When Is the Best Time to Take Multivitamins?

May 03, 2022 Vitamins & Supplements

When Is the Best Time to Take Multivitamins?

Quick Health Scoop

  • As part of a healthy lifestyle that includes eating healthy and exercising regularly, many people take a daily multivitamin to make up for any potential nutritional shortfalls.
  • When to take multivitamins is less about the time of day and more about whether you’re taking your supplements with food and/or water.
  • Your body needs 13 essential vitamins and at least 15 essential minerals—and most multivitamins are formulated to include the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) with at least 100% of the Daily Value (DV) for most nutrients
  • Water-soluble vitamins (B Vitamins, Vitamin C) need water to dissolve, and fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E, K) need fat for optimal absorption in the body.

As part of your healthy lifestyle, you try to exercise regularly, eat nutrient-packed foods, drink  plenty of water, manage stress, and get enough shut-eye. While you know the best source of vitamins and minerals comes straight from healthy foods, though, you still might not be getting enough nutrients from your diet alone. That’s why you take (or are considering) a daily multivitamin—to help fill in any potential nutritional shortfalls. But what is the best time to take multivitamins? Keep reading to learn when you should take your multivitamin supplements each day.

Is it Better to Take Vitamins in the Morning or At Night?

Many people take their daily vitamins and minerals at breakfast. It’s easy to remember and easy to make part of your morning routine. Just put your supplements next to your coffee maker and, voilà, it’s a quick reminder to take your daily multivitamin with your breakfast.

Other people take them in the afternoon, after lunch or dinner, or even at night because that’s when they remember. But what is the best time to take multivitamins? And is it OK to take a multivitamin at night?

Experts say it’s often less about the time of day and more about whether you’re taking your supplements with a meal and/or with water. For most of your supplements—including your daily multivitamin—you should take them with your largest meal of the day, such as lunch or dinner. Ideally, the meal should contain some fat (think fatty fish, avocado, eggs, or nuts) to allow optimal absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins.  The most important point to remember is that you should take your daily multivitamin supplement with food and drink some water in order to help with digestion and absorption.

The reason? Most multivitamin supplements typically provide close to the Recommended Dietary Allowance your body needs of each individual vitamin (categorized as fat-soluble and water-soluble). [1] And the type of vitamin determines whether it requires fat-containing food or water to aid in its absorption in the body. All that being said, absorption only decreases about 5 to 10 percent if you take them at other times. [2] Many water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins can be safely taken in amounts greater than the Daily Value (DV). The DVs are used to calculate the % Daily Values that you see on Nutrition and Supplement Facts labels. The percent daily value (%DV) displayed on the label indicates how much of a nutrient per serving a supplement provides in the context of the total daily diet.[15]

As a refresher, your body requires 13 essential vitamins and at least 15 minerals vital to your health and well-being, including the following: [3,4]

Fat-soluble vitamins: The body stores fat-soluble vitamins in fatty tissue and they’re absorbed more easily in the presence of dietary fat.

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K

Water-soluble vitamins: The body needs water to help absorb water-soluble vitamins.  Because the body doesn’t store water-soluble vitamins, any excess your body doesn’t need leaves the body through the urine. [5]

  • B Vitamins (a.k.a. B Complex or B Vitamin Family):
    • Vitamin B1: Thiamin
    • Vitamin B2: Riboflavin
    • Vitamin B3: Niacin
    • Vitamin B5: Pantothenic acid
    • Vitamin B6: Pyridoxal/pyridoxine
    • Vitamin B7: Biotin
    • Vitamin B9: Folate/folic acid
    • Vitamin B12: Cobalamin
  • Vitamin C (a.k.a. ascorbic acid)

Essential Minerals (Major and Trace Minerals):

  • Calcium
  • Chloride
  • Cobalt
  • Copper
  • Fluoride
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Sodium
  • Sulfur
  • Zinc

Can I Take Multivitamins on An Empty Stomach?

While you can take water-soluble vitamins (B Vitamins and Vitamin C) on any empty stomach without any issues, doing so with fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E, and K) may cause an upset stomach. And, since multivitamins usually contain a mix of both water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins, it’s safest to take them with food and water. Mind you, this does not mean you need to eat a three-course dinner. You just need to eat a bit of food that contains fat, such as  low- or whole-fat milk or yogurt or even eating food that’s been cooked with oil. [6]

It's important to note that not all dietary supplements require that they be taken with food. As mentioned above, water-soluble vitamins don’t require food—just water. But other dietary supplements (like SAM-e supplements to help support healthy mood) should be taken on an empty stomach at least 30 minutes before you eat any food. Why? Because taking SAM-e with food may impair the way your body uses SAM-e and impact its overall effectiveness.

Your best bet? Read the Suggested Use on the product label for specific directions how to take the dietary supplement.

Is It Good to Take a Multivitamin Every Day?

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs through nutritious food. But experts say that 95% of Americans don’t consume enough Vitamin D from their diet alone. [7] And research suggests that 25-40% of U.S. adults have a blood level indicating a D Vitamin deficiency. [8,9] Other research suggests that more than two-thirds of Americans fail to meet the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) for Vitamins D, E, and K as well as the minerals magnesium and potassium—and roughly 40% don’t get enough of the EAR for Vitamins A and C. [10] Other studies show that more than 50% of Americans fall short in magnesium. [11]

Everywhere you look, studies point to some people not getting enough of certain nutrients. In addition, certain groups of people face an increased risk of micronutrient deficiencies, including pregnant and lactating women, vegetarians, vegans, infants, older adults, smokers, alcoholics, people with a poor diet, people with certain health issues, and other vulnerable populations. [12,13,14]

In light of all this, how do you know if you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you need? Should you take a multivitamin every day, just in case?

You know yourself best, so start by assessing your diet, your health, and your lifestyle. If you know you’re not eating a certain food group at all (think seafood or whole grains), or you don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables every day, a daily multivitamin can help cover all the bases from a nutritional standpoint. Ditto if you’re busy and rely on too many processed, packaged convenience foods and on-the-go fast-food choices.

Next, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider. He or she can perform a health assessment, which includes ordering a blood test to determine if you have any nutrient deficiencies. Once you review the lab results together, ask your doctor about whether or not the health benefits of taking multivitamins would meet your specific needs. He or she might suggest a daily multivitamin to cover several nutritional shortfalls that show up in your bloodwork. Or your doctor might recommend taking a nutrient-specific supplement (such as Vitamin E supplements or calcium supplements) if you’re low or deficient in that specific vitamin or mineral.

So, yes, it’s good to take a multivitamin supplement every day—if you need it.

Bottom Line

If you take dietary supplements as part of a healthy lifestyle, you might wonder about the best time to take multivitamins. To function properly, your body requires 13 essential vitamins and at least 15 essential minerals—and most multivitamins are formulated to include close to the Recommended Dietary Allowance for most nutrients. Water-soluble vitamins (including the B Vitamins and Vitamin C) need water to dissolve, and fat-soluble vitamins (including the Vitamins A, D, E and K) need fat to absorb in the body. Experts suggest that the best time to take multivitamins is less about a specific time of day and more about syncing the timing of your supplements with when you eat and drink.

 

Continue to check back on the Nature Made blog for the latest science-backed articles to help you take ownership of your health.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

 

References 

  1. Mayo Clinic. If You Choose to Take Vitamins as Supplements, Stick to the RDA.” April 11, 2011. Accessed on: April 11, 2022. https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/if-you-choose-to-take-vitamins-as-supplements-stick-to-the-rda
  1. North Dakota State University. “Do You Need a Dietary supplement?” November 2017. Accessed on: April 15, 2022. https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/food-nutrition/do-you-need-a-dietary-supplement
  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. “Vitamins and Mineral” February 2018. Accessed on: April 11, 2022. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/vitamins-and-minerals
  1. “Vitamins and Minerals: Are You Getting What You Need?” Adapted from Making Sense of Vitamins and Minerals, a special health report published by Harvard Health Publishing. 2019. Accessed on: April 11, 2022. https://www.helpguide.org/harvard/vitamins-and-minerals.htm
  1. “Vitamins.” February 26, 2021. Accessed on: April 15, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002399.htm
  1. Cleveland Clinic. “The Best Time to Take Vitamin” April 26, 2021. Accessed on: April 15, 2022. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-best-time-to-take-vitamins/
  1. Nutrient “Inadequacy of Immune Health Nutrients: Intakes in US Adults, the 2005-2016 NHANES.”  June 2020. Accessed on: April 15, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7352522/
  1. National Institutes of Health. “Vitamin D: Fact Sheet for Consumers.” March 22, 2021. Accessed on: April 15, 2022. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/
  1. Nutrition Research. “Prevalence and correlates of Vitamin D deficiency in US adults.” January 2011. Accessed on: April 15, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21310306/
  1. Tufts University. “Should You Take a Multivitamin?” February 6, 2020. Accessed on: April 13, 2022. 2022. https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/special-reports/should-you-take-a-multivitamin/
  1. Journal of Nutrition. “Foods, Fortificants, and Supplements: Where do Americans get their nutrients?” 2011. Accessed on: April 15, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21865568/
  1. National Institutes of Health. “Multivitamin/mineral Supplements: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.” February 8, 2022. Accessed on: April 8, 2022. 2022. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/MVMS-HealthProfessional/#en1
  1. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Should I Take a Daily multivitamin?” 2022. Accessed on: April 11, 2022. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/multivitamin/
  1. Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute. “Multivitamin/mineral Supplement” August 2011. Accessed on: April 12, 2022. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/multivitamin-mineral-supplements
  1. S. Food & Drug Administration. “Daily Value on the New Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels.” February 25, 2022. Accessed May 3, 2022. https://www.fda.gov/food/new-nutrition-facts-label/daily-value-new-nutrition-and-supplement-facts-labels

Authors

Lisa Beach

NatureMade Contributor

Lisa Beach is a seasoned journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Eating Well, Parents, AARP’s Disrupt Aging, Optimum Wellness, and dozens more. She also writes for a variety of health/wellness-focused brands. Check out her writer’s website at www.LisaBeachWrites.com.

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Sandra Zagorin, MS, RD

Science and Health Educator

As a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team, Sandra educates healthcare professionals and consumers on nutrition, supplements, and related health concerns. Prior to joining Pharmavite, Sandra worked as a clinical dietitian at University of Chicago Medicine in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Sandra received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Science, with minors in Spanish and Chemistry from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. She earned her Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from RUSH University in Chicago, IL. As part of her Master’s program, Sandra performed research on physical activity participation and correlates in urban Hispanic women.

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