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Going Over the Recommended Dietary Allowance

7203-vitaminDfactQ: I heard that taking more than the Recommended Dietary Allowance of vitamins and minerals will just give me expensive urine. Isn’t eating good food—and plenty of it—enough? 

A: To be healthy and achieve your goals in gaining muscle and losing fat, it’s essential to get an adequate amount of nutrients. One problem with trying to get everything from food is poor soil quality. According to clinical nutritionist Dr. Robert Rakowski, it takes 17 elements to make a healthy plant, and the most popular fertilizers used on crops replace only three of them. The result is that we are consuming malnourished plants, and the animals we eat are consuming malnourished plants. Eating organic will help, but often it’s not enough.

Next, consider that there is controversy about the recommended daily allowances promoted by the United States Institute of Medicine, which are based on a nutrition model in which a deficiency of a particular nutrient is associated with a single, particular disease. Scientists identify adequate intake by finding the population that has the lowest intake of the nutrient in question and also doesn’t have the disease in question.

Basic nutrition courses often discuss the scurvy suffered by European explorers during their long sea voyages. Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, for example, lost 200 of his 218 crew members to scurvy during his expedition to the Philippines from a lack of vitamin C in their primary diet of salt beef, salt fish and rye flour crackers. The part of the story people seldom hear is that officers on such voyages often brought potatoes, which contain vitamin C, and as such had protection from scurvy. Likewise, Chinese sailors who remained at sea for months didn’t get scurvy because their sea-bound diet included bean sprouts, which contain vitamin C. The takeaway point is that it takes very little vitamin C to prevent this illness.

Even so, a deficiency of even a single nutrient can affect physical performance, so I consider it essential to take a good multivitamin-and-mineral supplement. There are several specific nutrients that I think need special attention. The three that are the most commonly deficient in my clients are magnesium, zinc and vitamin D.

To recap, the problem with just going by nutrient recommendations is that each is set for the lowest possible level of the nutrient that prevents the physical symptoms of a serious disease. Most of us want to do more than avoid a potentially fatal disease—we want to be in top health.


Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit IM


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