If you take supplements you’ve likely wondered what the best way to take them is. After all you want to get the most benefits that you can from them. And you certainly don’t want to waste your time and money.
So you wonder…
- Is there a better time of day to take certain ones?
- Should I split them up, or is it okay to take them all at the same time?
- Should they be taken with food, or before or after a meal?
Flexibility is great, but sometimes having a solid path is helpful too. So let’s take a quick look at some guidelines that can help you decide when it’s best for you to take your own supplements.
The YOU factor:
As a general rule you should take your supplements when they agree with YOU the best.
For lots of folks taking their supplements all at once as part of a morning routine helps keep them from being forgotten. If you have no trouble taking them all at once, and you find it helps keep you on track to take them with your breakfast, go right ahead and do that. (See “Seven supplement timing tips” below for an exception.)
But taking a bunch of pills at the same time, or early in the morning, can be a recipe for heartburn or a tummy ache for some. If that’s the case for you, feel free to take your supplements later in the day or split them up and take them throughout the day. You can even set a reminder on your phone or computer to make sure you don’t miss a dose, or purchase an electronic pill container that reminds you.
Fat is your friend:
It’s a good idea to take your supplements with a meal that contains some fat. This can help you avoid stomach irritation and will typically boost absorption of the nutrients too. But for fat-soluble vitamins it’s critical.
Empty leads to aches:
Generally you should avoid taking your supplements on a totally empty stomach. Having food in your stomach, and drinking plenty of water, can help you avoid stomachaches and other gastric complaints. (See “Seven supplement timing tips” below for a couple of exceptions.) So unless your doctor or pharmacist tells you otherwise you should try to take your supplements with a meal or right after eating.
Seven supplement timing tips:
While there aren’t a lot of hard rules when it comes to taking supplements, there are a few good guidelines you can follow.
1. Vitamins A,D,E,and K:
Fat-soluble vitamins including vitamins A, D, E, and K should always be taken with food that contains fat to be properly absorbed. Plan to take them at mealtimes or with a snack.
2. Selenium and vitamin E:
Selenium and vitamin E are a tag team that tend to work better together by boosting each other’s absorption. Try to take them together.
3. Vitamin C:
Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin and doesn’t hang around for long. Your body uses what it needs and then the rest passes out of your body when you pee. For this reason it’s best to split up C into two doses during the day.
4. B vitamins:
B vitamins help kick start your metabolism and convert the food you eat into energy so you might want to consider taking them earlier. Some folks report energizing B vitamins interfere with their sleep so try to not take them too late in the day.
To get the most out of probiotics consider taking them on an empty stomach at least a half an hour before a meal. Many experts believe probiotics are most effective when your digestive enzymes and stomach acids are at their lowest Since these levels ramp up whenever you eat, taking your probiotic 30 minutes or more before you eat may allow your gut to absorb more of the good bugs.
Iron can also benefit from being taken on an empty stomach. Experts say it’s better absorbed this way. Also try to avoid taking calcium and vitamin E at the same time you take your iron, as they can interfere with its absorption.
Magnesium can reportedly help you sleep more soundly so consider taking this mineral with your evening meal.
Remember to store your supplements in a cool dark place and always follow your manufacturer and doctors directions. If you’re taking any medications and intend to take a supplement be sure to read labels very carefully, and check in with your doctor or pharmacist about any potential interactions.