Ten vitamins you need to survive exercising (and living) in Hong Kong

Vitamins & mineralsI don’t know about you, but I get tired living in Hong Kong. Exhausted. Recently I haven’t been able to get through the day without a second coffee – double shot. I’ve been screaming to the heavens for an answer, and though I don’t have them all, I’ve figured out something:  living in Hong Kong, you have to take your vitamins. 

I know some might disagree, and arguably on a balanced diet you shouldn’t need vitamins, but who has a balanced diet? Really? Who in this town gets enough sleep? And who doesn’t slip up with a few too many vinos post work every now and then (or more than now and then)?

As I exercise quite a bit, I’ve been researching what I can take for general health and also what I can take to support my body in its rigorous regime. More than anything, I figure that I take so much from our bodies daily, it’s nice to give it something back.

Buckle in, here is my list of vitamins and minerals that I take regularly and why.

The short list (if you don’t have time to read on, here it is quickly)

1. Vitamin B complex

2. Magnesium

3. Probiotics

4. Vitamin D

5. Fish Oil / Omega 3

6. Vitamin C

7. Antioxidant blend

8. Zinc

9. Gingko biloba

10. Liver cleansing complex/ milk thistle

Phew. Here’s why.

The long list & the whys

Vitamin B complex- Work too hard? Sleep too little? Indulge too much? Vitamin B is top of the list for any Hongkonger, particularly a sporty one.

The B group vitamins play an essential role in helping to convert food into energy.  Apparently, to function normally, the nervous system also relies on the B group of vitamins.  They are not stored in the body in large amounts, and stress, overindulgence in alcohol and increased exercise can deplete your stores.

Interestingly, I also found out that B12 can’t be obtained through a plant-based diet. So this one is pretty important for all the vegos out there, too.

Magnesium – If you exercise a lot, magnesium should be top of your list. It’s a key mineral for recovery of tired, aching muscles. What’s more – if you’re running around in Hong Kong, you’re probably deficient as the mineral is often lost in sweat through endurance exercise. Don’t ask me exactly how it all works but I will tell you from personal experience that magnesium feels like checking your muscles into a five-star hotel – you come out the next morning feeling a gazillion times better. Plushy sheets for your insides.

This article also claims Magnesium has anti-stress properties. Need I say more?

Probiotic – When it comes to internal bacteria, there are the good guys and the bad guys. And unless you eat raw vegan and skip out completely on sugars, alcohol and processed food, chances are you’ve got wayyyyy too many of the bad guys.

Good news: a good probiotic supplement will help to balance the goodies and the badies (so will cutting out alcohol and sugars, but that’s for another post). Good gut health will lead to overall improvement in your health, help to reduce bloatedness and lethargy and generally just make you feel a helluva lot better. Trust me. Get on to it.

Vitamin D – After my first sunshine-less, dreary winter in Hong Kong, I started to feel really, really flat. A trip to the doc revealed that I had chronically low levels of vitamin D, and apparently I’m one of many in Hong Kong (check out this website for more info: www.vitamind.hk) . Vitamin D is synthesised by the body predominantly through exposure to sunlight and is also reduced through exposure to pollution. No wonder so many Honkies are Vit D deficient.

A lack of vitamin D can lead to all sorts of troubles: low immunity, depression and an inability to absorb calcium, just to name a few.

Fish Oil – Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil have many health benefits, but for the active among us, the key is its effect on inflammation. Put simply, it’s good for recovery, muscle repair and joints. It’s also not stored by the body.

Vitamin C – Vitamin C is great for fighting infections and is good for overall immunity. It’s another one not stored by the body, so you need to get Vitamin C from your diet or an outside source.  I know the instructions say you shouldn’t take more than 2 tablets a day but when I’m sick, I smash them by the handful. As I’ve discovered (and read more in the next section)  over-exercising can produce a lot of free-radicals in the body and lower immunity, I think it’s worthwhile to take Vit C for general well-being.

Anti-oxidant blend – (I take grape seed extract) They say you can have too much of a good thing, and when it comes to exercising I believe this can actually be the case. Every time you work out you’re producing free-radicals in the body, or more precisely reactive oxygen species. Read more here: http://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-runners/fueling-runner-anti-oxidants?page=single The theory goes that by increasing anti-oxidant intake you can help balance out any nasty side effects.

Plus anti-oxidants are well-known for disease prevention and overall health. So why not? Of course it’s best to get the most of your anti-oxidants from food, but perhaps a little extra won’t hurt.

Zinc –  I’ve suffered from zinc deficiency in the past, so I know this one is particularly important for me. But those low in zinc will generally have lowered immunity, bad skin and less zing in their workouts.

Gingko-Biloba – I’m forgetful. Maybe it’s ‘cos I’m trying to do a million things at once or maybe I’m just getting old, but either way I’ve found that this little Chinese herb is helps me to keep my head on. My hat on. What’s that saying again?

Plus, gingko is good for the blood and, following on from the argument for anti-oxidants, is also good for protecting the organs against oxidative damage caused by free radicals.

Liver Detox – Your liver has got to be the single most important organ in your body. Any liver detox/milk thistle type supplement will help to support the functioning of the liver. Take it after a big night and I find the hangover isn’t as bad.

*              *              *

Let me know if there’s anything else you take regularly that you can’t live without!!

Lastly, as is kinda obvious, I’m not a doctor or anything. I’ve put this post together based on my own experiences and research. You should probably do your own and be sensible about use, follow your supplement instructions and of course consult your doc!


  1. reddog said:

    Great article. I was hospitalised and put in a wheelchair two years back in the middle of a Boston Marathon marathon build-up. So running 140km week and all the cross training you need to maintain that. Initially they suspected MS – then follow up blood tests revealed low Vit D and B12; likewise magnesium deficiencies which was in turn throwing my calcium out of whack. I believe the Vit D thing is the biggest issue of all. Even running summer in HK we are shrouded in heavy clouds so they absorption is low. At the time I was burning the candle big time socially, working full time, coaching a group of runners and studying a masters. So I ignored all the tiredness before collapsing in a heap at school as a function of the training, partying, studying working etc. I am actually still recovering as some of my nerve signals in my spine to my legs are haywire. One of my advisors has tried to get me to giveaway coffee as he believes it depletes many of the nutrients. I try to avoid but love the stuff so much. Too many though and I can feel the symptoms worsening.

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