If you take a vitamin – or you’re considering taking one – one of the things you may be wondering is what time of day you should take it so your body has the best chance of absorbing its nutrients. Should you take it with food? On an empty stomach? And what’s the best time to take your multivitamin so that you’ll remember to take it every day?
There’s no right or wrong time to take a vitamin – the most important thing is to take them consistently. However, taking some vitamins at a specific time may reduce the risk of adverse effects. For instance, depending on the type of vitamin, taking it alongside a meal can boost how much of it’s the body absorbs and improve its impact on overall health.
In this article, we’ll talk about the ideal circumstances in which to take different types of vitamins.
When is the Best Time to Take Vitamins?
The best time to take your vitamins depend on the type that you are taking. Some vitamins are best taken after meals, while it’s best to take others on an empty stomach. Also, not every vitamin breaks down in your body the same way. For that reason, it’s a good idea to know if you are taking your vitamin at a time of day that will give you the most benefit.
- Best time to take fat-soluble vitamins. The best time to take fat-soluble vitamins is with meals to enhance absorption.
Fat-soluble vitamins are dissolved in your body using fats. Then, they are carried into the bloodstream and perform essential functions. These vitamins include Vitamins A, D, E, and K. When your body gets extra fat-soluble vitamins, they are stored in your liver. These vitamins are best taken with a meal that contains saturated fats or oils to enhance absorption.
- Best time to take water-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins absorb best on an empty stomach – that means taking them first thing in the morning, 30 minutes before meals, or two hours after meals.
The human body does not naturally store or produce water-soluble vitamins. Therefore, people need to consume these vitamins from animal, plant, and sometimes, supplemental sources. Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water so your body can utilize them. Vitamin C, all B Vitamins, and folate (folic acid) are water-soluble vitamins. Your body takes the amount of vitamin it requires and flushes out the rest through urine. Since your body doesn’t store these vitamins, it’s a good idea to incorporate them into your diet or to take a supplement.
- Best time to take prenatal vitamins. Since most prenatal vitamins are a multivitamin, taking them before lunch is an optimal time to absorb all the nutrients that they contain.
According to the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a good prenatal vitamin will include folic acid, iron, and calcium. Iron is best absorbed on an empty stomach and can’t absorb properly if you have recently eaten dairy. Iron is also absorbed better if you take it with a beverage that contains Vitamin C (i.e. orange juice). If taking the vitamins first thing in the morning or without food is making you sick, try taking them right before you go to bed. The benefits of prenatal vitamins are cumulative, so the most important thing is that you take them every day.
Considerations. Taking some prenatal vitamins on an empty stomach may cause nausea and indigestion. If a prenatal vitamin increases feelings of nausea, you should consider taking the vitamin with a small amount of food. There is a wide variety of prenatal vitamins out in the market today, and you should exercise caution when choosing which to take during pregnancy. Before starting to take prenatal vitamins, make sure to talk to your doctor for recommendations and suggestions. Remember, it is possible to consume too many vitamins, and this can cause adverse effects both for you and your baby.
- Best time to take B vitamins. To have a good start to your day, take your B vitamin on an empty stomach when you first wake up in the morning. B vitamins are a special family of water-soluble vitamins that are stress-busting and energy-boosting. Some of the most popular B vitamins are B2, B6, and B12. It has been clinically proven that B vitamins can improve your mood and reduce the amount of stress you feel.
Things You Should Know Before Taking Vitamins
Now that you know the best times to take certain vitamins and supplements, here are other things you should know before taking vitamins.
- There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to taking vitamins. The first question you may ask yourself when it comes to vitamins is whether or not you need them. The short answer: Maybe. Although most people are able to get sufficient amounts of nutrients from their diet, there are some groups who may need vitamins. For instance, for pregnant women, getting enough iron is crucial to help prevent birth defects. Also, vegans may fall short on nutrients found primarily in animal proteins. Taking vitamins may help bridge these nutritional gaps.
- Understand the difference between fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins. Some vitamins are fat-soluble, which means excess vitamins are stored by the body for long periods of time. On the other hand, some vitamins are water-soluble, which means that the body uses what it needs of them and gets rid of any excess through the urine. Fat-soluble vitamins, such as Vitamins A and K, are ones that you need to pay attention to so you can be sure that you’re not consuming more than the upper intake level.
- Some vitamins can diminish the efficacy of other medications. When talking to your doctor about whether or not a vitamin is right for you, one factor that should be considered is your other medications. For instance, Vitamin K can be dangerous for people who are taking blood thinning medication since it can reduce its efficacy. Another example is Vitamins C and E which can hinder the effects of chemotherapy treatments.
- You may already be getting more vitamins than you think from fortified foods. When you are looking at the tolerable upper intake level (UL) for minerals and vitamins, don’t forget about the amount you are already getting pre-supplement. Many kinds of milk, bread, and cereal are fortified – this means that they have added minerals and vitamins already, which can bring you closer to reaching ULs.
- Too much of certain minerals and vitamins can have adverse effects. The human body needs minerals and vitamins in order to operate as efficiently as possible – but only in certain amounts. Note that too much of certain vitamins can be dangerous. For instance, an excess of Vitamin B6 may cause nerve pain. Fat-soluble vitamins can be toxic at high levels. Too much Vitamin C may cause diarrhea and nausea. Be sure to take the tolerable upper intake level (UL) for the vitamins you are taking, and note that it’s different for each vitamin. And be aware that the UL is the limit for all sources of a vitamin – this means that if you get some vitamins from food and some from a supplement, you will hit that limit faster.
- Make sure that you understand the language. If you have looked at a nutritional label, you have probably seen Daily Value (DV) represented as a percentage. Typically, this is reflected as a percentage to explain how much of each nutrient you should be getting in a day – this is sometimes also called the Recommended Daily Allowance. When researching vitamins, you may also see references to Adequate Intake (AI) amount or tolerable upper intake level (UL). Knowing and understanding these abbreviations will be key to understanding the information you are getting and making the right choice when it comes to your vitamins.
The Bottom Line
There’s no right or wrong time to take a vitamin – the most important thing is to take them consistently. However, taking some vitamins at a specific time may reduce the risk of adverse effects.
So, when is the best time to take vitamins or supplements for best absorption? The best time to take your vitamins depend on the type that you are taking – whether it’s a fat-soluble vitamin, a water-soluble vitamin, a prenatal vitamin, or a B vitamin. Some vitamins are best taken after meals, while it’s best to take others on an empty stomach.
Aside from knowing the best time of day to take your vitamins, you should also be aware of other considerations before taking vitamins. For instance, you should know that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to taking vitamins and too much of certain vitamins can have adverse effects.
We hope this guide is able to help you!
Disclaimer: The information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All information contained on this web site is for general information purposes only.