For many health-conscious people, a multivitamin is a no-brainer. In fact, a recent survey from the Council for Responsible Nutrition found that 75 percent of Americans take one daily. But making the most of your multi isn’t as simple as remembering to take it every day. (Which, hey, we know isn’t even so simple in itself.) Make sure to follow these best practices in order to reap the biggest benefits from your routine.
Why Take A Multi?
Ask many a nutrition expert and they’ll recommend getting all the vitamins and minerals you need on a daily basis from food. Thing is, according to research out of the CDC, just one in 10 Americans regularly eats enough of the fruits and vegetables your body depends on for these essential nutrients.
To make matters worse, some research suggests that, thanks to modern farming methods, our fruits and vegetables contain fewer nutrients than in the past.
That’s where a multivitamin, which provides a slew of crucial vitamins and minerals, comes in. A daily multi can help us fill nutrient gaps and support our overall health.
Making The Most Of Your Multi
To really reap the benefits of taking a daily multi, make sure it contains between 50 and 100 percent of the daily value for all of the vitamins and minerals you need, says Jonathan Valdez, M.B.A., R.D.N., C.D.N., owner of Genki Nutrition and spokesperson for the New York Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
You’ll also want to look for a multi designed for your specific needs, and based on your age and sex, he says. “While menstruating women need more iron, for example, elderly people need more calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.”
But when is the best time of day to take your multivitamin? Glad you asked.
When To Take Your Multivitamin
Though many of us grew up taking chewable vitamins with our breakfast in the morning, you can take your multi at any time of day, says Gabrielle Mancella, M.S., R.D./L.D.N., corporate wellness dietitian with Orlando Health.
However, you do want to take it when your digestive system will have ample time to absorb its nutrients. “Over-hydrating or exercising too soon can move the multi throughout the digestive system without giving it enough time to sit in the gut for absorption,” Mancella says.
Related: What Type Of Multi Is Right For You?
To help your body soak up all of your multi’s nutrients, avoid taking it within a couple of hours of working out or at a time of day when you typically down lots (anything more than 16 ounces) of water or other beverages.
How To Take Your Multivitamin
Though you can pop your multi at whatever time works best for you, you’re going to want to take it with some food.
“I highly recommend avoiding taking a multivitamin on an empty stomach,” says Valdez. For many people, doing so can lead to indigestion, stomach pains, nausea, and even vomiting. (Without any food to help shuttle your multi to your intestines for absorption, your body starts to digest its high concentration of nutrients too soon—and suddenly you feel sick.)
To avoid any alarming sprints to the bathroom, pair your multi with a snack or meal—and preferably one that contains some fat.
“Fat-soluble vitamins—vitamins A, D, E, and K—are absorbed the same way we absorb fats, and are then stores with those fats,” says Mancella.
While the rest of the vitamins in a multi—called water-soluble vitamins—can be absorbed later in the digestion process, these fat-soluble vitamins need some fat for optimal absorption, Valdez says.
Of course, you’ll also want to check with your healthcare provider to make sure that taking a multivitamin won’t interfere with any medications or other supplements you regularly consume. (Taking too much iron and calcium together, for example, messes with your absorption of both minerals.)