man holding a variety of colorful vitamins in one hand, and water in the other.
Nutrition

Yes, There’s a Right Time to Take Your Multivitamin

Your chalky Flinstone chewables just got an upgrade.

Fast Facts

  • Your body needs 14 essential vitamins and 16 essential minerals.
  • A multivitamin—when paired with a healthy lifestyle—can help make up for many nutritional shortfalls.
  • The best time of day to take a multivitamin is with breakfast or lunch.
  • Taking your multivitamin with food and water is important for absorption.

You try to eat a healthy diet (minus the occasional cheat meal); and, in an ideal world, you would get everything your body needs from a well-rounded nutritious diet. However, even the healthiest diets can fall short on essential vitamins and minerals.

Taking a high-quality multivitamin can help fill those gaps. But it’s not as simple as mindlessly popping a pill. When and how you take your multivitamin matters, according to registered dietitian, Sarah Becker, M.S., R.D.

Here’s exactly when and how to take your multivitamin to optimize absorption. Plus, Becker’s multivitamin picks to level up your health.

What is the Best Time of Day to Take a Multivitamin?

“The best time of day to take a multivitamin is in the morning or at lunch because most of the vitamins and minerals found in a multi help your body make the energy you’ll need for the rest of the day,” Becker says.

Don’t take your multivitamin on an empty stomach. “Taking a multi with food and water is essential for adequate digestion and absorption of both fat- and water-soluble vitamins,” she says.

Ideally, your meal should contain some fat (think: fatty fish, avocado, eggs, or nut butter). Why? Fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) need to be paired with fat to be broken down and absorbed by your body. And drinking water will help your body digest and absorb water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B vitamins (like vitamin B12).

What is the Worst Time of Day to Take a Multivitamin?

Any time your stomach is empty, really. Taking vitamins when there’s no food in your belly can cause stomach upset, says Becker.

Don’t make it part of your nightcap, either. Since most of the vitamins in a multivitamin help your body make energy, taking it too close to bedtime can keep you up at night. “If you think your multi might be the culprit of staring at the ceiling, experiment and switch up the time of day you take it,” she adds.

That said, you’re better off taking a multivitamin right before bed or before breakfast—so long as you don’t have any sleep or digestive woes—than not taking it at all. Absorption only drops about five to ten percent if you take them in the evening or without food and water (1).

Should You Take a Multivitamin?

Probably, especially if you have pill fatigue. “Taking a multi is like a one-stop shop to get your daily dose of the basics,” Becker says.

But you’re wasting your time if your diet is junk food-heavy. “If your diet consists mainly of processed foods, sugar, and inflammatory oils, a multivitamin won’t move the needle on your health,” Becker says. “In fact, you probably won’t be able to properly absorb the nutrients from the multi anyways due to gut permeability.”

Even if your diet is rich in healthy, nutrient-dense foods, you probably still need a supplement. “Our food is becoming more and more depleted of nutrients,” says Becker. “Fruits, vegetables and grains are heavily sprayed with herbicides and pesticides that alter the vitamin and mineral availability to our body. Not to mention, animals are being fed with subpar feed. What the animals eat, we then eat.These practices may help farmers’ bottom line, but they’re depleting our food of vitamin and mineral content in the process.

The research agrees. A 2017 study found that most people don’t get enough of their required micronutrients each day through food alone (2). This means even if you’d categorize yourself as a healthy eater, odds are good you aren’t getting enough essential nutrients from your diet.

If you’re following a restrictive diet (like a keto or plant-based diet) or suspect a specific nutrient deficiency, however, you might be better off finding out which nutrients you lack, and targeting those needs specifically. “Vitamin D and B12 are the deficiencies I see the most,” she says. “If deficient, it can be helpful to take individual supplements of these vitamins.”

Ask your doctor for a simple blood panel covering essential vitamins and minerals. If you’re low on anything, adjust your diet and supplement accordingly. If you aren’t, a multivitamin is all you need.

What to Look for in a Multivitamin

“The supplement industry can be a bit rogue. I can’t stress enough the importance of quality when buying supplements,” says Becker. Look for a multivitamin with minimal additional junk like preservatives, coloring, or natural flavors, she suggests.

“A good rule of thumb is to choose brands that are Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certified. This means they are accurately labeled, and tested for strength, quality, and purity,” she adds.

Your multivitamin should also cover all of your essential vitamins and minerals, helping you make strides toward your daily needs (3). Here’s a quick refresher:

Vitamin 

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Men 

Upper Limit 

Vitamin A 

900 micrograms (3,000 IU) 

3,000 micrograms (10,000 IU) 

Vitamin D 

Ages 19-70: 15 micrograms (600 IU) 

Ages 71+: 20 micrograms (800 IU) 

100 micrograms (4,000 IU) 

Vitamin E 

15 milligrams 

1,000 milligrams 

Vitamin K 

120 micrograms 

Not known

Vitamin

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Men 

Upper Limit 

Vitamin B1: Thiamin 

1.2 milligrams 

Not known 

Vitamin B2: Riboflavin  

1.3 milligrams 

Not known 

Vitamin B3: Niacin 

16 milligrams 

35 milligrams 

Vitamin B5: Pantothenic Acid 

5 milligrams 

No known 

Vitamin B6: Pyroxidal/Pyroxidine 

Ages 19-50: 1.3 milligrams 

Ages 51+: 1.7 milligrams  

100 milligrams 

Vitamin B7: Biotin

30 micrograms 

Not known

Vitamin B9: Folate/Folic Acid 

400 micrograms 

1,000 micrograms 

Vitamin B12: Cobalamin 

2.4 micrograms 

Not known

Vitamin C: Ascorbic Acid  

90 milligrams (smokers add 35 milligrams) 

2,000 micrograms 

Choline 

550 milligrams 

3,500 micrograms 

Mineral 

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Men 

Upper Limit 

Calcium 

Ages 31-50: 1,000 milligrams 

Ages 51+:1,200 milligrams 

2,500 milligrams 

Chloride 

Ages 19-50: 2.3 grams 

Ages 51-70: 2.0 grams 

Not known 

Chromium 

Ages 31-50: 35 micrograms 

Ages 51+: 30 micrograms 

Not known 

Copper  

900 micrograms 

10,000 micrograms 

Flouride 

4 milligrams 

10 milligrams 

Iodine 

150 micrograms 

1,100 micrograms 

Iron  

Ages 31-50: 8 milligrams 

Ages 51+: 8 milligrams 

45 milligrams 

Magnesium 

Ages 19-30: 400 milligrams 

Ages 31+: 420 milligrams 

350 milligrams 

Manganese 

2.3 milligrams 

11 milligrams 

Phosphorus 

700 milligrams 

Ages 31-70: 4,000 milligrams 

Ages 71+: 3,000 milligrams 

Potassium 

3,400 milligrams 

Not known 

Selenium 

55 micrograms 

400 micrograms 

Sodium 

1,500 milligrams 

Not known, although the Chronic Disease Risk Reduction (CDRR) intakes has been established at 2,300 milligrams (4

Zinc 

11 milligrams 

40 milligrams 

Even though it’s an essential mineral, many multivitamins aren’t formulated with magnesium—which plays a crucial role in cardiovascular and metabolic health (5). If your multi doesn’t contain magnesium, Becker recommends supplementing with magnesium glycinate at night. “Taking magnesium glycinate before bed can help you wind down and relax, leading to faster and deeper sleep,” she says.

Best Multivitamins for Men

Don’t want to weed through the internet for the *best* multivitamin? Becker has rounded up her top picks for men’s multivitamins that contain all your essential vitamins and minerals and then some.

The Bottom Line

The best time of day to take a multivitamin is in the morning or at lunch, with a meal that contains fat, and a glass of water. This combination ensures adequate absorption of both fat- and water-soluble vitamins. Since many vitamins provide your body with energy, you may be better off taking your multivitamin earlier in the day to promote good sleep. However, as long as you don’t have trouble sleeping, it’s better to take a multivitamin at night than to not take one at all.

FUEL UP