Expert reveals the 4 vitamin hacks everyone needs to know
From popping your multivitamin at NIGHT to taking iron with orange juice: Expert reveals the 4 vitamin hacks everyone needs to know
- Dr Sarah Brewer is a GP and nutritionist and medical director of Healthspan
- Millions of adults pop some sort of vitamin or mineral supplement each day
- Dr Brewer has revealed the vitamin and mineral hacks everyone needs to know
Millions of us pop some sort of vitamin or mineral supplement each day, in a bid to boost our health.
But did you know the time of day you take various supplements can be almost as important as what you take?
And that in many cases, the foods and drinks taken alongside them could dramatically increase how the body absorbs them, or render them effectively useless?
Here, Dr Sarah Brewer, a British GP and nutritionist and medical director of Healthspan, reveals the vitamin and mineral hacks everyone needs to know – and the most common mistakes people make – so you can get the most out of your supplements…
Millions of us pop some sort of vitamin or mineral supplement each day, in a bid to boost our health. But did you know the time of day you take various supplements can be almost as important as what you take?
HOW TO MAX OUT YOUR SUPPLEMENTS
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
The time of day you take certain supplements can really make a difference to how effective they are.
For example, some nutrients, such as B vitamins and co-enzyme Q10, both of which provide energy, are better taken in the morning after breakfast.
Others, such as a multivitamin, are better taken after your evening meal. This is because your body’s repair and regeneration processes are more active at night due to the effects of growth hormone – meaning your body can use the nutrients in the tablet much more efficiently at this time of day and you’ll get maximum benefit from them.
PAIRING UP VITAMINS AND MINERALS
Some supplements have a synergistic effect when used together, which is why glucosamine and chondroitin – for joint health – is one of the most popular combined supplements.
Calcium and vitamin D are also often used together as vitamin D enhances the absorption of calcium from the intestines. Similarly, vitamin C boosts the uptake of dietary iron.
One of the most popular combinations for many people is a multivitamin and mineral such as Healthspan’s MultiVitality Pro which contains vitamins, minerals and probiotics plus, an omega-3 fish oil as this provides a good foundation for nutritional health.
The movement of calcium around the body is also greater at night, which is why you should take a calcium supplement in the evening. Calcium is important for bone and muscle function, so the supplement will have more of an effect on regeneration and repair if taken at this time.
Supplements such as fish oil, which help to reduce inflammation in the body, are also best taken at night for this reason.
TAKE THEM AFTER FOOD
Most supplements are best taken immediately after food. This is for two reasons. First, taking supplements on an empty stomach can cause nausea and/or indigestion.
The second is that the nutrients in the food will, in most cases (but not all – check the instructions with your supplement, for example iron may be best absorbed on an empty stomach and away from tea/coffee/calcium containing foods) help those in the supplement be absorbed better by the body.
Supplements are best taken with water or orange juice. Iron, in particular, is much better absorbed by the body when taken with orange juice
This is particularly the case with what’s known as fat-soluble vitamins – i.e. those that can only be absorbed with the presence of fat. Therefore, you should always take these vitamins/supplements – vitamins A, D, E and K, plus fish oils, evening primrose oil and co-enzyme Q10 – with food containing some fat, e.g. milk.
DO I NEED A SUPPLEMENT?
In an ideal world, everyone would get all the vitamins and minerals they need from their food.
If you do not eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, and do not eat two to four portions of oily fish per week, however, your diet may not supply all the vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids you need.
In these cases, supplements can act as a nutritional safety net to safeguard against deficiencies.
Always check with a pharmacist before combining supplements with any prescribed medicines and/or are pregnant/trying to get pregnant or are breastfeeding.
If you have not eaten for more than 30 minutes, wait until you have a snack before taking your supplement – just four bites of food or even a glass of juice will do.
WASH THEM DOWN WITH WATER OR ORANGE JUICE…
Supplements are best taken with water or orange juice. Iron, in particular, is much better absorbed by the body when taken with orange juice. This is rich in vitamin C, which increases absorption by converting ferric iron to ferrous iron, which has a more efficient uptake mechanism.
…AND NEVER TEA, COFFEE OR GRAPEFRUIT JUICE
Never take supplements with coffee or tea, as the tannins and compounds in the drinks can interfere with the absorption of some minerals.
Not only that, but in the case of probiotics, the heat from these drinks can destroy the live microorganisms – i.e. the ‘good’ bacteria – effectively rendering the supplement useless.
Also, don’t take supplements or medicines with grapefruit juice. It contains compounds that can affect the way some things are broken down by the body.
KEEP FORGETTING TO TAKE THEM? DON’T DOUBLE DOSE
It’s easier to remember to take your supplements if you get into a routine and take them at the same time each day. Keep them by your toothbrush, for example, or by your keyboard (as long as they are out of the reach of young children). Alternatively, set a reminder on your phone.
If you miss a daily dose, don’t double up. Taking too big a dose could lead to symptoms such as indigestion and nausea.
SUPPLEMENTS BEST TAKEN IN THE MORNING AFTER FOOD
SUPPLEMENTS BEST TAKEN IN THE MORNING AFTER FOOD
Vitamin B complex – for energy
Co-Enzyme Q10 – for energy
Probiotics – take with breakfast so that food helps to ‘escort’ the probiotics through your stomach and dilutes the effects of stomach acid. The probiotics can then reach your lower digestive tract, ready to start aiding digestion.
Iron – best taken at this time of day to lessen the side effects, such as nausea and constipation; wash down with orange juice to maximise absorption (more on this below). May be better taken before food – check the label for instructions.
Plant Sterols (help reduce the absorption of cholesterol)
SUPPLEMENTS BEST TAKEN IN THE EVENING
Vitamin D – most effectively absorbed when taken with the largest meal of the day (usually the evening meal), as it is fat soluble. However, if you are using a spray , it probably doesn’t matter.
5HTP (aids sleep) – take last thing.
SUPPLEMENTS YOU CAN TAKE ANY TIME OF DAY
Glucosamine /Chondroitin (for joint health)
Soy isoflavones (natural hormone replacement)
Sustained release vitamin C
Magnesium – studies have shown that magnesium is a relaxant, so take this in the evening before you go to bed. If you are prone to constipation, however, it is worth taking it in the morning as it can relax the muscles of the intestinal wall and help you go to the loo.
TAKING A BIG DOSE? SPACE IT OUT THROUGHOUT THE DAY
Where you are taking two or more tablets/capsules of the same supplement daily, e.g. two or more glucosamine + chondroitin tablets, two 500mg fish oil capsules or 1g of vitamin C, spreading them over the day (e.g. 500mg of vitamin C twice a day) maximises absorption and evens out blood levels. Alternatively, with vitamin C, try a sustained release formula, so your dose is spread over the day.
However, if taking them all in the morning suits you best that’s fine – take them when most convenient for your lifestyle, otherwise you may forget. After all, it’s better to take the supplement at some point in the day than not at all!
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