The Ideal Time to Take Supplements

Tue, 04/05/2022 - 10:51

You absolutely can take your vitamins and supplements at any point throughout your day. However, there are certain factors that will absolutely contribute to their ideal absorption. First, whether or not you take them with food. Second, what time of day you take them. Third, what supplements you take them with.

When considering whether or not a supplement should be taken with food or on an empty stomach we need to determine whether it’s water soluble or fat soluble. Vitamins that are fat soluble (vitamins that are absorbed with fats / oils) are best taken with a meal comprised of healthy fats. There are only four fat soluble vitamins (A, E, K, D) so if you are supplementing these on their own (which many of us do with D & K for example) they are best consumed at meal time with foods like nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, eggs, whole fat dairy etc. Timing wise, night or day is fine as long as you take these with a meal that contains some healthy fat.

Conversely, “water soluble” vitamins, of which there are nine  (B1 / thiamine, B2 / riboflavin, B3 / niacin, B5 / pantothenic acid, B6 / pyridoxine, B7 biotin, B9 / folate, and B12 / cobalamin, and vitamin C) can be taken with or without food since absorption isn’t dependent on the food you consuming. In fact, you might absorb more of the nutrient when taken on an empty stomach. B12 is a perfect example. Studies show that B12 is optimally absorbed on an empty stomach with a glass of water. However, this may upset your stomach so if you feel a little nauseous consuming these without food it’s perfectly fine to take them with a meal.

Minerals are also water soluble so you do not need to take these with food for absorption.

As for the timing, it really depends on if you are supplementing with a quality multi or taking these nutrients solo. If it’s a multi then ideally you would take it in the morning with food. If you are supplementing one of the aforementioned on its own, here is a breakdown on timing for each standalone nutrient:
Vitamin A
This can be taken any time of day. 
B Vitamins 
A B-complex supplement is ideal over supplementing one of the B vitamins solo because they work best when taken together. In addition, this supplement can boost your energy and is therefore ideally consumed in the morning to help rev up your day and avoid negatively impacting your sleep.
Time to Take Vitamin C
C is fine to take at any time.

Time to Take Vitamin D3 & K2
Vitamin D3 and K2 are best taken together for optimal absorption, and supplementing them with breakfast or lunch is ideal because this is when your body would be synthesizing D from sun light. 

Vitamin E
E is fine to take at any point throughout the day.

Magnesium is ideal if taken at night as it can aid with digestion and sleep.

Zinc has also been shown to improve sleep quality, so it's best taken at night as well – ideally on an empty stomach. 

Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Yet another supplement that helps to improve the duration and quality of our sleep. So taking this at night is ideal. Preferably with a dinner that contains healthy fat for optimal absorption. 

Protein Powder (collagen, whey, egg, etc.)
Supplementing with protein powder is fine at any time during the day, but if you are exercising it’s ideal to get this nutrient in within 2 hours of finishing your workout. This is called the “anabolic window”, which suggests this nutrient would be best absorbed and utilized after a training session.

There is one last caveat to consider when supplementing solo nutrients. Some of them compete with each other for absorption and or function so for that reason you want to be mindful about supplementing them together. (You do not need to worry about this with a multi because the amounts of the nutrients is not high enough to be an issue). You may want to avoid taking these vitamin combinations at the same time: 

Vitamin C & Vitamin B12 
Copper & Zinc
Calcium & Iron
Zinc & Magnesium
Calcium & Magnesium