More than half of Americans take vitamins and other dietary supplements. Many take more than one supplement daily. If you’re one of these people then you’ve likely wondered: What is the best time of day to take supplements? Can I take them at the same time? Are there interactions between any of my supplements?
Vitamins and minerals have been used as supplements for almost a hundred years. Over this time there has been done a lot of research regarding vitamin and mineral interactions as well as their interactions with food and beverages. Research has shown that some combinations can dramatically enhance absorption of nutrients, while others can inhibit it.
The most well-known example is the interaction between calcium and iron. Taking these two minerals together can decrease their absorption up to five-fold. Another good example is fat-soluble vitamins and micronutrients such as CoQ-10 or carotenoids. They will be very poorly absorbed if taken on an empty stomach or with a meal that does not contain fat.
Most people take multivitamins either in the morning with breakfast or in the evening with dinner. What time is the best? There is no one answer to this question. It all depends on the specific vitamins and minerals that the person is taking. Some of them have an energizing effect on the body, while others have relaxing effects. As such, some vitamins and minerals are best taken in the morning and others are best taken in the evening. A good example is calcium. The body uses calcium at night as it is a natural muscle relaxant. Research has shown that disturbed sleep patterns, such as a lack of deep REM sleep, has been associated with low levels of calcium.
Another important aspect to consider is that some foods and beverages can influence the absorption of vitamins and minerals. For example, coffee and tea dramatically decrease absorption of iron and calcium. On the other hand, vitamin C greatly enhances iron absorption, so taking an iron supplement with a cup of orange juice would be a great idea.
Below is summary of the most important aspects to consider when taking supplements:
Best taken during the first half of the day: B1, B12, vitamin C, antioxidants, iron, CoQ-10
Best taken in the evening: calcium, magnesium, potassium
Best not taken together: iron and calcium, copper and zinc, zinc and iron, zinc and calcium, coffee/tea and iron/ calcium
Best taken with fat-containing meal or together with fish oil: vitamins A, D, E, K, carotenoids (beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, astaxanthin), CoQ-10
What about daily multivitamins? Most of them include a large number of vitamins and minerals mixed together in one pill. In this case it would be best to take them earlier in the day with a fat-containing meal. Make sure not to take them with coffee, tea or soda. Drink water or juice. Alternatively, you can look for multivitamins that divide nutrients into several formulas according to the best time of day to take them. One-a-day multivitamins are more convenient, but their nutrient absorption is much lower when compared to the formulas that take into account nutrient interactions.
Since some vitamins and minerals have strong negative interactions with each other, it’s best to pay attention to these interactions and space such nutrients 3 to 4 hours away from each other. Specific vitamins and minerals have different effects on the body; some are best taken at night while others are best taken in the morning. To get full benefits from your supplements, it’s worth setting appropriate times for taking each of them.
Natalia Lukina holds an MS in Biology from Caltech and Drug Discovery and Development professional certification from UCSD. She is the founder of Vital Formulas, a Rockland County-based company that has developed patent pending Balanced Trio multivitamins which consists of three formulas: morning, mid-day and evening and was formulated based on the latest research on vitamin interactions and dosage. Visit Vital-Formulas.com for more information.