Nearly everyone realizes that medications often have to be taken separately, at certain times of the day or under certain circumstances. However, what most people don’t consider is that nutritional supplements should be taken the same way. There are many factors to consider, and taking your supplements at the wrong times, and especially taking them all at once, can hinder their absorption or even render them completely ineffective. Here three reasons why timing is important when taking your nutritional supplements.
In order for nutrients to serve their intended function, they first have to be absorbed by the body. Unfortunately, many nutrients compete with each other for absorption. Vitamin C interferes with the absorption of copper and vice versa. Iron prevents the absorption of zinc, and calcium competes with iron. Large doses of vitamin B5 hinder absorption of vitamin B7, and vitamin A inhibits absorption of vitamin K. These factors make taking a multivitamin an unwise choice.
On the other hand, certain nutrients are absorbed better together, and some are even necessary for processing nutrients in the body. Copper not only enhances iron absorption but is also necessary metabolizing many other nutrients. Vitamin C improves the absorption of iron, and magnesium and calcium mutually benefit one another.
Better With Meals
Some vitamins should be taken with food to ensure optimal absorption and to prevent unpleasant side effects. Zinc, when taken on an empty stomach, tends to cause nausea in most people, and can lead to vomiting. Certain vitamins are fat-soluble, which means that they rely on dietary fats to be useful in the body. These include vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D and vitamin K. If these are taken on an empty stomach or with low-fat foods, the bulk of them will simply be excreted from the body.
Furthermore, all vitamins are absorbed better in combination with those found in food. This is known as a synergistic effect. The nutrients found in food are generally more bioavailable, or easier to absorb and utilize, so consuming food-based nutrients enables easier transportation of supplemental nutrients through their respective absorption pathways.
Time of Day
Just like with medications, the time of day that you take certain supplements matters. Those aimed at improving cognitive function, mood or energy levels are best taken first thing in the morning. Supplements for bodybuilding or enhanced physical performance should be taken either before or after a workout, depending on their purpose. Ones intended to improve sleep quality or normalize your sleep cycle should be taken one hour to 30 minutes before bedtime.