Have you ever taken a daily vitamin or herbal supplement on an empty stomach and 30 minutes later wish you hadn’t? Not only did you feel nauseous, but the supplement that was supposed to help you feel calmer and more energetic has left you feeling ill and even kept you from getting on with your day.
Your purpose for taking a supplement may dictate when and how to take it. Let’s say you’ve been having trouble sleeping for the past six months. Taking chamomile just before bedtime could help you fall asleep—an effect you’d want to avoid first thing in the morning.
Some supplements may be more effective to take at certain points of the day and before or after a meal. Let’s see what the experts say about how and when we should take our supplements and the potential benefits that could follow.
Supplements for wellness
Daily stress, time management, and overall health
The minute we get out of bed, many of us start our day, full-throttle. Trying to maintain a work-life balance on top of external, anxiety-provoking stressors (oh, hey, COVID), can leave us feeling frazzled, strapped for time, and not at our prime.
When this goes on for months at a time, we can end up feeling like we’re in a cycle of anxiousness, with zero energy, and even less motivation when it comes to doing what we’re supposed to about it—eating healthy (bye-bye, cake), or being bothered to do the research about those health supplements we’ve been wanting to try.
You may not feel there are enough hours in the day to devote to self-care and general wellness. Fortunately, there are minor ways we can do this—like incorporating a stress-relieving, energy-boosting supplement into our routine, and making time for it daily (and consistently).
When we take a supplement can matter significantly, -and this starts with why you want to take one in the first place. If you’re an athlete and need a supplement for extra energy, you’d likely take a supplement in the morning or some time before your workout so that it kicks in when you need it to.
We want to get the maximum absorption and ultimate benefits from each supplement, and that can depend upon:
- If we take it with or without food
- How “pure” the ingredients are
- When you take the supplement
- What other supplements or medications you’re taking, and how they may interact with one another
What if I’m having trouble sticking to a supplement routine?
For many of us, no two days are ever the same, and because of this, adding anything new to our schedule can feel more like a chore, despite any potential benefits. When taking a supplement, remember, consistency is key. The bottom line is, “synch” your supplement routine with your normal daily schedule, and then stick to it:
- Purchase a pill organizer, load it each week, and keep it out so you can “avoid” forgetting to take your supplements.
- Write it down on your to-do list or create a recurring alarm or e-calendar reminder.
- Keep your supplements in a room that you consistently frequent (e.g., the bathroom, or kitchen), so they remain in clear sight.
Morning, noon, or night?
Time of day matters
Research shows that taking certain supplements at specific times of the day typically doesn’t affect their efficacy, but what is important is to take them at a specific time to avoid unexpected side effects or adverse reactions, and then taking them consistently.
Let’s take a look at a few common supplements that may be better to take at certain times of the day than others:
For the morning
What is it? Found naturally in black tea, green tea, and several fungi, L-Theanine is an amino acid.
Benefits: Aside from helping us manage blood pressure and supporting our immune system, L-Theanine may help with concentration, reducing stress levels, and post-workout recovery.
When and how should I take it? Because L-Theanine can help us focus, and because it’s often taken with caffeine (as in a tea) it may be better to take it in the morning or early afternoon to prevent sleep disruption.
However, if you plan to take a capsule or tablet supplement, then you could take it at night, before bedtime, as it may help you relax and ward off insomnia. You can also take it with or without food and on an empty stomach.
What is it? Daisy-like in appearance, chamomile (Matricaria recuita) comes from Europe but now grows in North America and throughout western Asia.
Benefits: This mild sedative is popular in alternative medicine, and famous for its ability to relax us, usher in sleep, and help with digestive issues like upset stomach.
When and how should I take it? You can always take chamomile in a tea before bedtime to help you drift off into dreamland. If you’d prefer a capsule supplement or liquid extract, then the dosing may vary. A typical dosage by capsule is 220 mg to 1100 mg for up to 8 weeks.
What is it? Culled from the leaves and/or roots of the Withania somnifera plant, Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic (stress-reducing) herb popular in Ayurvedic medicine.
Benefits: This anxiety-reducing supplement can help you feel calmer, fall asleep faster, lower your blood pressure, improve muscle strength, fight inflammation, and lower your blood sugar.
A full-spectrum extract sourced from the roots of the plant, like KSM-66 Ashwagandha, has a higher concentration of its active ingredient, withanolides, giving it a higher potency, and making it more effective for you.
When and how should I take it? You can take it as a capsule, tablet, liquid extract, or as a powder. For the latter, you can slip a tablespoon or two into your morning or post-workout smoothie, breakfast oats, or souppe at dinner time. You can take it morning or night, but try to take it consistently each day for best results.
With or without food?
It matters how we take certain supplements because the presence of food or drink can impact how much of the supplement we absorb, and therefore how effective it can be for us.
Even more, some supplements, such as B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning they dissolve in water, and we don’t store them, so whatever amount our body doesn’t use, it flushes away.
For this reason, taking those on an empty stomach is best. Whilst with many supplements, it doesn’t matter how we take them, some are better with or without food depending on absorption rate and potential side effects like nausea, belching, or upset stomach. Here are a few popular supplements where this may matter.
On an empty stomach
What is it? Hand cultivated from the stigmas of the Crocus sativus plant, grown in Iran, Spain, and Greece, these red, delicate threads are a delicious delicacy in a variety of cuisine, especially cream-based sauces, paella, and sweet treats.
Benefits: High in antioxidants, saffron can increase your libido and sexual functioning, stabilize your mood, improve inflammation and help you lose weight.
How and when should I take it? No matter if you choose to take saffron-infused water (for weight loss and healthy hair growth), mixed in milk, steeped in tea, or as a capsule, it may be best to take it on an empty stomach. This is because it’s water-soluble and has high bioavailability, so your body will absorb it fairly quickly (within 24-48 hours).
Omega-3 fish oil
What is it? These essential fatty acids must come from our diet. The three primary types – alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) come from plants, algae, and seafood.
Benefits: It can improve our cardiovascular and cognitive health, ocular (retina) health, in addition to reducing inflammation throughout our body.
How and when should I take it? Since Omega-3 fish oil is fat-soluble, you’ll absorb more of it when you take it with a meal, or immediately before or after. Although you can take it any time of day, experts suggest doing so with a meal in order to avoid menacing side effects like indigestion, nausea, or acid reflux.
Time to nail down your supplement timing
Carefully doing research on a supplement or talking with your doctor about how to take it to get the maximum benefits will help you know when to take it, (especially in combination with other supplements), and how to take it, so you can do so consistently as part of your daily routine.
Some supplements go together better than others, and it helps simplify things when the research has already been done for you. Earths Secret’s Ultimate Complex combines three vegan-friendly, non-GMO complexes (Sleep, Thrive, and Calm) that when taken together, as part of your full wellness routine can give you optimum results.
Backed by research and full of all-natural ingredients, and no preservatives or fillers, Ultimate combines stress-relieving Ayurvedic herbs with other natural ingredients to help you focus more, restore your energy, achieve quality sleep, feel calmer, and ultimately revitalize you at the molecular level.
When you’re unsure how or when to take your supplements, why not choose a transparent wellness program designed to combine the best ingredients so that you can feel your ultimate best.