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Published on July 2, 2021

What Is the Best Time to Take Your Vitamins?

What Is the Best Time to Take Your Vitamins?
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While some people choose to take their vitamins after waking up, others may take them at various points later during the day or with meals. If you have been taking vitamins for a while or are looking to start taking them, you may be wondering what the best time of day is to do so. It is time to finally get the answer to the question: when is the best time to take your vitamins?

The truth is, it depends on which vitamin you are taking. While some vitamins are best taken in the morning, others are better absorbed if taken with meals or certain food items. In this article, I will look into when it is best to take some of the most common vitamins.

For Water-Soluble Vitamins

If you are taking Vitamin C or any of the eight B vitamins—B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), or B12 (cobalamin)—your vitamin is what is known as “water soluble.”[1] These vitamins are absorbed in water, meaning that you do not need to take them with food to be absorbed. Therefore, any time is a good time to take these vitamins!

One of the nice things about these vitamins is that your body stores what it needs and excretes the rest through your urine. This means that there is no benefit to taking more than the recommended dose of these vitamins, so stick to the label recommendations.

If you are specifically taking Vitamin C, something to consider is that it may cause gastrointestinal symptoms. This is because it increases the acidity in your stomach. Although you can take Vitamin C supplements at any time of the day, research shows that taking Vitamin C supplements with food may help to decrease unwanted gastrointestinal side effects.[2]

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For Fat-Soluble Vitamins

In contrast to the water-soluble vitamins discussed above, vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble. This means that rather than being absorbed in water, these vitamins are absorbed in fat.

1. Vitamin A

Vitamin A deficiency is rare, but if you are taking a Vitamin A supplement, it is important to take it with a fat-containing meal to promote absorption.

2. Vitamin D

Many adults take Vitamin D supplements as Vitamin D is not found naturally in many foods, and many of us are spending less time in the sun, which is how our bodies synthesize Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for bone health and immune function. A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that Vitamin D absorption was about 30% greater in those who took the supplement with a fat-containing meal.[3]

If you are looking for the best Vitamin D supplement, you can check out this article where we rank the top 10 Vitamin D supplements to help you choose which is best for you.

3. Vitamin E

Vitamin E

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is found in many foods, however, certain groups of people including those with Crohn’s disease and short bowel syndrome may need to take a Vitamin E supplement to prevent deficiency. It is typically recommended that these supplements are taken with a meal. However, a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that Vitamin E may not need to be taken with a meal, so long as you eat enough fat at subsequent meals.[4]

4. Vitamin K

Vitamin K is another nutrient that is typically found in the diet, so deficiency is rare. If you are taking a Vitamin K supplement, it is recommended that you do so with a fat-containing meal.

Something to note about fat-soluble vitamins is that, unlike water-soluble vitamins, they are not simply excreted if your body has enough stored. This means that it is more likely to develop toxicity of these nutrients. Therefore, it is imperative that you stick to the recommended dosage of these vitamins and follow up with your doctor while taking these supplements.

Multivitamins

Multivitamins are extremely popular, as they contain a mix of vitamins and minerals. They are more convenient than taking various vitamins and minerals separately and can be less expensive. They also come in pill and gummy form and are easily found in most grocery stores or pharmacies.

Because multivitamins contain both fat-soluble and water-soluble supplements, it is typically recommended that you take them with a fat-containing meal to promote optimal nutrient absorption.[5]

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Prenatal Vitamins

During pregnancy, your body needs a sufficient amount of iron, calcium, vitamin D, choline, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and vitamin C.[6] Doctors commonly prescribe prenatal vitamins to help women who are pregnant to meet their daily needs of these nutrients.

While some of these nutrients can be taken at any time of the day, iron is a bit more particular. Your body absorbs iron best on an empty stomach, so it is best to take any vitamin containing iron, such as a prenatal vitamin, early in the morning.

Iron also has a few food interactions to keep in mind. It does not absorb correctly if you have recently eaten dairy but absorbs better if taken with Vitamin C. Having a beverage that contains Vitamin C, such as orange juice, first thing in the morning to wash down your prenatal vitamin may help to improve absorption.

Calcium and Fiber

While not a vitamin, calcium is a commonly taken supplement. Many of us do not drink milk or eat dairy products, so it is important to get our calcium elsewhere. Calcium is incredibly important for bone health, so a supplement may be indicated if you are not getting enough calcium in your diet.

As mentioned above, calcium can interfere with iron absorption. It can also interfere with the absorption of zinc and magnesium.[7] If you are taking a calcium supplement, be sure to take it at a different time than zinc, magnesium, or iron supplements.

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Fiber is also a supplement that is commonly taken to help with gastrointestinal regularity. Fiber is a nutrient that may also interfere with the absorption of other nutrients. This means that if you are taking a fiber supplement, you will likely want to do so apart from other supplements. The Washington Post recommends that you take your fiber supplement before bed if you are not taking any other supplements at that time.[8]

In Conclusion

The best time to take your vitamin supplement truly depends on which vitamin you are taking. Unless you are taking a fat-soluble vitamin, it may be best to take your supplement first thing in the morning. However, if you are taking Vitamin A, D, E, or K, it may be beneficial to wait a bit and take these vitamin supplements with a fat-containing meal.

As always, be sure to follow up with your doctor when you decide to start taking a vitamin supplement to make sure that it is appropriate for you and that you are taking the correct dosage for your body.

More About Vitamins And Supplements

Featured photo credit: Kalos Skincare via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Samantha Klig, RD

Registered Dietitian

What Is the Best Time to Take Your Vitamins? Do Vitamins and Supplements Help With Energy? 8 Best Foods for Dieters to Eat Healthily Flaxseed Oil vs Fish Oil: Which Is Better? Cod Liver Oil vs Fish Oil: Which Is Better?

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Published on July 15, 2021

Shift Work Disorder: 17 Ways to Manage it Better

Shift Work Disorder: 17 Ways to Manage it Better
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Are you having trouble sleeping? Or do you feel like you can barely stay awake when you need to? Are you left tired and irritable, lacking the joy and motivation that life once brought? If these complaints are tied to your long or rotating work schedule, you may be suffering from shift work disorder—a common ailment among professions with schedules outside the typical 9 am to 6 pm range.[1]

Why does it matter? Let’s be honest—being tired stinks. It feels terrible and leaves you vulnerable to many health risks that well-rested people aren’t as susceptible to. Not only that, but it can also wreak havoc on your relationships and quality of life.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to help manage this, and you can start trying them out today! Some of the solutions may not be what you expect. For instance, you might have linked improved sleep to exercise, but did you know that being compassionate with yourself can also have an impact?

Who Are Affected by Shift Work Disorder?

Twenty-five million people are shift workers in the country, so you are far from alone if you are struggling with this. Shift work disorder is a condition frequently affecting anyone who works a job where their schedule is outside standard business hours. Nurses, police officers, firefighters, and factory workers are common examples of professions with schedules that rotate around the clock.

Rotating shifts naturally leads to a change in one’s schedule, including sleep. As your sleep schedule becomes more chaotic, your body is unable to adjust and regulate itself and can result in having difficulty falling or staying asleep. This inevitably leads to less sleep, which is where some big problems can arise.

What Are the Symptoms?

Sleep is one of the most important (and underrated) aspects of our lives. Enough sleep and good quality sleep are critical to our emotional, mental, and physical health.

Insufficient sleep can lead to a significantly increased risk of physical health problems, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and gastrointestinal disorders. Mentally, being tired contributes to having scattered concentration, difficulty processing information, and being more likely to make mistakes or have an accident. Emotionally, the fallout of being chronically exhausted is linked to poor emotional regulation including being irritated more quickly, as well as an increased likelihood of developing anxiety and depression.[2]

Any of this sound familiar? If so, keep reading for some scientifically-based tips to help you manage your sleep better and get your life back.

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17 Ways to Manage Shift Work Disorder Better

Quality sleep, or the lack thereof, impacts us physically, mentally, and emotionally. The most impactful plan of attack against shift work disorder and to regain quality sleep must also reflect that.

I suggest reading through all of the tips and formulating a plan based on what you think will work for you. Start by trying out one thing and build from there as you are able. Remember to construct a plan that addresses your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Let’s start in the most obvious place first:

Your Job

1. Make Your Schedule the Best It Can Be

Randomly rotating shifts has been found to have the worst impact on our health.[3] If you have to rotate your schedule, request to rotate shifts in a clockwise fashion.

For example: work the day shift, rotate to the nights, then to the early morning shift, then start back on the day shift. Sounds silly? It’s not. Studies show that our bodies more easily adjust to changes in schedule when completed in a clockwise manner.[4] This is because of something called our circadian rhythm—24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock that carry out essential functions. The most commonly known of these is sleep. It has been discovered that our circadian rhythm adjusts forward more easily than it does backward.

2. Speak to Your Manager About Keeping Your Workplace Bright

Special lights have been designed to assist with circadian rhythm. It turns out that absorbing bright light that is most similar to sunlight can positively impact regulating our circadian rhythm.[5]

3. Avoid a Long Commute to and From Work

Having a long drive home after working a rotating shift is statistically not in your best interest. It’s been shown that fatigued/sleepy employees are 70% more likely to have a workplace accident and 33% more likely to be involved in a traffic accident.[6]

To avoid putting yourself at risk by driving when you’re not at your best, catch a nap before leaving work, pull over to sleep, or stay at a friend’s house nearby.

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4. Speak to Your Manager About Your Concerns

Many companies that operate around the clock are willing and able to make accommodations to those working alternative shifts. Whether it’s helping you find a schedule that works best for you or connecting you with other programs designed to support your well-being, being in good communication with your employer is to everyone’s benefit.

Sleep Attitudes and Environment

5. Change Your Perspective and Start Prioritizing Sleep

Here’s the deal: despite some pretty well-known dangerous effects of not getting enough sleep, somewhere along the line, our society began to think of sleep as a luxury. Some even consider it a badge of honor to “power through” without much (or any) sleep. People have been made to feel embarrassed or lazy if they get the recommended amount of sleep each night.

Here’s the bottom line: sleep is not a luxury.

Let me repeat that—sleep is not a luxury, and getting a consistent and healthy amount does not make you a slacker. Sleep is actually when our body does a lot of repair work on itself—blood vessels, muscles, and other organs. Sleep also boosts our immunity.

If we could help people feel as proud about sleeping as we do about them working out regularly or sticking to a healthy diet, people might be a lot healthier.

6. Make Your Sleep Space as Conducive to Rest as Possible

This means tweaking your environment so it’s as enticing as possible for your body to go to sleep. Keep the room dark using blackout blinds, reduce the temperature (our body rests best when slightly cool), limit interruptions (phone calls, visitors, noise), and remove electronic devices.[7]

Set yourself up for success by supporting yourself through your surroundings. If you wanted to lose weight, you wouldn’t frequently surround yourself with cookies, cake, and ice cream, right? Same idea here.

Personal Habits and Choices

7. Stick to a Regular Sleep Schedule as Closely as Possible—on Workdays and Days Off

This is obviously difficult when your schedule changes on the regular, but the more consistent you can keep your bedtime, the easier time your body has getting to sleep and staying that way.[8]

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8. Allow Yourself Time to Catch Up on Sleep

Having enough days off to rest and recuperate is an important aspect of protecting your health. You wouldn’t expect to be able to drive across the country on one tank of gas, right? Filling your own personal gas tank is just as important.

9. Take Naps, but Don’t Overdo It

It’s recommended by the Cleveland Clinic to take a 90-minute nap just before starting your shift and then a 30-minute nap during your “lunch break” at work.[9] Again, this is all about keeping some gas in your tank and not allowing yourself to get to the point where you are running on fumes. Short naps will help you stay refreshed and alert on the job.

10. Limit Caffeine to the Start of Your Shift

Most of us love a good hit of caffeine, especially when we are tired. But overdoing it or having caffeine too late in your shift can negatively impact your ability to get to sleep when you finally have the time to do so. Moderate your intake to help yourself get some quality sleep.

11. Avoid Alcohol Before Bed

Unwinding after work with a drink can be tempting. It can make you drowsy, which many people mistakenly believe will help them get better sleep. Unfortunately, alcohol will actually keep you awake (or wake you up later). This obviously impairs your ability to get the quality of sleep you are looking for.

12. Don’t Smoke

Much like alcohol, people turn to nicotine to “calm their nerves” or help them relax. Also, like alcohol, nicotine has been shown to disrupt sleep.[10] Cut back or cut this habit out as able.

13. Eat Well and Eat Smart

Choose convenient nutritious meals and snacks. Nutritious food is the foundation from which our body creates the needed chemicals for quality sleep. Foods high in saturated fat and sugar have been shown to have the worst impact on sleep.[11]

Also, timing is everything as they say. Eating too much or not enough before your shift can cause you to feel tired.

14. Get Regular Exercise

According to numerous studies, exercise can be as effective in treating sleep disorders as prescription medication.[12] Yes, you read that correctly—regular exercise is the bomb!

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This one can be tricky to convince people to do, especially if they are already tired and short on time. If you don’t have the time to hit the gym, take a brisk walk, dance around your living room to your favorite song, or mow your lawn. Despite feeling tired, getting up off the couch and moving around (moderate to vigorous exercise) is best for reducing the time it takes to get to sleep and improving the quality of sleep.

Mental and Emotional

15. Establish Consistent Practices That Help You Relax Before Bed

This can include yoga, deep breathing, a warm bath, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, meditation, and hypnosis. These are designed to reduce physical tension and quiet your mind from thoughts that are keeping you awake. There are lots of great apps and free videos that can help you with this.

16. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT as it’s known, works by helping you to identify thoughts and behaviors that make sleep worse and then developing new habits consisting of thoughts and behaviors that promote sleep. There are psychologists and life coaches who are specially certified in CBT that can help you with this.

17. Show Yourself Some Compassion

Sounds silly? Well, it’s not. A seven-year study conducted at the University of Mannheim concluded that the daily practice of self-compassion positively impacted people’s quality of sleep.[13]

The concept of showing ourselves compassion is foreign (and uncomfortable) to many of us. Try going easy on yourself for being grumpy, and give yourself some credit for the efforts you are making in tough circumstances. What would you say to your best friend if they were struggling with the same situation? I routinely ask my clients this question as it’s sometimes easier to be compassionate to others than ourselves. This tip might take some practice, but the effort could result in a better night’s sleep.

Final Thoughts

Okay, there you have it—17 different ways you can help yourself manage shift work disorder, feel more rested, more like yourself, and enjoy life again. To get started with your plan, pick out a few tips that you can implement today, but remember to choose a well-rounded approach—addressing the physical, mental and emotional.

Be patient with yourself. It takes time to build new habits. And show yourself some compassion and kindness—you might just be able to sleep better when you do.

Featured photo credit: Yuris Alhumaydy via unsplash.com

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Reference

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