A guide to optimising your vitamins and supplements intake
By Naomi Mead
Published Date: 07/11/2013
Naomi Mead is currently a Nutritional Therapist at http://www.food-first.co.uk/our-therapists/, she is trained and accredited at the renowned Institute of Optimum Nutrition. She is passionate about the role of nutrition in health and the therapeutic power of good food. She has a particular interest in the areas of weight management, female health, sports nutrition, and digestive disorders. More from this expert.
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We can picture it, the supplements have been purchased and are neatly aligned in the cupboard. Today is the start of the new health regime, and you are feeling good.
But however well-meant the intention, the reality is that trying to remember to take a multitude of vitamins & minerals each day can be a challenge. Two of this, three of that, take with water, always have with food… So if you do miss out on taking your supplements during the day, would it be wise to just take them all in one go before going to bed? Yes it does keep things simple, but how important are timings to how your body can absorb and use these supplements? Research from Nutrition Expert from Healthspan, compiled from a number of studies sheds light on the combinations to avoid, the tablets to take with food and the capsules to squeeze in before breakfast.
Highlights of the research includes that there are some vitamins for which bedtime is a perfect time. As explained by Natasha Turner, N.D,(i) calcium is a prime example. Calcium is utilized by the body at night, and is a natural muscle relaxant thought to promote sleep. Research shows low calcium levels are associated with disturbed sleep patterns, including the lack of a deep REM sleep phase.(ii) Calcium works hand-in-hand with magnesium, which also has a calming effect on both the muscles and nervous system, and may therefore be beneficial in getting a good night’s kip.
Probiotics are another supplement that can be taken as part of a bedtime regime. These they need to be taken away from food to avoid interference with digestive enzymes and stomach acid.
Should I Take My Vitamins & Supplement with Food?
For many supplements, a meal is necessary for adequate uptake by the body, and this is why you will see “take with food” on many labels. There are a group of vitamins termed the fat-soluble vitamins which include vitamin A, D, E & K. These need fat in order to be absorbed, and therefore should be taken with meals that contain dietary fat. Studies have shown that our Vitamin D levels fluctuate throughout the year – with most people having the most during the summer months and then winter being lower.
B vitamins & vitamin C are recommended to be taken with food; in some individuals they can cause stomach acidity and mild nausea if taken on an empty stomach. B vitamins are important for the conversion of food into energy and are therefore best taken early in the day, according to Melissa Dorval R.D.(iii)
Iron should ideally be taken on an empty stomach for maximum absorption, and away from other supplements that may affect its absorption such as calcium and vitamin E. First thing in the morning is therefore the best time. Iron supplements can cause stomach upsets in some individuals, in which case it should be taken with a light meal.
To conclude, it can be seen that the timing of when you take your supplements can significantly affect the way in which your body can absorb and utilise these nutrients. Whilst bedtime may be the most convenient option, it may be worth setting some reminders on your phone to ensure that you get the full benefits from your supplements throughout the day! What are your thoughts?