Are you getting enough nutrients in your diet? Not if you’re like most Americans. National data shows numerous nutrient shortfalls in the American diet.1 Fortunately, taking supplements is an important – and easy - way to fill nutrient gaps and meet your nutrient needs. When we take our vitamins, though, can be as vital as taking them. When is the best time to take our vitamins? Is there a moment each day when we’ll get the most out of them? We asked Melissa Dorval, R.D., to help us understand.
Q: When is the best time of day to take vitamins?
MD: This is a question we hear a lot. The answer is – it depends on the vitamin! Some vitamins, you see, are best taken in the morning on an empty stomach. Other vitamins, however, are best taken with food. To complicate things further, some vitamins should be spaced apart from other vitamins, and considerations for medication you might be taking could be necessary.
Q: Why should certain supplements be taken at different times of the day?
MD: Some vitamins and supplements should be taken with food or a meal for best absorption, while you may need to take others on an empty stomach.
Q: What supplements should be taken in the morning, before I've eaten?
MD: We recommend that you take SAM-e on an empty stomach at least 30 minutes before you consume food. This is probably easiest when you first wake up in the morning, as your stomach is most empty at this time. If you’re taking a second dose of this product, try to find another time in the day that your stomach is most empty—at least one hour after you've consumed food. Also, don’t forget to wait to eat again for at least 30 minutes after you've taken your afternoon dose. Remember not to take SAM-e too close to bedtime, as it may increase your energy level, which may interfere with a restful sleep.
Q: Which supplements should be taken with breakfast?
MD: Most of your supplements can be taken with your breakfast meal. This includes your daily multivitamin, B-complex, Vitamin E, and Vitamin C, in addition to others. Not only will this help to start your day off right, but the breakfast meal is often a convenient time to remember to take your vitamins, as many of us consume our morning meal in our homes.
In addition, the B vitamins in your multi and B-complex will help to convert food to cellular energy, which can help you start your day off right. There is one caveat, however. We do not recommend taking Calcium along with your multivitamin if your multi contains Iron. The Calcium may interfere with the Iron's absorption. If you take an Iron-containing multivitamin with your breakfast meal, take your Calcium with the other meals you consume throughout the day, such as lunch and dinner.
You may also be interested to know that Vitamin C helps increase the absorption of Iron, so keep drinking your orange juice for breakfast or take a Vitamin C supplement with your Iron.
Learn More: How to Choose Your Daily Multivitamin
Q: What supplements should be taken with, before, and after lunch?
MD: If lunch is a more convenient time for you to take your vitamins and supplements, then go ahead and consume your multivitamin, B-complex, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, or any other vitamins at this time. Also, if you consume a very small breakfast or if you get an upset stomach taking your vitamins with breakfast, it’s a good idea to take them with a larger meal, like lunch.
The most important point is that you consume your vitamins and supplements with food, to help with proper dissolution and absorption. If it’s easier for you to remember to take your vitamins at lunch, then go ahead and do so.
Many multivitamins do contain a small amount of Calcium. The small amount of Calcium in the multi should not affect Iron absorption. However, remember to take your Calcium supplement separate from your multivitamin with Iron.
Q: What supplements should be taken before, after or during dinner?
MD: Calcium supplements can be taken with dinner, or hours after dinner before bed. Supplemental Calcium is best in smaller, more frequent doses to support absorption. The form of Calcium you are taking determines if you should take it with a meal or snack, or on an empty stomach.
Calcium Carbonate requires the presence of food for better absorption. Your Calcium Carbonate supplement may be taken with dinner, as well as earlier in the day with another meal such as lunch. On the other hand, Calcium Citrate can be taken with or without food, and does not require food or stomach acid for absorption. Therefore, you can take Calcium Citrate at bedtime on an empty stomach, and also in between meals during the day.
Learn More: Are You Getting Enough Calcium?
We would hope that you would have taken your other vitamins and supplements earlier in the day, rather than waiting for your dinner meal. You should enjoy the benefits of the vitamins and supplements during your waking hours!
As a reminder, please read the "Suggested Use" as written on our labels to ensure best results.
This information is only for educational purposes and is not medical advice or intended as a recommendation of any specific products. Consult your health care provider for more information.
1. Fulgoni et al. Food, Fortificants, and Supplements: Where Do Americans Get Their Nutrients? J Nutr. 2011; 141:1847-54.