What’s the Best Time to Take Vitamins?

Your body needs an ample supply of vitamins and minerals in order to carry out all of its daily functions, and many people do not receive enough of these important nutrients through diet alone.

If you are one of the millions of people who have chosen to take a multivitamin, you can improve your body’s use of these important nutrients by taking your supplement at the right time. So, what’s the best time to take vitamins?

Does the time you take your vitamins matter?

If you are taking the time to carefully select a multivitamin and are diligent about taking it, you might as well take the extra step of taking the vitamin at the same time. The fact of the matter is that the time you take your vitamins can impact how efficiently your body absorbs them. However, not all vitamins are absorbed the same way, so not all should be taken at the same time. Vitamin absorption can be impacted by the amount of food you have in your stomach, what other nutrients you are consuming at the same time, and how your body interacts with different vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are either fat-soluble vitamins or water-soluble, which means they need different conditions to be properly absorbed.

As the name suggests, water-soluble vitamins are dissolved by water, while fat-soluble vitamins are dissolved by fat. Excess quantities of fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the liver for later use, but excess water-soluble vitamins are eliminated through the urine. Water-soluble vitamins are best taken on an empty stomach, while fat-soluble vitamins are best taken with a source of fat, such as oil or saturated fat, in order to be properly absorbed and utilized.  Vitamins that provide a burst of energy and stimulate brain activity, such as B-complex vitamins, are best taken at night in order to avoid sleep problems. The best time to take your vitamins is whenever you will remember to take them, but there are optimal conditions for each type of vitamin.

What is the best time to take multivitamins?

Multivitamins are dietary supplements that are comprised of numerous vitamins and minerals that are considered essential in order to keep your body functioning properly. Multivitamins are commonly used to fill in nutritional gaps from an incomplete diet. People who do not consume animal products, for example,  are more likely to experience nutritional deficiencies without careful planning because certain vitamins and minerals are only found in large quantities in animal products. Older adults, pregnant women, and people who have certain medical conditions or have had bariatric surgery are also more likely to suffer from deficiencies. The best time to take a multivitamin is earlier in the day, including first thing in the morning. Multivitamins contain both water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins, so while the water-soluble vitamins are most effectively absorbed when taken on an empty stomach, fat-soluble vitamins need a source of fat to properly absorb. Therefore, taking your vitamin on an empty stomach but about half an hour before a meal is ideal because it provides optimum conditions for both types of vitamins.  Another factor to consider is that multivitamins commonly contain B-complex vitamins, which can be mentally stimulating and provide an energy boost. These are best taken during the day so that they do not keep you awake at night.

What is the best time to take prenatal vitamins?

Pregnant women and their developing babies have unique dietary needs above and beyond the average person, and prenatal vitamins are designed to meet these needs. The vitamins and minerals contained in prenatal vitamins are specially formulated to meet nutritional deficiencies that are more likely to occur during pregnancy and can cause serious congenital birth defects in a growing baby and deplete the nutrient stores of the mother, causing health consequences. Folate is one vitamin that is needed in larger quantities while pregnant because an adequate supply of folate is needed to prevent neural tube defects, including spina bifida and anencephaly. Pregnant women and those who are trying to conceive should take a prenatal vitamin that contains folate, iron, and calcium, as well as other vitamins and minerals that their doctor recommends. 

Because prenatal vitamins are a type of multivitamin, they should be taken early in the day for best results. However, some women find that taking prenatal vitamins on an empty stomach makes their nausea worse, particularly during the first trimester of pregnancy when morning sickness is common. Unless otherwise specified on the label, it is ok to take your prenatal vitamin with food. It is also possible to take the vitamin at night if that helps to avoid side effects and increases your likelihood of taking the vitamin. The most important thing is to take the prenatal vitamin consistently, regardless of the time of day at which it is taken. Pregnant women should start taking prenatal vitamins before conception, if possible, in order to prevent defects to the neural tube, which develops in the first three to four weeks of pregnancy before most women even know that they are pregnant.

What is the best time to take fat-soluble vitamins?

As the name suggests, the body requires a fat source in order to properly dissolve fat-soluble vitamins. Oils and saturated fats, for example, are included in the list of substances the body can use to dissolve fat-soluble vitamins; vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K are all fat-soluble vitamins. Two of these vitamins, vitamin D and vitamin K, can be naturally produced by the body in certain forms, while vitamin A and vitamin E cannot be produced by the body and must be ingested through the diet. Because fat-soluble vitamins need a source of fat in order to be properly absorbed, they should be taken with a meal. The best time to take fat-soluble vitamins is the last meal of the day.

However, taking the vitamins at any time when accompanied by a suitable fat source is fine. Fat-soluble vitamins can build up in liver if the body receives too much of them in a given day or time. In some cases, this is advantageous, because if you happen to ingest too little of the vitamin for a time, your body may be able to use the excess that it has stored in order to carry out necessary functions. However,  the ability to store fat-soluble vitamins is problematic when people regularly ingest too much, as this can cause health problems due to vitamin toxicity. For this reason, pregnant women should not take multivitamins that contain vitamin A, since most people receive plenty of this mineral from their diets, and high levels of vitamin A can cause serious birth defects.

What is the best time to take water-soluble vitamins

Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, which can be stored in the body, water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water and cannot be stored in the body. If someone ingests more water-soluble vitamins than they need, the extra amount is eliminated through the urine. Some of the most common water-soluble vitamins include vitamins C, E, and the B-complex vitamins. The best time to take water-soluble vitamins is on an empty stomach, so it is recommended that you take water-soluble vitamins either first thing in the morning, 30 minutes before a meal, or two hours after a meal. The body is less able to absorb water-soluble vitamins when they are taken with food.

The only water-soluble vitamins that are best taken at a certain time of day (rather than simply on an empty stomach) are B-complex vitamins. There are eight different B-complex vitamins, all of which must be acquired from outside sources. The B-complex vitamins include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, vitamin B-6, pantothenic acid, biotin, and vitamin B-12. The B-complex vitamins help raise your energy level, support a healthy metabolism, and promote health cognitive function, which means that they should be taken early in the day, preferably first thing in the morning. Taking B-complex vitamins later in the day can cause very vivid dreams or poor sleep. Therefore, it is recommended that supplements containing B-complex vitamins be taken no later than lunchtime.

What is the best time to take other supplements?

Vitamins and minerals are important, but there are also many other nutrients that the body needs in order to function properly. Omega-3 fatty acids are one such example, and fish oil, a natural source of omega-3 fatty acids, is a common dietary supplement. Approximately 7.8 percent of people take fish oil supplements to support their heart health and cognitive function; omega-3 fatty acids can also help reduce the level of triglycerides, a certain type of fat, in the blood. From an absorption standpoint, it doesn’t matter what time of day you take fish oil supplements, but taking the supplement can cause your burps and other bodily emissions to have a distinctive fishy smell, which can cause embarrassment during the workday. Therefore, many people prefer to take fish oil supplements at night.