When to take vitamins and minerals?

The Best Time to Take Vitamins

    Taking vitamins and minerals can be a great way to support your nutritional needs - but there is a right way to do it. But when people don’t take vitamins the proper way, they don’t see improvement. Your body can’t fully absorb vitamins unless you know the best time and way to take them. Normally, most vitamins can be taken at any time of day. But since different vitamins work in different ways, there are some certain conditions that help vitamins to absorb better.

When to take vitamins and minerals?

    To function properly, your body needs 13 vitamins - 9 of which are water-soluble and 4 of which are fat-soluble.

When to take Water-Soluble Vitamins

As the name implies, water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water. As such, you don’t need to take them with food for them to be absorbed.

There are nine water-soluble vitamins, which include vitamin C plus the eight B vitamins — B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), and B12 (cobalamin).

You need to regularly consume water-soluble vitamins because, unlike fat-soluble vitamins, they’re not readily stored in your body’s tissues. Instead, excess water-soluble vitamins are excreted through your urine.


When to take Vitamin C

    Vitamin C plays many critical roles in your body. For example, it functions as a powerful antioxidant and is needed for immune health, as well as collagen and neurotransmitter synthesis.

    There are several forms of vitamin C supplements, including ascorbic acid, ascorbic acid with bioflavonoids, liposomal vitamin C, and calcium ascorbate.

    Ascorbic acid supplements have a bioavailability similar to that of the ascorbic acid found in foods like fruits and vegetables.

    You can take vitamin C supplements at any time of day, with or without food, although taking ascorbic acid with foods can help decrease the potential gastrointestinal side effects caused by its high acidity.

    Make sure to store vitamin C supplements in a cool, dark place, as this nutrient is sensitive to heat and light.

    Also, keep in mind that because excess vitamin C is excreted, doses over 1,000 mg typically aren’t needed — except under specific circumstances, such as during high-dose intravenous (IV) vitamin C treatment.

When to take B Vitamins

    B vitamins are sold individually or as B complex supplements that contain all eight B vitamins.

    Because they’re water-soluble, you can take them with or without food and at any time of the day. That said, it’s often recommended to take B vitamins in the morning due to their important role in nutrient metabolism and energy production.

    What’s more, some people may benefit from taking B vitamins on an empty stomach. For example, it’s recommended that people with a B12 deficiency take B12 supplements on an empty stomach with water to promote maximal absorption.
 

When to take Fat-Soluble Vitamins

    Unlike water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins depend on fat for proper absorption. Thus, it’s generally recommended that you take fat-soluble compounds with a meal that contains fat.

When to take Vitamin A

    Some people are more at risk of developing Vitamin A deficiency due to increased needs or reduced absorption. This includes people who are pregnant and breastfeeding and those with cystic fibrosis.

    Most vitamin A supplements contain vitamin A derived from fish liver oil or in the form of vitamin A carotenoids, which are plant compounds that your body converts into the active form of vitamin A.

    To promote optimal absorption, you should take vitamin A supplements with a fat-containing meal.

    Keep in mind that if you eat a balanced diet, taking vitamin A supplements typically isn’t necessary.

    Plus, some evidence suggests that high-dose vitamin A supplements may increase the risk of all-cause and cancer-related mortality. For this reason, don’t supplement with high-dose vitamin A unless a healthcare provider recommends doing so.

When to take Vitamin D

    Vitamin D is needed for immune function, bone health, cellular growth, and more. Unfortunately, more than 1 billion people worldwide are deficient in this important nutrient.

    Vitamin D can be taken at any time of day, and most of these supplements should be taken with fat-containing meals or snacks to ensure optimal absorption.

    For example, one study in 50 older adults found that vitamin D absorption was 32% greater in those who took a vitamin D supplement with a fat-containing meal compared with those who took it with a fat-free meal.

    However, some vitamin D supplements aren’t affected by what you eat. For example, one animal study found that oil-based and microsomal vitamin D supplements — vitamin D encapsulated in fatty acid spheres — can be taken without food.

    It’s important to note that vitamin D activation depends on having adequate levels of magnesium. Therefore, to maintain healthy vitamin D levels, make sure you’re also getting enough magnesium.

    Also, keep in mind that certain fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamin E, may affect vitamin D absorption. On the other hand, taking vitamin K alongside vitamin D may benefit bone mineral density.

When to take Vitamin E

    Vitamin E functions as a major antioxidant in your body and is essential for healthy blood flow and immune function.

    It’s also a popular dietary supplement - even though this nutrient is found in many foods and deficiency is rare.

    That said, people who have certain medical conditions, including short bowel syndrome, cystic fibrosis, and Crohn’s disease, may have to supplement with vitamin E to avoid deficiency.

    It’s typically recommended that vitamin E supplements are taken with a meal. However, one 2019 study in 27 women found that as long as fat was ingested throughout the day, vitamin E was absorbed effectively.

    This means it may not be necessary to take vitamin E with a fat-containing meal as long as you consume enough fat at subsequent meals.

    Keep in mind that even though vitamin E is essential to health, taking too much in supplement form could cause harm in certain populations.

    For instance, some research suggests that high-dose vitamin E supplements may lead to an elevated risk of prostate cancer in healthy men.

When to take Vitamin K

    Vitamin K refers to a family of fat-soluble compounds that includes vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) and vitamin K2 (menaquinones).

    Vitamin K is needed for blood clotting, bone and heart health, and more.

    Clinically significant vitamin K deficiency is rare in adults, although it’s more common in those with bleeding disorders and malabsorption conditions, as well as in people taking medications that interfere with vitamin K absorption.

    You can take vitamin K supplements at any time of day with a meal or snack that contains fat.

    Because most people get enough vitamin K through their diet, it’s not recommended to take high-dose supplements unless a healthcare provider recommends doing so — even though these supplements are generally safe and not related to significant side effects.

    Nevertheless, vitamin K supplements may interfere with certain anticoagulant medications. If you’re taking these medications, consult your healthcare provider before taking vitamin K.

    If possible, take vitamin K separately from the fat-soluble vitamins E and A. On the other hand, taking vitamins D and K together can be beneficial, as these nutrients work synergistically to promote bone health and healthy calcium levels in your body.

When to take multivitamins?

    Multivitamins can be trickier: They often contain both water- and fat-soluble vitamins and a variety of minerals. The best time to take a multivitamin is with food so any fat can help with absorption. But the drawback is that your body won’t absorb the water-soluble vitamins as well as fat-soluble ones. 

    Also when you take a multivitamin on an empty stomach with water - your body can’t properly absorb the fat-soluble vitamins. You could also end up with an upset stomach. So for full absorption, it is better to take water- and fat-soluble vitamins separately.

    If you’re taking two or more pills per day, consider splitting the dose to help your body absorb certain nutrients more effectively. For example, take one pill with breakfast and one with lunch.

When to take prenatal vitamins?

While they are important throughout pregnancy, the best time to start taking prenatal vitamins is before you’re pregnant - when you’re planning to conceive.

And while you’re at it, also take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily three months before you plan to get pregnant. Folic acid is essential for the development of your baby’s neural tube. Not having enough can lead to neural tube defects.

  • Folic acid: Since it’s a water-soluble vitamin, take it with a glass of water on an empty stomach.
  • Prenatal vitamins: Take these with water and a meal for optimal absorption. It’s best to take them with breakfast or lunch, which lowers the chance of an upset stomach and acid reflux.

When to take Calcium?

    Calcium is not a vitamin, but it’s actually a mineral. So, you’ll want to be careful and not overdo it with calcium. Most people can get a sufficient amount of it from food. But if you’re not eating enough calcium-rich foods or you’re postmenopausal, you’ll need to take calcium the right way to decrease bone loss and osteoporosis.

    Calcium supplements come in two forms: calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. The best time to take calcium depends on the kind you take:

  • Calcium carbonate: To be properly absorbed, this type requires acid in the stomach. Take it with a meal because you produce stomach acids when you eat.
    Calcium citrate: You can take it with or without food because your body can absorb it with or without acids. Doctors often recommend calcium citrate for patients who take antacids.

When to take Mineral Supplements

    The human body needs both vitamins and minerals to function. As with vitamins, minerals are available over the counter as supplements. There are many claims about the benefits of mineral supplements for health.

Some examples of minerals include:

  • iron
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • zinc

    People should always exercise caution before taking a mineral supplement. They may offer benefits, particularly for those with a nutrient deficiency, but it is also possible to take too much of a mineral, which can have harmful effects.

    People should take minerals daily with food. Taking mineral supplements without food might result in side effects, such as an upset stomach.

Conclusion

    Your body absorbs and stores nutrients in different ways. This should be considered when taking single-nutrient supplements and multivitamins.

    For example, some nutrients are better absorbed with meals, while others can be taken on an empty stomach.