Sure, you can pop a single multivitamin every morning—and that’s better than nothing—but spreading your vitamins and supplements throughout the day ensures you get the full benefit of each. Here’s an hour-by-hour guide to keep you running strong all day long.
Upon rising: Probiotic
If you’re not a yogurt-for-breakfast fan, consider starting your day with a probiotic supplement to get your intestinal tract, well, on track. Most probiotic supplements are best taken before eating, when your stomach is less active.
Benefit: immune and digestive support. Plus, probiotics help with absorption, which can help ensure you get the full nutrient benefit of foods you eat the rest of the day.
Unless you follow a very strict meal plan, you’re probably missing some essential vitamins and minerals. Multivitamins, especially those formulated for your specific needs—whether you’re pregnant, of a certain age or have certain allergies or deficiencies—can help ensure you get as close to 100 percent of your RDA as possible. But some vitamins and minerals can cause mild stomach upset, so take them with food. To enhance the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A and E, make sure your breakfast includes some oil; healthy choices include avocado, hemp oil, nuts and eggs.
Benefit: covers gaps in daily nutrition; provides an array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants you can’t always get from food.
If you can’t even make it to lunch without feeling a little sluggish or out of focus, skip the second cup of joe and reach for the B12, a lack of which can cause fatigue and mood fluctuations. Vitamin B12—which is plentiful in shellfish and fish eggs, two less-than-appealing mid-morning snacks—is best absorbed when your stomach’s not super-full, so take it between meals. It also helps convert breakfast carbs and fats into energy. Tablets are the easiest form of B12 to find in stores, but sublingual tabs or sprays are often absorbed better and can be taken any time of day.
Benefit: nervous system support, energy production, hormonal regulation.
Lunchtime: Omega-3, calcium
Omega-3, which you’ve also heard referred to as essential fatty acid and which comes from fish or seafood oils, has been linked to everything from reduced joint stiffness and depression to improved cognition in kids, though the research is thin. Still, plenty of doctors recommend supplementing it, especially if you don’t eat a lot of fish and seafood. Omega-3 can cause nausea and gastric distress taken on an empty stomach, so take it with a primary meal. Lunch, when your stomach is less likely to be sensitive, is better than breakfast.
Benefit: anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular health, mood support.
Calcium isn’t just for kids. Even grown-ups need plenty, especially post-menopausal women whose risk for osteoporosis increases with age. Milk, yogurt and cheese pack a ton of calcium but also a lot of fat, so supplementing can be a smart move for those watching their waistlines. Calcium is best absorbed in divided doses of 500 mg or less, so take your first dose now, followed by a second dose at dinner. Bonus: Take it with your daily vitamin D to increase its absorption.
Benefit: bone health, nervous system support.
Fiber should be taken separately from other supplements, since it can interfere with their absorption—so mid-afternoon is a good time. Bonus: you’ll feel more full and less inclined to snack.
Benefit: promotes digestive regularity and healthy blood lipid levels.
Dinner time: Calcium, digestive enzymes
Calcium. Take your second dose of the day with dinner, to promote absorption. Bonus: Taken in the evening, calcium in combination with magnesium can help relax your muscles and lead to sound sleep.
Benefit: encourages muscle relaxation.
Enzymes are best taken with dinner, especially if you tend to eat late, to promote complete digestion before bed and ensure more restful sleep.
Benefit: maximizes digestion, prevents gastric distress, aids in absorption of nutrients.
Before bed: Magnesium
Magnesium taken right before bed calms your mind and nervous system in preparation for sleep. Bonus: It can also encourage bowel regularity.
Benefit: relaxes muscles, supports the nervous system, promotes bone and heart health.