Do Your Vitamins Stack Up? - Lucid

Do Your Vitamins Stack Up?

Did you know that one in two Americans consume a vitamin or mineral supplement each day?

From the 1990s to 2016, the explosive growth of the health foods industry was complemented by another, the 32 billion dollar VMS (vitamin and mineral supplements) industry. As the more health conscious we have become, the better educated we are about the benefits of various vitamins and minerals.

Interestingly, the consumption of supplements increases with age, income and education. In a 2013 Gallup poll, the survey respondents in the highest wage bracket ($90,000+) were the highest consumers of supplements. In addition to this people with post-graduate qualifications were also the highest consumers. Conversely, those with the lowest incomes and qualifications consumed the least supplements.

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So is the lower consumption among some groups an education issue, an income issue, or both? Given the low cost of most multi-vitamins and supplements, in my view it’s educational one.

Growing up in Australia meant that we were never short on Vitamin D, the vitamin which is produced by our bodies when we absorb natural sunlight. Australia’s sunrich cities and beaches ensure we’re always getting plenty of fresh air, Vitamin D and unfortunately, sunburn! However did you also know that Vitamin D is essential for your body to absorb calcium? There are many more combinations just like this in the human body, so before you load up on a certain vitamin or mineral supplement, let’s develop a clearer picture of what our bodies really need.

The Art of Stacking

A vitamin ‘stack’ is a combination of supplements taken together. Over my adult life I have consumed more than 20 different supplements in various different stacks. During this time I have discovered that simply consuming a supplement because it’s good for you doesn’t means it’ll benefit you.

A classic example of this is Vitamin C, where the RDI (recommended daily intake) for an adult male is about 90mg. Given that a standard orange contains 51mg, it’s easy to see how we’ll easily surpass our RDI by taking a simply multi-vitamin each day (which typically contains 100mg). Over-consumption of Vitamin C isn’t necessarily bad for you, as your body has a way of dealing with it. This is the explanation for why our urine can turn bright orange if we’re consuming too many Vitamin C supplements.

Vitamin C from Oranges

To understand what your stack should consist of, first consult a physician and perform some blood tests. In early 2014 I had my first full blood test performed in response to a sleeping issue I experienced at the time, thankfully the results returned with normal levels ruling out any dietary imbalance. However this test had me thinking; if my blood levels indicated a healthy diet, could I optimise my energy levels and sleep quality by understanding how to create a stack tailored for my body?

A few weeks after my blood test results came back, I met with my doctor and we discussed my individual characteristics such as genetics, body size, fitness and diet. When discussing my genetics, he asked what my vitamin D intake was given my mixed Asian and Caucasian background. According to my doctor, people of Asian or Polynesian descent have far higher RDIs for Vitamin D, which may explain why my energy levels are often lower during the winter months.

Essential Vitamins and Minerals

Are you experiencing a particular ailment or physiological problem? Maybe it’s time to eat more of a certain food and improve your stack.

Each of the vitamins listed below has an important job in the body. A vitamin deficiency occurs when you do not get enough of a certain vitamin via a food source and can cause the early onset of many symptoms. Not eating enough fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains and fortified dairy foods may increase your risk for health problems, including heart disease, cancer, and poor bone health (osteoporosis).

Vitamins

  • Vitamin A helps form and maintain healthy teeth, bones, soft tissue, mucus membranes, and skin.
  • Vitamin B6 is also called pyridoxine. Vitamin B6 helps form red blood cells and maintain brain function. This vitamin also plays an important role in the proteins that are part of many chemical reactions in the body. The more protein you eat the more pyridoxine your body requires.
  • Vitamin B12, like the other B vitamins, is important for metabolism. It also helps form red blood cells and maintain the central nervous system.
  • Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is an antioxidant that promotes healthy teeth and gums. It helps the body absorb iron and maintain healthy tissue. It also promotes wound healing.
  • Vitamin D is also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” since it is made by the body after being in the sun. Ten to 15 minutes of sunshine three times a week is enough to produce the body’s requirement of vitamin D for most people at most latitudes. People who do not live in sunny places may not make enough vitamin D. It is very hard to get enough vitamin D from food sources alone. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. You need calcium for the normal development and maintenance of healthy teeth and bones. It also helps maintain proper blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.
  • Vitamin E is an antioxidant also known as tocopherol. It helps the body form red blood cells and use vitamin K.
  • Vitamin K is not listed among the essential vitamins, but without it blood would not stick together (coagulate). Some studies suggest that it is important for bone health.
  • Biotin is essential for the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates, and in the production of hormones and cholesterol.
  • Niacin (vitamin B3) helps maintain healthy skin and nerves. It is also has cholesterol-lowering effects.
  • Folate works with vitamin B12 to help form red blood cells. It is needed for the production of DNA, which controls tissue growth and cell function. Any woman who is pregnant should be sure to get enough folate. Low levels of folate are linked to birth defects such as spina bifida. Many foods are now fortified with folic acid.
  • Pantothenic acid is essential for the metabolism of food. It also plays a role in the production of hormones and cholesterol.
  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2) works with the other B vitamins. It is important for body growth and the production of red blood cells.
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1) helps the body cells change carbohydrates into energy. Getting plenty of carbohydrates is very important during pregnancy and breast-feeding. It is also essential for heart function and healthy nerve cells.

Minerals

  • Calcium is vital for building strong bones and teeth. The time to build strong bones is during childhood and the teen years, so it’s very important to get enough calcium now to fight against bone loss later in life. Weak bones are susceptible to a condition called osteoporosis, which causes bones to break easily.
  • Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body. Symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia include weakness and fatigue, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath.
  • Magnesium helps muscles and nerves function, steadies the heart rhythm, and keeps bones strong. It also helps the body create energy and make proteins.
  • Phosphorus helps form healthy bones and teeth. It also helps the body make energy. It is part of every cell membrane, and every cell in the body needs phosphorus to function normally.
  • Potassium helps with heart, muscle, and nervous system function. It also helps the body maintain the balance of water in the blood and body tissues.
  • Zinc is important for normal growth, strong immunity, and wound healing.

My Daily Stack

To address my physiological needs of energy, muscle recovery and general well-being, I take 4 different supplements each morning:

Centrum Advance Multivitamin

Centrum is a global multivitamin brand made by Pfizer which contains over 25 different ingredients. A multivitamin could be considered the foundations of any supplement stack as it contains healthy amounts of each vitamin and mineral the body needs to function. The ‘Advance’ version contains additional ingredients which may help counter some of our unwise lifestyle decisions such as fatty fast foods and drinking.

Centrum Advance Multivitamin

Magnesium Chelate (500mg per day)

Magnesium helps muscles and nerves function, steadies the heart rhythm, and keeps bones strong. It also helps the body create energy and make proteins. Once positive effect it has on me is improved muscle recovery after fitness and an apparent reduction in anxiety, this could be attributed to the relaxing qualities it has on the body. Chelate helps speed up absorption of Magnesium into the body.

Vitamin Supplements Stack

Super B Complex

The B vitamins in my complex supplement (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12) can play an important role in keeping our bodies running at optimal energy levels. These essential nutrients help convert our food into fuel, allowing us to stay energized throughout the day. While many of the vitamins work in tandem, each has its own specific benefits such as promoting healthy skin and hair to preventing memory loss or migraines.

Vitamin D3 (3000UI per day)

Already featured in this article, Vitamin D plays an important role in assisting the body to absorb calcium, promoting stronger bones and teeth. More recently, scientists have discovered the connection between Vitamin D and an improvement in general well-being, mental health, and mood.

To prevent immune system weakness when travelling I also take a Vitamin C, Horseradish and Garlic supplement. Garlic and Horseradish have known antioxidant properties and can help reduce the severity of colds and flus.

Stacking Up Our Learnings

It’s true there is no magic bullet when it comes to vitamin supplements. However we all have a responsibility to our bodies to ensure that we’re sufficiently feeding it at least the daily amounts needed for healthy function. After 10 years of sampling different stacks of supplements, I have settled on one which offers me optimal brain function and physical energy to get through my day.

If this article has you inspired to develop your own stack and you’re living in Australia, try the Vitamin King for low price supplements delivered to your door. Just remember that the start of a healthy lifestyle is a balanced, nutrient-rich diet and that they’re called supplements for a reason!

In case you couldn’t tell, we at Lucid are passionate about body betterment, neuro-enhancement, productivity & focus. To be kept up to date on any other blogs or infographics, add yourself to our community mailing list.
Hendrik Kruizinga

Hendrik is the Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at Lucid. He avidly pursues great design, experiential products and the a daily dose of betterment.