The Art Of Timing Your Vitamins And Supplements – A Helpful Infographic That Ensures You’re Not Just Making Expensive Pee.

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Articles, Supplements

In an article last year, “Pill Popping 101: When To Take Your Supplements“, I helped you navigate the confusing world of how to actually get the most bang for your buck out of what you’re using, answering important questions such as:

When should you swallow fish oil? Before breakfast? After a workout?

What about antioxidants? Do they actually hurt you during exercise, or are they helpful?

Are there some supplements you should avoid with others, like a high fiber supplement and a multi-vitamin?

If you 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? 

But I’m also always paying attention to the latest studies to help you maximize your health, and recent data from Nutrition Expert from Healthspan, compiled from a number of studies sheds new light on the combinations to avoid, and gives valuable information about tablets to take with food and the capsules to squeeze in before breakfast.

I’ll give you the overview first, then show you exactly what I use on a daily basis, then finish with the infographic!

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When You Should Take Your Vitamins and Supplements?

Highlights of the research includes that there are some vitamins for which bedtime is a perfect time. For instance, calcium is a perfect 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. 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 sleep. I personally don’t use calcium and don’t really recommend you take it if you’re already eating a well-rounded diet. But magnesium is important, and you should take it before bed.

Probiotics are another supplement that can be taken as part of a bedtime regime. These ideally  need to be taken away from food to avoid interference with digestive enzymes and stomach acid. I personally don’t use probiotics unless I’m traveling, since I tend to eat lots of fermented foods when I’m at home.

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 called fat-soluble vitamins, which include vitamins A, D, E & K – these are the type of fats I personally get through using a fat-vitamin packed fish liver oil called “SuperEssentials“. These need fat in order to be absorbed, and therefore should be taken with meals that contain dietary fat. 

B vitamins and 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. Typically, if I need a bit of an extra kick or immune system boost during the day, I use a combination of B & C called “Lifeshotz“, and take it about an hour after breakfast.

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 (incidentally, if you do have anemia or low iron and ferritin and you need a supplement for this, I’m a bigger fan of using Floradix than a strict iron supplement per se).

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What Vitamins and Supplements Do I Personally Take?

I’m often asked what supplements I personally use. So here is my daily protocol:

Morning on empty stomach:

TianChi herbs (1 packet)

Kion Colostrum (4 capsules)

-If low on sleep or very hard workout the previous day, I also take my Injury supplements at this time.

With breakfast:

SuperEssentials fish oil (4 capsules)

Creatine (3 tablets – something new for me as I just started a muscle mass gain program – not something I recommend for everyone)

Mid-Morning, if I need a “pick-me-up”, I am traveling, or I have been around sick people:

Lifeshotz Vitamin B & C  (1 packet)

Oil of Oregano (5-10 drops)

30 Minutes Before Any Very Hard Workouts (usually 2-3 days a week):

-A “stack” of Amino Acids (5 tablets) Oxaloacetate (2 capsules) and X2Performance (1 bottle)

30 Minutes Before Dinner:

Kion Lean Bitter Melon  & Rock Lotus Extract for blood sugar control (2 capsules – primarily because my 23andMe.com genetic testing results show higher risk for Type II Diabetes)

Before Bed:

Magnesium (1 tablespoon)

I’m often asked about lots of other supplements, such as greens powders or capsules, beta-alanine, l-carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid, etc, etc, etc.! The answer is that I really recommend you specifically tweak your supplement protocol to meet your specific goals, and ideally you choose supplements that address genetic values or blood biomarkers you’ve been shown to need work in. I think that this “Ben Recommends” page should really help you with that.

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Summary

In conclusion, you can see that the timing of when you take your supplements can significantly affect the way in which your body can absorb and utilize your nutrients. While bedtime may be the most convenient option, it may be worth setting some reminders on your phone (e.g. using a Vitamin Reminder phone app) or refrigerator to ensure that you get the full benefits from your supplements throughout the day.

What are your thoughts? What supplements do you take? Do you have questions about my daily supplement protocol? Do you think supplements are a waste of time? Leave your questions, comments and feedback below the infographic!

when to take vitamins


Also published on Medium.

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82 thoughts on “The Art Of Timing Your Vitamins And Supplements – A Helpful Infographic That Ensures You’re Not Just Making Expensive Pee.

  1. Chenoa Siciliano says:

    Hi Ben, I was told that nutrients compete for absorption and so it is better to space them out. So for the past few months, I have been setting my alarm to every 30 minutes and taking a supplement. I am however really struggling with my hormones and food cravings and I read that if I am constantly making my liver work throughout the day, it will have a negative impact on my hormones.

    E.G.

    I have herbs & Nutrients for Immunity.

    Herbs and nutrients for Mood / Concentration.

    Herbs and nutrients for my hormones.

    Herbs and nutrients for blood sugar or insulin control.

    Herbs and nutrients for inflammation.

    Can I just take this all together? Taking into account your suggestions in terms of mornings and evenings and with or without food?

    1. Hi there. I'd recommend you book a consult! Here's my info: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/coaching
      …Or at least see a doc local to you who can help you sort this out:
      • FunctionalMedicine.org – Find a Practitioner, including MDs, DC, ND, etc.
      • aihm.org/find – to find an integrative health practitioner
      • Naturopathic.org – Use their "Find a Doctor" tool to use their directory

  2. Chewwis says:

    That’s a quite informative post! Timing of intake of health supplements indeed matter a lot. To take complete benefits of Supplement vitamin diet, it’s necessary to follow a right schedule.

  3. David Stevens says:

    Fantastic advice. I agree with you on Floradix – hands down the best way to boost iron absorption. Also, I have been taking a high quality (pharmaceutical, yeast fermented) CoQ10 and it has been great for energy levels and reducing recovery time. I wanted to alert you that research shows that fish oil could compromise CoQ10 absorption, so I take mine at a minimum an hour apart, ideally a couple.

    Lastly, I have had really great success using an organic chromium yeast to control my cravings and blood sugar issues. This has truly given me the self-discipline I was lacking as far as keeping my nutrition healthy and beneficial. Have you tried organic chromium yeast yourself?

    1. Chromium is a trace mineral that potentiates the effects of insulin, causing less insulin to be needed. Definitely helps at balancing blood sugar, which improves discipline and cravings to be sure.

  4. Fantastic site. Lots of useful info here. I am sending it to several friends ans also sharing in delicious.
    And naturally, thank you in your effort!

  5. Conrad says:

    Ben, I engage in light cycling in the mornings and strength training in the evenings. When would be the optimal time of day to take a joint complex like Thorne’s AR Encap that contains MSM/Glucosamine/Curcumin? Is absorption optimized on an empty stomach or with food? Does MSM/Glucosamine have a positive or negative effect on energy?

    1. Best taken with food and dividing your dose. If you are using 4 capsules a day, then 2 with breakfast and 2 with dinner. I have not seen research that shows MSM or glucosamine affect energy positively or negatively.

  6. Han-Lin says:

    I read that insulin increases magnesium absorption in our cells and most magnesium is stored in our cells. Would it actually be better to take magnesium with carbs (healthy sources of course)? When carbs are taken, it increases insulin. My understanding is that the period of increased insulin would be a window of opportunity for increased magnesium absorption but does it really work in practice?

  7. Bek Markas says:

    Ben vitamin C and CQ 10 are antioxidants… how long should I wait to take them before or after I workout without damaging free radicals

  8. DJ says:

    Hi Ben,

    The key points I got regarding B-Complex from your post are:

    * Take with a meal as they can give nausea on empty stomach

    * B12 is absorbed better on empty stomach

    * Avoid taking them with heavy fat meal

    My question is regarding best absorption leaving the nausea on the side. For best absorption, wouldn’t it be better to take B-Complex on empty stomach if someone doesn’t get nausea after taking them? What do you think about other B’s except B12, are they absorbed better on empty stomach or with food?

    1. You can take B12 on an empty stomach if you can tolerate it. I would stick with the recommendation given of taking all other B vitamins with food.

  9. Candice says:

    Hi Ben

    Listened to your Joe Rogan podcast yesterday. Very informative and entertaining.

    My question is – do Caffiene pills affect the absorption of vitamins?

    Thanks in advance

    Candice

    1. Yes. Caffeine can increase the interruption of some vitamins and can even decrease interruption of others, such as minerals and iron.

      1. Conrad says:

        Hi Ben, long time listener/reader, first time commenter. With caffeine affecting absorption what would be the optimal amount of time to wait between taking caffeine (Qualia Mind) and vitamins/minerals (Athletic Greens) in the morning to maximize absorption of both supplements? Qualia would be taken first as advised by Neurohacker Collective. Would 20-30 minutes between doses suffice? 1 hour? Thanks for the vast amount of information and advice you share! You have radically changed the way I look at health & fitness.

  10. Brian says:

    You state,

    “Calcium is utilized by the body at night, and is a natural muscle relaxant thought to promote sleep”

    This goes against everything I have learned/read about calcium and muscle contractions/cramps.

    I understand the calcium – tryptophan – melatonin connection for sleep. But have never heard it referred to as a muscle relaxant.

    Do you have any references for calcium being a natural muscle relaxant? Can you explain how calcium would relax muscles?

    Thanks in advance.

  11. Utkarsh Chowdhary says:

    Where i can find Hi resolution of this infographic picture.

    1. I am not sure I have the original any more. I am sorry.

      1. Thanks Sophie! I was looking too!

      2. Ken G says:

        Thanks Sophie, this is a much better image!
        Ken

  12. Lin says:

    The chart shows both D and K in the afternoon but I had information that recommends K to be taken 8 hours after D; thoughts?

    1. Not necessary. You never find it that way in nature. ;-)

  13. Natalie says:

    Hi Ben, i am currently taking collagen, multi vits, glucosamine, glutathione and calcium in the am. But i am also a coffee drinker. Any idea on how long after taking vitamins can I drink coffee since caffeine will disturb the absorption..

    1. Natalie, unless these are minerals you won't get too much of a loss of absorption. Generally you'll want to give the coffee a time to empty from your stomach and that takes about 30 to 40 minutes.

  14. meryl says:

    should liquid selenium be taken half an hour before food

    1. Selenium should be in the morning or before bed.

      1. Rainstorm says:

        but should selenium be taken away from food (on an empty stomach)…or after food? thx

  15. Sheila says:

    Hi Ben I have been looking into adding MSM powder to my daily regimen for joint pain and over all aches. When do you suggest taking this? I will be taking this with VitC 1000. I am also adding D3/K2 in hopes to lessen muscle spasms. Is there any thing I should know when taking these addintions?

    1. I'm a bigger fan of NatureFlex <a href="http:// (https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/kion-flex)” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://(https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/kion-flex)” target=”_blank”>(https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/kion-flex) but if you were going to take it, you can take it on empty or full stomach as it is not affected by your stomach acid!

  16. Jack says:

    I have started taking a SOD supplement SOD with gliadin to help it get thru the stomach acid. When would be the best time to take this? When would stomach acid be the lowest–before meals or maybe after eating more alkaline foods? Wouldn’t it be best to take a supplement when stomach acid is lowest? Also, what about liposomal delivery? If liposomal supplements are best for absorption wouldn’t a liposomal multi-vitamin work best?

    1. Liposomal is DEFINITELY going to cause better absorption (although admittedly more spendy too). I would take SOD, like any glutathione type supplement on an EMPTY stomach in morning or evening.

  17. Kate says:

    How about selenium?

    1. In the morning of before bed.

  18. Henrietta says:

    Hi Ben, this is tremendously helpful, thank you! I’m trying to figure out how to arrange my daily supplement routine around the Levothyroxine I need to take for my hypothyroidism. I currently take it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach before my first training session and then take calcium+vitamin D in the evening before bed (I’m recovering from a stress fracture so am supplement my calcium for a little while). I want to add iron, B complex, vit C and magnesium to my routine to support my training as an endurance runner, but I’ve read that calcium, iron and magnesium can all inhibit Levothyroxine absorption. What sort of routine would you recommend?

    1. I should begin by clarifying the fact that I am *not* a physician and this is *not* to be interpreted as medical advice. Please talk to a licensed medical professional about all of this! I would not recommend a synthetic thyroid. I am a bigger fan of something like ThyroGold, which is T1, 2, 3 and 4 all together. Also, regarding minerals, I'd take them separately.

      For more details, I'd be happy to help you via a personal one-on-one consult. Just go to https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/coaching. and then choose a 20 or 60 minute consult, whichever you'd prefer. I can schedule ASAP after you get that.

  19. Chris says:

    I read elsewhere that Magnesium should be taken with food (I am taking Mag Citrate). Should it be taken at bedtime with food — or dos it not need to be taken with food?

    1. For magnesium, it doesn't matter.

  20. John says:

    I need to know the right time to take multivitamin tablet during day or at bedtime

    1. Take a multi-vitamin with your main meal of the day, unless that meal is directly prior to a workout or race, in which case you should take your multivitamin with dinner. Read here for more info: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2011/12/pill-…

  21. Kiran says:

    Hi Ben,

    When would be the best time to take collagen hydrolysate or gelatin? Can it be taken in combination with other vitamins/minerals or separately?

    Please let me know,

    Kiran

    1. For this one, best to take on empty stomach if you're going for the full benefit of the amino acids…

  22. cindy says:

    and marine collagan with hyaluronic acid

  23. cindy says:

    what are your thoughts on DEHA, Coconut oil, biotin, chondroitin glucosomine and

    raspberry tea which I also take. I am not an early am breakfast eater but I eat something at 10ish.

  24. Donna Carter says:

    I have just purchased a magnesium powder which also contains taurine,silica,vit c, zinc & selenium, is this combination ok to take just before bed? thanks very much for the info.

  25. Smitty says:

    I am interested in the the Life Shotz vitamins. I tried a B complex by Thorne and it also had Folate with 5-methyl and I had palpitations that day so I stopped taking it.

    Is this a common reaction? I would like to try Life Shotz but if I will have the same problem.

    1. That's actually not a very common reaction. The LifeShotz doesn't have that same type of methyltetrahydrofolate and, so I doubt your response would be similar if you use LifeShotz. Hope that helps.

  26. Jay says:

    Thank you so much for this! I love the infographic format. Very well done and much appreciated.

  27. Michael says:

    There is a major flaw in this article. Magnesium and Calcium are being taken within the same time frame; however, we know know that of minerals Magnesium scores very low on bioavailability and absorption with about 30% max . What we also know is that Calcium inhibits the absorption of Magnesium which may make it as low as 0-5% total absorption. So taking a calcium supliment in the same time frame would be wrong.

    1. It is true that calcium and magnesium compete for absorption and so too much calcium in the diet will block magnesium absorption. Our physiological requirement ratio for calcium to magnesium is about 2:1. In dairy products the ratio is 10:1. So, consuming a lot of dairy products or EXCESSIVE calcium will induce a magnesium deficiency. BUT smaller amounts of calcium are OK.

    2. Leona says:

      well dairy isn’t designed for human bodies so you shouldn’t try to get calcium for it anyway. It is also very very acidic so it leaches calcium from your body.

  28. Kathleen Curtis says:

    Good Morning Ben! I love the chart! I have a question I do not see addressed. Satay you take 4 or 5 supplements in the AM & PM. Is it okay to swallow all of them at once or better to take them individually? Thanks very much and have a wonderful day:-))

    1. You can swallow them all at once…but you may find it easier on your throat to "break them up". ;)

  29. keshav dutta says:

    Ben, I recently started taking Nature’s Bounty ABC Plus. It’s a multivitamin. I take one tablet a day after breakfast along with fish oil. Please tell me if it’s a proper way of taking vitamin or not ?

    1. Those shotgun multivitamins are often best take just like that – with breakfast. Take a look at this page for more info – https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2011/12/pill-…

  30. jeremomeliz says:

    I recently started taking Chromium twice a day. When is the best times of the day to take it and should I avoid taking it with or close to any other supplements or medicines?

    1. Take one serving before breakfast or your morning workout, and the other serving mid-afternoon. Or take with a carbohydrate heavy meal (due to its interactions with glucose metabolism). I am not aware of it mixing badly with other supplements… but it has been shown to slow iron absorption in rats.

  31. alcazar13 says:

    hey ben have you heard of nutrience yet? its from the caltons, a powdered multivitamin what's your thoughts on it ? I heard them on dave asprey's BPexec podcast they are a wealth of knowledge, They speak about micro and macro nutrients I tried it but it was getting a bit expensive , I had to say it was pretty good and tasty but as far as making a difference??? , I did notice higher energy levels and mental focus, They claim to reverse mira caltons osteoporosis with it. what do you think?

    1. Yep. Heard of them and tried the product. It's OK. Still not a proper formulation for hard charging athletes though, and also doesn't include some important stuff like certain bacterial compounds, enzymes, nootropics, etc. which is why I'm working on my own formulation…stay tuned!

  32. pierre_t says:

    Hello Ben,
    What's your opinion about multivitamin supplements such as Athletics Green which provide all the supplements described in this article in one shot? Shall we conclude these nutrients are not ingested as good as if we would take then seperately at different times of the day?
    Cheers!

    1. Exactly. The "shotgun" approach to supplementation creates a lot of expensive pee.

    2. I should clarify that I am currently designing a multivitamin with more advanced encapsulation technologies that skirts this issue of "expensive pee", but for now, a liquid formulation is best. This is the one I recommend: http://pacificfit.net

  33. yuri65 says:

    Hi Ben. Thanks for the info. One question – I understand that this is your usual daily routine. Let's say you have a marathon in 2 weeks (or any other endurance event like hiking during vacation – well, perhaps for you hiking is not an endurance event but for me it is:) ), how would you recommend to prepare for that, and to recover after that (from vitamins/etc. point of view)? I am the amatuer, and the performance is not important. I mean I don't care if I run faster or slower, and I don't care if I'm the last, but I would not like to be "dying in the bed" for 2 weeks after the event.

    1. Wow, that is a whole podcast question right there! You should call it in: http://www.speakpipe.com/bengreenfield also take a look at the Performance section of the Ben Recommends page https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2012/05/every…

      1. yuri65 says:

        I understand that this question is too big – perhaps for the next article. I don't listen to podcasts… just reading :)

        Let me explain what I think is generally missing in your advices as well as in 99% of other advices which I see on the Web.

        1. No differentation between proffessional sportsmen (for whom each 2% of the result matters) and amateurs who care more about health and recovery. Logically I don't think that amateurs shall take as much as professionals

        2. No differentiation between nutritients who work accumalatively only (like gingko biloba, for example) and those which can be used us "urgent help" (endurance events)

        I hope that you will address these issues in your future articles. Thanks.

  34. Maxmohr says:

    Hi Ben. On waking I have Vital Greens, and as a liver transplant recipient I have my immunosuppressant, Tacrolimus. At breakfast I have Bulletproof coffee every day with krill oil, COQ10, resveratrol, B12, Vitamin D,Vitamin C, Selenium and Hawaiian Astaxanthin. If I have a big evening meal I have digestive enzymes and organic tumeric tabs every evening. At night I take magnesium after my evening Tacrolimus. I usually do intermittent fasting with Bulletproof coffee as breakfast 2-3 days a week and follow the bulletproof diet.. At 63 and training via Darryl Edwards paleo workouts (thanks to you in London). I am the fittest and healthiest in my life. My question regards the intake with coffee in the mornings. I figured that the oils assist in absorbing the supplements. I also take MAP amino acids before workouts.

    1. Oils do indeed assist with absorbing FAT SOLUBLE supplements, so yes! And awesome story Max. It was so cool to meet you in London a few months ago.

    2. Michel says:

      Maxmohr I have read that caffeine interferes with the absorption of some vitamins and minerals such as Calcium, Iron…, Vit D, check it out online.

    3. Dot says:

      Hi Max – just wondering if you had any side effects with Tacrolimus… i know it’s a little bit off topic but just started taking it for minimal change disease as corticosteroids did not work for me…

      I was very scaredto start with Tacrolimus treatment so I have tried herbal remedies and acupuncture and some other crazy stuff.. but unfortunately I had to give up and take it up.. just hoping for the best…

  35. Bob says:

    Ben, are you taking oxaloacetate to help stabilize your fasting glucose levels? I’m finishing up a 3-month experiment where I tracked my fasting glucose each day for 1 month to establish baselines, then took oxaloacetate for 1 month, then stopped taking it to see if the effects wear off. The results looks very promising.

    Also, it was suggested to me by the creator of that supplement to split up dosages to 1 pill with an AM/lunch meal, and another with dinner. How many days/week are you intermittent fasting? That will have an impact as well.

    1. Bob, I use this for Blood Glucose: http://pacificfit.net/items/mpx100-fat-burner/ – I have not used oxaloacetate for that! The creator of that supplement also talked to me at the biohacking conference and told me about 30 minutes prior to HIIT workouts and I do 2 then. I IF about 4-5 days per week or so…

      1. Bob says:

        Cool, will check that out. Basically, Oxaloacetate mimics caloric restriction, which lowers and stabilizes your fasting glucose levels (you'll see it fluctuate much less). It's an added benefit. I'd be happy to share my data with you. One thing to note is that if you IF 4-5 days/week (I do as well), you won't see as drastic of results because you should already have pretty good fasting glucose levels. I'm simply trying to keep mine near/below 86mg/dl (per lef.org's recommendation).

  36. Mabel Reich says:

    It was recommended by a medical doctor I work with that iron supplements should be taken with orange juice. Vit C helps in the rapid uptake of Iron supplements.

  37. Steve says:

    Ben-where does liposomal glutathione fit into this timing equation? Also, I had been taking AM supps with bulletproof coffee but you advise against this. I take CapraFlex and Phenocane, as needed on empty stomach 30 min before coffee/supps. Suggestions? Lastly, on days I don’t drink coffee, I use TChi upon arising so was curious what can be combined with it for best results. Thanks for the GREAT article!!

    1. I would recommend the Capraflex/Phenocane on empty stomach in AM or immediate post workout PRIOR to (about 20 minutes prior to) post workout meal. Also, fish oil due to choline content works really well when taken with TianChi. Finally, liposomal glutathione I ONLY use if I'm traveling/drinking and that is usually at night before bed…

  38. kk_84 says:

    This is very cool! I'm going to print this out. Is it equally effective to take daily requirement of fish oil in just one meal instead of spreading out in 3 meals?

    1. Yes, it is indeed equally effective Keerthi!

      1. kk_84 says:

        Thanks! Saves me a huge deal of trouble and the lengths I sometimes go to get that fish oil in at every meal

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