For a number of people, taking a daily supplement is a way of ensuring their body gets all the essential micronutrients missing from the typical modern diet. But, unfortunately, keeping healthy isn’t that simple.
Even if you’re diligent about taking a multivitamin, you likely won’t get all the desired benefits. And that’s simply because the majority formulas are doomed to fail from the beginning.
To find out how to get the most out of your vitamins and supplements, you first need to understand that the supplementation industry is experiencing rapid growth. With new channels of communication between companies looking to make a profit and customers willing to spend hundreds of dollars a month on supplements that are supposed to make them feel better, it’s no surprise that there’s such a huge variety of products available nowadays. But the worrying part is that dietary supplements are regulated only very loosely.
What this means is that you really have to know what you need, and how to use it, in order to actually benefit.
So, if you’re looking for the best possible way to choose and consume a multivitamin or dietary supplement, you’re going to want to pay attention to the following five factors.
1. Be aware of what you need
Whatever your reason for using supplements, your first step should be to get completely familiar with your body and what it actually needs (or doesn’t need). For the most part, this means taking a close look not only at your eating habits, but also your exercise regimen, inflammation markers, and stress levels.
Getting a checkup with your physician is definitely something that’s highly recommended, as is doing bloodwork to pinpoint any possible deficiencies. Additionally, you should take into consideration lifestyle-related contributors such as lack of sun exposure (for example, during the winter months), or eating a plant-based diet, which may require you to take a B12 supplement.
2. Pay attention to the source and fine print
What most people (and even some doctors!) don’t understand is that sometimes, synthetic compounds don’t work in the same way as natural ones. Moreover, certain vitamins have several types that are easier or more difficult to absorb. Vitamin D is an excellent example.
Those searching for cruelty-free or vegan options will also want to pay attention to the source of their supplementation. For example, Omega 3 fatty acids – which are essential for brain health, play a big role in preventing heart disease, and help minimize inflammation – can come from two sources. The first is fish oil, and this is the most common source of Omega 3s you’ll find. But you can also get it directly from algae. If you’re on a meat-free diet, you should definitely opt for the latter.
Then, there are certain supplements and micronutrients that are extremely beneficial, yet aren’t always taken in a way that maximizes their effectiveness.
Turmeric is a great example. This spice has been used for its health-boosting benefits for thousands of years, yet the fact that it’s fat-soluble means one of two things: you either have to ingest a very high dosage on a daily level, or you need to combine it with black pepper in order to increase the bioavailability of its active ingredient, curcumin.
3. Choose the right dosage
If you take a look at the bottle containing your multivitamin pills, you will likely notice that the recommended daily dosage isn’t met for all micronutrients. Or, alternatively, you may find that some vitamins contain a larger dosage than necessary. This is probably the biggest downside of traditional multivitamin supplements – the fact that you’re ingesting too much, or too little of certain compounds.
To avoid megadoses of micronutrients, choose a product that offers a balanced approach to supplementation. Alternatively, you can make your own supplements, which is ideal for those who want to get a 100% customized health-promoting compound that will offer the most benefits.
4. Mind when and how you take your supplements
How and when you ingest your micronutrients is going to have a significant impact on how efficiently they’re absorbed. The above-mentioned turmeric, for example, is best taken with a meal rich in fats. Water-soluble vitamins (B-complex and vitamin C) can be taken about 30 minutes prior to a meal. Hormonal supplements such as melatonin are best taken about 30 to 120 minutes before you want to go to sleep.
As you can see, there’s no absolute short answer as to when you should be taking your vitamins. You can, however, take a close look at the label and follow the instructions, or even consult with your doctor.
What you should keep in mind (and this won’t be mentioned on a label) is that there are certain compounds that prevent each other from absorbing properly. Such is the case with calcium and iron, magnesium, or zinc, so make sure you’re not taking those in the same dose.
5. Other ways to boost your health
While a multivitamin, or even a supplement, is a great way to promote the healthy functioning of vital organs, it’s important to be aware of the other, more important things you can do to stay healthy. These include a balanced, whole foods diet, regular exercise, and good sleep hygiene.
Remember, supplements aren’t a replacement for food, sleep, or recovery. If you’re looking to take your wellbeing to the next level, you can try alternative practices such as sauna sessions or cryotherapy that may provide you with the effects you’re after, without having to ingest non-natural chemicals.
Finally, it’s important that you’re aware that a pill is not the way to remedy an unhealthy lifestyle. Instead, multivitamins are a tool that, if used correctly, can help you maximize your natural potentials. But, before you reach for the cheapest (or even most expensive) bottle on the shelf, take the time to do your homework. That way, you can ensure you’re getting the absolute most out of your investment.