If you’ve walked by any dietary supplement store even the right section of your supermarket you will have seen them: shelves upon shelves of enigmatic vitamin supplements, ranging from your standard vitamin C to such esoteric things as bottles of green algae. Have you ever stopped and stared at these thousands of extracts, tinctures, reductions and concentrations and wondered if you should be taking some? If you are missing out on a key nutrient or dietary supplement that could prove to be the key to unlocking boundless energy and zest for life? If so, then read on: we’re going to examine vitamins in this article, and give you an honest answer as to whether you should be taking them or not.

First off, what are vitamins? Just because it comes in a little brown bottle and is pill shaped does not mean it qualifies as one. Simply put, vitamins are essential nutrients that contribute to a healthy life. Although most people get all the vitamins they need from the foods they eat, millions of people across the world take them as dietary supplements in order to compensate for any deficiencies they might experience. ). If you’re looking at a little bottle that doesn’t have one of those letters on the label, then you’re not looking at a vitamin.

There are many good reasons to take vitamins, and according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), a doctor may recommend that you take them due to certain health problems, if you eat a vegetarian or vegan diet or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Beyond that, it’s a fact that many Americans consume a calorie rich and nutrient poor diet. Think about all those cars pulling up to a fast food drive in lane so that their drivers can suck down on trans-fat laden burgers and milkshakes. Do you think those people are getting their daily complement of vitamins? Unlikely. And while that’s an extreme example, to a degree everybody has gaps in their diets that they could supplement with a vitamin intake. Whether it’s because you don’t have time to cook a full meal at home every night or the cafeteria at work serves poor quality food, everybody at times find themselves unable to get all that their body needs.

Beyond people who don’t get a nutrient rich diet are those in special conditions that require supplementation. This could range from people who work indoors and don’t get sufficient exposure to sunlight (and thus need to take vitamin D supplements) to people over 50 who should be taking vitamin B-12 to growing children and adolescents who should be taking vitamin E.

In the end, the only way to determine if you need vitamins is to do some research on your own particular situation. The dietary needs of a vegan will differ from that of a pregnant mother which will differ again from that of a body builder. Examine your diet carefully, ask if you are eating the recommended amount of veggies and fruit, see your doctor for professional advice, and them complement your diet with the right vitamins. But in the end, it’s hard to go wrong with vitamins: if you take an excess amount beyond that which your body needs, most of them will simply be filtered out of your system by your kidneys and expelled from your body via urination. With this in mind, and the numerous benefits to be found in them, then perhaps when it comes to vitamins it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Philip Tucker is a Fitness Product Review specialist for Miami based Extreme Fitness Results LLC. He enjoys supplementing his diet with P90X vitamins and the P90X Recovery Drink.