Is there a best time of day to take dietary supplements? Though it's not necessarily essential to take a vitamin at a specific time every single day, it can make a difference when you do take them. Certain nutrients can interact with each other and interfere with absorption and others may make you more energized or sleepy. In general, most supplements are typically recommended to be taken in the morning after a meal however this will differ depending on the supplement type and more. Read more below on the specifics of the timing of individual vitamins and minerals and how the time of day can make an impact the effectiveness of your supplement.
When is the best time to take vitamin C and vitamin B12?
Vitamin C is an antioxidant vitamin known for its immune health and heart health benefits but also many additional important functions in the body (1)(2).
Many of us consume our vitamin C in the morning with our good ol' cup of orange juice, fresh-pressed please! But is the morning the best time for vitamin C?
It turns out it doesn't really matter when you take vitamin C during the day but most people like to take it as part of their morning routine as it tends to be more convenient and easier to remember.
As your body doesn't store vitamin C and can use it up quite quickly it is often recommended to take it on a daily basis and to make sure your diet is rich in vitamin C foods.
Vitamin C and vitamin B12 are examples of water-soluble vitamins, meaning they do not necessarily need to be consumed along with a meal. In some cases though taking vitamins on an empty stomach can increase the risk of gastrointestinal side effects.
The B vitamins are usually recommended in the morning because of their role in energy production and the metabolism of food. Taking them at night can possibly affect your sleep. Vitamin B12 in particular is recommended to take on an empty stomach with water in order to promote the best absorption (3).
When is the best time to take vitamin D and other fat-soluble vitamins?
Also known as the "sunshine vitamin", vitamin D serves many important roles in the body and vitamin D supplementation will be recommended for many during the darker winter months.
Unlike water-soluble vitamins, for proper absorption the fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D should be combined with a source of fat. Many supplement companies include a dietary fat such as coconut oil or olive oil in the supplement itself however I typically recommend consuming a meal that contains dietary fat as well if you can for maximum absorption of vitamin D.
Some healthy fat sources may include wild fatty fish, nuts and seeds, olive oil, coconut, and avocados.
Vitamin D supplementation can also impact energy levels and sleep therefore it is best to take it in the morning as it could potentially interfere with melatonin production at night. This makes sense as vitamin D is naturally obtained from the sun so it's best to follow its natural rhythm. Vitamin D has been shown to be inversely related to melatonin and taking vitamin D at night could result in lower melatonin levels, which are needed for a good night's sleep (4)(5)!
On the other hand, low levels of vitamin D in the blood have been linked to insomnia and sleep disturbances (6)(7).
So our recommendation is to keep vitamin D to daytime consumption and with a meal if possible.
When is the best time to take multivitamins?
There is not necessarily a wrong time to take a multivitamin supplement however it is recommended to be taken with food and not on an empty stomach in order to avoid gastrointestinal effects such as stomach upset or nausea.
As a multivitamin will contain both water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins, it is recommended to take during a meal that contains a fat source so it can help you absorb the most out of your supplement!
Some experts recommended taking water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins separately in order to best support absorption.
Many people report that the most convenient time is right after a meal at breakfast and before they start their day. This can also help with energy and focus as many of these nutrients are important for optimal energy production and brain function.
At the end of the day we recommend taking your supplements at your own convenience and when you remember them best, your vitamins won't work if they collect dust on the shelves!
When is the best time to take prenatal vitamins?
Similarly to a multivitamin, a prenatal vitamin supplement is best taken with meals especially if you notice feeling nauseous as this can help to reduce those digestive symptoms. Experiment with works for you as a prenatal vitamin can technically be taken at any time during the day but ultimately pairing it with food is the best way to go.
When's the best time to take folic acid?
Folic acid is an especially important B vitamin for reproduction and the prevention of neural tube defects (8). It is one of the most important prenatal nutrients for pregnancy as it may help to reduce the risk of miscarriage and malformations (9).
Some suggest that taking folic acid at a consistent time every day is best and this will also help you to remember to take it. If you are planning for a baby it is recommended to start taking folic acid before conception to best support your body for conception and pregnancy. Check with your health care provider for the optimal dose.
Always look for the natural form of folic acid, folate, and in its methylated form l-5-methyltetrahydrofolate for best absorption and health outcomes.
When is the best time to take calcium?
Calcium is a mineral well known for its benefits in bone health.
What makes a difference in the optimal absorption of calcium?
Calcium will need sufficient stomach acid in order to break it down and absorb properly therefore it is recommended to always take it with food. Calcium citrate is the only form of calcium that is said to be okay without food.
Avoid taking calcium close to medications, caffeine, high fiber consumption and iron which can interfere with calcium absorption. As small amounts of calcium are assimilated at a time experts say to not exceed 500mg at a time as this can cause potential health problems (10)(11).
Always verify with your healthcare provider before supplementing in order to determine if it is necessary for you and the appropriate dosing.
About the Author
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.