I get a lot of questions from patients and newsletter subscribers asking me what time of day they should take their supplements. Here’s my answer in a nutshell.
Take With Food
Most nutritional supplements, including fiber supplements, B vitamins, and herbs, should be taken with food to enhance absorption and reduce the possibility of stomach upset. When you eat, your stomach produces hydrochloric acid, which breaks food down into usable and absorbable nutrients. Hydrochloric acid also helps your body absorb and utilize the nutrients in your supplements. For example, calcium carbonate, the most common form of calcium in supplements, requires an acidic environment for optimal absorption.
Because vitamins D, E, A, and K are fat-soluble and require fat for optimal absorption, they should also be taken with meals.
When an Empty Stomach Is Best
There are a few exceptions to this rule. Amino acids, such as glutamine, L-arginine, carnitine, N-acetyl cysteine, and GABA, and some brands of probiotics are best taken on an empty stomach (30 minutes before meals or two hours afterward). Same goes for 5-HTP, SAM-e, and colostrum. If you’re taking digestive enzymes to reduce inflammation rather than to aid digestion, they should be taken on an empty stomach as well.
Drink Plenty of Water…
Regardless of when you take supplements, always take them with a full glass of water. Water helps absorption and is required to carry nutrients to cells.
…And Take in Divided Doses
If possible, take supplements in divided doses—the first dose with breakfast and the second dose with lunch or dinner. Your body uses vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients as it needs them, and in most cases it excretes what it doesn’t use within a matter of hours. Replenishing nutrients throughout the day is the best way to keep blood and tissue levels steady.
More Supplement Tips
To learn more about how to make the most of your nutritional supplement program, click here.