When is the Best Time to Take Vitamins?

Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT on April 25, 2017Written by Kathryn Watson

Properly taking vitamins

The best time to take your vitamins depends on the type you’re taking. Some vitamins are best taken after a meal, while it’s best to take others on an empty stomach. Establishing a routine of taking a vitamin at the same time every day will form a healthy habit. It will also help you get the most out of your vitamin supplement.

Not every vitamin breaks down in your body the same way. For that reason, it’s a good idea to know if you’re taking your vitamin at a time of day that will give you the most benefit.

Best time to take prenatal vitamins

Since prenatal vitamins are a multivitamin, taking them before lunch is an optimal time to absorb all that they contain.

A good prenatal vitamin will include calcium, iron, and folic acid, according to the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG). Iron absorbs best on an empty stomach and can’t absorb properly if you’ve recently eaten dairy. Iron is absorbed better if you take it with a beverage that has vitamin C, such as orange juice.

Some women find that adding prenatal vitamins to their diet causes some symptoms like nausea and constipation. Some prenatal vitamin brands recommend taking their vitamins on an empty stomach or with a glass of water.

If it seems like taking the vitamins first thing in the morning or without food is making you sick, try taking them right before you go to bed. The benefits of prenatal vitamins are cumulative, so the most important thing is that you take them every day.

Some vitamins can’t be stored in the body and must be taken daily in food or supplements. Taking folic acid during pregnancy is known to protect against spina bifida and other neural tube defects. If possible, it’s best to take prenatal vitamins with folic acid for a year before becoming pregnant.

Best time to take fat-soluble vitamins

The optimal time to take fat-soluble vitamins is with your evening meal. Fat-soluble vitamins are dissolved in our bodies using fats. They are then carried into our bloodstream and perform essential functions. These vitamins include vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin E, and vitamin D.

When our bodies get extra fat-soluble vitamins, they are stored in the liver. These vitamins are best taken with a meal that contains saturated fats or oils to help you absorb them.

Best time to take water-soluble vitamins

Water-soluble vitamins absorb best on an empty stomach. That means taking them first thing in the morning, 30 minutes prior to eating, or two hours after a meal.

Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water so your body can use them. Vitamin C, all B vitamins, and folate (folic acid) are water soluble. Your body takes the amount of the vitamin it needs and flushes out the rest through urine. Since your body doesn’t store these vitamins, it’s a good idea to incorporate them into your diet or take a supplement.

Best time to take B vitamins

For a good start to your day, take a B vitamin on an empty stomach when you first wake up in the morning.

B vitamins are a special family of water-soluble vitamins that are energy-boosting and stress-busting. Some of the most popular B vitamins are B-2, B-6, and B-12. It’s been clinically proven that B vitamins can reduce the amount of stress you feel and improve your mood.

What not to do when taking vitamins

Vitamin supplements can benefit your overall health. But you can overdose on certain vitamins, and some do cause side effects. Be aware of possible interactions between your vitamins and prescription drugs you take. For example, you shouldn’t combine vitamin K supplements with the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin). Also, don’t take more than the recommended amount of your vitamin supplement.

If you’re pregnant, never double up on your prenatal vitamins. For example, if you need extra iron, take your prenatal vitamin and an extra iron supplement. If you double up on prenatal vitamins you can end up with too much vitamin A (retinol), which can be harmful to the baby.

Be aware of the other foods you’re eating so you’re not getting too much of any one vitamin. This can throw your body off balance. Many cereals, “enriched” dairy, and grain products have vitamins added to them as selling points. Always be cautious about what you’re taking if you are pregnant and nursing. Most supplements haven’t been well-tested for infant safety.

Always choose supplements from a reliable source because the FDA does not monitor vitamins and supplements for purity, quality, or safety like other drugs.

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