#72 Nutrition

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  • Vitamins - Why You Should Take Them And What To Be Cautious Of
  • Support Tour of Hope LA rider Carl Daikeler

Why You Should Take Them And What To Be Cautious Of

By Denis Faye

If you grew up in America, there's a good chance that Mom started your mornings with cereal, juice and a mantra that went a little like this:

"Don't forget to take your vitamins!"

For the fortunate, it was a fruity Flintstones Chewables. For those of us with less charitable parents, it was a big, barely swallowable horse pill. If you had the nerve to ask why, the answer would always be the same:

"Because it will help you grow up to be big and strong."

So here you are, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 years later. You've grown up. Some of you are pretty strong and some of you big. Yet, here we are, the Beachbody® Staff, still busting your hump to take your multi-vitamin. Since Mom's vitamin objectives have been satisfied, you once again ask, "Why should I continue popping these pills?"

In theory, you shouldn't have to, as long as you ate a perfect diet that provided 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of the myriad vitamins and minerals that make up a healthy diet. Unfortunately, that's pretty tough to do and even if you pull it off, the RDA might not be enough, considering that such "staples" as junk food, caffeine, and alcohol can leech nutrients out of your system. Also, intense exercise saps nutrients from your body, so we take a multivitamin just to make sure we're covering all our bases.

The only down side is the possibility of an OD by "megadosing" on vitamins and minerals. In particular, you want to be careful not to take too much of any fat-based vitamin, given your body will stock-pile it. While taking too much of a water-based vitamin can be harmful, you generally just excrete any excess.

The effects of a vitamin OD range from annoying, such as diarrhea from too much vitamin C, to downright scary, such as the cancer linked to an excess of vitamin A. However, when you combine a good multivitamin with a healthy diet, you won't even come vaguely close to these levels, so it's not a valid concern. In fact, there has only been one death linked directly to vitamin overdosing ever, so as long as you exhibit the slightest restraint, it's something you'll never have need to consider. (And don't stress about the vitamin A. Healthy levels of it actually help prevent cancer.)

It's also worth noting that while your pregnant, the rules can shift radically, so make sure to consult your doctor.

Each vitamin and mineral serves a different function so, no offense to Mom, but let's see if we can come up with a more complete answer. In this issue, we'll start with vitamins and get to minerals next month.

Vitamin A

Our body creates vitamin A from beta carotene, which is a carotenoid -- a nutrient that give fruits and veggies their deep green, yellow, orange, or red hue.

This vitamin's big claim to fame is its ability to help you see in dim light. (Remember this golden oldie: "Eat your carrots! They're good for your eyesight.") It also helps in creating healthy teeth, bones, skin, hair and mucous membranes. Finally, it's been known to help infection-fighting white blood cells called lymphocytes function efficiently.

Vitamin A is fat-based and starts to be troublesome when you ingest near 15 times the RDA of 5000 international units (IU). Toxic effects can include fatty liver, dry skin, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, headaches and possibly increase the risk of birth defects in pregnant women.

Your best bets for vitamin A include liver, yellow or orange fruits and vegetables and diary products.

Vitamin D (Calciferol)

Fat-soluble vitamin D can be found in cold-water fish like mackerel, salmon and cod, as well as fortified milk, but its most enjoyable source is sunshine. The body produces vitamin D through exposure to ultraviolet rays. Sun block deters this production, but considering the sun also ruins your skin and promotes cancer, it makes sense to get your vitamin D elsewhere.

Vitamin D's main jobs are to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, thus contributing to the formation and maintenance of strong bones. Vitamin D helps maintain heart action and your nervous system. It also prevents rickets in children, osteomalacia in adults and osteoporosis in the elderly, so consider it a lifelong friend.

There are also some studies that suggest vitamin D can help fight some cancers, including colon cancer, although this research really isn't conclusive yet. Although the RDA is 400 IU a day, you want to keep it below 2000 IU a day to avoid any chance of toxic effects such as high blood pressure and kidney damage.

Vitamin E

There are actually eight different types of vitamin E, each of which acts differently in the body. The most active of the lot is called alpha tocopherol and its chief function is that of an antioxidant.

Antioxidants are important because they protect your cells against free radicals, oxygen molecules that have lost an electron and therefore rip through the rest of your molecules, trying to steal their electrons. While the heist never works, they do manage to free the electron from their victim, thus creating more free radicals. Eventually, they can cause everything from cardiovascular disease to cancer.

So, anyway, thank heavens for antioxidants.

There are also studies that suggest vitamin E could prevent or delay coronary heart disease and cataracts. The RDA for fat-soluble vitamin E is 30 IU a day. It's hard for most people to OD on vitamin E, but exceeding 1100 IU's worth can lead to bleeding problems and gastrointestinal complaints in some.

Good sources of vitamin include multigrain cereals, wheat germ, safflower oil and leafy green veggies.

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Sort of the Brad Pitt of the nutrient world, everyone knows and loves vitamin C. Oddly enough, its biggest claim to fame, curing colds, is controversial. Until recently, there had never been a study that actually indicated that the vitamin fought colds. In fact, an access of vitamin C can cause diarrhea, a fact you don't really need a study to confirm.

However, this March, the University of Texas Health Science Center released a study showing that 12 healthy subjects taking a gram of vitamin C a day for twos weeks found their immune systems boosted.

Regardless, there's no denying that vitamin C is an important part of your diet. It prevents scurvy, as any sailors reading may know. It protects vitamins A and E, as well as fatty acids, from oxidation. Most importantly, it plays a major part in the production of collagen, the connective proteins -- including cartilage -- that hold our body together.

60 milligrams (mg) a day in the RDA for vitamin C. 2000 mg is as high as you want to go, generally. However, because it's water-soluble, the worst side effect of an OD is a quick, unpleasant trip to the toilet.

It's hard not to get vitamin C into your diet; you'll find it in liver, leafy greens, citrus, kiwifruit, tomatoes, berries, peppers and on and on.

Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin)

Like all the B-complex vitamins, vitamin B-2 is water-soluble and converts food to energy. In particular, B-2 focuses on carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It's also critical to growth and red cell production. It's also good for the skin.

It's not a hard vitamin to get your 1.7 mg RDA for. You'll find it in whole grains, organ meats, leafy greens and diary products. At this writing, there are no known toxic effects from too much riboflavin.

Vitamin B-5 (Pantothenic Acid)

Vitamin B-5 breaks down carbohydrates, and fats into energy. People usually get plenty of it, but the RDA is 10 mg. If you somehow manage to consume 10,000 mg, you might find yourself with a case of the runs, but not much else. You'll find it in legumes, whole grains and lean meats and fruits.

Vitamin B-1 (Thiamin)

Vitamin B-1 is especially useful in converting carbs into energy -- an important part of any Beachbody® member's life. It's essential for nervous system, cardiovascular and muscular function and it keeps your mucous membranes healthy.

The RDA for B-1 is 1.5 mg. Some of your best bets are liver (again!), meat and whole-grains and brown rice. The vitamin is lost if the grains are refined, so Wonder Bread will do you no good.

Vitamin B-3 (Niacin)

In addition to energy creation, vitamin B-3 aids the digestive system, helps keep your appetite healthy and is good for the skin and nerves. The RDA is 20 mg a day.

Although this should only be done under a doctor's care, it has been shown that mega-doses of vitamin B-3 -- as in 1000 mg a day -- may reduce ‘bad' artery clogging LDL cholesterol and raise "good' HDL cholesterol, which prevents hardening of the arteries.

Doses higher than 2000 mg can potentially cause liver damage and irregular heartbeats and in some people, even doses above 50 mg has been known to cause flushing, itching, headaches, cramps and nausea.

Some of your best sources for vitamin B-3 include meat, poultry, fish, potatoes and peanuts.

Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine)

Vitamin B-6 is key in protein conversion. It also helps brain function and there has been research showing that B-6, along folic acid and B12, reduces levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood. Too much homocysteine can increase a person's risk of heart attack. Finally, B-6 helps maintain normal levels of blood glucose.

There are, however, some controversies surrounding B-6. For years, it's often recommended for carpel tunnel syndrome, although it's never been proven effective. Furthermore, 100 to 200 mg is often a suggested dose for this practice, yet the Institute of Medicine recently indicated that adults shouldn't take more than 100 mg of B-6 a day. It's believed that any more can lead to neuropathy. The RDA for B-6 is 2 milligrams a day.

There are also a few drugs that interfere with B-6, including isoniazid, which is used to treat tuberculosis and L-DOPA, which is used to treat Parkinson's disease. If you're on either of these drugs, consult your doctor.

You'll find B-6 in all kinds of food, including poultry, pork, fish, eggs, whole grains, avocados, dried beans and bananas.

Vitamin B-9 (Folic Acid)

Folic acid also falls into the B-complex. It's key in red blood cell production and it helps convert protein to energy. It's also crucial during pregnancy to help in the development of the fetus.

The RDA for vitamin B-9 is .4 mg a day and you should keep it under 1 mg a day. OD effects, which are rare, include nausea, appetite loss, flatulence and abdominal distention.

When it occurs in foods, it's called folate. You'll find it in leafy green vegetables, organ meats, dried peas, beans and lentils.

Vitamin B-12 (Cobalamin)

In addition to metabolizing protein and fat, vitamin B-12 teams up with folic acid to produce healthy red blood cells. It also keeps your central nervous system healthy.

Although the RDA for B-12 is 6 micrograms (mcg) a day, there are no known side effects for taking too much of the stuff. In fact, if you're over 50, you might want to take even more considering your body starts to lose its ability to absorb B-12.

The only places you'll find B-12 are animal products such as dairy, eggs, meat and fish, so vegetarians, especially vegans, should make sure to supplement their B-12. Pregnant or breastfeeding women shouldn't exceed the B-12 RDA of 6 mcg a day.

Vitamin B-7 (Biotin)

Biotin helps process carbs, protein and fat. Much like B-12, you don't need much of it. The RDA is a whooping .3 mg a day. You'll find it in liver, yeast, legumes and whole grains.

Support Tour of Hope LA rider Carl Daikeler

Only a few days left to show your support of Beachbody®'s Carl Daikeler and Stef Tovar in the 62 mile Tour of Hope this weekend to help raise money for cancer research!

If you would like to sponsor Carl for any amount, he has promised to ride extra hard and try to make you proud (or at least not embarrass you by crashing)!

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