When Should I Take Vitamins?
In order to survive, the human body needs 13 essential vitamins and 13 essential minerals, and doctors and other health experts generally agree that the best way to ensure that you obtain all of these necessary, life-supporting nutrients is through a diverse diet of healthy, fresh foods. But some diets like veganism and vegetarianism and other factors like food allergies may either deter people from eating certain foods or prevent them from eating foods entirely.
There are a number of reasons why someone might not be getting enough of a certain vitamin from their diet. Some gastrointestinal diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease may increase the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency due to disruptions along the gastrointestinal tract where crucial vitamin absorption takes place (1). There are a variety of chronic illnesses which may make it difficult for an individual to absorb a particular vitamin through the regular digestion process. In these instances, and whenever it comes to your personal health and well-being, it’s important to consult with a trusted medical professional or your personal physician before starting or stopping any dietary supplements.
But if I am susceptible to a vitamin deficiency and I need to rely on a supplementary product to ensure my body receives the recommended daily amount, I want to know the best time of day to ensure adequate absorption. So when should I take vitamins? That really depends on the type of vitamin you’re taking. If you have questions about your supplements, be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist when the best time to take your vitamins would be for your situation.
Best Vitamins and Minerals to Take in the Morning
You might think it doesn’t matter when you take your vitamins and other medication but the human body is as complex as it is amazing and there are actually ways to improve our bodies’ capability to absorb vitamins and nutrients based on when we ingest them. Similarly to how the caffeine in a cup of coffee might wake us up in the morning – or how taking melatonin before bedtime can help lull us to sleep – the foods and supplements we ingest can directly affect our energy levels and mood.
Some vitamins and minerals are water-soluble, which essentially means that they are generally more easily and effectively digested on an empty stomach. Because of this, it can be beneficial to ingest vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and vitamin C in the morning before breakfast (2). And taking water-soluble vitamins with a glass of water helps the body break them down further to allow for better absorption (2). Additionally, some studies have shown that B vitamins can provide energy and mood boosts to people who have a vitamin B deficiency (2).
Iron is a good example of a mineral that can generally be taken in the morning on an empty stomach. This is because other foods (like dairy products) can inhibit the body’s ability to absorb iron. Vitamin C can also improve the body’s capacity for iron absorption, so taking these two supplements together may have compounding beneficial effects (2). And because digestion and metabolism slow down during the evening while we sleep, it’s generally best to avoid taking any supplements right before bed.
Best Vitamins and Minerals to Take with Meals
Unlike their water-soluble cousins, fat-soluble vitamins do not dissolve in water and instead are absorbed into the body the same way the body absorbs dietary fats (3). Fat-soluble vitamins are typically best absorbed when taken alongside a meal subsisting of sources of healthy fats – foods like avocados, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds (2). Vitamins A, E, D, and K are the fat-soluble vitamins and while taking these vitamins alongside a meal with some source of fat may help the body absorb them better, it’s not necessarily a requirement to still receive nutritional benefits.
For some people, vitamin C may cause nausea, so it may be better to take vitamin C with a meal if you experience any uneasiness or discomfort after taking vitamin C on an empty stomach. The same could be said for any vitamin or mineral supplement – if you find that taking it on an empty stomach causes nausea or discomfort, you might consider taking it at mealtime or with a snack to help your body digest and better absorb the nutrients.
At the end of the day, everyone’s body is unique so finding out the best time to take vitamins for you will likely involve some measure of trial and error. If you have any questions about the best time of day to take vitamins or whether or not you should take them with a meal, be sure to ask your primary care physician or pharmacist – especially since they will know if any supplements could interact with other medications you might be taking.
- MaryAnn De Pietro, CRT. “Vitamin B12 and ulcerative colitis: Links” Medical News Today. 12 July 2022. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/vitamin-b12-and-ulcerative-colitis-links-and-more#link-between-b-12-deficiency-and-uc
- Erin Heger. “The best time to take vitamins and supplements for maximum absorption, according to nutritionists” Insider. 26 February 2021. https://www.insider.com/guides/health/diet-nutrition/best-time-to-take-vitamins
- Jenna Fletcher. “What are fat-soluble vitamins?” Medical News Today. 17 January 2020. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320310