Saturday, May 26, 2012

When to take vitamins?

For the past three weeks I have been particularly conscientious over taking my vitamins and supplements. Because I am a skeptic by nature, I wanted to test out whether I would feel a difference in my well being and overall functioning. I also wanted to challenge my past inability to maintain consistency. I would say that I faired pretty well in this area, not great but more consistent than ever.

While I was practically choking attempting to swallow those rather large Omega 3 pills, it dawned on me that, perhaps, taking all these vitamins at the same time may not produce the desired effects. In particular I was curious to find out whether some would actually work against each other when taken at the same time, or not work at all when taken with specific foods. This sparked my interest over finding out more about the best time to take vitamins and their optimal food partners.

It turns out there is a lot of research available on the subject: the what, when and why of vitamins. I have done my very best to condense all the information I gathered (including the links to specific websites) – In other words, I did the homework for you so you don’t have to.

Disclaimer: I am not a Doctor, I am just a regular person like you and the guy next door, trying to figure out what is best for me. The items discussed below are intended for the purpose of sharing information only; They are not to be regarded as directives nor medical advice from me to you.

Vitamins and supplements when sold as a pill or liquid form are not regulated by the USDA. This means that any statement or claim on a bottle of supplements or vitamins cannot be backed up by the USDA, thus leaving plenty of room for false, erroneous, exaggerated statements and the like.

Both happen only over time with great effort, sweat and SACRIFICE (I am highlithing sacrifice because that really is the key to any success). If such pill existed, there would be no need for gyms.

Further, it seems that these claims are usually based on biased research sponsored by the very labs who manufacture the pills.

I have learned to be careful with supplements as I often see some to be fads just like the latest Abs Workout machine or "lose weight while sleeping" pill (I wish!). For instance, do you remember the Melatonin craze a few years ago? Melatonin was all over the place, at eye level on the shelves or better yet, Melatonin supplements had their own presentation stand in some pharmacies. I am not seeing that many Melatonin bottles anymore – do you? Well, it turns out that a 2005 review of Melatonin (Sleep Medicine Reviews. Vol. 9: Effects of Exogenous Melatonin on Sleep: a Meta-Analysis) found the following facts on the fame supplement:

· Melatonin only makes you fall asleep 3 to 4 minutes faster (a full 4 minutes folks!)
· Melatonin increases your sleep by only 3 % which is about 13 minutes of extra snooze for an 8 hour night.
· Most folks choosing Melatonin supplements as a Sleep Aid are not having 8 hours of sleep to begin with and the benefits and effectiveness of Melatonin are obviously minimal for them.

People have stopped buying it because the cost vs. effectiveness was no longer justifiable and now Melatonin is at the bottom of the shelves. Not to mention the "vivid dreams" which are fancy words to let you know you will have mind boggling and haunting nightmares if you take the stuff!

So be careful with these fads, lately it’s been all about Acai Berries, two years ago it was Noni Juice, next year? Who knows!

What is the difference between a Vitamin
and a Supplement?

I found this explanation from the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians and thought it was a rather eye opening article (you can read it by clicking the link provided above):

"Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients the body cannot make which must be provided from external sources. Some are water soluble and some are fat soluble. Supplements are not vitamins or minerals; some are grown as herbs and some are artificially manufactured." says Pat Jonas, MD. "Vitamins" he continues "are essential for the many processes in the body; they help the body use carbohydrates, fats and proteins for repairs. Minerals are essential components to bones and teeth; they help to maintain the balance of fluids in the body. The best way to ensure that you are getting enough vitamins and minerals is through a healthy and well-rounded diet. Supplements are generally herbal or artificial substances that are marketed as having positive effects on certain health conditions. In many cases, there is little to no conclusive evidence that herbal or artificially manufactured supplements have any effect on health conditions".

Which vitamins should we take?

Enter any vitamin shop and be prepared for massive confusion. I know I am “supposed” to take vitamins, but which ones?

There is a controversy as to whether we should be taking vitamins in the first place. Let me start with this: "no matter how well you may think you eat [think the healthy and well rounded diet discussed above], you more than likely underestimate the amount of nutrients that enter your body through food (David Heber, MD, Director of UCLA Center for Human Nutrition and author of “What Color is Your Diet?”).

I know for instance that the nutrient level in my portion of Atlantic Salmon will not be the same, each time, based on the flesh density of that particular catch, as well as the way I prepared Salmon that day(poached, grilled, broiled, sushi etc). Dr. Weber states that “[vitamins] can provide a base, an insurance of sorts, in case you do not get certain nutrients that day”.
So there is a general medical consensus that to the very least, we should all take a multi-vitamin.
But a multi-vitamin would not necessarily cover all the bases since some vitamins and minerals may be deficient in our body at any given time. I for instance am deficient in both Iron and Vitamin D. Which vitamins should I take then and, how much should I take?

How much and how many vitamins should we take?

I have read that WOMEN should take the vitamins listed below (amounts recommended by in addition to the Multi-Vitamin of their choice and whichever supplement they need to combat any individual deficiency:

Omega-3 DHA
Cancer, Depression/Mood and Heart Disease
Bone Weakness and Density loss
1000 to 1200mg/day
depending on your age
Vitamin D3
Cancer, Depression, Heart Disease, Helps Absorption of Calcium
400 to 600 IU/day. If deficient, at least 800 to 1200IU/day.
Vitamin B12
Energy, Brain Function, Immune System
2.4 mcg/day
Cancer, Depression, Anxiety

Beta-Carotene / Vitamin A
High Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure

Cancer, Anti-aging (anti-oxidant)


MEN should include the following supplements in their diets (Men’s Health Magazine – Online Version) in addition to a multi-vitamin and any other supplement needed to cover one or several documented deficiency:

Low Endurance, Allergies
B-Complex (B6/B12)
Mind and Mood
10 mg/10mcg/day
Vitamin H - AKA Biotin
Hair and Scalp Health
0.3 mg/day
Macular Degeneration, High Cholesterol, Cancer
30 mg/day
Brain Function, Energy, Depression
1000 mg/day
High Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure
Bone Weakness and Density loss
1000 to 1200mg/day depending on your age
Omega – 3 DHA and EPA
High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol
500 mg/day (EPA) and 500mg/day (DHA).
Vitamin D
Bone Weakness
1000 IU/Day
High Blood Pressure, Diabetes
250 mg/day
Vitamin E
Alzheimer, Prostate Cancer, Heart Disease

When to take vitamins?

It is not uncommon to watch a co-worker, a family member and even ourselves take all sorts of vitamins all at once. The process can last up to 5 minutes, swallowing each gigantic pill with a large gulp of water (in my case it is more likely to be coffee) thereby making the process quite annoying.

However, because I was interested in doing the right thing this time around I did ask myself whether it made sense at all to be taking so many different vitamins at once and at one particular time of the day.

Harvey Diamond, famed author and diet pioneer of the "Fit for Life" diet believes that the body follows three different cycles:

Noon to 8 p.m.-- Appropriation (eating and digestion)
8 p.m. to 4 a.m.--Assimilation (absorption and use)
4 a.m. to noon--Elimination (of body wastes and food debris)

Following his diet system means that you would eat very little in the morning, only foods that pass through very fast (high water content foods) such as fruits, allowing the body to go through its natural elimination process of waste.

Lunch would then be the biggest meal of the day with most of the intake for specific nutrients such as proteins, digestion follows.

Night time (8 PM and after) is the Assimilation stage and needs to be light since the body is now processing all the food and nutrients it requires for optimal health.
Following this principle, late afternoon would then be the best time to take vitamins since they could be digested last and processed with all other nutrients when the body enters stage three.

Taking our vitamins in the morning is  therefore a complete waste as the body is in its elimination stage and the vitamins never get processed.

Harvey Diamond's Fit for Life book series is available for purchase at my Amazon Store.

Fit for Life by Harvey Diamond
This book will change your life!

To complicate things further, some vitamins are fat soluble while others are water soluble. This means that some vitamins need to be surrounded by fat (meal containing fat) in order to be absorbed while others can simply be taken with water.

Fat Soluble Vitamins to be taken with a meal containing fat:

Vitamin A
Vitamin E
Vitamin D
Vitamin K
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (fish oils etc.)

If you take these vitamins with water or a fat free meal, even a low fat meal, they will not be broken down during digestion. These vitamins should be taken with a meal that contains a form of fat: oil, cheese, meat. This means, that unless you are having eggs and bacon for breakfast, you should not take vitamins A, E, D or K in the morning and we have already established that vitamins should not be taken during the elimination process. Here is a good link to explain this further: Nourished Kitchen.

Water Soluble Vitamins to be taken anytime
with a light meal:

These vitamins can be taken with a light/fat free meal such as a garden salad or your latest meal of the day/snack since they do not need a fat environment to be broken down.

Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)
Vitamin B1
Vitamin B2
Vitamin B6
Vitamin B12
Folic Acid

By following these steps it then makes sense that vitamin intake should be spread throughout the day rather than taken all at once.

It also makes sense that since the major intake is lunch time (the meal containing the most fat), fat soluble vitamin supplements should be taken alongside lunch and that since dinner is a lighter meal, water soluble vitamins should be taken at that time.

To remain on the safe side, multi and all other vitamins should also be taken towards the end of the day in order to maximize their efficiency and keeping them closer to the end of the Appropriation process and the beginning of the Assimilation process.

Should you be concerned that some of these vitamins (such as C) may keep you from sleeping, take them earlier in the late afternoon, rather than in the evening hours.
I made this chart to explain it all in a more simple way:

lunch & Snack
Late Afternoon/ Evening
No Vitamin Intake
Fat Soluble Vitamins
A, E, D, K
Fish oils/Omega -3
Multi Vitamins
Water Soluble Vitamins C + B (B-Complex), Niacin, Folate etc.
All other vitamins and supplements.

What about herbal supplements?

The question remains as to whether we should be taking any herbal supplement at all. Some people swear by these remedies, others stay away from them. I personally believe that if some cultures, such as any Asian culture, have been using herbal supplements for centuries, surely, there has to be some truth about their benefit to our health. Today's Integrative Medicine for instance promotes a combination of such supplements alongside modern medicine as the best way to enhance optimal health.
When it comes to prevention and if given the choice of a chemically, lab-made compound versus a natural remedy, I would rather steer towards the natural health first.

Of course there is a lot of research disproving the benefits of herbal supplements and I am sure that pill pushing labs have something to do with that. But, I also believe that as with every research out there, when one disproves a fact, another will validate it. It is therefore very confusing to figure out what is best for us.

I did find one person I would consider a resource for such issues, and that is Dr. Weil. There are of course other choices but for what I can see thus far, I would rather take supplements from a reputable source, one that promotes natural supplements as opposed to chemically enhanced ones.

If you are completely lost as to what supplements are best for you, his Vitamin Advisor will probably be a life saver. All you have to do is answer a quick survey as to "what does not feel right" (that is the best way I can explain it) and his free advisor will prepare a custom list of the supplements that would benefit you. I strongly recommend it because I simply no longer care for standing in the pharmacy's aisle, reading label after label trying to figure out what is best for me!

Click on the "Learn More" button below to find out which are the best vitamins and supplements for you:


I am hoping you will find this article interesting. I know how confusing the vitamin and supplement worlds can be and I was glad I found some valuable information to share with my readers. As always I love hearing from you, so never hesitate to comment and/or send feedback.

Thank you

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