Nutrition

Yes, There’s a Best Time to Take Multivitamins

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30-Second Takeaway

  • 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 or multi-mineral—a multivitamin that contains both vitamins and minerals—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.


About the Expert

Sarah Becker, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian specializing in integrative nutrition at Indigo Wellness.


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. Drinking water will help your body digest and absorb water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B vitamins (like vitamin B12).

SUPPLEMENT STACKS

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. Your digestion and metabolism are slower at night and during sleep. Plus, 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).

What to Keep in Mind When Choosing a Time to Take a Multivitamin

Individual preference

“Take your multivitamin at the time that is most convenient for you. What’s most important is consistency and how you take them, more so then when,” says Becker. Habit stacking can help make it easier to get on a consistent schedule. For example, if you always take your multivitamin after breakfast.

Interactions with medications

If you take medications, you’ll want to make sure what’s included in your multivitamin won’t interact—which could reduce the efficacy of the medication, or result in an adverse reaction. “Always review your supplements with your doctor. There are interaction checkers your provider can use to double check for any interactions or contraindications,” says Becker. 

Best timing of individual vitamins and minerals

Your multivitamin should also cover most of your essential vitamins and minerals, helping you make strides toward your daily needs (2). Multivitamins can be low in several important minerals, but this isn’t always a bad thing. For example, calcium is a big molecule so most multivitamins won’t contain as much as you need, because it might require you to take larger, or several pills. 

Plus, Since some minerals—like calcium, iron, and magnesium—are absorbed through the same channels, they might also compete for absorption. Taking these minerals separately might be beneficial. Iron in particular varies based on individual needs. For example, women tend to have a higher risk of iron deficiency than men (3). And you might be better off taking magnesium—which plays a crucial role in cardiovascular and metabolic health—at night (4). “Taking magnesium glycinate before bed can help you wind down and relax, leading to faster and deeper sleep,” says Becker.

How many supplements you take

Although the best time of day to take a multivitamin is with breakfast or at lunch, if you take a lot of supplements, it may be best to space them throughout the day. “Your body can only absorb so much at once,” says Becker. She suggests dividing them between breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Should You Take a Multivitamin?

Not all people need a multivitamin, explains Becker. For instance, a multivitamin alone won’t save you from a junk-food heavy diet. “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.”

However, there are a few circumstances where taking a multivitamin makes sense:

Even if you’re a healthy eater

“Taking a multi is like a one-stop shop to get your daily dose of the basics,” Becker says. 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,” she explains. “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 (5). 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 follow a restrictive diet

If you’re following a restrictive diet (like a keto or plant-based diet) or suspect a specific nutrient deficiency, 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.

MORE VITAMINS

Multivitamin Breakdown

Here’s how much you need of each essential vitamin and mineral, and exactly when and how to take it for maximum absorption and benefits.

Essential Fat-soluble Vitamins

Vitamin Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for MenUpper Limit Best Time of Day to Take
Vitamin A 900 micrograms (3,000 IU) 3,000 micrograms (10,000 IU) Morning, with a meal 
Vitamin D Ages 19-70: 15 micrograms (600 IU) 
Ages 71+: 20 micrograms (800 IU) 
100 micrograms (4,000 IU) Morning, with a meal 
Vitamin E 15 milligrams1,000 milligrams Morning, with a meal 
Vitamin K120 micrograms 
Not known
Morning, with a meal 

Essential Water-soluble Vitamins

VitaminRecommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Men Upper Limit Best Time of Day to Take
Vitamin B1: Thiamin 
1.2 milligrams 
Not knownMorning, with or without food, and with water
Vitamin B2: Riboflavin  
1.3 milligrams 
Not knownMorning, with or without food, and with water
Vitamin B3: Niacin 16 milligrams 35 milligrams Morning, with or without food, and with water
Vitamin B5: Pantothenic Acid 5 milligrams Not knownMorning, with or without food, and with water
Vitamin B6: Pyroxidal/Pyroxidine Ages 19-50: 1.3 milligrams 
Ages 51+: 1.7 milligrams  
100 milligrams Morning, with or without food, and with water
Vitamin B7: Biotin30 micrograms Not knownMorning, with or without food, and with water
Vitamin B9: Folate/Folic Acid 400 micrograms 1,000 micrograms Morning, with or without food, and with water
Vitamin B12: Cobalamin2.4 micrograms Not knownMorning, with or without food, and with water
Vitamin C: Ascorbic Acid  90 milligrams (smokers add 35 milligrams) 2,000 micrograms Anytime, with or without food, and with water
Choline550 milligrams 3,500 micrograms Morning, with or without food, and with water

Essential Minerals

Mineral Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Men Upper Limit Best Time of Day to Take
Calcium Ages 31-50: 1,000 milligrams 
Ages 51+:1,200 milligrams 
2,500 milligramsAnytime, with or without food
Chloride Ages 19-50: 2.3 grams 
Ages 51-70: 2.0 grams
Not known Anytime, with or without food
Chromium Ages 31-50: 35 micrograms 
Ages 51+: 30 micrograms 
Not known Anytime, with or without food
Copper900 micrograms 10,000 micrograms Anytime, with or without food
Flouride 4 milligrams 10 milligramsAnytime, with or without food
Iodine 150 micrograms 1,100 micrograms Anytime, with or without food
IronAges 31-50: 8 milligrams 
Ages 51+: 8 milligrams 
45 milligrams Anytime, with or without food
MagnesiumAges 19-30: 400 milligrams 
Ages 31+: 420 milligrams 
350 milligramsBefofe bed
Manganese2.3 milligrams 11 milligramsAnytime, with or without food
Phosphorus 700 milligrams Ages 31-70: 4,000 milligrams 
Ages 71+: 3,000 milligrams
Anytime, with or without food
Potassium3,400 milligrams Not knownAnytime, with or without food
Selenium 55 micrograms 400 microgramsAnytime, with or without food
Sodium 1,500 milligrams Not known, although the Chronic Disease Risk Reduction (CDRR) intakes has been established at 2,300 milligrams (6)Anytime, with or without food
Zinc 11 milligrams40 milligramsAnytime, with or without food

What to Look for in a Multivitamin

Regardless of the time you take your multivitamin, look for a quality supplement above all else. “A good rule of thumb is to choose brands that are Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certified—a standard of quality set by the FDA. This means they are accurately labeled, and tested for strength, quality, and purity,” she says. A multivitamin with minimal additional junk like preservatives, coloring, or natural flavors is a bonus.

When choosing a multivitamin, look for one that provides no more than 100 percent of the RDA or Daily Value (DV%). Getting too much of certain vitamins—particularly fat-soluble vitamins—can cause harm.

Frequently Asked Questions

You’ve got questions about vitamins, we’ve got answers.

What’s the best time to take prenatal vitamins?

“Both men and women should take prenatal vitamins in the morning,” says Becker. That said, consistency is most important. For example, if you’re a pregnant woman struggling with nausea, taking your prenatal vitamin when you’re most likely to keep it down is best.

What’s the best time to take vitamin C?

“Anytime, with water,” says Becker. Since vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, it’s best to take it with water to maximize absorption. If you are low in iron, and take an iron supplement to boost your levels, you may want to take vitamin C alongside iron since it can enhance absorption. However, if you get your vitamin C from your multivitamin, you’re best off taking your multivitamin and iron at separate times of the day since your multivitamin may contain minerals that compete with iron absorption, like calcium.

What’s the best time to take vitamin D?

“Anytime, with a fat source,” says Becker. Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it’s best to take it alongside a meal that contains dietary fat like avocado, olive oil, or fatty fish like salmon.

What’s the best time to take B vitamins?

Take your B vitamins in the morning with water, since they’re water-soluble. “B vitamins make us buzz, they are energy for our cells,” explains Becker. If you’re having trouble sleeping and you aren’t taking your B vitamins in the morning, try adjusting your schedule to take them towards the beginning of your day, she adds.

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.

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