Taking supplements isn’t as easy as popping a pill or two every morning. Learn the ideal times and ways to take your supplements for the best results possible.
You’ve just purchased the best supplements you can buy for your health. Now, all you have to do is take them, right?
Not quite. How and when you take your supplements can impact how well they’re used by your body. Here’s what you need to know, and some tips to ensure you get the most from your supplement regimen.
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Why You Need to Space Out Your Supplements
While it’s easy to simply pop a pill or drink a powdered supplement and get on with your day, certain vitamins and minerals can either compete with each other for absorption in your body or help each other to absorb better.
Additionally, taking specific supplements at certain times of the day can either leave you feeling energized or ready for bed, depending on the supplement and its effects.
Below, we break down how to combine or time your dosage of the top 10 most common supplements.
The Best Ways to Take Supplements
1. B-Complex Vitamins
B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning they aren’t stored in your body and get flushed out with water (aka, in your urine and sweat). This is why splitting your dosage of B-complex vitamins into two can be useful, because it ensures you keep the B vitamins in your system throughout your day, even as you’re flushing some out with water. (1)
How to take B-complex vitamins: Try splitting your dose of B complex into two: One in the morning and one in the early afternoon on an empty stomach. Avoid taking your second dosage at night as B vitamins provide energy and could keep you awake.
Calcium tends to work best when combined with magnesium as studies show insufficient magnesium accompanied by too much calcium can harden arteries by what’s called “calcification”. (2) Calcium should also be taken in split doses to enhance absorption.
How to take calcium: Make sure you get enough magnesium with your calcium (either by taking two separate supplements or taking a supplement that includes the two). Take one dose in the morning and one with lunch. Also, stick to calcium citrate for better absorption, especially if you have digestive issues. (3)
3. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is another water-soluble vitamin, so it helps to take your dosage separately to keep your blood levels high throughout the day. Also, high doses of vitamin C can cause diarrhea and other digestive upsets, so splitting your dose can help you avoid them.
Vitamin C can also interfere with B vitamin and calcium absorption, so it’s important to take your doses apart from these two. (4)
How to take vitamin C: The best form of vitamin C for absorption is ascorbic acid. Divide your doses and take them at a different time from your B vitamins and calcium supplements.
Iron is a mineral that is best taken on an empty stomach and apart from other minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, as it can inhibit their absorption.
If you have a sensitive stomach, you can take it with food – and keep in mind that vitamin C might enhance its absorption, so try taking it with vitamin C-rich fruits like berries or citrus.
How to take iron: Look for ferrous iron in supplements because it’s more bioavailable than other types. Take it in the morning on an empty stomach, separately from your calcium or magnesium supplements. (5)
5. Vitamin D
If you live in a northern climate or one that doesn’t get much sunshine, you might want to supplement with vitamin D.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, unlike vitamin C and your B vitamins, which means it’s absorbed better when taken with some type of fat.
How to take vitamin D: Take vitamin D with your largest meal of the day – studies show this can improve absorption by 50 percent. (6) Make sure this meal also contains plenty of healthy fats, such as avocado, nuts like walnuts or almonds, olive or coconut oil, or even get a double dose of vitamin D by taking it with salmon.
6. Fish Oil
Supplementing with fish oil is an easy way to get your recommended dosage of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3s are broken down into two main acids: DHA and EPA.
Choose fish oil from a reputable brand that uses dark bottles and refrigeration to avoid sunlight and heat, which can cause the oil to go rancid. Also, taking an emulsified version of fish oil can enhance absorption, while also minimizing digestive upsets.
How to take fish oil: Try to take an emulsified version of fish oil for enhanced absorption. Divide your doses and take it with a meal that contains healthy fat. Also, store fish oil in a cool, dark place, as heat and sunlight can reduce the amount of EPA and DHA. (7)
Probiotics are live organisms that can be sensitive to stomach acid. When you eat a meal, your body begins to produce higher levels of stomach acid and enzymes, which can kill large numbers of probiotics before they make their way down your digestive tract. For this reason, it’s best to take them apart from meals.
How to take probiotics: Take your probiotics on an empty stomach (at least 30 minutes before a meal) for the highest absorption. (8)
There are many forms of magnesium, including magnesium aspartate, citrate, lactate, chloride, oxide, and sulfate. Studies show that aspartate, citrate, lactate, and chloride forms are absorbed better than other forms, and also that magnesium supplements that dissolve in a liquid are better absorbed than others.
Zinc can also interfere with the absorption of magnesium, so ensure you don’t supplement with both at the same time. (9)
How to take magnesium: Choose between aspartate, citrate, lactate, or chloride forms of magnesium, and get a powdered supplement that you can take after dissolving in water. If you are taking zinc supplements, take them apart from magnesium.
Also, consider taking magnesium in the evening, as it has a relaxing effect on your body. (10)
9. Turmeric or Curcumin
Turmeric is often taken for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, thanks to its beneficial compound called curcumin.
Curcumin taken orally can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress (which can damage your DNA) when taken before and after exercise. Studies also show that liposomal curcumin (curcumin that has been encapsulated with a fatty layer) is better absorbed than other types. (11)
How to take turmeric: Take turmeric or curcumin before and after exercise if you work out often and are looking for better antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Also, purchase liposomal curcumin if you can; if not, take curcumin or turmeric with a healthy fat such as coconut oil or avocado.
If you’re supplementing with potassium, avoid taking it with iron, as iron can inhibit its absorption. Also, potassium is absorbed better in liquid form, and potassium gluconate seems to be absorbed best at 94 percent. (12)
How to take potassium: Take potassium separately from iron, and be sure to take it in liquid form. Potassium gluconate is the ideal version to supplement with.
The Bottom Line
While it may be easier to take all of your supplements together at once, you may actually be reducing their effectiveness by doing so.
Follow the advice above, and you’ll ensure you’re absorbing optimal amounts of all of your supplements.
(Read This Next: 9 Nutrient Deficiencies, Symptoms and Foods to Correct Them)