As humans we have busy schedules — sometimes, we don't eat all of the fresh fruits, vegetables and protein we need to ensure that we get all of the vitamins and minerals our bodies need to perform at our best. A multivitamin fills in the nutritional gaps that your food intake doesn't provide. The question we get asked frequently is, "When should I take my vitamins?" In this article we'll answer this question and also uncover:
- The best time to take vitamins
- Which stand-alone vitamins and minerals you can take at night
- If you should take vitamins with food
- Water-soluble vs. fat-soluble vitamins
- The best time to take vitamin C
- The best time to take vitamin D
- What age to start taking vitamins
When Is the Best Time to Take Supplements?
One of the most common questions is whether I should take my vitamins in the morning, afternoon, or night? There are some obvious answers — taking a sleep supplement in the evening is best, while vitamins for brain focus should be taken in the morning.
When's the best time to take a multivitamin? We recommend taking your multivitamin in the morning (with food) to load up on key micronutrients that your body requires during the day. Since your body has gone a significant period of time without food, your nutrient levels are at their lowest and need to be replenished. Your body needs these nutrients because your activity level and metabolic rate are higher during the daytime.
However, there are certain nutrients that we recommend taking individually at night if you have sleep issues or as part of a sleep-specific supplement.
Which Stand-Alone Vitamins and Minerals Can You Take at Night?
These vitamins and minerals are often part of a more advanced sleep-specific supplement. Suppose you're one of the estimated 70 million Americans who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, and you've tried eliminating caffeine, eating a lighter evening meal, and making your bedroom more comfortable. In that case, sleep-specific supplements may help you fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply through the night.
Magnesium  is one of several mineral electrolytes in our body — it helps lower blood pressure and regulate cardiovascular and muscle function. Magnesium is stored in our bones, so it contributes to skeletal strength too. It also helps insulin's response in regulating blood sugar levels. Magnesium may help you get a good night's sleep in several ways:
- Help eliminate stress and anxiety
- Decreases muscle twitching or cramping
- Reduces risk of depression
- Decreases frequency of headaches, including migraines
- Increases GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain that slows down brain activity and helps prevent restlessness and those feelings of your brain racing away
- Helps regulate body temperature
Calcium is a mineral that helps your brain manufacture the sleep-inducing substance, melatonin. Melatonin, in turn, helps your body lower its core temperature. When your calcium levels are low, you are more likely to experience disturbed sleep patterns, particularly in the REM sleep phase.
Vitamin B6 helps your body convert tryptophan into serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate the sleep hormone melatonin levels.
Another important consideration is that some vitamins absorb differently than others — dictating when you should take them (with meals or on an empty stomach).
Should I Take Vitamins with Food?
Taking vitamins on an empty stomach is not recommended for most situations. Vitamins should be taken with food for three reasons:
- A meal that contains fat improves the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K).
- Co-ingesting them with a meal will help protect certain nutrients from stomach acid, which can degrade them.
- People with sensitive stomachs can avoid nausea.
Since you're hopefully taking your multivitamin in the morning with breakfast, your breakfast will likely contain some type of natural fat (yogurt, oil, etc.) that helps you to absorb the fat-soluble nutrients. For more information on increasing your vitamin's absorption, read our article: Absorbing Vitamins Better: The Complete Guide to Increasing Vitamin and Mineral Absorption.
What is the Difference between Water Soluble Vitamins and Fat-Soluble Vitamins?
Various vitamins are absorbed differently in your body, depending on how that vitamin is metabolized. There are two forms of vitamins: fat-soluble and water-soluble .
Our bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins along with the fat that we eat during a meal. These vitamins are stored in our fatty tissues and liver for use by our bodies when needed. The fat-soluble vitamins are stored long-term, sometimes for up to six months. Four fat-soluble vitamins have key functions in our body.
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A supports our immune system, is essential for our vision, and fosters healthy cell growth. Good sources of Vitamin A include carrots, tuna, butternut squash, sweet potato, and spinach.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is one of the unsung heroes of the vitamin world — our bodies can't absorb calcium without Vitamin D. Older women, in particular, may develop osteoporosis (severe bone loss) if their Vitamin D levels drop below normal. Recent studies suggest that lower levels of Vitamin D are linked to several types of cancer, including breast, colorectal, esophagus, ovarian, prostate, and cancer of the lymphatic system. The vitamin appears to reduce the risk of type 1 diabetes, lower heart attack risks, and reduce your risk of multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Not many foods contain Vitamin D, so supplementing this vitamin is important . When is the best time to take Vitamin D? Because Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it should be taken with a meal containing fat. Breakfast is ideal because most breakfasts include milk, yogurt, cheese, or meat like bacon or ham.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E helps our immune system and contributes to our skin and eye health. Sources of Vitamin E include leafy green vegetables, vegetable oil, fortified cereals and bread, tree nuts, and eggs.
- Vitamin K: Vitamin K is essential to the ability of our blood to clot. Low vitamin E levels lead to easy bruising and bleeding more easily after a cut or tooth extraction. Vitamin K contributes to strong bones. Sources include blueberries and figs, leafy green vegetables, meat, vegetable oil, dairy, and soybeans.
These water-soluble vitamins are absorbed through the water in our bodies. They circulate through our bloodstream, and any excess amounts are excreted through our urine. Since they aren't stored in our bodies, we need to replace them regularly.
- B vitamins: Vitamin B is an entire family of vitamins that are essential to our overall health . This group of vitamins includes:
- B1 (thiamin) – breaks down carbohydrates and aids in creating some neurotransmitters
- B2 (riboflavin) – helps produce energy and break down drugs and fats
- B3 (niacin) – helps regulate cell metabolism and assists in breaking down food into a useable form
- B4 (pantothenic acid) – a building block to help make coenzymes, fats, and proteins
- B6 (pyridoxine) – helps break down fats and carbohydrates, aids the immune system, and contributes towards brain development
- B7 (biotin) – helps cells communicate with other cells and regulate DNA
- B9 (folic acid or folate) – critical for the development of the fetus in pregnant women to prevent congenital disabilities
- B12 (cobalamin) – helps produce red blood cells (B12 deficiency causes megaloblastic anemia), helps regulate neurological and brain function (including balance)
Sources of the B vitamins include meat, poultry, and fish, dairy products, and eggs. Cereals and bread may be fortified with B vitamins.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C helps us when we get sick or hurt. It is an antioxidant, helps the immune system, produces collagen that helps heal cuts and other injuries, and helps our body absorb iron from our food. Fresh fruits and vegetables are the best source of Vitamin C — especially citrus fruit, tomatoes, bell peppers, strawberries, and cantaloupe. When is the best time to take Vitamin C? Since Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, it's best to take it with water. Many people find that taking their vitamin C while getting ready in the morning is ideal not to forget.
What Age Should I Start Taking Vitamins?
Each of us may wonder, "When should you start taking supplements?"
Whether we are young adults, in our middle years, or a senior, the answer depends on our current health, our eating habits, and the different lifestyles that we have.
A good place to start is downloading the FDA's Guideline for the recommended Reference Daily Intakes of vitamins and minerals . The guidelines include a recommendation for infants under 12 months old, children aged 1-to-3 years old, adults and children over 4 years old, and pregnant and lactating women.
- Children under 18: It's best to consult with your child's pediatrician before starting them on vitamins. However, pay close attention to the amount of Vitamin D and calcium your child gets from their diet. Vitamin D and calcium help bone strength and are crucial to your child's development in their younger years.
- Young adults: Young adulthood is the time where you might begin taking a multivitamin to supplement the minerals and vitamins your diet is missing. The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends the highest intake of Vitamin C (2000mg daily) for young adults over age 19 to begin building a healthy immune system . On a different note, women of child-bearing age should receive adequate levels of folic acid to prevent serious congenital disabilities known as neural tube defects that affect a baby's spinal cord and/or brain.
- Middle age: We balance work, children, and home during our middle years and may not always eat well-balanced meals. Study results are mixed as to whether taking a daily vitamin prevents serious diseases, but for most people, a daily multivitamin helps fill in the gaps that your diet is missing. If you are taking any prescription medications, be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are any interactions between your prescription and the ingredients in your multivitamin.
- Seniors: There is not a "one size fits all" answer for people over 65 with various health issues ranging from high blood pressure to diabetes and more. Talk to your doctor to see if you need Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, calcium, Vitamin B6, or a heart-healthy daily supplement .
It's Always a Good Time to Try Our Gel Vitamins
Healthycell vitamins in gel form are easy to use (shoot it, mix it, blend it) and convenient to take on-the-go.
With a patent-pending gel formula, both water and fat-soluble vitamins are pre-solubilized so you don't need to take this multivitamin with food. People enjoy the flexibility that these supplements provide so you can always make time for taking your vitamins, even on your busiest days.