When is the Best Time to Take Vitamins?

by in Reader Questions, Vitamins June 20, 2008

vitaminclock.jpgWhen should I take my vitamins?

Since B-vitamins can be somewhat activating, it is best to take a multivitamin in the morning or afternoon.

Minerals such as calcium and magnesium that serve as natural muscle relaxants can be taken in the evening to ensure a good night’s sleep.

Vitamins as a general rule are best taken with meals. If you think about it, most vitamins and minerals come from our food, so typically they will be digested and absorbed best in the company of a meal.

If you are in a pinch you can take your multi-vitamin with a small handful of nuts. Fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E, and K require fats to form the “micelles” needed for absorption. Most vitamins also require a little bit of protein in their company to be properly digested and utilized.

Minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc require an acid rich environment in the stomach for best absorption.

I rarely prescribe any nutritional supplements to be taken between meals. Unless specified otherwise, most things will be absorbed and utilized best in the presence of food.

All rules have exceptions of course:

  • Take iron, calcium and other minerals separate from each other for optimal absorption. If you are taking these nutrients preventively I would not worry about it as much as if you are using them therapeutically such as to treat osteoporosis or anemia. Divalent cations such as calcium and iron will compete with each other for absorption in the GI tract. Women treating both anemia and osteoporosis should take their iron in the morning with their multivitamin, and take calcium throughout the rest of the day. Problems with multiple mineral digestion may be more of a stomach acid issue.
  • Individual amino acid therapies like tryptophan or lysine as the amino acids will compete with other amino acids in your food. Most amino acids used therapeutically are best taken on an empty stomach.
  • Supplements designed to reduce inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract are best taken away from food.
  • Enzymes used therapeutically for pain reduction such as bromelain should be taken away from food, mainly because the enzymes otherwise will work more on digesting your food than reducing inflammation.

When in doubt, read the label. Most vitamin and supplement manufacturers will conveniently tell you on the label how to best use their product.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen table to ask the question!

~Dr. Nicole

Naturopathic Physician

  1. Hi Dr. Nicole,

    I hate to take pills, so I use liquid vitamins. I put them in my morning breakfast smoothie. Hopefully my method is beneficial. I think it’s working as I haven’t been sick for a long time.

  2. Dr. Nicole,

    I’m fairly new to your blog, but been keeping up on it on daily basis. Things you say always pique my interest. Natural remedies and vitamins and what not, have always been my cup of tea.

    I’m pregnant, and have had migraines since forever – and take extra calcium/magnesium to help control the headaches. However – your article mentions that both can be taken at night. For one reason or another if I do – I get to stay awake til 3-5am… which is quite annoying.
    But it does seem like I get energy from these.

    You also mentioned taking different vitamins with different foods = what about multi? ^ . ^

  3. Hi Barbara- Taking them in your smoothie is great!

    Hi Kroshnka- I am not quite sure what your question is, but sometimes it is all about finding the method that works best for you. I find it strange that cal/mag would keep someone up all night and have yet to hear about it…is there anything else in your supplement vitamin/mineral wise?

    As for the multi-vitamin just take it with food…hope that helps!

    • hi, i just want to ask you about my fiancé he is 46 year old and i would like to know wish one are the best multivitamin for him to take? because he don’t eat too much and i want him to keep healthy, thanks

  4. How much calcium should a woman in her 50s be taking, and which is the best type of calcium supplement in terms of absorption and effectiveness.

    Thank you in advance for your reply – Erika

  5. Hi Dr. Nicole. I beleive 100% your philosophy, I been diagnostic with pre-cancer cells on my utter. The doctor wanted to cut a piece of my tissue to prevent cancer, but Im convence there is another way to treat this warning I’m receiving from my body. My husband and I open a business 1 year ago and the stress is been always there sense, Also I been eating bad, no time to eat, no time to relax, all day inside, no excersise… Ets. Anyway I start taking Anamu (capsules ) and clay. Is any other advice you can give me?? Thank you and God bless!

  6. Hi Nicole, I am very lethargic and tired lately. Could it be from eating excessive amounts of sugar?
    Thank you,

  7. Can I take a coQ10 capsule in the morning with any other supplement?

  8. Hi Dr.Nicole,
    I am a white male 64 years old in excellent health and take no prescription drugs.
    I do not drink or smoke.
    I take the following vitamins after breakfast every day:
    3000 mg vitamin c (3 tablets)
    1 81mg aspirin
    1 centrum ultra men’s (Multivitamin/Multimineral Supplement)
    2000 mcg B12 (2 tablets)
    3000 mg Glucosamine/2400mg Chondroitin(all in one tablet).(2 Tablets)
    Am I doing right by taking these all at one time?


    Ron Roche

  9. Hello Dr Nicole. You say that Cal/Mag should be taken on an acidic stomach. Since our inside body should have an alkaline Ph reading of 7.35 to 7.45 this seems like a conflict.

    Would appreciate your comment(s)

    Many thanks. Bill.

  10. Bill, the PH test tells you the alkaline/acid of the body, but not of the stomach. The stomach and intestins must be acid to protect us from candida and other bacterias.
    Hope this help while Dr. Nicole answers you.

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