By now you have probably heard about the benefits of taking a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. If not, the basic reasoning is that a multi will avert and treat any nutrient deficiencies you may have. These deficiency are a result of a less than optimal diet as well as some factors outside of our control (lower mineral levels in soil, higher stress levels of modern life, etc.).
While I actively agree with the premise behind recommending a multi-vitamin/mineral as one of the top muscle building supplements, I believe that simply recommending that you take a multi isn't enough.
This is because the suggestion of a daily multi simply leads most people to go the drug store and pick-up the cheapest brand they can find. You may be thinking, "Aren't all multi-vitamins the same since most contain about 100% of the daily value of most nutrients?"
Unfortunately this is not the case. We have all heard the saying, "You are what you eat." Unfortunately this isn't the truth with multi-vitamins. A more appropriate saying for multi-vitamins is, "You are what you absorb."
You see, there are three reasons why cheap, drug-store multis are inferior to higher-quality multi-vitamins, and all of them have to do with absorption of nutrients:
1. Compression The typical drug store vitamins are usually made so that you only have to take one pill per day. To fit all of the nutrients into one pill there is some serious and heating and compression that takes place during the manufacturing process. This not only damages some of the fragile vitamins and minerals, but it also creates a pill that is so hard and dense that your body can't smash it down and absorb it.
2. Mineral Forms If you look at the label of a multi-vitamin you will see various nutrients listed. For example, if you look at magnesium you will see that next to the word "magnesium" there are the specific forms of magnesium listed in parentheses. The problem is that not all forms of minerals are absorbed the same. In fact, the commonly used oxide form has the lowest absorption rate! Remember, it doesn't matter if you are taking 100% of the suggested daily value if you're only absorbing a fraction of that!
3. Vitamin Overload This is another problem with those one pill multis. Sure, they have 100% of the daily value of some nutrients, but you are getting all of these nutrients at one time! Remember that this is the DAILY value. This means that it should be taken throughout the day, not in one big dose. These big once-a-day mega-doses are unproductive for absorption and keeping nutrient levels high throughout the day.
There are many good brands of multi-vitamins available. However, you are not likely to find them in the drug store. Instead, check with your medical practitioner. There are brands which sell their products only through medical professionals and these tend to be of a higher quality. If you can't obtain one of these brands, just look for a multi-vitamin that requires you take more than 1 pill per day (usually 4-8 is the norm). This is a good sign that the vitamin is of higher quality.
Most of all, you should feel a big difference within the first week of taking a high-quality multi-vitamin. If you don't notice an increase in energy and well-being then you made need to switch.