If you are taking supplements, two things are critical if you want to reap the most benefits from them: quality and timing. You need to start with quality products made by reputable manufacturers, and you need to know the best time to take your supplements, including which ones should and should not be taken along with others.
We’re not going to talk about quality and reputation here. Instead, let’s discuss the timing of your supplement use and how you can optimize the rewards from each of your choices. One approach to supplement use is to consider which ones to take during three main parts of the day: morning, afternoon, and evening.
Here’s a tip: two of the morning supplements—vitamins E and CoQ10—should be taken with healthy fats. We suggest an avocado toast or a green smoothie with avocado or coconut oil as a breakfast choice containing healthy fats!
- B vitamins: These are your energy boosters for the day and include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, folic acid, and cobalamin. A quality B complex will give you the entire spectrum of B vitamins in balanced doses. If your B complex contains vitamin B12, take this supplement two hours before or after taking vitamin C, as vitamin C interferes with your body’s ability to absorb B12. B vitamins can be taken with or without food.
- Coenzyme Q10: This supplement is heart-healthy and should be taken with healthy fats. If you have diabetes or low blood pressure, be aware that CoQ10 can reduce blood sugar levels and blood pressure, so do not take it without your healthcare provider’s guidance.
- Iron: Take this mineral on an empty stomach and never with calcium. However, if it makes you nauseous, then take it with food, but not with coffee or foods high in calcium. If you have a high-calcium breakfast (e.g., milk, dairy yogurt, leafy greens), take your iron later in the day with food. That’s when you can take it along with vitamin C, which can improve absorption.
- Vitamin E: You should take this fat-soluble vitamin with healthy fats.
- Vitamin C: Now is the time to take the first of your two vitamin C doses for the day. Taking iron along with vitamin C helps with absorption.
Several of these supplements should be taken with food, so immediately after lunch is a convenient and easy-to-remember time to take them.
- Fish oil: Taking fish oil with food significantly improves the absorption of these essential fatty acids. Here’s a trick: Freeze your fish oil supplements: they go down faster when frozen, and it helps avoid belching.
- Iodine: This mineral can provide you with a midday energy boost.
- Vitamin D: Take with healthy fats such as avocado, eggs, olive oil, or coconut oil. Vitamin D operates in synch with vitamin K, and it improves absorption of both vitamin D and calcium when these two are taken together.
- Vitamin K: This heart-friendly vitamin works hand-in-hand with vitamin D and when taken with a healthy fat. If you are deficient in vitamin K and need to take a separate supplement, take it a few hours before or after any other fat-soluble vitamins (i.e., A, D, and E).
- Vitamin C: Time for your second dose!
- Zinc: Take this mineral with food, but never with calcium or iron. Zinc also can interfere with the absorption of copper and other minerals, so be sure to take zinc at least two hours apart from these supplements.
- Calcium: Your body best utilizes calcium when you take it at night. Do not take high doses of calcium along with high amounts of zinc or magnesium, as they all compete for absorption.
- Magnesium: One of the best supplements to help you relax and fall asleep, so before retiring is best. Avoid taking high doses along with high amounts of calcium or zinc because they all compete for absorption.
- Probiotics: Beneficial bacteria work best in your gut if you take them in the absence of digestive enzymes, which can break them down, so right before you retire is suggested. However, if you are taking probiotics to help manage specific health conditions (e.g., diarrhea, irritable bowel), follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations.
- Turmeric: Perhaps best known for its ability to help with digestive problems, the optimal time to take turmeric (curcumin is the active ingredient) is at least three hours before or after a meal, which makes before retiring the most convenient time.
Other things to know about taking supplements
Keep these tips in mind when choosing and taking your supplements.
- If you take multivitamins, you can help prevent nausea by taking them with a meal.
- When taking high-quality food-based multivitamins, you may need more than one dose to absorb them better. Check the directions on the package.
- Do not take antioxidant supplements and calcium supplements together. Calcium can reduce the body’s ability to benefit from beta-carotene, lycopene, and other carotenoids.
- Do not take large amounts of mineral supplements at the same time because they compete for absorption. Instead, take mineral supplements at least two hours apart.
- If you are a green or black tea drinker, do not take your iron supplements simultaneously. Instead, allow a few hours between consuming the tea and the supplement.
To get the most benefit from your nutritional supplements, it’s essential to adjust the timing of your dosing and which supplements you should take in combination with others. And if you can't remember to take your supplements at specific times, do it when you remember to and enjoy the benefits to your health.