Do dietary supplements work? | Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

Do dietary supplements work?

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

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UPDATED: Aug 25, 2020

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  • Dietary supplements are effective, but should never take the place of real food in your diet.
  • Unless you have severe food allergies, you should choose dietary supplements made from food products.
  • It is possible to overdose on certain vitamins, so be careful with your supplement intake.

Do dietary supplements work? Yes, they do! The questions you should be asking are how effective are they and can they take the place of some foods in your diet?

Many people view dietary supplements as a way to avoid eating their fruits and vegetables.

Some people will do what is called loading with their vitamins to ensure they are getting enough nutrients. Loading means taking more than the recommended amount on the bottle.

Of course, supplementation is only one part of an overall healthy lifestyle; exercise matters, too. Go PRO today for access to workout routines, goal trackers, and more.

How Effective Are Dietary Supplements?

The truth is that the effectiveness of the dietary supplements you use depends greatly upon what type of supplements you buy.

For example, if you buy a solid pill or capsule form of dietary supplements, your body will only absorb about 30 percent of that supplement.

The reason for this is that it takes time for these supplements to break down in the body. In addition, the body doesn’t recognize them as food and some of it is automatically shunted out of the system as a safety measure.

Studies support the fact that the best way for the body to receive the nutrients it needs is through food. That is why if you want the most effective dietary supplements, you need to buy supplements that most closely represent food.

Many manufacturers create whole-food powders, milkshakes, and capsules that the body will recognize as food. They even use vegetable-based capsules so that the body doesn’t view it as a threat, but something that should be broken down and used.

Can Dietary Supplements Take the Place of Healthy Foods?

You should never substitute dietary supplements for healthy eating. There is no getting around the fact that fresh food is the best way for your body to get the nutrients it needs. Everything else is secondary and not as effective.

However, it is fair to say that most people don’t eat enough fruit and veggies in their diets to get the nutrients that the body requires. This is when dietary supplements are the most beneficial.

Rather than substituting for food, they can enhance what you already provide your body to ensure that it gets everything it needs.

I Have Certain Food Allergies. Are Dietary Supplements Right for Me?

While supplements can benefit those of you with allergies, is very important to know every ingredient in any supplement you take to ensure you do not ingest something you are allergic to.

If you choose a whole food product, you could easily be ingesting something of which you have an allergy to!

If you have a wide variety of allergies, your best alternative will be dietary supplements that use synthesized vitamins. Although these aren’t absorbed as well as food, they are certainly better than nothing.

If you have severe allergies, you should speak to your doctor about what vitamins to take to ensure you don’t cause yourself any ill effects.

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Can I Overdose on Dietary Supplements?

Have you heard the adage that you can’t get too much of a good thing? If so, you need to know that this doesn’t apply to vitamins. You can get too many vitamins and create some imbalances and even toxicities in your body.

In fact, a study conducted by the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that too much vitamin E can be deadly. Your daily recommended dose of 400 IU per day is all you should be taking to prevent serious complications.

IU refers to the potency of the vitamin, not the grams or milligrams. The potency of vitamins varies upon manufacturers, which why understanding IU is important!

Other vitamins you can overdose on include vitamin A, vitamin B6, and vitamin D.

For more information on dietary supplements, and a link to a helpful site, watch this short video!

Should I Talk to My Doctor Before Taking Dietary Supplements?

If you are considering taking a standard, over-the-counter multivitamin, you don’t have any medical conditions, and you aren’t on any medications, you don’t necessarily have to see a doctor before starting the vitamin.

However, many doctors will suggest you talk to them before starting any type of dietary regimen, including taking vitamins, so this is essentially up to you.

If you are on medications or you have an ongoing medical condition, you should not take anything, no matter how benign it seems, without consulting your doctor first.

There are many natural products that aggravate medical conditions and interfere with the efficacy of medications.

Coupled with a good exercise routine, finding the right dietary supplements might help take your total body health and fitness to the next level.

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