When and How to Take Your Vitamins

by Melissa Chichester

“Take your vitamins.”

How many times did we hear this as kids or even adults? It seems like simple instructions, doesn’t it? Even if you have developed a supplementation routine that works for you, it is important to consider if your supplements are being taken properly in order to receive their benefits. The timing of supplements depends on many factors, including your personal health, medications, and diet. By following some basic guidelines, your body can properly absorb and utilize supplements.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that is best absorbed by the body while eating a meal or snack that contains healthy fats like avocado, salmon, or nut butters. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research recommends taking Vitamin D with the largest meal of the day for maximum absorption. Other fat-soluble supplements like Vitamin A and Vitamin K should also be taken with a meal.


Vitamins in the B-complex group are water-soluble and because of this can only be kept in the body for a certain amount of time before they are processed. Methylcobalamin is a biologically active form of B-12 that supports heart health and energy metabolism.* Older adults may have trouble absorbing B-12, making this form beneficial.* Because B-12 is a supplement that plays a role in energy metabolism, it is best to take during the morning or early afternoon with a meal.


By now, you probably know that probiotics encourage intestinal microflora balance and promote the healthy functioning of the intestinal system, but when should they be taken?* Acids present when the stomach is empty may destroy digestive enzymes and the beneficial bacteria in probiotics, so it is recommended that probiotics be taken thirty minutes before a meal or while sitting down to eat for the best results.


While it is a critical component of bone health maintenance, calcium is one of the most difficult minerals for the body to absorb.* Because of this, it is best to break down calcium intake into smaller doses to maximize absorption. It is also important to take calcium at a different time of day than other minerals. Instead of taking once daily, split up your calcium intake for once in the morning and once during lunch.


Melatonin is one of the most studied sleep hormones and it is naturally produced by the body. Melatonin supplements are a common sleep aid that assist with occasional sleeplessness and jet lag.* Regulating the body’s biological clock after travel or sleep disturbances requires special care in timing. Most people take melatonin about an hour to thirty minutes before they want to fall asleep. Once you take melatonin, it is best that you should detach from technology and find the best way to relax right before you start to fall asleep.*


Are you a one and done supplement taker and stick to a handy multivitamin? High doses of vitamins can cause nausea if taken on an empty stomach. Because multivitamins contain so many nutrients, they are best taken with a meal.

*Always discuss taking any kind of supplements with your doctor, especially if you are taking any medications.