Some tell you to take multivitamins early in the morning. Others advise you to take them just before you go to bed.
So, how do you know which advice to follow?
Well, you can’t — not until you try both suggestions.
But I didn’t want you to experiment with supplements. That’s why I asked my go-to dietitian to share his wisdom on multivitamins with us.
Here’s the best time of day to take multivitamins.
- Experts generally agree that it’s better to take multivitamins earlier in the day, but there might be some exceptions.
- The type of vitamins you take dictate whether you should take them with meals.
- Multivitamins aren’t necessary for everyone. Check if you need them first.
When Should You Take Multivitamins?
“Digestion slows down during sleep, so taking your nutrient supplement late at night would not be associated with an efficient absorption.” - Jeffrey Blumberg, a professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University
On the flip side, B vitamins may overstimulate your brain and hamper sleep.
With that said, this rule doesn’t apply to all vitamins. Some can — and should — be taken later in the day.
So let’s look at when you should take specific vitamins before we see when to take multivitamins.
Water-soluble vitamins are the vitamins you need to chase down with water :
- Vitamin C
- B vitamins: Thiamine, B6, B12, biotin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and folic acid
It’s best to take water-soluble vitamins on an empty stomach with a glass of water. Water will help the vitamins dissolve.
So, it makes the most sense to take water-soluble vitamins early in the morning, right before breakfast .
Fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins that are stored in fatty tissue and the liver :
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Fat-soluble vitamins don’t exit the body as easily as water-soluble ones. They may even build up to unhealthy levels in your body.
Since fat-soluble vitamins need fat to dissolve, it’s best to take them after eating foods that contain fat. So, it might be better to take fat-soluble vitamins later in the day .
However, that doesn’t mean you should take these vitamins with fatty food. Even low-fat milk could do the trick.
Other Vitamins, Minerals, And Mixtures
Despite their name, multivitamins often contain more than just vitamins - they often contain minerals, too.
I’ll mention the three most common ones: calcium, iron, and magnesium. Here’s why these minerals are important and when to take them:
Calcium: A lack of calcium can lead to poor bone health, which is why we’ll often find this mineral in multivitamins.
When you should take it depends on the type of calcium you’re using.
You can find calcium supplements in the form of calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. If you’re taking calcium carbonate, take it while you’re eating. Calcium citrate can be taken with or without a meal .
Iron: Iron is yet another mineral that we can often find in multivitamins, especially those designed for women.
You should take it on an empty stomach. You can do this either by taking it first thing in the morning or two hours after eating .
Magnesium: Magnesium improves our sleep, strengthens our bones, and keeps our heart healthy.
It should be taken around mealtime unless you’re using it as a laxative. In that case, take it on an empty stomach .
Should You Take Multivitamins Before Or After Eating?
The answer is tricky because multivitamins contain both water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins, as well as some minerals.
So, if you take them without meals, the fat-soluble vitamins won’t dissolve as effectively as they should.
That’s why I previously suggested that early mornings aren’t necessarily the best time to take vitamins.
If your supplement prevalently contains fat-soluble vitamins, you should take them with a meal that contains at least some fat .
And most of us have light breakfasts without a lot of fat. Such light meals may not allow these vitamins to dissolve effectively, so it would be better to take them with lunch.
However, the reverse is true for water-soluble vitamins. You should take them on an empty stomach and with some water. So, consuming them with meals might lead to lower absorption.
The best way to go about it is to take multivitamins while or after having breakfast and chase them down with a glass of water.
An even better alternative is to take water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins separately.
Should You Take Multivitamins, Anyway?
Despite what your parents have told you, multivitamins aren’t always necessary. Most people can get all the vitamins and minerals they need from a healthy diet.
A healthy diet means you’re consuming a lot of organic fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. If that’s the case, you probably don’t need a vitamin supplement.
However, you might need supplements if :
- You don’t have a healthy, diverse diet.
- You have vitamin or mineral deficiency.
- You’re pregnant.
- You’re older.
- You take medications that deplete the body’s stores of vitamins and minerals.
You can also determine a vitamin deficiency by visiting your doctor. If he has reasons to suspect you lack some vitamins, he can order a blood test.
How Long Does It Take for Multivitamins to Start Working?
While multivitamins start working immediately after they’re consumed, you might have to wait several weeks to start noticing positive results. Seeing changes usually takes about 3 to 6 weeks .
What Is The Best Time For You To Take Multivitamins?
Now you know what science says about when to take vitamin and mineral supplements.
But you can always tailor the recommendations according to your daily routine and the type of vitamins you’re taking.
Also, make sure to read the instructions for use before taking a supplement. It’s always best to stick to those instructions instead of following generalized advice.
In case your multivitamins don’t contain instructions, I suggest you take them in the morning while having breakfast. That seems to be the best option according to our findings.