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Time Your Supplements Right

You can derive maximum health benefits by taking certain supplements at times better suited for them in the day

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Feeling Hungry

As a consulting Nutritionist, almost 50 per cent of my clients question why they require supplementation and many others feel they are being prescribed medicines and are hesitant to include them. After explaining them the difference between medicines & supplements, they realise that supplements actually help fill in the nutritional gaps that are an outcome of modern-day living and the subsequent nutritional deficiencies, as getting all the necessary vitamins from food alone can be challenging.

The next big question comes as “When to take which supplement?” If your supplement pattern is haywire with limited thought to “what, when & how much”, you could be wasting your money. You can derive maximum health benefits by taking certain supplements at times better suited for them in the day.

- Vitamins : A basic multivitamin supplement combines both fat-soluble & water-soluble vitamins, without or without added mineral formulas. For better absorption, it is best taken with meals. And since B-vitamins are energizing, having them breakfast would be ideal.

When taking a Vit C supplement, it is advisable to have a smaller dosage 2-3 times a day, instead of a single larger dose, as Vit C is only active in the  bloodstream for a few hours and excess is excreted through urine.

- Minerals : Just like vitamins , one can maximize absorption of minerals by taking them with meals. If you have been advised both iron & calcium supplements, avoid having them together as calcium supplement can inhibit iron absorption, specially when taken with meals.

If taking calcium and/ or magnesium supplements, try taking them with an evening meal as calcium & magnesium have muscle-relaxing properties.

- Fatty Acids : Omega-3 supplements are commonly advised nowadays.Omega3s, EPA & DHA play a crucial role in almost every tissue & organ system. If you are unable to meet your  Omega-3 requirements  through dietary sources and need supplements, then just-like fat-soluble vitamins, they should be had with meals containing dietary fats.

- Probiotics : Poor diet ,chronic stress, environmental toxins  and chlorine from water can lead to a decrease in gut flora, both in number & diversity. To repopulate the gut with good bacteria, one can resort to a probiotic supplement besides including fermented foods through diet. 

Probiotics help boost immunity  and are often prescribed along with a course of antibiotics or compromised digestion. It’s best to have them with in 15 minutes of having a meal. When having them along with antibiotics, it’s best to take a probiotic 2 hours after the antibiotic.

- Enzymes : Enzymes are proteins that facilitate chemical reactions in the body and  strengthen the immune system . Digestive enzymes aid in digestion of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and are best taken 30 minutes before meals. Proteolytic enzymes that aid muscle recovery are best taken empty stomach.

- Amino acids : Athletes and those performing rigorous physical work may require additional amino acids besides dietary protein to sustain muscle recovery and build strength. Depending on your goals – endurance training or muscle building – 30 to 60 minutes before, during or closely after your workout are the most advantageous times. But if you’re simply trying to supplement a diet lacking in certain amino acids, take them at mealtimes.

- Herbs : Intake of herbal extracts as supplements depends on the effect they have in general. Energising herbs(like ginseng, maca, etc) are best taken during the day and ones that have a calming effect or slight sedation(ashwagandha, brahmi, chamomile etc) are best taken in latter half of the day. TCM & Ayurveda classify herbs as heavy and light. The heavy ones are best taken before meals and lighter ones after meals.  But in modern herbalism, the traditional classifications don’t hold up. It’s best to take herbal supplements following the label suggestions

All that being said, always remember, your body is the best indicator to help determine if a manufacturer’s suggested use is really right for you. Read each supplement bottle carefully to determine how and when it should be taken. Make sure you inform your physician or dietitian about the medications you are already taking. Avoid self therapy and consult a professional for best advice. And last, but not the least, supplements cannot replace a well-balanced diet and can be add-ons to complete and enhanced nutrition.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Mansi Chaudhary

Mansi Chaudhary is a practicing Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator, Nutrigenomics Expert & a Holistic Cancer Coach. Her integrative approach towards health & Nutrition helps patients learn about Mindful Eating and manage lifestyle diseases, autoimmune conditions as well as manage weight effectively

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