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How And When To Take Supplements

In our haste to get out the door in the morning, many supplement users reach for their day’s worth of calcium, vitamin D, fish oil, and often much more, and throw them down the hatch with one big gulp of water, often on an empty stomach. That’s one thing that can be checked off the to-do list. Right? And of course, they feel so healthy now they’ve “innoculated” themselves for the day. Yet, how much of what they took will be absorbed so the health benefits can be realized? The all-at-once method of supplementation is a waste of money and maybe even detrimental to your health.

Setting aside the debate over which supplements are necessary for an individual, I asked Shizandra Fox, an herbalist and certified nutritionist in Sonoma, CA, for her advice on when and how to take three of the most commonly used supplements. Here’s a summary of what she recommended:

Vitamin D- Because Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, it should be consumed with a fatty food, like olive or fish oil (which is why D is often contained in Fish Oil supplements). For that reason, “it’s best to take it with your main meal,” Shizandra told me, which is most likely dinner. “Taking D in the evening also allows your body to absorb the nutrient at night while you sleep,” she explained.

Fish Oil – Shizandra is a fan of liquid fish oil, which she likes to drizzle over her vegetables at dinner. “It’s important to take fish oil with a meal, and by chewing it into our food, we’re maximizing the benefits we’re hoping to potentiate from taking it in the first place.” She added that it’s important to use a high-quality fish oil and never use it on food that you plan to reheat.

Calcium - If you’re getting your calcium from supplements and you’re taking a large daily dose, it should be divided up throughout the day. But, if you’re taking thyroid medication, Shizandra told me that it should not be taken at the same time. Since essential fatty acids (EFAs) enhance our body’s ability to absorb calcium, it’s wise to take Calcium with a meal, or with your fish oil.