As a fitness professional, I receive questions about vitamins all the time. Questions like What kinds should I take? How much? Should I take a multi or just a couple of the important individual ones like C, E, calcium, or zinc? Will they help me lose weight or build muscle? So with all the talk and hype about vitamin and mineral supplements...Are they really necessary for optimal health? The answer is a definitive HELL NO! That is, if you're eating a balanced healthy diet, which most people don't. Let me put it this way.a vitamin/mineral supplement probably will be somewhat beneficial to you if you have a poor diet. However, if you're really serious about getting lean and ripped and truly healthy for good, why would your diet be poor? So, in the case that you're eating a healthy, balanced diet, the answer is that you don't need a vitamin supplement.
Let's think about this for a second. Did humans thrive on the planet for tens of thousands of years by popping an artificially created vitamin pill. Out of tens of thousands of years of human existence, vitamin pills have only been around for a couple of decades, yet the population is in worse health than ever before. Sure, maybe the human race is not in its worst health from a contagious disease perspective, but we definitely are from a degenerative disease perspective. Now I admit that we do live longer these days compared to historically, but that is only because medical advances keep us alive longer even though we are in horrendous shape physically. People might live longer now, but they're simply living longer while being overweight, crippled with degenerated joints, plagued with heart disease and cancers, and on and on. You get the point.
So let us get right to some answers as to why I contend that vitamin/mineral supplements are a waste of money and are not necessary to optimal health. Well, first and foremost, a healthy balanced diet consisting of a large variety of natural unprocessed foods (from meats, dairy, eggs, fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, etc.) provides a rich array of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and all the other nutrients we need to thrive in perfect health. The problem is that many
people don't choose a healthy balanced diet full of variety. They claim they are too busy, or it's too inconvenient. Well, I hope that you take your body and the health of you and your family more seriously than these people that apparently don't care about the physical being that they are walking around in day in and day out.
Another problem with attempting to obtain your vitamins and minerals from a pill instead of natural foods is that your body does not absorb and utilize the nutrients from a pill as efficiently as those obtained from natural food. Whole foods naturally contain vitamins and minerals in combinations that are best assimilated. On the other hand, vitamin/mineral pills contain lots of vitamins and minerals that many times interfere with each other. For example, zinc and copper taken at the same time interfere with each others absorption. Also, high doses of Vitamin E can interfere with absorption of beta carotene (a vitamin A precursor) and other fat soluble vitamins. Many other combinations interfere with each other as well.
Another problem with vitamin pills is possible excess consumption of fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K). Fat soluble vitamins accumulate in fatty tissue in our bodies, and therefore it is easier to overdose on these compared with water soluble vitamins (vitamin C and the various B vitamins). Excess fat soluble vitamin accumulation can cause various toxic effects within the body. It is much harder to take in excess quantities of fat soluble vitamins through natural foods. You would have to consume exorbitant quantities of liver and other organ meats to take in too much Vitamin A and D. It would be rare for someone to overeat on foods such as that. Also, it would be hard to over consume a plant-based precursor to Vitamin A (beta carotene), found in sweet potatoes, carrots, etc., because your body simply would shut down the conversion to Vitamin A once it has obtained what it needs.
There are even some instances where mega-doses of water soluble vitamins can be toxic. Mega doses of some B vitamins can potentially cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and even liver damage. However, in most instances, you simply excrete excess water soluble vitamins in your urine. That is why many times, your urine will be a deep yellow color a couple of hours after taking a vitamin that has high doses of vitamins B and C. So, when you take a vitamin pill, most of the water soluble vitamins are simply flushed down the toilet. You might as well just eliminate the middleman and flush your money right down the toilet!
Another problem with vitamin pills is that they often use synthetic versions of vitamins that can actually be unhealthy. For example, the forms of vitamin E that are found in pills can be either d-alpha tocopherol (a natural version) and dl-alpha tocopherol (a synthetic version). First of all, the bioavailability of synthetic vitamin E is much lower than natural vitamin E. In addition, I've seen many studies cited that indicated that there could be potential health dangers with taking synthetic vitamin E. Once again, we get back to the fact that natural is always better than something that has been heavily modified by man.
The bottom line is that as long as you eat a balanced diet full of a good variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, meats, dairy, eggs, etc., you will obtain all the nutrients your body needs to operate efficiently without the need for a manmade vitamin/mineral pill.
Exercise is obviously very important for losing body fat and building a strong, lean body, but always remember that proper nutrition is even more important. A lousy diet means a flabby, unhealthy body, regardless of how often someone works out.
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