Some of us may not have thought about vitamins since our daily Flintstones chewable while others carry an entire alphabet’s worth of vitamins to dose throughout the day. But, honestly, do we really need a treasure chest of vitamins every day?
The answer, according to the experts, is yes and no. Vitamins and minerals are essential for health and muscle strength, but you may need to eat your vitamins in the form of supplements, according to Dr. Matt Cooper, founder of Enzyme DR.
“Vitamins are a part of a food,” Dr. Cooper says. “They are the bricks of a building, but the building does not get built without workers. There are other components of food that are the workers which are essential for vitamins to work, like minerals, such as zinc, and enzymes. Taking plant-based enzymes with food, vitamins, protein shakes, or protein bars will help you digest and absorb nutrients better. There are other synergists in food that also can help vitamin absorption. For instance, protein assists in the absorption of calcium, and vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron. Calcium is needed for muscle contraction and recovery, and iron is used to help endurance, and aids in oxygenating muscles.”
While eating vitamins in the form of supplements can help with body goals, not every body is created the same. Differences in the ways we eat and even in the sports we play could be affecting what our bodies need. Here are some common vitamins that experts often find we lack.
Registered sports dietician Marie Spano finds that when her athletes cut back on animal products, they often cut back on the B12. “If you avoid animal products, you probably need vitamin B12,” Spano says. She often recommends nutritional yeast to keep her vegan and vegetarian clients’ energy levels up, but B12 can also be taken on its own.
Hitting the gym could actually be affecting your bone density, which is why Spano recommends that indoor athletes supplement with Vitamin D. “Many athletes, especially those who play indoor sports, those who are covered by equipment and padding (which prevents the sunlight from reaching their skin), or athletes with darker skin that provides natural sun protection often have insufficient or deficient Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D isn’t just important for bone health, but also nerve and muscle functioning.”
The Paleo Diet can work wonders for your body, but it can also wreak havoc on your calcium levels, according to Spano. “Anyone who avoids dairy products, like those on the Paleo diet, likely need calcium in supplement form. If you want to eat leafy greens for calcium, you’d better like them, because you’ll need at least 12 cups of raw greens per day to meet your calcium needs.” Instead of od’ing on kale, Spano recommends taking 500 milligrams of a calcium supplement, since that is the maximum amount of calcium the body can absorb at one time.
If you are considering supplements, remember that it can be dangerous to overdo it. “Megadoses of anything are generally not recommended,” says Dan DeFigio, personal trainer and author of Beating Sugar Addiction for Dummies. “The research overwhelmingly shows that there is very little risk in using vitamin supplements in reasonable doses. The same cannot be said for other substances, though. There are many “supplements” on the market that promise all sorts of performance enhancement, testosterone booting, longevity, and fountain-of-youthfulness. Most of them are garbage, and some of them contain contaminants or other dangerous substances. Stick to normal supplements that are supported by research.”
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