While most people can get sufficient nutrients from a balanced diet, in certain cases your healthcare provider may recommend multivitamins to ensure you are getting adequate amounts of essential vitamins. There are thirteen different essential vitamins that each perform varying functions in the body and are metabolized and stored by the body in different ways. For this reason, you may be wondering if certain vitamins are better to take after eating a meal, or in the morning versus the evening. In this article, we will summarize the different types of essential vitamins and the ideal times to take multivitamins, as well as other important information on who may benefit from taking multivitamins.
Difference between water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins
All essential vitamins can be categorized as being either water-soluble or fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins can dissolve in water and are immediately absorbed by the tissues in your body. As water-soluble vitamins are carried in the blood, they are not stored by the body; excess vitamins are excreted through urine. Since your body cannot store water-soluble vitamins for future use, you should take in these vitamins daily (NIH, 2023). The following essential vitamins are water-soluble:
- Vitamin C
- Thiamine (vitamin B1)
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- Niacin (vitamin B3)
- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
- Pyridoxine (vitamin B6)
- Biotin (vitamin B8)
- Folic acid (vitamin B11)
- Vitamin B12
Source: Lykstad, 2023
Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed in the intestines in the presence of fat and stored in the body’s fatty tissues and liver. Unlike water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body and are excreted slowly. This means that your body can rely on its stores of these vitamins and does not necessarily require daily intake (NIH, 2023). The following essential vitamins are fat-soluble:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Source: NIH, 2023
The best time to take water-soluble vitamins
Because water-soluble vitamins dissolve easily in water and are quickly absorbed into the body, you can take these vitamins any time of day. It is recommended to take them with a glass of water on an empty stomach (Cleveland Clinic, 2023). Of the water-soluble vitamins, the B vitamins help with your metabolism and energy production, which is why you may choose to take them in the morning so they do not affect your sleep.
Natural sources of water-soluble vitamins are: citrus fruits, melon, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, dairy products, fish and nuts.
The best time to take fat-soluble vitamins
Fat-soluble vitamins are best taken after or during a meal that contains fats. This is because the fat in your body allows the vitamins to be better absorbed in your intestines (Cleveland Clinic, 2023). The time of day when you take the fat-soluble vitamins does not matter much.
Natural sources of fat-soluble vitamins are: butter, milk, egg yolks, fish, vegetable oil, seeds, and nuts. If you would like to learn what foods specifically contain vitamin D, read our blog “Vitamin D in Food”.
What is the best time to take multivitamins?
As the name implies, multivitamin supplements contain multiple vitamins and minerals that the body needs. This is often a combination of both water- and fat-soluble vitamins. In terms of water-soluble vitamins, the time of day that you take them is not very important. For fat-soluble vitamins, it is optimal to take them during or after a meal. Therefore, it is recommended to take multivitamins with a meal or snack at a time of day that suits you. Finding a time of day to take vitamins that suits you can help ensure you remember to take the vitamins consistently.
Do I need multivitamins?
Whether you need multivitamins depends on a number of factors. If you have a varied and healthy diet, it is probably unnecessary to take multivitamins, and in some cases taking vitamin supplements without reason can do more harm than good. However, some groups may have increased vitamin needs and benefit from multivitamins. Examples include:
Vegetarians or vegans: following a vegetarian or vegan diet can have benefits. But it can also cause a deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals in the body, such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, calcium, and zinc (Craig, 2010).
Elderly people: the elderly are at risk of vitamin deficiency for several reasons. For example, they may have difficulty chewing and swallowing or experience other health problems that suppress appetite. Older adults may also have more difficulty absorbing vitamin B12 from food (Harvard, 2021).
It is important to speak with your doctor before starting multivitamins. They can advise you what vitamins you should take, how often, and in what quantity.
Testing for vitamin deficiency
Before you start taking vitamin supplements, it is wise to determine whether your body actually needs them. This is because taking supplements when you do not need them can cause levels of vitamins in your body to become too high, causing vitamin toxicity. This is especially true for fat-soluble vitamins, as they are stored in the body over time. You can check the level of vitamins in your body using a blood test.
Do you think you have a vitamin deficiency, or do you have symptoms that may indicate a vitamin deficiency? Homed-IQ’s Vitamin Deficiency Test checks the amount of vitamin B12, vitamin D, and folic acid in your blood. The sample collection is easy to take at home and the analysis takes place in a certified laboratory. The test results contain a downloadable laboratory report that can be brought to your doctor for follow-up treatment. Homed-IQ’s Vegan and Vegetarian Blood Test checks the level of vitamins and minerals that are common deficiencies in people who do not eat animal products.
Cleveland Clinic. (2023, May 19). The Best Time to Take Vitamins. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-best-time-to-take-vitamins/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CTake%20water%2Dsoluble%20vitamins%20on,won%27t%20affect%20your%20sleep.
Craig, W. J. (2010). Nutrition Concerns and Health Effects of Vegetarian Diets. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 25(6), 613–620. https://doi.org/10.1177/0884533610385707
Harvard Health. (2023, February 2). Should I Take a Daily Multivitamin? The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/multivitamin/
Lykstad, J. (2023, March 6). Biochemistry, Water Soluble Vitamins. StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538510/#:~:text=There%20are%20nine%20water%2Dsoluble,in%20severe%20morbidity%20and%20mortality.
NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. (n.d.). National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/fat-soluble-vitamin
NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. (n.d.-b). National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/water-soluble-vitamin
Nutrition concerns and health effects of vegetarian diets. (2010, 25 december). NIH.gov. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21139125/
Should I Take a Daily Multivitamin? (2021, 12 november). The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/multivitamin/
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the cells in your body do not respond well to the hormone insulin, also known as insulin resistance. Insulin regulates your blood sugar by making sure body...
What is Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, is a condition in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Insulin ensures that glucose (sugar) from your food goes into your body cells. If this...