Many people take vitamins as part of their daily fitness regimens, having heard that antioxidants aid physical recovery and amplify the impact of workouts. But in another example of science undercutting deeply held assumptions, several new experiments find that antioxidant supplements may actually reduce the benefits of training.
Supplements aren’t regulated like drugs. Their makers don’t have to prove that they’re safe or effective. Let’s talk about some of the pitfalls of using supplements, and how you can improve your chances of getting a pill that does what it’s supposed to.
I recently witness a cashier at the local supermarket question a guy in his 20s about buying garlic supplements. An actual garlic bulb costs less than a dollar – the supplement container was probably $5+, and it’s highly questionable that the supplement contained anything of value. Seriously…
Now that fat is overcoming its bad reputation, it’s becoming trendy to add it to food and drinks for health reasons—whether that’s putting butter in your coffee for dubious benefits, or swapping “Lite” salad dressing for a drizzle of bacon grease. But when does adding fat make sense, and when is it a bad idea?
Diet tracking tools often include data about the vitamins and minerals you are (or aren’t) getting. While it’s fine to use that as motivation to eat a few extra veggies, you shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that you have a vitamin deficiency or need megadose supplements. Here’s why.
The part about the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) points out that though I mention the Daily Value (DV) when talking about how much vitamin K is in a given food, that value might be more (or less) than you need or want.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin. Meaning, any excess vitamin in your diet can be stored in fat and released at a later date when your body needs it. Unlike water soluble vitamins like C, the body doesn’t get rid of Vitamin D once the concentration is high enough. So it is possible to ‘overdose’ on Vitamin D. And it can be toxic as it builds up in your fat.
Although it is named a vitamin, what is actually given to you in the supplements is a pro-hormone – something that will be acted on by your body (liver and kidneys specifically) to form an active hormone that then affects other bodily systems. The supplements specifically contain vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). These are hydroxylated (-OH group added to the molecule)- first in the kidney, then in the liver to form the active vitamin 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D.
Cholecalciferol is also synthesised in your skin when it is exposed to UV light (sunlight), which is why people who do not get a lot of sunlight are prone to rickets. The body has a negative feedback mechanism to prevent excessive vitamin D synthesis, which mainly involves blocking the liver hydroxylation step. So although you are taking 150% of your recommended dosage (plus UV/sun light), you should be safe from the effects of excessive intake!
That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy. I hate to give away the game right here at the beginning of a long essay, and I confess that I’m tempted to complicate matters in the interest of keeping things going for a few thousand more words. I’ll try to resist but will go ahead and add a couple more details to flesh out the advice. Like: A little meat won’t kill you, though it’s better approached as a side dish than as a main. And you’re much better off eating whole fresh foods than processed food products. That’s what I mean by the recommendation to eat “food.” Once, food was all you could eat, but today there are lots of other edible food like substances in the supermarket. These novel products of food science often come in packages festooned with health claims, which brings me to a related rule of thumb: if you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.