What's The Best Time To Take Vitamins And Nutritional Supplements?

Here Are Some Guidelines On When To Take Supplements

Generally, the best time to take vitamins and other supplements is when you eat.

Why?

Most commonly, ingredients contained in a nutritional supplement, such as vitamins and minerals, are nutrients found in food. This is clearly specified by the official supplement definition (see What Are Nutritional Supplements? Information You MUST Know!).

Broadly speaking, nutritional supplements are specific food substances supplied in concentrated form.

Many ingredients that are frequently found in supplements are necessary for human life, such as vitamins and minerals. Oftentimes these (micro)nutrients work kind of like “spark plugs” to initiate, facilitate, and make possible various metabolic and physiological processes within the body (Mindell, 1991), such as the release of energy from carbohydrates and fats, for example.

In other words...

Supplement ingredients (micronutrients) work in tandem, in a symbiotic manner, with the macronutrients (fats, protein, carbohydrates) found in food.

Therefore, the best time to take vitamins, and supplements in general (with a few exceptions), is when you eat a meal. Either while you eat, or shortly after you're done eating.

If you take nutritional supplements on an empty stomach you speed up the time the nutrients get absorbed. But speed could impair the completeness or thoroughness of nutrient absorption (Bhagavan & Wolkoff, 1993) because the adequate utilization and absorption of nutrients in nutritional supplements also demands that enough stomach acid (hydrochloride acid) is present. If it is lacking or inadequate, as it is the case in older people especially or when taking supplements on an empty stomach, you will not experience (all) the benefits from supplementation. Eating food stimulates the release of stomach acid.

Significant research investigations have shown that the best time to take vitamins (including multivitamins) and other supplements is with food because it will slow down the absorption of the nutrients from the supplements, thereby increasing, or maximizing, the assimilation rate of nutrients (Kelly, et al., 1984; Heaney, et al., 1989; Rosenbaum & Bosco, 1989; Mulligan & Licata, 2010).



From WHEN To HOW To Take Vitamins And Nutritional Supplements

“Unlike many of the other vitamins in man, ascorbic acid [=vitamin C] requires a constant intake to maintain a fixed tissue level.” (Pijoan & Lozner, 1944) [explanation added]

Closely related to, and apart from knowing what the best time to take vitamins is, looms the question HOW to take vitamins?

The way we customarily consume food serves as a guideline to answer that question.

The majority of people eat frequently throughout the day. That is, usually three meals a day, perhaps with occasional snacks in-between. Research investigations suggest that taking nutritional supplements several times during the day, reflecting common eating habits, is more beneficial. For instance, the absorption of nutrients is improved compared to taking dietary supplements all at one time (Heaney, 1991; Nieves, 2003).

Furthermore, most nutrients found in nutritional supplements are used up rather quickly by the body, roughly within 6-12 hours (Prasad, et al., 2001). By consuming nutritional supplements more than once a day you are assuring that the cells of your body are well-nourished around the clock. Studies on animals (e.g., Hidiroglou, et al., 1997) found that multiple oral administrations of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) yielded higher ascorbate blood concentrations over a single oral dose.

Thus, the best time to take supplements is at several "times" throughout the day. Divide up your supplements so that you get to take them at least twice a day (at main meals).



The Payoff From This Advice On Vitamins:

-Maximizing Vitamin Benefits, Minimizing Vitamin Side Effects

Adhering to these basic principles on the best time to take vitamins and on how to take supplements helps to avoid some annoying side effects of nutritional supplements, while maximizing health benefits.

By following these rudimentary guidelines about how to and the best time to take vitamins, especially the ingestion of these natural health products with a meal, you also minimize or prevent the risk of certain potential serious side effects of dietary supplements (Domrongkitchaiporn, et al., 2004). (For more ways to avoid supplement risks, review the article Side Effects Of Dietary Supplements -Top 10 Tips To Avoid Them).

Taking dietary supplements, particularly single nutrient products, on an empty stomach might create nutritional imbalances among other nutrients since your body needs an assortment of both macro-, and micronutrients, rather than just micronutrients, or one type of micronutrient.

Scientific studies (e.g., Nègre-Salvayre, et al., 1991; Johansson, et al., 2010) have shown that nutrients work synergistically, or cooperatively, enhancing each other's positive impact which results in a increased combined effect. Thus, by taking one of the multivitamin supplements, rather than taking single element nutritional supplements, you maximize the health benefits of vitamins. You receive more health gains.



Final Comment Regarding The Best Time To Take Vitamins

-Beyond Knowing WHEN And HOW To Take Vitamins, To Knowing WHAT Vitamins To Take

What is arguably above these guidelines addressing the best time to take vitamins, and what ought to be paid close attention to, but commonly isn't, is the choice of consuming high-quality, effective, pure vitamins, rather than one a day vitamins or discount vitamins and nutritional supplements.

Because...

No matter whether you know how to take supplements correctly and properly -that is, with meals and more than once a day- if they are ineffective (not science-based) they will not do you much good because you will miss out on the benefits of supplements (i.e., health gains).

In the worst case scenario, the product could harm you if it is contaminated due to low-quality manufacturing standards (discussed in the article Health Risks From Dietary Supplements -Contaminated Supplements).

In the articles on dietary supplement regulation (see home page for heading “Regulations”) I demonstrated that the official rules on health supplements do not assure the safety and effectiveness (i.e., quality) of food supplements. Some people are aware of this. As a result, there are a number of people who ask themselves, in bewilderment, what vitamins should I take?

Bottom line?

In order for you to receive great value for your health, it's not just about knowing how to take nutritional supplements and when the best time to take vitamins is, it is even more critical to know what to take.


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References

  • Bhagavan HN, Wolkoff BI, “Correlation between the disintegration time and the bioavailability of vitamin C tablets”, Pharm Res. 1993 Feb;10(2):239-42.
  • Domrongkitchaiporn S, Sopassathit W, Stitchantrakul W, Prapaipanich S, Ingsathit A, Rajatanavin R, “Schedule of taking calcium supplement and the risk of nephrolithiasis.”, Kidney Int. 2004 May;65(5):1835-41.
  • Hidiroglou M, Batra TR, Zhao X, “Comparison of vitamin C bioavailability after multiple or single oral dosing of different formulations in sheep”, Reprod Nutr Dev. 1997 Jul-Aug;37(4):443-8.
  • Kelly SE, Chawla-Singh K, Sellin JH, Yasillo NJ, Rosenberg IH, “Effect of meal composition on calcium absorption: enhancing effect of carbohydrate polymers.”, Gastroenterology. 1984 Sep;87(3):596-600.
  • Heaney RP, Smith KT, Recker RR, Hinders SM, “Meal effects on calcium absorption.”, Am J Clin Nutr. 1989 Feb;49(2):372-6.
  • Heaney RP, “Calcium supplements: practical considerations.”, Osteoporos Int. 1991 Feb;1(2):65-71.
  • Johansson M, Relton C, Ueland PM, et al., “Serum B vitamin levels and risk of lung cancer”, JAMA. 2010 Jun 16;303(23):2377-85.
  • Mindell E, “Earl Mindell's Vitamin Bible”, Revised Version, 1991
  • Mulligan GB, Licata A, “Taking vitamin D with the largest meal improves absorption and results in higher serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.”, J Bone Miner Res. 2010 Apr;25(4):928-30.
  • Nègre-Salvayre A, Affany A, Hariton C, Salvayre R, “Additional antilipoperoxidant activities of alpha-tocopherol and ascorbic acid on membrane-like systems are potentiated by rutin”, Pharmacology. 1991;42(5):262-72.
  • Nieves JW, “Calcium, vitamin D, and nutrition in elderly adults.”, Clin Geriatr Med. 2003 May;19(2):321-35.
  • Pijoan M, Lozner EL, “The Physiologic Significance Of Vitamin C In Man”, New England Journal Of Medicine, Vol. 231, No. 1, Pgs. 14-21, July 6, 1944
  • Prasad KN, Cole WC, Kumar B, Prasad KC, “Scientific rationale for using high- dose multiple micronutrients as an adjunct to standard and experimental cancer therapies”, J Am Coll Nutr. 2001 Oct;20(5 Suppl):450S-463S; discussion 473S-475S.
  • Rosenbaum ME, Bosco D, “Supper Supplements”, 1989



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