Does the More-is-Better Mindset Apply to Supplements?
Collectively known as micronutrients, vitamins and minerals essential for good wellness but, broadly speaking, as your body does not synthesise them, you have to obtain your necessary micronutrients from what you eat. Vitamins and minerals assist in numerous physiological and biochemical functions and regulate your metabolism. This is important for anyone’s wellbeing, but vitamins and minerals are even more vital for athletic individuals.
But does this mean you should start taking vitamin or mineral supplements to maximise your sports performance? If you are eating a healthy balanced and varied diet in sufficient amounts, then evidence indicates in most cases, you’ll be okay and there is no need for a supplement formula. Yet, according to alternative practitioners and nutritional therapists, you do need supplements of vitamins and minerals for “optimum” health – so who is right?
In some cases, the scientific evidence is conclusive in favour of taking supplements. Folic acid, for example, is recommended in the initial stages of pregnancy to reduce the risk of spina bifida in the child. Likewise, vitamin C is advised for smokers, as smoking reduces your vitamin C blood levels significantly. Some people have a use for supplements, but generally it for a specific need or as a certain part of the population.
So are sports enthusiasts and bodybuilders part of a supplement-needing population? Traditionally, athletes are all about dosing up on supplements, but it seems as though they don’t really have a reason for doing so. The bodybuilder mindset seems to revolve around the dogma “more is better”, but certain vitamins can have harmful side effects if taken in too large quantities. This is a cause for concern, as vitamin C is one supplement in particular that athletes mega-dose on. However, an excessive intake of vitamin C can cause you to develop calcium oxalate kidney stones.
Moreover, excess consumption of vitamin A can cause hair loss, liver, bone damage, and, in rare instances, death. If you overdo it on vitamin B1, or thiamine, you can experience headaches and irritability, while over intakes of vitamin D can lead to high blood calcium levels, and potentially causing muscle spasms. Finally, zinc in high amounts can cause nausea and vomiting. This list is by no means exhaustive but the message is clear: avoid supplements unless otherwise recommended by a doctor.