When it comes to Nutrition there are often a lot of details that go overlooked, and that goes just as much for “Micros” as it does for the over-fabled “Macros”. Great thing is though, we have options! Supplements can help us cover our bases with micronutrients, but even then, we must ensure we’re getting it right!
Unfortunately, 90% of Supplement Companies (and 99% of Trainers and ‘Health Coaches’ [who don’t know enough of the nitty-gritty details of micro-nutrients]) are just “shot-gunning it”.
What I mean by that is that they’ll just tell you to take ONE capsule (multivitamin) that has eeeeverything in it in a bid to get as wide a spread as they can across the broad spectrum of micronutrients that need to be covered.
The problem with this approach is it’s like an assassination – where you’d fare better with a Sniper Rifle to do the job, you’re taking the messy [Shotgun] approach and just praying it works.
Now, hopefully you’ll have read Four Common Deficiencies and How to Increase Your Intake, and there I allude to two of the three that we’re covering today: Zinc and Magnesium. These two along with *Calcium* make up the THREE micros you do NOT want to find in your Multivitamin. And in the case of the first two, you really do want to take a sniper-like approach!
Let me explain…
Zinc – firstly – is a tricky one. You absolutely need it. And in a lot of cases, people can be deficient in this critical micronutrient. But it’s all about *timing*. That’s why you’ll typically find Zinc sold as ZMA (Zinc/Magnesium/Vit-B6) with instructions to take it at night. See, it can potentially inhibit the uptake of those “building blocks” we want/need so much: Amino Acids!
‘Calcium and Copper can intefere with the absorption of Zinc…’
Again, seeing as how these too are sold as separate supplements by themselves is an indication as to how important they are for our health and performance; so the last thing we want is to throw a wrench in the works by consuming Zinc with a high-protein meal or BCAA supplement.
Taking Zinc at night ensures that the body has had a chance to utilize those aminos and let’s Zinc “do its thing” in its own time. See, Zinc is like the ball-hog on the court who can win the game for you, but just needs to be left to play that way – the proverbial “*i* in TEAM” if you will…
Calcium and Copper can interfere with the absorption of Zinc, so this is another reason you don’t want to see it mixed in with those two in your multivitamin!
Dose-wise – as you’ll have read in the 4 Common Deficiencies article – you need to get in at least 15mg per day. But if you’re particularly active (certainly if you follow this blog, I’d assume you are), then you’d even do well to double that to 30mg!
And if you’ve read Bio-Hack Your Sleep – Five Ways to Better ZZZs then you’ll know that one of the most essential roles of Zinc is in the metabolism of Melatonin, which is inherently intertwined with good quality sleep. But it doesn’t stop there – Zinc plays a huge role with other hormones like Insulin and Dopamine, meaning it is a key player when it comes to Diabetes prevention [in the case of the former], as well as mood elevation [in the case of the latter].
‘… minerals can be toxic if taken in super high doses.’
Needless to say, that just scratching the surface here (with Zinc) we can see that there are some hefty aspects of our general health & wellbeing that can be addressed with adequate intake.
But okay, let’s scuttle on – how about Magnesium?
So, where Zinc needs to be left by itself to do its thing, Magnesium just doesn’t play so well with others; namely: Calcium and Manganese. It does, however, pair quite well with Zinc – hence its inclusion in ZMA. This pairing [of minerals] is like the “M.J. and Pippen” of the Mirco-game; or if you’re a Blazers fan like me, then they’re like the “C.J. and Lilliard” of minerals: the rest of the team have to be able to come in and play their game too, but these duos are the ones that will score the clutch shots to win the game at the end of the night… (Hint, hint – with timing there!).
Magnesium is a super important, and massively underrated micronutrient! It has an impact on everything from Cortisol levels (think: Stress levels), to the relaxation of the nervous system (again, as you’ll have read in the Bio-Hack article). Then there’s the impact it has on healthy metabolism, bone health and the cardiovascular system… sound important enough to warrant our attention yet?
We’ll want to get a solid 450mg per day in here. Many multivitamins will only offer up a fraction of this. That’s as a preventative measure; see… minerals can be toxic if taken in super high doses. Vitamins – conversely – are often hyper-loaded into supplements at percentages often ranging upwards of 1000% of what you actually *require*. Yes, you read that extra zero in there right. Heck, I’ve seen some vitamins being dosed at 8000-12,000%… and *that* is just ridiculous!
A little side note here: the inclusion of Vitamin B6 in ZMA supplements is to aid in the absorption of Zinc and Magnesium… in case you were wondering!
So okay, now let’s look at the third offender on the list: Calcium.
This really is the crooked Kingpin of the Micronutrient roster! Thing is, the body needs far more Calcium than most other “micros”; in fact, there are only a handful of *minerals* that we even need at doses as high as 1000mg or higher, and Calcium is one of them. As such, this means that it can tend to interfere with the absorption of many of the “smaller” minerals like Iron, for example.
‘Alongside Vitamin K, Calcium is crucial for blood clotting.’
Now, Calcium has been in the limelight for decades – this is mostly owing to the prerogative of Dairy companies and their affiliates (any food/beverage company that utilizes milk or cheese in their products). See, they’ll overstate the importance of Calcium to make their products sound ‘essential to your health’, when in reality, we can [and do] get plenty of Calcium in our diets from a plethora of non-dairy sources; kale – for example – can provide you with a massive 25% of your daily required intake in just a single cup! So to be fair, we might even be overcooking it with this micronutrient!
But okay, look… I’m not trying to demonize Calcium here – far from it! It is fundamental to our health. And to be fair to the health claims that are made – these are true – Calcium is [famously] important for optimal Bone and Teeth formation; my criticism really is just that you don’t need to *rely* on dairy to get enough in your diet.
So, what is it good for other than Teeth and Bones? Well, some pretty darn important things actually! Alongside Vitamin K, Calcium is crucial for blood clotting. And then there’s muscle contraction – you’re doing yourself an injustice in the “iron playground” if you don’t meet your Calcium requirements; however, if you’re taking Protein Shakes post-workout then you’ll probably be fine seeing as how Whey/Casein is derived from dairy (i.e. high in calcium).
As mentioned, you’ll be needing about a full gram of Calcium per day, which is pretty easy to get in. Your best bet with this one though is to get it from your food rather than supplement form. And if you do this, just make sure you’re not eating anything super-rich in Calcium when you’re taking your multivitamin supplement (which goes for ZMA too).
That wraps things up for this article. The simplest way to tackle the issue with these micronutrients is just to take a Zinc & Magnesium supplement (like ZMA) at night, and find a multivitamin that excludes them (as well as being devoid of Calcium) for during the day. Then just consume a Protein Shake [and other Calcium-rich foods/drinks] to have that third base covered, and you’ll be set.
I hope this has been an eye-opener here! I didn’t want to get into too much technical detail, but rather glance over the most important stuff, and hopefully that’s enough for the message to hit home! I’ll catch you in the next post…
In the meantime, remember: Train Hard, and Train Smart!
Yours in Training,
Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO