Get that extra boost from your vitamins – just by watching the clock. Here’s how to eat your supplements at the right time!
When you wake up
- Iron: Ideally, you should take iron on an empty stomach to maximise its absorption – beverages such as tea or coffee inhibit iron absorption, as do other supplements like calcium and vitamin E, so it’s best to take your iron pills first thing in the morning.
- Vitamin C: It helps with the absorption of iron, so you should take your vitamin C pill right after you’ve taken your iron supplement.
- Multivitamins: The best time (and easiest way to remember!) to take your multivitamins is after your breakfast. B-complex vitamins (a family of 8 water-soluble vitamins) in your multivitamin also helps kick-start metabolism. You’re best off taking it first thing in the morning so that your body will convert food into energy faster, staving off lethargy.
- Digestive enzymes: For most people, lunch is the biggest meal of the day, so you’re best off taking a digestive enzyme once in the afternoon. Digestive enzymes can help reduce indigestion or heartburn if you have food intolerances (like lactose or gluten intolerance) or a high-fibre diet. Always take these 15 to 30 minutes before your meal, or with the first bite of food. This way, the enzymes can help in the pre-digestion phase – the period before your stomach secretes hydrochloric acid to break down your food -which lasts 40 to 60 minutes. Because digestive enzymes help break down your food first, your stomach will require less hydrochloric acid to digest it during the actual digestion phase.
An hour after dinner
- Probiotics: If your diet doesn’t consist of enough fermented foods like tofu and yogurt, you should take probiotics as part of your night-time regime. This supports the protective intestinal microflora – naturally found in your gut – which helps to digest foods that the stomach and small intestine have not been able to digest. Take probiotics at least an hour after you’ve eaten, to prevent it from interfering with your digestive enzymes and stomach acid. It’s best to do this at night because your stomach activity is at its lowest while you’re sleeping.
Right before bed
- Calcium and magnesium: At night, calcium is used by the body to build and maintain bones. It’s a natural muscle relaxant, so take it right before bed. Calcium also works hand-in-hand with magnesium to calm the muscles and sympathetic nervous system, which helps control most of the body’s internal organs. Taking them together at night can help you sleep better.
Supplement dos and don’ts
- Wash supplements down with water or juices that are rich in vitamin C, like orange or grapefruit, to get double benefits.
- Keep your supplements in a cool, dark and dry place.
- Check with your doctor before you start a new supplement, even if it can be bought over the counter. It’s best to make sure it won’t react with any of your current medication or health conditions.
- Take supplements with hot drinks like coffee or tea. The caffeine and tannin in these can interfere with the absorption of supplements. In the case of probiotics, heat can also kill the live microorganisms. You can consume coffee and tea right after but not together with your supplements.
- Double up if you miss a dose – just take your regular dosage at the next scheduled time.
- Exceed the recommended dosage on the packaging.
By Ankita Varma, Her World Fit & Fab, Issue #3 2014