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Myth: Vitamin Supplements Give You Energy

TRUTH:  This myth is funny to me because some basic nutrition principles get lost in marketing hype and from the media.  Yes, it is important to get enough vitamins and minerals to support a healthy body.  No, having vitamins will not make you stronger, faster, more energetic or anything of the sort.  This is the most basic line of reasoning I can use to explain:  Energy (in humans) comes from calories.  Vitamins and minerals do not have calories.  Therefore, vitamins and minerals do not provide energy.

Since that only took 85 words, and I’m striving for these posts to be about 250, let me add a few things.

  • Many athletes believe they need MORE than the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals.  This is untrue (for the most part).  Sodium and potassium are a little different because those minerals can be lost in significant amounts in sweat.  But, an average person gets enough sodium and potassium.
  • Megadoses of vitamins (like the amounts sometimes found in popular supplements like protein powders and bars) will not help your body produce more energy or improve your performance.  It’s a waste!
  • Eating a variety of healthy foods (low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) provides a ton of vitamins and minerals.

BOTTOM LINE:  Some vitamins are used by our body to make chemical reactions that produce energy.  They, themselves, do not provide energy.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

  1. American Dietetic Association: http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=5554
  2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/vitamins/

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3 Comments to "Myth: Vitamin Supplements Give You Energy"

  1. TB1 says:

    Will certain vitamin supplements hurt your liver? For instance Air-borne products http://www.airbornehealth.com/product-information/ contain like 10,000%+ of the recommended daily dosage? Also, how accurate are the FDA recommended amounts? Do they really mean anything?

    • Kate Gardner says:

      Good question! Yes, megadoses of some vitamins can be harmful to your liver. Some vitamins are water soluble (including the B vitamins, Vitamin C) which means if you get 10,000x what you need, they’ll be excreted in your urine. Other vitamins (A,D,E and K) are fat-soluble so they are stored (and can accumulate in) fat. For many vitamins, (B, C, E, K), if you have extremely high amounts, you’ll just get an upset stomach or diziness – nothing long term. Megadoses of other vitamins (A or D) may cause damage to your liver, heart or kidneys.

      Interesting question about the FDA. They’re not always right but they do consider the most recent research and provide recommendations. For instance, there is a lot of new evidence that indicates that we need more vitamin D, so they’re considering revising their recommended amount. I would expect that as our technology develops and becomes more precise, we’ll see a change in the recommendations. So, they’re really more like guidelines that stem from efforts to prevent deficiecy-based disease (like scurvy or rickets).

  2. TB1 says:

    Thanks Kate! Very helpful regarding which vitamins contain which solubility properties and the resulting effects for us.

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