A few years ago it was vitamin D that everyone was low in, lately magnesium is the deficiency du jour. Have you ever heard a news report about how most people are deficient in a vitamin or mineral and then rushed to the supplement aisle to load up on it in pill form?
One problem with blindly reacting like this is that you may not be in the deficient category. You could end up supplementing in an area where you don't need supplementing. Another problem with this approach is that supplements tend to be poorly regulated. You may end up getting the wrong form or quality of the vitamin or mineral.
One more big issue with blindly self-supplementing is ignoring that certain vitamins and minerals have very sensitive relationships with each other. Spiking levels of one without considering it's partner(s) in crime can cause chaos.
A classic example of this is the relationship between vitamin D3, vitamin K2, and calcium. It turns out that D3 needs the help of K2 to get calcium to go to the right places, like your bones. Without the right K2 levels you could have calcium heading for the wrong places like your arteries. Unchecked calcium deposits in the arteries are no good as this can lead to hardening of the arteries.
The solution to avoiding this supplement chaos is simple: If you've experienced specific signs and symptoms of deficiency, you should consult your MD or other qualified diet/nutrition professionals about confirming the potential deficiency. This should lead to a blood test or other method of confirming the deficiency and then a focused plan on how to address any identified deficiency.
Outside of that, try seeking a wide variety of foods that you consistently consume and try new foods regularly. Look into what foods have strong levels of certain vitamins/minerals and consider if you get those foods regularly. If not, then simply getting more of this food might be all you need to top off your levels.
I'm not saying you should never use supplements. I am saying that I don't recommend self-diagnosing yourself with a deficiency and automatically taking a pill-based approach to fixing it. You may end up with more problems than you had to begin with.
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Tim DiFrancesco, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS spent 6 seasons as the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers and is the founder of TD Athletes Edge. He is nationally renowned for his evidence-based and scientific approach to fitness, training, nutrition, and recovery for athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
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