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When Is the Best Time to Take Your Vitamins? Dietitians Explain.
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VITAMINS ARE EXPENSIVE—there's no denying that. If your doctor or dietician told you to start taking one, you'll want to make sure you're taking them effectively so you're not wasting your money. That means taking them at the right time, in the right way.
So, when, and how, is the best way to take your vitamins? The answer is a bit more complicated than you'd think. In fact, the ideal time to take your vitamins depends on what kind of vitamin they are. There are a few different kinds—water-soluble, fat-soluble, and multivitamins. The type determines how they're absorbed, and gives us some hints as to best practices when it comes to taking it.
"The best time to take vitamins can vary depending on the type of vitamins you are taking and your individual preferences and needs," says Erin Kenney, R.D..
That's all to say, though, that the absolute best time to take them is when best fits your schedule. At the end of the day, it's more important to ensure you're actually taking them rather than when is most optimal. Consistency is key—if you find yourself skipping out on taking them entirely, you won’t reap any benefits at all.
Below, dietitians advise when's best to take the different kinds of vitamins.
When's the Best Time to Take Water-Soluble Vitamins?
Water soluble vitamins include vitamin C and B complexes including thiamine, biotin, folate, and riboflavin. Water soluble vitamins are not easily stored in the body, and washed out if not absorbed, which makes them generally safe to take at any time of the day, says Kenney.
"Fluid intake is important for optimal absorption so wash down these supplements with a tall glass of water, and they can be taken with a meal or snack for best tolerance," says Perri Halperin, M.S., R.D., clinical nutrition coordinator at Mount Sinai Health System.
When's the Best Time to Take Fat Soluble Vitamins?
Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K. As the name suggests, the presence of fat dissolves these vitamins, Kenney says, so you're going to want to take these with some kind of fat for proper absorption.
Halperin suggests taking these vitamins with a meal or snack that contains at least 5 grams of fat, "ideally unsaturated, for optimal health." That could look like nuts or nut butter, olive oil, avocado, eggs, or fatty fish.
When's the Best Time to Take Multivitamins?
Multivitamins contain both fat and water-soluble vitamins. Because of that, multivitamins are usually best taken with a meal or a snack, accompanied by plenty of fluids. "Doing so has the added benefit of minimizing potential stomach upset," Halperin says.
Digestion generally slows down at night, which might cause suboptimal nutrient absorption if you choose to take it before bedtime.
Should You Take Vitamins?
"Nutritious foods are the best way to get vitamins and minerals," Halperin says. "Supplements can be used as a complement to help correct any potential deficiencies,” but they are not a replacement for food.
If your registered dietician or doctor has told you to take a supplement of some kind, taking it at an ideal time for that type of vitamin is going to optimize absorption. Talk to your healthcare provider about potential interactions between these vitamins and your medications—this could impact the time you take your vitamins, Kenney says. Some vitamins should be taken together, and some should be taken separately, so it's important to formulate these things with your doctor, says Halperin.
Other things may affect the absorption of your vitamins, too. "Avoid taking supplements with minerals with coffee and tea. The compounds in these products can compete for absorption rendering them less effective and making for very expensive urine," says Kenney. If you’re also taking a fiber supplement, it’s best to take that at a separate time, as it can affect absorption.
But, the absolute best time to take it is when you're going to consistently remember to take it. If you don't take your supplement, you're not reaping any of the benefits at all.