The most important thing is to heed the dosage advice for the supplement, as well as the recommended use and (maximum) daily dose, which appear on the label. And if you have been advised to take a particular dose by a health professional make sure you follow it.
Be sure too, to take a few days’ break in between different courses of the same supplement.
If you’re in any doubt about a supplement’s contraindications or potential interactions with a particular medication, consult a health professional. In the case of pregnant women, nursing mothers, adolescents and children,, medical advice should always be sought before taking any supplements.
If the label doesn’t specify otherwise, you can take the supplement at any time, ensuring you follow the dose indicated. If the label simply says take 6 capsules or tablets a day, we’d advise spreading them out across the day (2 in the morning, 2 at lunchtime and 2 in the evening, for example). Let’s now look at the most commonly-indicated timings for some of the large supplement groups ...
Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, which means they are easily stored in the body’s fatty tissues for use when needed (1-2).
It’s therefore best to take your vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K supplements, or your multivitamins (such as Daily 3) , with a meal. To obtain the benefits of these supplements from the start of the day, you can take them with your breakfast which should ideally contain an adequate amount of fat (butter, cheese, eggs, avocado ...). Depending on the recommended dosage for your supplement, you can take another dose with your lunch or dinner.
When it comes to winter meals, focus in particular on taking your vitamin D. The lack of sunlight at this time of year means that deficiencies in the ‘sunshine vitamin’ are common, and it’s important to compensate for this with the right diet, and supplementation if you wish (3). You could, for example, opt for a vitamin D supplement with high bioavailability such as Vitamin D3 5000 IU.
The B vitamins are water-soluble (4) and can be taken at any time of day. But it’s worth taking them in the morning so that you start benefiting from them as early in the day as possible.
We know, for example, that vitamin B12 supports normal energy metabolism and helps reduce fatigue (5). The perfect start to the day! Vegetarians, vegans and ‘flexivores’ (who eat a mainly vegetarian diet), will, in particular, benefit from B12 supplementation (with Methylcobalamin), as it’s a vitamin primarily found in animal-source products (6).
Spirulina supplements can also help increase your energy levels. So again, it’s best to take spirulina in the morning and again in the afternoon rather than the evening.
There’s an ongoing debate! First thing in the morning, before you’ve eaten anything, the stomach is very acidic which means there’s a greater risk that the microorganisms in the probiotic supplements won’t reach the gut intact . But after you’ve eaten, there’s a different problem: the ingested food may mean the micro-organisms remain blocked for too long in the stomach, and may be destroyed by stomach acids.
It’s therefore best to take probiotics with a light meal or snack - or up to 30 minutes before (7). Again, if your supplement label gives more specific advice, be sure to follow it.
Taking a fish oil supplement allows you to increase your intake of omega-3, including the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA... As we know, EPA and DHA support healthy heart function and DHA helps maintain normal brain function, etc. (8) Significant amounts are offered by supplements such as Super Omega 3.
It’s best to take your fish oil supplements at the beginning of a meal. This way, the omega-3 fatty acids will stay in the stomach for less time, quickly making their way to the gut, where they can then start to benefit the whole body as quickly as possible.
Activated carbon is able to absorb a number of substances that surround it... But this means it may significantly reduce any nutrients or drugs that you take at the same time.
So if you want to take an activated carbon product, do so at least one hour after a meal, or the same period after taking other supplements or medication(9).
If you’re taking a number of mineral supplements at the same time, be aware that some may affect the absorption of others (10).
Finally, we recommend taking any soluble fibre supplements at bedtime. Fibre can actually impair the absorption of other nutrients and medicines (11). So it’s best taken before you go to sleep, leaving a reasonable interval after eating and after taking any vitamins or medication.
Follow this advice for a supplement high in soluble fibre, such as Psyllium Seed Husk.