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Multi-Vitamins: Do I Need Them?

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In the passed I’ve talked a lot about supplements such as protein, pre-workout and post-workout products.  Something I’ve never really discussed before are multi-vitamins.  Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported that approximately half of adults in the U.S. take at least one daily dietary supplement – the most popular being a multivitamin.  The questions is, Do you need a multi-vitamin?   To better understand multi-vitamins, its important that you understand the difference between vitamins, minerals and supplements.

Vitamins are naturally occurring, organic nutrients (coming from plants and animals) and include vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K.  Minerals are inorganic compounds (coming from natural processes) and include calcium, magnesium, iron, and sodium.  “Supplement” is a catch-all term, which includes vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, etc.  Something else that you need to know is the difference between vitamins and minerals.  Some vitamins are water-soluble and others are fat-soluble. While water-soluble vitamins will pass right through the body and be released in the urine, fat-soluble vitamins are stored and build up over time, making it a bit easier to reach toxicity from taking too much of a particular vitamin.  Fat-soluble vitamins include D, E and A — common inclusions in both fortified foods and in multivitamins.  Vitamins are either fat or water soluble and minerals are not soluble.  

What Are the Benefits of Taking A Multi-Vitamin?

In the last year the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that taking a daily multivitamin can reduce the risk of cancer by 12 percent in men aged 50 and older and appears to have no dangerous side-effects.  It’s important to note that taking a daily multivitamin is more beneficial than increasing daily intake of just one vitamin.

Multivitamins could be beneficial in certain populations – such as women who are pregnant, breast-feeding, or trying to conceive; dieters consuming fewer than 1,200 calories a day or cutting out an entire food group (i.e. carbs); and those with medical conditions that affect digestion and food absorption.  Mulit-viatimins can also benefit people who workout or exercise on a regular basis.  (I’ll get into that later)

What Might Be the Danger?

A long term study of people who took multivitamins and those who did not found that taking a regular multivitamin was actuallyassociated with a shorter overall life expectancy.  Most critics believe that this is due to the fact that people who take a multivitamin may be doing so in response to overall health problems that reduce their life spans.

The profile of the average multivitamin user is this: a middle-aged person who eats healthfully and exercises and has an above-average education level.  In theory  the population who takes them is most often the population who is least likely to need them.

Remember, as stated above: Excess fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) will be stored and can pose toxicity risks if you ingest too much.  As always, speak with your doctor/physician before beginning any supplementation program. It is important to rule out any possible interactions between your medication and supplements.

Furthermore, don’t assume vitamins or supplements are completely safe just because they are labeled as “all natural.” The FDA does not rigorously test supplements for safety or effectiveness as they do for drugs. The best way to ensure you meet the standards for vitamins and minerals is to eat healthy foods (especially fruits, vegetables and whole grains). Combined with a healthy lifestyle, including exercise and not smoking, a healthy diet should help you meet all nutritional requirements.

My Opinion:

In my opinion, these studies and recommendations are based on the average American, well we all know that the average American is overweight and out of shape.  I believe that if you workout regularly, as I do and perform intense exercises on a daily basis, then you are more likely to need a multi-vitamin.  I do recommend looking for a brand that has been certified by a third party testing agency, like U.S. Pharmacopeal.  Since vitamins and supplements are not regulated at the same level as food, it’s important to know the source of what you’re taking.

Currently I’m taking GNC Energy and Metabolism multi-vitamins.  I prefer these because they are to be taken twice a day (as recommended by Dr. Oz), one in the morning with breakfast and the other with supper.  This allows me to keep reaping the benefits throughout the day as apposed to only half of the day with traditional multi-vitamins that are taken only in the morning.

Here’s the facts, it’s better to get nutrients  like vitamin D from sunlight and eating a healthy, whole foods diet.  What we put into our bodies, such as eating a healthy lifestyle can go far beyond what scientists can put in a pill.  That’s because whole foods offer fiber and phytonutrients that pills lack.  The data generally supports better outcomes for those who are eating a well-balanced diet.


*”Ask Healthy Living”, By Meredith Melnick

*Dr. David B. Samadi the Vice Chairman of the Department of Urology and Chief of Robotics and Minimally Invasive Surgery at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.


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