Truth time… If you could live a longer, healthier life by taking a small pill each day, you’d do it wouldn’t you? Let’s be honest you’d be crazy not to! With this fact in mind, the incredible growth of dietary supplements is a no brainer. It’s estimated one out of every three Americans currently takes some sort of nutritional supplement each day. According to government statistics, more than $11 billion is spent each year on vitamins and minerals in the U.S. alone and that’s not even including Canada!
This extreme interest in health and nutrition is, unfortunately, fueled by a great deal of false advertisement. The Internet, television, and product labels make claims not backed by science, fooling millions and reaping a sizable paycheck. And in America, supplements are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration the same way that foods are, not as if they are medications. This means supplement manufacturers aren’t required to back their claims by science.
In your quest for superhuman status, don’t be fooled by these three common myths surrounding the use of nutritional supplements.
Myth #1: “More Is Better”
If vitamins, minerals, botanicals, and herbs are good for you and available over the counter, they must be safe to take in high doses, right? Science has proven otherwise. You feel a cold coming on so you pop the vitamin C pills and lozenges to ward it off, but too much of certain vitamins and minerals can be dangerous. For example, when you overdose on vitamin C, your body loses its ability to absorb copper; too much phosphorous and your body can’t absorb enough calcium; vitamins A, D, and K can build up to toxic levels when extreme doses are taken; too much vitamin A will put you at risk for osteoporosis; vitamin E may increase your risk of stroke; and iron your risk of heart disease. And you thought those supplements came with no risks!
The common healthy limit of vitamin C for adults ages 19 and over is 2,000 mg a day. Now, that’s if you are a regular couch potato. For high intensity, hard training athletes we commonly use an equal or higher dosage depending on their needs.
When choosing a multivitamin and other supplement, look for options that contain no more than 100 percent of each ingredient and be careful of combining a multivitamin with another vitamin supplement. Consult a sports nutrition expert if you think that you may require more than the standard recommended dosage.
Myth #2: “A Supplement Will Make Up for My Crappy Diet”
This is one of our all time favourites! We commonly get asked the question, what do you think of this supplement and that supplement from people who aren’t even coming close to covering the basics first, such as drinking enough quality water and eating enough of the right healthy foods!
You have to be wary of relying solely on supplements to make up for your nutritional deficiencies. Your body is better able to absorb nutrients from real food, so supplements should only be taken as icing on your healthy cake. Besides, relying on supplements to fill in nutritional gaps can put you at risk for the overdosing dangers mentioned above.
With a healthy diet that includes plenty of green vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats, you’ll need less supplements to get all your micronutrients. Eating a healthy well-rounded diet will also provide millions of phytonutrients unavailable in supplement form. It also helps your supplements be more effective when you do take them, as supplements are generally made less effective when taken on an empty stomach.
Myth #3: “I Can Trust the Claims of Supplement Labels”
Many supplement containers describe the health benefits their ingredients aim to provide. These range from increased vitality to improved disease immunity to extreme performance enhancing results! Great as these claims may sound, they are usually not backed up by significant, proper research. They are, however, great marketing tools that will pull you in and trick you right out of your money.
It isn’t surprising that the claims of supplements aren’t proven by anything other than anecdotal evidence. Recently, independent research found that 30 percent of products labeled as multivitamins do not include the ingredients in the amounts listed on the labels and occasionally contain dangerous ingredients. This is why we don’t usually recommend any supplements that have a laundry of list ingredients in them! Stick with the single ingredient type supplements that way you can better control your dosing protocols.
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