supplement (in the winter only)
Special thanks to all those who took part in the survey and Ben Ryan for helping with the blog.