How & Why To Take A Multivitamin

If you’re not sure where to start with supplements, a multivitamin might be the simplest way to cover all the bases. Not only will the right formula help fill in any nutritional gaps, it could also protect your body against the occasional diet slip-up. Here’s what you need to know – and what to look for…

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If you have a healthy diet, do you need to take a multivitamin?

Even if eating well is something you try to do, experts agree food alone isn’t enough to provide all the nutrients your body needs. “A multivitamin is like an insurance policy,” explains nutritionist Petronella Ravenshear. “In a perfect world, it’s completely possible to meet your dietary requirements from food, but in reality things aren’t so clear cut. Almost everyone has gaps in their diet – and it’s not always your fault. Stress, pollution, lack of sleep, overexercising and a reliance on sugar and caffeine for energy can all tip the balance. These factors tend to increase your need for vitamins, especially vitamins B and C and minerals such as zinc and magnesium, which no amount of wholesome food can compensate for.” 

Jenny McGuckian, registered nutritional therapist, adds that a large part of it also comes down to the quality of the food we’re eating. “Modern farming practices, food transportation and storage all impact the level of nutrients in the food we buy.”  

Who could benefit from taking a multivitamin?

Jenny says anyone can benefit from taking one, especially if you’re an athlete, have a particular health condition such as IBS, or are pregnant or post-natal. “Anyone struggling with their gut health may also benefit from a multivitamin as their ability to absorb nutrients from food may be compromised. At the same time, if you are experiencing high levels of stress, it could be worth taking one as high stress levels burn through vitamins and minerals. Plus, if you follow a particular diet – whether it’s vegan, vegetarian or keto – you need to think about where you are getting nutrients such as vitamin B12 from. If your diet isn’t carefully planned, a multivitamin could be a great idea.” Are you burning the candle at both ends? A multivitamin is a must in this context, too, adds Petronella. “If you are a keen exerciser, remember that you sweat out vital minerals including calcium, zinc and magnesium, which need to be replenished regularly, and if you live in a city, your body requires more antioxidants to deal with stress and pollution.”

Steer CLEAR of ‘one a day’ formulas – to get the right amount of NUTRIENTS, you’ll need to look for a serving size of FOUR to SIX capsules per day.

What are the signs you could do with a boost?

“A lack of energy, lowered immune function, sugar cravings, low mood and poor sleep can all be related to an increased need for vitamins and minerals,” Petronella continues. “As an example, muscle cramps or twitches are a classic sign you could do with more magnesium, while cracks in the corner of the mouth or a sore tongue can indicate the need for B vitamins. White spots on the fingernails or stretch marks, meanwhile, can signify a zinc deficiency.”

So what should a decent multivitamin contain?

If you’re shopping for a multivitamin, Rhian Stephenson – nutritionist, naturopath and co-founder of Artah – says there are several factors to bear in mind when choosing the right brand and product. “It goes without saying that a good multivitamin should contain all the basic vitamins and minerals, but it should also be free from junk, fillers and allergens. Plus, steer clear of anything that claims to be a ‘one a day’ formula – to get the right amount of nutrients, look for a serving size of four to six capsules per day.” After that, look at the form vitamins and minerals are in, says Petronella. “Look for minerals in the form of citrates, gluconates, glycinates or picolinates, which are better absorbed than sulphates, carbonates and oxides, which are typically found in high-street chemist brands. For example, look for magnesium glycinate as opposed to magnesium oxide. This will ensure a high-quality multivitamin that’s better absorbed by the body. Also look for a multi that contains methylated B vitamins, which are also better absorbed.” 

Does the quantity of certain nutrients matter?

When reading the back of a supplement bottle, it’s not unusual for a daily dose to contain far more than 100% of your recommended daily allowance (RDA). Is this a bad thing? Jenny tells us you’d be hard pushed to overdo it with one multivitamin alone. “There’s a difference between RDA – which is worked out as the minimum required for disease prevention – and what might be considered more optimal amounts. Supplements are well regulated in the UK, so it’s unlikely to find a multi that you could do much damage with. Water-soluble vitamins – such as vitamins C and B – are usually found in much higher amounts as you don’t retain them all (you excrete them in your urine) whereas fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K are stored in the body, which is where you need to be more careful. Problems can arise if you are taking lots of individual supplements and fortified foods without taking into consideration the total amounts of the nutrient when combined.” 

At the same time, there are situations when your nutrient needs are higher, such as if you take the pill, which significant depletes your levels of vitamin B6. “To meet your requirements of B6 when on the pill, you need upwards of 1,000% of the RDA,” says Rhian. 

Almost everyone has GAPS in their diet – stress, lack of sleep, overexercising and RELIANCE on sugar and caffeine for energy can all tip the BALANCE.

What about the type of formula?

When it comes to the delivery system of a multivitamin, there’s a benefit to taking capsules over tablets. “While you can pack higher doses into tablets, formulas in capsules are better absorbed by the body,” Jenny continues. “Tablets tend to be cheaper, but they also contain unnecessary binding ingredients that can cause side effects, especially if your gut health isn’t great. Capsules, powders and liquids are far superior, but they do tend to be more expensive. Liquids are excellent for absorption, while liposomal formulas suspend the nutrient with fat molecules to supercharge absorption. They can be very effective for nutrients such as vitamin C.” And anything that looks gimmicky – like gummies – is best avoided. “Aside from magnesium, I haven’t come across any other vitamins and minerals that are absorbed in a spray more than you’d get from a good-quality oral supplement,” says Rhian. 

How should you take it?

Always take a multivitamin with food for maximum absorption, and if it contains high levels of B vitamins – which are energising – take in the morning to avoid interfering with your sleep. “It can help to take your multivitamin with some form of healthy fat to aid absorption,” Jenny adds.

How quickly will you see results?

If you were very deficient before taking a multivitamin, you may well feel the difference within a matter of days. But for the best results, and before switching to a different formula, stick with it for three months. “The beauty of a multivitamin is that it can be taken as and when you need a boost,” finishes Jenny. “They have been designed and formulated to be taken on an ongoing basis, but they can also be used periodically to support you as and when needed during times of stress, illness or training. Yes, a well-balanced diet is crucial, but chances are you need a modern-day multivitamin to fill essential gaps and feel your absolute best.”


Keep Your Levels Topped Up With SL's Edit Of The Best Multivitamins Here...

For more information visit TheHumanBeingDiet.com, Artah.co & Go-Nourish.com.

 DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

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