Most of us know that supplements can help to improve our wellbeing. But did you know that a well-timed dose can maximise results?
In an ideal world, we’d all be getting the nutrients we need to stay healthy from a nutritious, balanced diet. But often, whether because we’re intolerant to certain foods, following a restrictive eating plan or deficient in particular vitamins, supplements serve to support the body where food can’t. So how can we make our supplements work harder? And why does research now suggest that the dosage time can affect efficiency? It’s all down to absorption.
“Some people may need to take supplements to fulfil their nutrient requirements,” explains Deepali Shah Katira, NPD Nutritionist at Lifeplan. “Having the right amount of nutrients can facilitate bodily function and may prevent the risk of developing more chronic conditions. Those who have a diagnosed deficiency, for example, may be advised by their GP to take a supplement, and vegans should consider supplementing with vitamin B12, which is mainly found in red meat. But taking supplements at certain times of the day can ensure that we’re getting the most out of them, because some vitamins need other vitamins or minerals to help absorb them into the bloodstream. It all depends on what the vitamin is and its main purpose.”
With that in mind, here are some of the most popular supplements on the market today – and when to take them for maximum results.
Vitamin C has several important functions in the body, which include helping to protect and maintain healthy cells, aiding wound healing and, of course, giving our complexion that covetable healthy glow. Some find it can cause nausea if not taken with food, so if that’s you, always pair your supplement with a meal. However, Shah Katira recommends first thing in the morning if you can stomach it. “Some supplements, like vitamin C, are water soluble and don’t need to be taken with a meal. As vitamin C contributes to your energy yielding metabolism, [it’s most effective] in the morning.” Not a fan of tablets? Try VitOrtho’s Liposomal Vitamin C (£11.90 for 100ml; vitortho.co.uk).
Popular with pregnant women, fitness fans and those with anaemia, iron is traditionally taken at mealtimes because it can cause feelings of nausea on an empty stomach. However, Shah Katira goes one step further, advising which food group to pair with your supplement for the biggest boost. “Foods high in vitamin C, which include orange juice, peppers and strawberries, can help to increase absorption,” she says. It’s also best to avoid caffeine and milk, which can interfere with absorption – so forget that morning dose with your cereal and flat white. We love Viridian Balanced Iron Complex (£7.06 for 30 capsules; viridian-nutrition.com).
Often referred to as ‘sunshine in a tablet’, vitamin D comes into its own during the winter months when our bodies become naturally more deficient in the nutrients our skin soaks up from the sun. Public Health England recommends that everyone should be supplementing with vitamin D once autumn sets in, and it can prove particularly effective for tackling brittle bones, diabetes and obesity. “We don’t get enough sunlight in the UK and certain ethnic groups do not naturally absorb as much vitamin D due to having more melanin in the body – which blocks UV rays,” Shah Katira says. As it’s fat soluble, you should consume vitamin D supplements, such as Link Nutrition’s Vitamin D Complex (£11.95 for 30 capsules; linknutrition.com), with your evening meal. “The same advice holds for other fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, E and K, because that’s when it’s most likely to be fully absorbed.”
Although found naturally in oily fish, omega 3 supplements are perfect for vegetarians and vegans, who may have become deficient in this heart, brain and joints-boosting fatty acid. “If you’re not regularly eating oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, then this is a great supplement to consider taking,” Shah Katira says. A new study by researchers at the University of Oxford even suggests that elevating your omega 3 levels can improve sleep, and the advice is to take with food before bed. Shop Sirona Supplements for Omega 3 Fish Oil (£8.40 for 60 capsules; sironasupplements.co.uk), or, for vegan varieties, see My Vegan’s Vegan Omega (16.99 for 90 softgels; myvegan.com).
A good all-rounder, B vitamins help to keep your nervous system healthy and support your body to break down food so that it can be turned into fuel. Crucially, though, B vitamins help to reboot your energy levels, which is why taking them first thing in the morning is ideal. “This supplement will help to see you though the rest of the day,” Shah Katira says. Try Bio-Health’s Vitamin B-Complex (£9.45 for 60 capsules; bio-health.co.uk).
Bones, muscles, blood vessels, hormones – you name it, calcium probably plays a star role in supporting it, which is why making sure you have enough reserves is critical. The National Institutes of Health recommends taking supplements – such as Lifeplan’s Chewable Calcium (£5.15 for 60 tablets; lifeplan.co.uk) – with food, but also advises splitting the dosage in half and spreading it out across the day, stating: “Calcium absorption is best when a person consumes no more than 600mg at one time. If your dose is higher, split it rather than taking it all at once.” So, check the label, know your dosage, and set your iCal for a double date.
“Our digestive system is home to trillions of live cultures and, with the majority of cells that make up the immune system residing in the gut, keeping it healthy is crucial,” Shah Katira explains. Ensure there’s a good harmony of live cultures assisting your digestive system by taking probiotics. But with a dizzying number of products on the market, it’s important to be led by the label on this one. Leading brand, The Nue Co, recommends taking its Probiotic Protein (£25 for 200g; thenueco.com) – an organic formula fortified with a 20 million spore probiotic – with meals, but each blend is unique.
Cannabidiol is the oil extracted from marijuana and it won’t make you high. It can, however, help to relieve chronic pain and treat insomnia. So, when should you be taking it? Research suggests that depends on why you’re taking it. A study carried out by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found evidence to support taking CBD supplements before bed could aid sleep, while morning doses benefit those seeking its mood-lifting qualifies. If you’re in pain, seek advice from a medical professional. Natropathica offers a range of targeted products, such as CBD+ Night capsules Unwind (£39.99 for 30; naturopathica.co.uk).
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