The question of whether you need a multivitamin or not has been passed around the supplement industry for years. If you go back just a decade then you would be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t recommend it. It was standard—everyone who worked out or cared about their health seemed to take one. It is still recommended by fitness experts, from bodybuilders to Youtube stars. But the consensus is swaying a little and there are now reports that suggest multivitamins could be doing more harm than good.
The question is, are those reports true and are multivitamins dangerous, or is this fear-mongering?
The Worrying Studies on Multivitamins
There have been a lot of studies done on multivitamins recently and they seem to suggest that unless you have a deficiency, then you could be doing more harm than good by consuming them. This came as a surprise to many, including myself, as I have always taken a multivitamin. There have been studies that have linked certain vitamins to cancer and cardiovascular disease and there are very few (if any) studies that link it to positive effects.
We are all seemingly under the impression that multivitamins are healthy and recommended by doctors, but the medical community is pretty much holding their hands up on this one and saying, “It wasn’t us”. The issue is that vitamins can be very useful in people who have a deficiency and that, as well as the fact that we know they play an important role in our body and that many of the vitamins we don’t use are passed out in the urine, has led many to assume that taking a multivitamin is okay.
But that’s looking increasingly unlikely. And even if you reject these worrying studies, you still have to question the benefits of a multivitamin that goes above and beyond our Recommended Daily Intake, such as Animal Pak.
Animal Pak has 9,000% of your Vitamin B RDA! In fact, there are four vitamins that have more than 1,000% of your RDA. And that’s only if you stick to 1 bag, because the instructions say to take “1 or 2” bags a day. It’s not the only one either, as many offer extreme amounts of vitamins.
I’m personally still little undecided on whether multivitamins are helpful or not. I can’t say for certain whether they do good or harm, but what I do know is that I stopped taking them two years ago and never noticed any difference. I didn’t undergo medical testing in that time or before it, so I might have been healthier on multivitamins than I am now. But if that’s the case then it’s certainly nothing that has presented itself to me.
Do Athletes Need Multivitamins?
In this case, I would be more inclined to answer in the affirmative. Again, I should point out that I am not an expert and am merely offering my opinions. However, common sense would suggest that because an athlete is pushing themselves harder and for longer, then they may be more deficient in certain areas and could benefit from the extra intake. What’s more, their bodies are also better equipped to get rid of the extra vitamins that are not used.
Not only are they fitter and stronger, but they tend to eat better and hydrate themselves better, all of which can help to process the vitamins and make sure no harm is done. The average person, on the other hand, may be popping multivitamins, flooding their bodies with synthetic goodness, and then eating processed food that is devoid of nutrients and drinking very little water for the rest of the day.
What do The Experts Say?
It all depends who you ask, but this is not an easy question to answer. Everyone has an opinion on the matter and the bodybuilders and athletes may think they are better equipped to provide an answer based on the fact that they have been consuming them for longer and are not as biased as the vitamin companies.
However, their bodies don’t react in the same way that Average Joe and Average Jane’s will react. They are healthier, fitter and therefore better prepared to handle any potential negatives. You also have to consider that, to the average person, a multivitamin may be a cheat that allows them to pig-out and to eat what they want without consideration for nutrition.
As far as they are concerned, they are getting all of the vitamins they need from their multivitamins, so they don’t need to worry so much about getting them from fruit, vegetables another nutritious foods. An athlete, on the other hand, would eat those foods anyway, knowing the difference it can make.
Are Multivitamins Dangerous?
In conclusion, it’s hard to say. The studies are definitely a concern, but there could be other issues at play here. It may be that there is a correlation between people who take certain vitamins and people who contracted serious cancers and heart problems. But it may be that some of them were taking the vitamins purely because they are unhealthy and don’t look after themselves. As mentioned above, they could see it as a shortcut that allows them to continue their unhealthy lifestyle. It may be that some people who are taking these vitamins are doing so because of deficiencies or illnesses that eventually lead to the issues outlined in the above cited studies.
It’s hard to say, because the effects, if present, are long-term and until a direct, controlled, long-term study is done, we won’t know for sure. After all, if you take a vitamin you are more likely to take other sports supplements and you are also more likely than the general population to consume performance enhancers like steroids. The relation between the two is thin, but it’s still likely greater than the general population. Someone taking a vitamin may also be looking to undo a lifestyle that involves heavy drinking or smoking; they may be looking to get Vitamin D and Calcium to make up for a lack of sunshine; they may be taking Vitamin C to make up for excessive sun-bed use; they may be trying to offset a genetic predisposition for a serious illness.
With all of these factors skewing the results, it’s hard to say for certain. In the meantime, just remember that the best way to get vitamins and minerals is from the food you eat. And if you do consume a multivitamin and are not an athlete, then something that contains 100% or less of your RDA should be perfect.