Whether you’ve taken too much at once, or you’re experiencing acute negative symptoms from taking higher doses over-time, this article will help you to understand why using less (and often) is a better option compared to the most common aggressive approach (higher doses).
The problem we have with most of the studies done is – they don’t show the whole picture. Along with a mysterious belief that higher doses are better in the supplement industry.
So far, the majority of the supplement industry suggest using doses that are too high in certain cases. Furthermore, as for the studies done on most supplements, they are far too short to determine the ideal dose for long-term health and optimal performance. Exactly why you should consider micro-dosing (smaller dosing method).
There are, however, in certain circumstances where you might want to take larger doses, such as water-soluble vitamins and minerals i.e. magnesium. However, for your health and vitality, it pays to understand why you might want to use less but more frequent dosing than otherwise suggested.
In this article, I’ll explain why supplements should be used in smaller doses (in some cases) to get the best results:
Table of Contents
Why Supplements are Used and Needed?
Without getting too deep into the science, supplement play a large part in an active lifestyle. You just need to account for the competitive nature and the advancement in how athletes are ‘dialling in’ on their nutrition to gain a competitive edge. Furthermore, you just need to look at the timing of how supplements are used and why supplements (in some cases) are a much better option than whole foods.
For example, you wouldn’t chow down on a plate of cheese in the hope to obtain enough acetyl-l-carnitine to increase mental and physical performance, would you? No! (acetyl-l-carnitine improves fat utilization and mental focus). Or, you wouldn’t eat a pound of raw beef to get your daily 5 grams of creatine, right? No, you wouldn’t.
Furthermore, it’s even been discussed that eating whole foods alone can make it difficult to reach adequate carbohydrate refuelling levels – for endurance athletes. (I) So, the argument against supplements doesn’t stand – they play an important part in a healthy and active lifestyle. But, finding the right balance is key!
Why Higher Doses Doesn’t Mean Better?
The Body Only Absorbs So Much
Taking too many supplements in one go won’t give you the best outcome, this is all down to your absorption rate. Just to give you an example of water-soluble vitamins: Your body typically prefers doses that are spaced throughout the day – rather than ‘one vitamin a day’ approach. This helps to drip feed your body with healing nutrients all day long.
So, taking a multivitamin, for example, would benefit you more if you take several evenly throughout the day with meals (ideally x 4) rather than in one go! Especially, if it consists of water-soluble elements due to the way they are quickly lost through sweat and general perspiration.
Prevents Adequate Conversion Rates
However, when citrulline is used in large amounts (upwards of 15g per serving) it may prevent the conversion of citrulline to arginine efficiently. One study said; “at 15 g doses of l-citrulline, a lower fractional absorption rate and plasma retention of l-citrulline was observed”.
Therefore, using less, in this case, is best; “for increasing circulating l-arginine concentrations, doses of l-citrulline as low as 3 g have been shown to be effective”. (II)
When gut imbalances occur, it can have a major impact on your recovery. For example, if you’ve taken too much arginine; “high-doses of l-arginine (~13 g) can induce significant gastrointestinal complications”. (III) Or external factors such as stress, hot weather conditions, or illness for example, can damage your gut bacteria.
It’s the bacteria in your intestine that fights illnesses and helps to repair your body after exercise. This precious gut bacteria also regulates the absorption of the foods (and supplements) you take.
So, if you thought of flooding your stomach with any supplement in the hope to get better results – just remember, more isn’t better. You could actually be damaging your ‘second brain’ – a.k.a your intestines.
Effects Mineral and Vitamin Absorption
Let’s use creatine for this example: When you take creatine for the first time, suggestions have been made at a loading phase of 25 grams a day for several days, then tapering off at 5 grams a day (for maintenance).
The problem here is that creatine will cause unwanted weight gain from excessive water retention. Furthermore, it may cause hydration imbalances as you’re effectively flooding your body with excessive amounts of water in a short space of time.
Taking this ‘aggressive’ approach to supplementation can deplete minerals and vitamins from your body – exactly what you want to avoid.
Therefore, using 3-5 grams of creatine a day consistently yields the best results. This is also in the way that creatine saturation works better at a slower, yet approachable pace for your body – giving it time to adjust.
Reduces Natural Hormone Production
Leading on from the point above, D-Aspartic Acid, which is responsible for testosterone production, helps to increase your body’s ability to stimulate the natural production hormones linked to muscle growth and fat loss.
However, if you take too much (upwards of 6 grams a day) you could actually cause the opposite effect – the production of female hormones. (IV) Therefore, using lower than the studied amount at 300mg per day long-term is a better option. That way you’ll be supporting your body’s natural hormone production process.
Think of it like this – in the days when our soils were rich in minerals like D-Aspartic Acid, smaller amounts are what you’d naturally eat or drink from mineral-rich springs and food groups.
So, why would you go above ‘optimal’ amounts which the body has spent millions of years evolving too? In my opinion, it’s better to mimic natural patterns of eating, rather than unnatural aggressive supplementation practices i.e. high doses of DAA.
How Many Supplements Can You Take at Once?
How many supplements you can take in one go will depend on a number of factors. Such as your goals, your genetics, and the supplements you’re taking. To give you a quick answer, you can take as many as required – let’s discuss this further:
If you’re someone who trains on a regular basis, you might need to take a multivitamin, a glucose supplement, a sleep aid, or even a cognitive enhancer and a prebiotic throughout the day. Therefore, when someone asks me “how many supplements can I take?”. My answer is always “what are your goals?”.
Another point to mention here is – if you have type I or type II muscle fibres (alters creatine’s effectiveness). Or, if you have intolerances to certain food groups for example, or even a deficiency. These points could have an effect on how well your body absorbs and uses the supplement you’re taking.
If you were thinking about increasing your doses to improve the benefits of your physical performance, then you might want to think twice. Not only would you be wasting time and money, but you could even be creating a negative effect.
Below is a list of reasons why smaller doses are better, and other factors as to why abortion rates could differ from person-to-person:
- Your body can only absorb so much – Just like with protein, where we can only absorb 30-40 grams per meal – the same happens with supplements. If you are deficient in any given vitamin or mineral, your body will absorb mostly of what it needs – and visa verse. If you have enough, your body will work to prevent too much absorption and utilization of a certain vitamin. So, taking more won’t always mean your body will use it.
- Lifestyle and gut health – If you experience a lot of stress, or you drink a lot of coffee (prevents uptake of foods via digestion), or your overall diet is poor in micronutrients, then there’s a chance that your gut bacteria is in poor health. Studies show healthy digestive pathways play a large part in how well you absorb foods and supplements. (V)
- May alter your body’s own chemical rhythm – As we’ve discussed above with D-Aspartic Acid – it can increase hormone production (testosterone for example). But too much at 6 grams a day, for example, can cause an opposite effect to happen where estrogen is increased (mainly in animal studies). (IV)
- Causes unwanted side effects – From bloating to dizziness and stomach issues, taking too much of one supplement (higher dose) isn’t a good thing. Just like we’ve discussed with the use of arginine above, it can cause a gut disturbance. If too much of a gut imbalance is caused, your recovery can be seriously affected.
Ask Me A Question!
If you want to know more specific details – leave a comment below asking me directly and I’ll answer your question. For example: “which supplement can I take in higher doses?”. Or even, “what supplements are better in lower doses?”
Don’t forget, I’m here to help you get the most out of your supplement program – helping you to excel and become the best version of yourself!
(I) Aragon, Alan Albert, and Brad Jon Schoenfeld. “Nutrient Timing Revisited: Is There a Post-Exercise Anabolic Window?” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, BioMed Central, 29 Jan. 2013. (source)
(II) Allerton, Timothy D, et al. “l-Citrulline Supplementation: Impact on Cardiometabolic Health.” Nutrients, MDPI, 19 July 2018. (source)
(III) Grimble, George K. “Adverse Gastrointestinal Effects of Arginine and Related Amino Acids.” The Journal of Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2007. (source)
(IV) Krajmalnik-Brown, Rosa, et al. “Effects of Gut Microbes on Nutrient Absorption and Energy Regulation.” Nutrition in Clinical Practice: Official Publication of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2012. (source)
(V) Lamanna, C, et al. “Involvement of D-Asp in P450 Aromatase Activity and Estrogen Receptors in Boar Testis.” Amino Acids, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2007. (source)