Category Archives: Vitamins & Minerals

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


Green Coffee Extract: Get Lean With the Bean It’s the latest fat-loss miracle, touted even by Dr. Oz: green coffee extract. According to the December ’12 Health, Oz tested green coffee extract on 100 overweight women in his audience. He gave the supplement to half the group and a placebo to the other half. All were instructed not to change their eating or exercise habits. They took one pill 30 minutes before each meal for two weeks.

Results? The green-coffee-extract group lost two pounds on average in two weeks while the placebo group only lost one pound. That’s a doubling of weight-loss results. Good stuff!

Plus, it may help you keep the weight off—even after you stop taking the supplement. In a recent study published in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy, 14 of 15 subjects had not regained any of the weight they lost four months after they stopped taking the supplement. Lead author of the study, Joe Vinson, Ph.D., said the reason may be that the supplement helps “reset your body mechanisms” that affect metabolism.

Apparently, weight loss initially occurs as a result of the polyphenols in green coffee extract, which slow the absorption of carbohydrates, sugar and possibly fats in the digestive system. “They also inhibit an enzyme used by the liver to form blood sugar,” meaning you get less insulin release and subsequent fat storage.

If you want to try it, research suggests that about 400 milligrams taken three times a day—30 minutes before breakfast, lunch and dinner—produces the best results. And, no, you don’t get it from drinking coffee. Unfortunately, the key polyphenol, chlorogenic acid, is destroyed in regular coffee beans during the roasting process.


Just D Facts

According to the winter ’12-’13 edition of Life Extension, even people who are taking vitamin D supplements are deficient in this important vitamin.

Many people think that getting 400 to 600 I.U. in their multivitamin is enough. It’s not, especially if you are older.

“Aging persons need to supplement with about 5,000 I.U. of vitamin D each day to achieve optimal blood levels. This is about 10 times more than the typical American takes.” You should also take the majority of that dose with the meal that contains the most fat to get maximum absorption. That’s the last meal of the day for most people.


The Zinc Link

ironmanmagazine.comA number of studies have established that zinc is essential to protect against oxidative stress and help repair DNA damage. In someone who has a zinc deficiency, the risk of which has been shown to increase with age, the body’s ability to repair genetic damage may be decreasing even as the amount of damage increases.

Recently, Emily Ho and colleagues from Oregon State University studied a lab animal model for the cellular zinc transport mechanisms. Finding that zinc transporters were significantly dysregulated in old mice, the team observed that aged animals showed signs of zinc deficiency and displayed an enhanced inflammatory response even though their diet supposedly contained enough zinc.

When the researchers gave them about 10 times the dietary requirement for zinc, however, their biomarkers of inflammation were restored to those of young animals. “Restoring zinc status via dietary supplementation reduced aged-associated inflammation,” the research write. “Our data suggested that age-related epigenetic dysregulation in zinc transporter expression may influence cellular zinc levels and contribute to increased susceptibility to inflammation with age.”

Wong, C.P., et al. (2012). Increased inflammatory response in aged mice is associated with age-related zinc deficiency and zinc transporter dysregulation. J Nutr Biochem. In press; published online Sep 13.

—Dr. Bob Goldman


Editor’s note: For the latest information and research on health and aging, subscribe to the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine e-zine free at WorldHealth

Juiced Up for Faster Recovery

www.ironmanmagazine.comThere has been a multitude of recent research concerning the health-restorative benefits of a number of power foods and fruits—including acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee), apple extract, blueberries, grape seed extract, noni juice and pomegranate, to name a few. All appear to contain nutrients with powerful medicinal properties. Research has confirmed that these supernutrients can combat cancer and diabetes, reduce cholesterol and inflammation and help prevent heart disease.

These foods are super because of their high orac value. Orac is the abbreviation for oxygen radical absorbance capacity, a measurement of the antioxidant capacity of a given food. Antioxidants protect cells from free radicals, which are nasty molecules that damage DNA and accelerate aging and muscle wasting.

While health officials are alerting the public about the medicinal benefits of these superfruits, sports physiologists have begun alerting the sports nutrition community about their recovery-accelerating and fat-reducing benefits. In fact, over the past few years the acai berry has been well publicized for its high orac value, as well as its amino acid content.

Because acai has an orac value around 5,500, researchers are excited about its ability to help maintain health, energy and vitality. Also, based on the results of a growing body of evidence, acai has the ability to assist the body in fat-loss via its effects in speeding up the metabolic rate, without disrupting or overriding normal metabolic processes.

Additionally, acai’s high amino acid content makes it a valuable aid in muscle repair and growth while slowing the catabolism, or muscle wasting, that typically occurs during high-intensity workouts.

Finally, because of acai’s ability to speed up the metabolic rate, users have reported renewed energy and vitality following a workout.

In a related study researchers at Stockholm University found that five weeks of drinking 150 milliliters per day of tomato juice standardized with 15 milligrams of lycopene, substantially reduced levels of 8-dihydro-2”-deoxyguanosine, a key marker of oxidative stress. Studies indicate that this inflammatory chemical can elevate to levels 42 to 82 percent above normal during periods of intense exercise.

The researchers reported that after five weeks at the dose ranges cited above, the activity of 8-oxodG was barely detectable. So tomato juice’s antioxidants appear to turn off inflammatory signals that inhibit recovery and accelerate muscle fatigue, giving it a definitive role in accelerating recovery from intense workouts.



Potassium: Not Too Much, Not Too Little

www.ironmanmagazine.comWhile all minerals are important to health, potassium has special significance for those who exercise. Consider its primary functions in the body: transmission of nerve signals and proper electrical conduction in the heart. Those two features alone make potassium important for any bodybuilding diet.

While potassium is found in most foods, the best sources are fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, the low-carbohydrate diets followed by many bodybuilders can lead to lower potassium—not just because of the lack of fruits and vegetables but also because low-carb diets produce a natural diuretic effect that causes the excretion of sodium and potassium. In fact, it’s the loss of potassium from very low-carb diets that results in the characteristic fatigue and muscle weakness they often bring. Supplementing with potassium at the right time can make those dietary side effects vanish.

Even so, it has to be at the right time. Taking isolated potassium supplements can lead to the release of the adrenal hormone aldosterone. The human body has evolved to conserve sodium while rapidly eliminating potassium, and that’s what aldosterone does. It retains sodium through its actions in the kidneys while promoting the urinary loss of potassium. In bodybuilders that can cause rapid water retention, requiring them to get more potassium either in food or via a supplement, which should be taken with meals.

Potassium also has a relationship with other minerals. As noted, it works with sodium in controlling fluid in cells. The sodium-potassium-pump mechanism pushes sodium out of cells and potassium into cells, which maintains the proper electrolyte balance in the cells and the blood. In addition, magnesium is needed to retain potassium in cells.

Potassium itself plays a role in helping to restore depleted glycogen after a workout. When you consider that muscle glycogen is the primary fuel of bodybuilding workouts, potassium’s importance becomes clear.

The body has a fine-tuned mechanism to keep potassium within a certain range in the blood. Either too much or too little can lead to serious problems. For example, while having a certain level of potassium is required for the heart to beat, or contract, too much potassium can stop a heart as fast as a bullet. That’s the reason a high-dose of potassium is in the third and final injection of lethal-injection procedures. The first two tranquilize and relax the muscles. The potassium is the actual killer, stopping the heart. Luckily, the body has evolved to prevent a buildup of excess potassium, but it can happen under certain conditions.

As noted, under normal circumstance the body is able to handle larger amounts of potassium. The potassium level is detected in the blood, which then prods the kidneys into collecting and rapidly excreting the excess. Anything that interferes with kidney function can lead to a dangerous buildup of potassium. Having kidney disease, especially kidney failure, is a prime risk factor for potassium overload and such patients are monitored and warned not to take in excess potassium.

Certain drugs can also interfere with kidney function enough to cause potassium retention, including certain blood pressure drugs and potassium-sparing diuretics. The latter encourage the excretion of sodium while retaining potassium in the body. Years ago pro bodybuilder Mike Matarazzo nearly died when he unknowingly took large doses of potassium while using a potassium-sparing diuretic drug shortly before a contest. His goal was to lose excess water, but it easily could have cost him his life.

There are other, less obvious sources of concentrated potassium. A recent medical journal presented two case studies related to excess potassium intake.1 The first case involved a 65-year-old man with heart disease who had been prescribed a low-sodium diet. He began using a salt substitute that contained potassium chloride. He used eight teaspoons a day, sprinkled on his meals, in addition to taking a prescribed potassium supplement. That led to an emergency room visit, in which he complained of breathing difficulty and muscle weakness. He also had a slow heartbeat and low blood pressure. Not long after showing up, he went into respiratory depression; that is, he couldn’t breathe on his own. His blood potassium level was 8.5; the normal range is 3.5 to 5.0. The attending doctors gave him medication to lower his potassium, and he left the hospital 11 days later.

The other patient discussed in the article was a 35-year-old bodybuilder who showed up at the ER suffering from weakness and the inability to move. He showed decreased alertness, a slow heartbeat and low blood pressure. He was immediately given an anesthetic drug, followed by a muscle relaxant. Oddly enough, one of the side effects of the muscle relaxant was elevated blood potassium. Talk about putting oil on a fire! Not surprisingly, he went into cardiac arrest. He was resuscitated and then the standard medical protocol for lowering elevated blood potassium, medication that was formulated to push the excess blood potassium back into cells.

It turns out that the bodybuilder had been taking a lot of potassium to treat muscle pain. On the day he was admitted to the ER, he had taken 10 potassium tablets before training and another 10 after the workout. He had also consumed several sports drinks during the workout that contained about 1,320 milligrams of potassium each. His estimated total potassium intake was 8,000 milligrams, about twice the recommended daily dose.

Bodybuilders can also get elevated blood potassium after incurring severe muscle damage, a process known as rhabdomyolysis that causes potassium from damaged muscle cells to be rapidly released into the blood. Still, there was no indication that this occurred with this bodybuilder. He simply overdosed on potassium. Luckily for him, his treatment was successful, and he left the hospital three days later, more aware—we can only hope—of the dangers of excess potassium.

While excess-potassium problems are rare in bodybuilders who have normal kidney function, problems of too little potassium are far more common, particularly in those who resort to using potent diuretic drugs in a last-ditch effort to drop excess water prior to a contest. I’ve witnessed dozens of cases over the years of bodybuilders actually passing out backstage because of diuretic abuse. In one celebrated case a pro bodybuilder literally froze during his posing presentation at the Arnold Classic and had to be carried off the stage. He was lucky though; he survived after a short hospital visit. Others haven’t been that lucky and died due to diuretic use. The usual cause of death is heart failure due to electrolyte disturbances brought on by diuretics. One such fatality was pro bodybuilder Mohammed Benaziza, who died during a contest tour in Europe, having used not only massive doses of diuretics but also clenbuterol, a drug that also lowers blood potassium and can interfere with heart function.

In a worst-case scenario having too little potassium can cause your diaphragm to be paralyzed, leading to an inability to breathe. Lack of potassium is also related to rhabdomyolysis, or muscle destruction, which ironically, as mentioned above, leads to excess potassium being released into the blood. You can get low blood potassium from excess vomiting and diarrhea as well. It can also happen due to too high a secretion of aldosterone, severe hyperglycemia—high blood sugar—and certain diuretics. Insulin rapidly lowers blood potassium by pushing it from blood into cells; in fact, insulin is often given to those with elevated blood potassium. Any of the common asthma inhaler drugs also does the same thing.

The same journal that documented the case studies of elevated potassium also discussed the case of an Austrian pro bodybuilder who suffered the consequences of using a potent diuretic called furosemide, or Lasix.2 This particular diuretic promotes a huge excretion of sodium, potassium and magnesium and is well-known for causing painful muscle cramps in bodybuilding competitors. The subject was 26 and was on the usual drug stack of steroids, growth hormone, thyroid and insulin. He claimed that he’d never suffered any adverse side effects from that program, except for an episode of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, likely from the insulin. For the first time in his career, however, he’d opted to take two 80-milligram doses of Lasix 24 and 48 hours prior to his contest. He did experience a pronounced diuretic effect, evident by his weight loss of five to six kilograms due to overnight pissing.

The following day, though, he felt unusually tired and decided to take a nap. When he awoke, he felt heart palpitations and couldn’t walk. He got out of bed but immediately fell to the floor. A neighbor saved his life by calling for an ambulance, and he was taken to a local ER. He was treated with several potassium and other mineral drugs to boost his potassium, and he survived. Again, we can only hope that he gained a profound respect for the importance of maintaining potassium levels—as well as the power of diuretics.

If these tales illustrate anything, it’s that you need to be aware of the sources of potassium and the factors that can affect blood levels of it. The second bodybuilder discussed above had no idea that dropping a few potassium pills and drinking over-the-counter sports drinks could land him in the hospital. The prudent way to handle potassium is to get it in food. Supplements are rarely necessary, and many supplements, such as meal substitutes, already contain good amounts of potassium.


Editor’s note: Have you been ripped off by supplement makers whose products don’t work as advertised? Want to know the truth about them? Check out Natural Anabolics, available at


1 John, S.K., et al. (2011). Life threatening hyperkalemia from nutritional supplements: uncommon or undiagnosed? Am J Emerg Med. 29(9):1237.e1-2.

2 Mayr, F.B., et al. (2012). Hypokalemic paralysis in a professional bodybuilder. Am J Emerg Med. 30(7):1324.e5-8.


Pain Free With SAMe

www.ironmanmagazine.comWhile glucosamine and chondroitin have been touted as a great combo for relieving joint pain and strengthening soft tissue, SAMe may be even better.

According to the December ’12 Prevention, “Studies have shown the supplement to be as effective as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in reducing morning stiffness, pain and swelling while improving range of motion and walking pace, with fewer potential side effects.”

In addition, the May ’12 Bottom Line Health had an item on a 2002 study that found SAMe to be just as effective as imipramine at reducing symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression with far fewer side effects. That’s a health double bonus with SAMe.


Testosterone Booster With Estrogen Control

www.ironmanmagazine.comMore testosterone? Yes, please. Bodybuilders know that more T equals a rise in strength and size, so optimizing your levels makes sense for the best gains possible. The latest supplement in the up-your-T category is Gaspari Nutrition’s Anatropin, and it can get yours soaring via a number of key ingredients that have been effective in human trials.

Vitamin D3 and zinc. Emerging research demonstrates the effectiveness of these ingredients when it comes to boosting testosterone. If you don’t get enough, testosterone falls.

Aphrodisiac compounds. Ayurvedic herbs have been used for centuries to support male vitality. Gaspari researchers scoured the globe for the ones that work best and included them in Anatropin. And, no, they did not include tribulus terrestris. Human research clearly shows that trib has no effect on androgen levels in men.

The Anatropin proprietary blend lists velvet bean extract (seed), Brassaiopsis Glomerulata extract (leaf) and Anacyclus Pyrethrum DC extract (root).

So Anatropin contains a key vitamin and mineral along with multiple herbs that have been found to heighten androgen and libido in men. Sounds like an excellent mix for a testosterone fix. 


Do electrolyte drinks really help prevent cramping?

www.ironmanmagazine.comQ: What’s the deal with electrolyte drinks? Do they really help prevent cramping? And what about potassium?

A: Electrolyte drinks may help. Electrolytes are chemical substances that when dissolved in water transform into ions, which are molecules that are involved in conducting electrical impulses throughout the body. If there is an electrolyte deficiency, the muscles will not be able to contract properly.

If you drink only plain water, the electrolytes in your tissues become diluted. To restore the electrolyte balance, the body must excrete this water through the kidneys, carrying electrolytes with it. Even so, there’s more to this story.

In a study published in the April ’05 Journal of Athletic Training, 13 college-age men with a history of exercise-associated muscle cramps participated in an experiment to determine how well electrolytes could prevent cramping in the calves. The authors concluded, “Consumption of a carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage before and during exercise in a hot environment may delay the onset of exercise-associated muscle cramps, thereby allowing participants to exercise longer.” The authors did note that 69 percent of the subjects still experienced cramping from their training, suggesting that addressing other factors, especially physical conditioning, is necessary to prevent cramping.

One of the best natural sources of electrolytes is coconut water; another option is to add an electrolyte-replacement mix to your water. As for some of the popular sports drinks, consider that water enters the cells through a process called osmosis. Sports drinks often have such a high concentration of sodium (to improve the taste) that the water cannot get into the cells—in effect, you are hydrated and dehydrated at the same time!

You asked about potassium. Potassium is an alkalizing mineral, and it is also associated with the prevention of muscle cramps. I like potassium citrate, which is highly absorbable.

Potassium deficiency is not the only mineral-related cause of cramping. Magnesium is involved in muscle contraction as well, and it is the most common mineral deficiency I see in athletes. One reason is that resistance training increases magnesium requirements. In fact, during the last 12 years not one of the first-time trainees I’ve worked with has had acceptable magnesium levels. Compromised absorption will generally keep you from having optimal levels.

Over the years, I have accumulated extensive research and experience in restoring magnesium levels, and I believe it’s best to use a combination of four different magnesium complexes: magnesium taurate, magnesium glycinate, magnesium fumarate and magnesium orotate. Adding vitamins E and D3 will also help.

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 Also, see his ad on page 147.   IM


Anabolic Vitamins

www.ironmanmagazine.comVitamins A and C are among the most underutilized anabolic fire starters. Not only do they assist in igniting a variety of anabolic processes, but they also help make and sustain many of the physiological chemicals needed for what could be referred to as your anabolic equilibrium and/or your anabolic drive.

Vitamin C and the cortisol connection. Known as the master nutrient, vitamin C is water-soluble and not stored in the body. Emerging studies have shown that it can significantly reduce muscle soreness and enhance your recovery time after a workout in doses of 1,000 milligrams.

C also plays a key role in easing the negative effects of the stress hormone cortisol, which has been shown to accelerate muscle wasting. In stressful situations cortisol forces the body to break down muscle to supply extra fuel to cope. Even exercise-induced stress can increase cortisol and destroy muscle tissue. You make tons of cortisol during your intense training, so controlling or minimizing its effects should be a top priority. To add insult to injury, elevated cortisol is also associated with causing the following:

• Decreased testosterone

• Insulin resistance

• Elevated blood sugar

• Increased bodyfat

• The destruction of tendons and ligaments

• Accelerated bone loss

• Shrinkage of brain cells

Simply put, elevated cortisol is not a catabolic fender bender; it’s a multicar pileup!

Bottom line: Take vitamin C every day—as if your potential to stay in a state of anabolic equilibrium depends on it.

C’s other anabolic actions. This vitamin also plays a key role in building collagen, the most abundant connective tissue in the body. Collagen assists in healing joints, dings and other injuries, another reason vitamin C is critical to accelerating recovery.

Furthermore, vitamin C has powerful antioxidant capabilities that can protect your muscles from damage that could inhibit you from reaching your full growth potential. It’s also involved in the production and distribution of steroid hormones throughout the body, a fact that isn’t highly publicized.

Suggested dose: 1,000 to 3,000 milligrams spread throughout the day.


Vitamin A and the testosterone connection. Researchers now know that vitamin A in the testes increases testosterone secretions and a number of anabolic growth factors, including a protein known as steroidogenic acute regulatory protein. It helps transport cholesterol into the mitochondria—the power plants, or energy factories of the cells, where fat is burned.

Vitamin A also works as an aromatizing agent in the testes, reducing the formation of estrogen, and so increasing circulating levels of testosterone.

Suggested dose: 5,000 to 10,000 international units per day