When is the Best Time to Take Supplements?

This is a very commonly-asked question.

As a general rule, follow the guidelines on your box or bottle of supplements. Each one is designed to work in a particular fashion.

If the recommended dosage says:

  • 3 times per day, then take that herb or nutrient every 8 hours
  • 2 times per day, then take it every 12 hours
  • 1 time per day, take it at the same time each day

This allows your body the time it needs to process your personalized supplements effectively, absorbing through the intestines and assimilating it out through the liver. Both of these organ systems are most likely taxed at this time in your life, and could likely use a little help, taking them properly is best for ideal results.

Typically, you want to take most of your supplements with some sort of food (or broth) in your stomach. The higher the fats, the better - because they will help with the absorption of these much-needed nutrients during your protocol. If you find that you are getting nauseated by the thought of so many pills all at once, don’t worry – you can split some of them throughout the day. This is particularly important for the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).

The water-soluble Vitamins (Bs & C) can only be absorbed in small doses and may need to be split into several servings. The B vitamins are a great way to keep your energy levels up through the day, so taking a dose in the morning to get a boost is recommended, and then again in the afternoon to continue working throughout the rest of your day.

There are no strict rules on when to take your vitamins/minerals or herbal supplements that are required for the cellular detoxifying nutritional venture that you are on, but some make sense to take at certain times.

Here’s why –

The Systemic Formulas that we use in our office come with very precise packaging labeled for different times of the day, and are clearly labeled. This is primarily found in the pre-packaged Phases [Prep, Body, Brain, Vitality] The formulators took a user-friendly approach to this popular dilemma. For maximum benefit, you should take these as labeled on the boxes.

There are some other supplements we may need you to take that are not so clearly labeled though; and for those, here is some basic info that may help take away any confusion on the topic.

Amino Acids:

These are the catalysts for protein usage and important building blocks of muscle energy production. Consider them food for the tissues you are aiming to heal.

A good time to take L-Glutamine is right after waking, on an empty stomach, because the body has been without significant nutrition for many hours and it is basically directing itself to the cells that need it most. This is an excellent repair tool for the intestines.

L- Carnitine is important for heart, brain and muscle function and should be taken with food, ideally a protein source.

L- Glutathione is an important anti-oxidant and essential amino acid that supports the body’s detoxification processes, and should be taken on an empty stomach.

Minerals:

In general, these are rather large molecules and it is best if your doses are broken down and taken throughout the day. By splitting a required dose into several servings, you are giving your intestines the best chance of complete nutrient uptake. With the exception of iron, most minerals can be taken with or without food.

Iron needs to be taken on an empty stomach to avoid causing discomfort, and is best if coupled with vitamin C for better utilization.

Herbs:

Many of our formulas contain pharmaceutical-grade herbs that synchronize well with the vitamins or minerals that are incorporated in them. Take these guidelines into consideration for the timing of the doses, based on the main ingredients – vitamin/mineral or micro nutrient.

Fish Oil (Omega-3):

Fish oil should be taken with vitamin D, and is formulated with it in many cases.

Probiotics:

Therapeutic use: when you are working against leaky gut, irritable bowel, Crohn's, Celiac's, etc., probiotics are best taken in the morning on an empty stomach during a fasting phase, because most people are using a night-time charcoal chelation products, which would interfere with probiotic effectiveness.

Maintenance use: To boost digestion for long-term results, you should take probiotics before bed and/or 2 hours after eating at night. Then these beneficial bacteria have a chance to do their best work in the gut replenishing your microbiome.

Enzymes:

CoQ10 is fat soluble, so it should be taken with a meal that contains fat so your body can absorb it. Also, taking CoQ10 at night may help with the body's ability to engage its anti-oxidant capabilities.

Dietary enzymes should be taken within one hour of eating to mechanically break down the nutrients you just consumed. In some cases, the doctor will suggest you to take these before the meal, to engage bile production, if needed.

Quick Quide

Take these in the morning on an empty stomach:

Vitamin B12 - Vitamin B12 is best when taken with vitamin B1 and copper – the B complex we use includes B12. This vitamin is an energy powerhouse and is best in the morning to get the day started right.

Vitamin C - Vitamin C can be taken with vitamins B12, E, A, and zinc, before any food is introduced to the gut.

Iron - Iron should not be taken with zinc, vitamin E, manganese, or calcium they impede the absorption.

Take these mid-day with food:

Zinc - Zinc can be taken with vitamins A, C, and B12, but you should avoid taking with iron, copper, and B9.

Multivitamin - If taking just a multivitamin, the best time to take it is in the middle of the day with food. Vitamin E - Vitamin E can be taken with selenium as well as vitamins C and A. Do not take with iron.

Vitamin A- Take with vitamins C and E as well as zinc.

Take these in the evening on an empty stomach:

Magnesium – a cellular relaxer that calms the body before bed and should ideally taken with calcium to increase absorption.

Vitamin B6 - can be taken with Magnesium at night time

Take these in the evening with food:

Vitamin D - Increases absorption of calcium, and is best with fatty foods

Calcium -   Do not take calcium with zinc or iron, these will inhibit the absorption; but it is recommended to take at meal times.

Other considerations:

Physical activity levels and medications may affect your metabolism - keep this in mind during your detoxification protocols. If you are on pharmaceutical drugs, you will need to work with your prescribing doctor to adjust your dosages accordingly. There will be changes to body functions (i.e., blood pressure) as your body normalizes out.

By Christen Jager, HHP

Christen Jager, HHP is a certified holistic health practitioner and nutrition coach. Working in the holistic field for more than a decade, she has teamed with AskDrErnst and can be contacted at [email protected]