I know I need to make sure that I eat a good quality diet and I can supplement if need be. However, is there a best time to take my supplements and can I take them all together?
Many of you have been asking this question so we put it to Dr Shane……
AT A GLANCE
- Consistency is key. The best time of day to take our supplements is at a time that we can take them regularly.
- How effectively our body absorbs our supplements isn’t changed by the time of day, taking them with our meals does.
- B-Vitamins and Vitamin C are best taken on an empty stomach.
- Fat aids the absorption of our Vitamin A, D, E and K supplements, take with meals.
- Magnesium and Calcium are best taken in the evening.
- Zinc is best taken on an empty stomach away from food / meals.
- Iron can be taken with Vitamin C to aid absorption.
- Probiotics are best taken away from meals.
Without significant knowledge of current recommendations and guidelines, it can be a challenge to know when to take our multiple vitamins and supplements. Does it matter when they are taken and if we take multiple supplements? Plus, can they be taken together and/or with food should be questions we all know the answers to.
Products which contain multiple vitamins, minerals or other nutrients can usually be taken at any time during the day, including at mealtimes. The main consideration is regularity. Therefore, most people benefit from taking them first thing in a morning alongside something they already do. For example, having them with breakfast. Linking to an already developed habit.
If we are taking individual supplements (Calcium, Magnesium etc.) and multivitamins, splitting them up and spacing them apart may help our body to fully absorb the nutrients. Though we must be conscious that we may be less likely to remember to take them multiple times a day.
FAT SOLUBLE VITAMINS
Vitamins are divided into two classes based on their relative solubility in water and fat. The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, are absorbed in the intestine in the presence of fat.1 Usually recommendations are for these vitamins to be consumed with our meals, especially those meals in which we consume fat.
WATER SOLUBLE VITAMINS
It is usually recommended that water soluble vitamins (Vitamin C and the B Vitamins) are best taken on an empty stomach. Practically, this usually means taking them as soon as we wake up or more than two hours after we have last eaten (which may lead to us forgetting to regularly take them).
It is likely that we may be taking products that just contain a single nutrient. There are times when it maybe of benefit for us to either avoid taking individual nutrients together or advantageous for us to do us. Some of the main nutrients and specific comments relating to them are presented below.
This hormone like vitamin has always been essential and has received much attention during the last year. Summaries regarding its role and value are given in other blog posts. As a fat-soluble vitamin, guidelines recommend taking our Vitamin D with fat containing food (at mealtimes). Again, it holds true that we need to ensure we take it regularly (linking to a daily habit). Ideally, we would want to be taking Vitamin D with our largest meal of the day (whichever that is your you), specifically with a meal that contains food that are the highest in fats (dairy, fish, meat, avocado etc.). Unless this meal is close to bedtime when Vitamin D has been suggested to suppress melatonin. Potentially impacting on our sleep quality.
If you are taking a stand-alone Magnesium supplement, it is reported that it may be best to take this supplement later in the day (preferably at dinner time), based on the role Magnesium may play in relaxation and potential improvement in sleep quality (especially in those with poor sleep quality).
On its own Zinc is best taken on an empty stomach away from food / meals. It is indicated that it would also be advisable to not take with Calcium or Iron (though some multi-nutrient products contain all three, therefore this can’t be avoided), therefore also away from any dairy products.
Vitamin C has been shown to help the absorption Iron. Plus, dairy and other foods have been shown to potentially hinder Iron absorption. Therefore, if you are taking an Iron supplement, it would be best to take with Vitamin C and away from meals / food.
Since Calcium is reported to act as a relaxant to our muscle and potentially promote improved our sleep, it is recommended to be taken in the evening. Furthermore, low Calcium levels have been reported to impact on sleep quality. If we are taking a Calcium Citrate product, this can be taken on an empty stomach or with food. However, a Calcium Carbonate product is better absorbed if taken with food. Whichever form is taken, it is best to avoid any Iron or Zinc supplements.
Probiotics (mixture of cultures of live microorganisms) employ their effects usually in our gastrointestinal tract, where they may influence our intestinal microbiota. Taken 30 minutes before our meals, certain types (those containing Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus) have been shown to be most effective.
FISH OILS (OMEGA THREE FATTY ACIDS)
The recommendation of fish oils is the same as those for the fat-soluble vitamins. Ideally, we would take these with our meals (which have foods containing fat) alongside our fat-soluble vitamins. Experience also tells us that since fat is the slowest to digest (compared to carbohydrates and proteins) we are best not to take prior (less than 2 h before) any type of moderate / high intensity physical activity or exercise.
If you have a specific interest or would like to see a particular product or nutrient reviewed, please email your request to email@example.com. Educating our customers in respect to the importance of nutrients and the idiosyncrasies between formulas and products is at the heart of what we want to achieve.
DISCLAIMER: If you take any type of medication, for example statin drugs, thyroid medication, or antibiotics, ask your GP or pharmacist if you need to take your supplements a few hours after your medications to avoid any interactions.
This post is meant for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or nutritional advice or act as a substitute for seeking such advice from a qualified health professional. In order to make the blog series easier to read, I have used a conversational tone in many places with personal pronouns, such as “I” and “you.” This is meant only to make it more pleasant to read, and is not meant to imply that the information constitutes any form of advice, whether personal or general.