When Should I Take My Multivitamin?

Vitamins and minerals are essential in order to support the proper functioning of the body. Although people once received all of the nutrients they needed from their diets, today, many Western diets are devoid of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains that historically supplied these essential nutrients.

Recognizing this deficiency, many people choose to take a multivitamin supplement in order to fill in nutritional gaps in their diets. If you are investing your time and money in a dietary supplement, you probably want to know when you should take your multivitamin.

Why does it matter what time you take your vitamins?

If you’re making the effort to take a multivitamin or dietary supplement, you clearly care about your health and receiving adequate nutrition. As such, it makes sense to maximize the effectiveness of the vitamins that you are spending your hard earned money on. Different vitamins work in different ways, so the time that you take your vitamins may be impacted by the food you have in your stomach, what other vitamins and minerals you are taking at the same time, and how your body interacts with and absorbs each vitamin and mineral. Vitamins are broadly categorized as either fat-soluble vitamins or water-soluble vitamins, and how they are taken differs. As the name suggests, water-soluble vitamins are dissolved by water, while fat-soluble vitamins are dissolved by fat.

Your body can store excess amounts of fat-soluble vitamins but cannot store excess amounts of water-soluble vitamins, so an adequate intake of water-soluble vitamins each day is essential. Some vitamins are better taken on an empty stomach, while others, particularly fat-soluble vitamins, are best taken with food in order to help your body properly absorb and utilize them. Other vitamins, such as B-complex vitamins, provide energy and stimulate brain activity, so they are usually best taken at night. Ultimately, what time you take your vitamins matters less than remembering to take them in the first place, particularly if you are taking a supplement to correct a deficiency or prevent birth defects. The best time to take your vitamins is the time that you’ll remember, but there are optimal times for each type of vitamin.

When is the best time to take multivitamins?

As the name suggests, multivitamins are composed of a multiple vitamins and minerals that are considered essential for your health and proper functioning of the body. Many people take multivitamins in order to fill in nutritional gaps from their diets. People who follow a plant-based diet, including vegans and vegetarians, are especially prone to nutritional deficiencies, as certain vitamins and minerals are only found in large quantities in animal products, as are older adults and pregnant women. Multivitamins commonly contain B-complex vitamins, which help to support a healthy metabolism and cognitive function.

Because of the stimulation that B-complex vitamins can provide, many nutritionists recommend taking multivitamins earlier in the day, such as first thing in the morning or before lunch. Taking your multivitamin before lunch instead of first thing in the morning can help prevent the nausea and upset stomach that some people experience while taking multivitamins, and it still gives your body plenty of time to absorb and use the vitamins. Additionally, because multivitamins typically contain both water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins, taking the multivitamin shortly before a meal allows your body to maximize its absorption and use of as many of the contents as possible. However, if taking your multivitamin at night helps you to remember to take it, it is fine to do so. The most important thing is that you take your multivitamin every day in order to ensure that your body is receiving the nutrients that it needs.

When is the best time to take water-soluble vitamins?

Water-soluble vitamins are vitamins that dissolve in water and cannot be stored in the body. When people take in more water-soluble vitamins than they need, the excess amount is secreted through the urine. Vitamins C, E, and the B-complex vitamins are some of the most common water-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins are best taken on an empty stomach, so it is recommended that they be taken either first thing in the morning, 30 minutes before a meal, or two hours after a meal. If taken with food, the body is less able to absorb water-soluble vitamins and may not receive them in the intended quantities.

The B-complex vitamins include eight different 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, each of which has a different function in the body. All of the B vitamins help boost your metabolism, support your energy level, and promote health cognitive function, which means that they should be taken early in the day. When taken later in the day, some people find that B-complex vitamins interfere with their sleep or cause very vivid dreams. Although this is not the case for everyone, it is recommended that supplements containing B-complex vitamins be taken no later than lunchtime in order to avoid these potentially inconvenient side effects.

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

Fat-soluble vitamins need fat sources in order to properly dissolve. Fat sources that help the body dissolve fat-soluble vitamins include oils and saturated fats. Examples of fat-soluble vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K. The body can produce some forms of vitamin D and vitamin K naturally, but it must obtain vitamin A and vitamin E from other sources. If the body receives an excess amount of a fat-soluble vitamin, the extra quantity is stored in the liver. Over time, ingesting too much of fat-soluble vitamins can cause health problems due to vitamin toxicity, particularly when too much vitamin A is ingested. Pregnant women should not take supplements that contain vitamin A, as most people get plenty from their diets, and high levels of vitamin A can cause serious birth defects. The best time to take fat-soluble vitamins is with a meal, preferably your last meal of the day. However, as long as the vitamins are taken with food that contains a source of fat, your body will be able to properly absorb the supplement.

When is the best time to take prenatal vitamins?

Prenatal vitamins are a type of multivitamin that is specially formulated to meet the needs of pregnant women and their growing babies. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies during pregnancy can cause serious congenital birth defects in a growing baby and can also deplete the nutrient stores of the mother, causing health consequences. One vitamin of particular importance to pregnant women is folate, which pregnant women need in larger quantities than normal throughout their pregnancy in order to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Women who are pregnant or who are trying to become pregnant should take a prenatal vitamin that contains folate, iron, and calcium, as well as other vitamins and minerals as recommended by their doctor. Because prenatal vitamins are a type of multivitamin, they are best taken early in the day.

However, approximately 70 percent of pregnant women experience symptoms of nausea, or morning sickness, in the first trimester of pregnancy, and taking a multivitamin on an empty stomach may exacerbate these effects. Unless your prenatal vitamin manufacturer specifically recommends that their product be taken on an empty stomach or with a glass of water, it is ok to take your prenatal vitamin with food if that helps avoid nausea and upset stomach. Some women even prefer to take their prenatal vitamin at night, as this helps them avoid side effects. What is most important is that women remember to take their prenatal vitamins daily, regardless of the time at which they do so, and that they start taking them before conception, if possible. The neural tube develops in the first three to four weeks of pregnancy, before most women even know that they are pregnant, so it is important to have an adequate supply of folate if you are trying to conceive.

Other Supplements

In addition to the essential vitamins and minerals that our bodies need in order to function properly, there are also many other supplements that people take in order to help their bodies perform at their peak. One such example is fish oil, which is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. An estimated 7.8 percent of people take fish oil supplements, which can help support heart health and cognitive function and can help lower the level of triglycerides, a certain type of fat, in the blood. There is not one time of day that is better than another in terms of absorption when it comes to taking fish oil, but there are some other factors to consider. Fish oil is made from fish products, of course, and taking the supplements can cause your burps and other bodily emissions to smell like fish, which can potentially embarrassing during the workday. As such, some people may prefer to take fish oil supplements at night.