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Corps Strength – The Deal With Supplements

Recently there was a medical study published in all the major media outlets, about the role of vitamins in health. It got a lot of press and much discussion on social media. The take away from the combined study was that supplemental vitamins are a waste of time and money in preventing disease, and/or improving overall health. While I’m no doctor, I find their results seriously flawed from a common sense, real world perspective. First off this study makes the base assumption that everyone is consuming a balanced diet, and from that you’ll get all the vitamins you need. Really? I think that’s a pretty big assumption. Who exactly eats a balanced diet everyday? Especially in the military. Plus like a lot of “medical studies” that I’ve read over the years on diet and exercise, this one was focused on various groups of people in a “control group”, with one the groups sited was men that are 65 years and older? This is not exactly a group that you’ll find serving in the military, working as First responders, or frankly a group of people that do hard physical work. The study did say that while they didn’t think a standard multivitamin was harmful, it wasn’t beneficial. Sorry Doc, just don’t buy it.

In my book Corps Strength I outline a simple and effective high performance eating plan that was reviewed and found sound by the head nutritionist for the U.S. Special Operations Command. This plan has helped thousands achieve and maintain a healthy bodyweight, and still preform at a high level in almost any situation. However, I still recommend that everyone supplement with a daily multivitamin as insurance. Not just to cover any nutritional deficiency, but to also help deal with the added physical and mental stress that is associated with the military, first responder and other hard working occupations. Not to mention those that PT hard and compete in athletics. BTW, I’m not talking about “mega/animal paks” of vitamins. I have tried those and I got urine that looked like OJ, and smelled like a salad bar. So I think most of those extra vitamins end up in your sewer system, and could be toxic due to the excessive doses of vitamins they contain. I’m talking about the simple one a day type. I take a Centrum multi, have for years, and in this old Jarhead’s opinion they ARE beneficial, especially over the long term. Plus it doesn’t cost squat try it. Big good and stay safe.

Semper Fi,


14 Responses to “Corps Strength – The Deal With Supplements”

  1. DrWin says:

    It’s important to distinguish between vitamin supplementation (filling nutritional gaps) and megavitamin dosing, which you did address in your last paragraph. There are many studies showing that the concept of taking higher-than-recommended levels of vitamins in order to somehow prevent disease is deeply flawed (e.g. There are also quite a few other studies addressing standard vitamin supplementation itself. (It’s important not to overdose on certain vitamins, like the fat-soluble vitamins (e.g. Vitamin D).) Unfortunately, this sort of thing is just another fad, like antioxidants (e.g. From a physician’s standpoint, there may also be an ethical issue with promoting a treatment or therapy that has a high cost/benefit ratio. This is likely the primary reason for the general lack of recommendation and is a great guideline for physicians to use in treating patients. Of course, treatment is determined by both physician and patient, so everyone should consult with their physician. If your individual situation, both personal and financial, allows for it, go for it. In any case, just track your diet appropriately, and consult a registered dietician as necessary.

  2. JohnC says:

    A tip. When choosing supplements, it’s best to skip anything labelled with any (or all) of the following words: “Jacked,” “Freak,” “Warfare,” “Nuke,” “Explode,” “Fist,” “Assault,” “Bazooka,” “Nano-sized,” “Monster,” “Beast,” “Oprah,” or “China.”

    Oh, and “Clinically Studied”:

    • Trajan says:

      Those are all pre-workout supps you’re making fun of. Caffeine, some B vitamins, creatine, and some other stuff. Pretty much anything with caffeine will do the trick. Companies trying to fill the hole left by the old ECA stack.

      • JohnC says:

        Post/peri workout, too. And there are healthy supplements (“Primal” Greens*). Whatever appeals to the kind of 18 year old who wears Tap Out shirts to the mall to shop for even more Tap Out shirts.

        There are some pretty good stacks. The problem is that the dosage is individual (i.e., Acetyl-L-Carnitine can have opposite effects on different people). That’s why Competitive O-athletes all have tailored stacks. Still, if you want to tinker, trust me, this will get you going: [Not sure if it’s IAAF ok; definitely not for precision shooters] ALC-A; AGPC; DMAE; Tyrosine; N Acetylcysteine; Schisandra; L-Arginine; Oxiractam; Glucoronolactone; Caffeine.

      • Washed says:

        ECA for life bra!

    • Buckaroomedic says:

      Too True! And yet, AAFES still sells all this crap . . .

  3. MGunz says:

    “Oprah” LOL good one John.

  4. AJ says:

    The one thing I would invite you to look at are whole food based supplements vs. chemical based. Centrum is a good example of a chemical based. In studies that have been conducted it shows that very little of the vitamins reach your system and most goes right out the other end. Food based tends to not have the coatings and thus enter the system easier. For a simple test put a Centrum in a glass of water and then a whole food supplement. See what happens. There are many whole food supplements out on the market Nutrilite, Standard Process, and the list goes on and on. Do they cost more yes, is it worth it, I believe so.

    • DrWin says:

      The effectiveness of tablets is indeed dependent upon formulation. However, this test you propose is inaccurate since it only involves water as the solvent. What would be more accurate would be to simulate your gastric contents– you’d have to have an acidified solution with various other substances. Legitimate pharmaceutical companies do this sort of research to determine the solubility and bioavailability of their various formulated tablets. The ability of a tablet to not disintegrate with only water is generally a good thing for storage reasons and from a mass transfer (drug/active ingredient release) perspective.

      There is still active research going on regarding the difference between vitamin intake via tablets or via standard foods. I haven’t kept up, but I would consult current journals on the topic instead of solely relying on “common sense.”

  5. Va beach says:

    Since supplements are like opinions and opinions are like assholes, regarding multivitamins and from sources tied to the SOF community, if you want a good multivitamin you can do a few things:
    1. Put it in water and see how long it takes to dissolve. If its stll there after a few hours, chances are good thats whats happening inside your body. If it dissolves within about an hour, chances are good you’ll get something from it.

    2. Regarding the antioxidant bit, put your multivitamin in glass of water, take an apple, cut it in half, and submerge the cut half in water and the other half outside. If your vitamin causes the apple to brown its probably oxidizing the apple, which is not what you want. If it prevents it from turning brown you actually have good antioxidants working for you.

    3. For what its worth Mark Rippetoe, a well respected trainer, simply recommends the shovel method, where you take your multivitamin and let your body sort out what it needs the most. It takes ALOT to overdose on multivitamins, and chances are good unless you have a perfect diet, your deficient in something.

  6. Mike Nomad says:

    First and foremost: If your Vitamin D3 levels aren’t sufficient, your body’s ability to process/metabolize other key vitamins and minerals is compromised. It won’t matter how much of the other stuff you shovel (more on that later).

    What a number of you are pinging on is solubility (how well a given multi-vitamin breaks down in water).

    MGunz is doing himself a great disservice: Centrum tests horribly in solubility. Nature’s Plus (for example) does an excellent job breaking down, and a full dose is across six tablets, not one or two. No, I don’t work for them, etc.

    The ability to fine tune your daily dose helps with another aspect of using multivitamins: Hammering your kidneys. And that is what shoveling does. When your urine comes out looking neon / like something served on the stupid-end of Bourbon Street, you are overdoing it.

  7. MGunz says:

    Well, first thanks to everyone for the input but I have to say a Centrum multi has worked well for me for over 30 years. The proof is the pudding. At age 53 can out PT the vast majority of my military students who are in their 20’s. I very rarely get sick, and recently I had a full physical in which all my numbers were 5.0, I have no chronic joint, neck, back or knee problems and my weight (body fat 12-13%) has been stable for many years. The bottom line is that I go with what I know works from personal experience and first hand observation. IMO this issue (like almost every other aspect of physical training and diet) is way over thought.
    Semper Fi

  8. JohnC says:

    How vitamin supps are made: . Also, that plant-derived hormones are ‘herbal’ and ‘natural’ doesn’t make them safe.

    Here are some quality multis and other products (there are many others, of course; these, however, these are ones that make their data available and have a good rep):

    PPC Multi Intense
    Multi AM/PM Complex by ThorneFX
    Multi+ complete by Genuine Health
    Basic One by Cooper Health

    Greens+ (sold by Genuine Health in Canada; Orange Peel in the U.S.)
    Green Superfood by Amazing Grass

    HCL Enzyme Complex by ThorneFX
    PPC Ultra HCL 4.0

    –FISH OIL–
    Super EPA Complex Liquid by ThorneFX
    O3Mega/Omega 3679 by Genuine Health
    Maine Natural fish oils
    Über DHA
    Carlson Labs Elite