Popular as vitamin supplements have become in our world, there is a huge amount of misunderstanding regarding their proper usage. Some people have basic questions like whether it’s best to take their vitamins in the morning or before bed. Others, however, suffer from fundamental misconceptions about vitamins in general. These are three of the most common misconceptions about taking vitamins.
1. Vitamin Supplements Can Replace Meals
Perhaps the leading misconception among vitamin users is that supplements can replace meals entirely. Most supplements only work when paired with other nutrients from a healthy diet. Using supplements to replace a meal outright will have the nutritional effect of skipping that meal entirely.
By the same token, many people believe that vitamin supplements give permission to eat an unhealthy diet and forgo exercise. The key factor to take into consideration when using vitamins is the word “supplement”: vitamins are meant to be used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle. Supplements were designed for people with special conditions that make it difficult to obtain necessary levels of nutrients from a healthy diet.
2. The More, The Merrier
It’s easy to compare vitamin supplements with vegetables. In essence, they’re both often made of similar nutrients. On the other hand, supplements have way higher concentrations of their target vitamins than can be found in anynatural vegetable.
As a result, taking too high a dose of vitamin supplements is a real possibility. Popular multivitamins are only meant to be taken in their recommended dosages. Specific vitamin supplements are even more ripe for overuse. For example, if used improperly, a vitamin A supplement may contain a concentration high enough to push your body into hypervitaminosis A. This condition comes with a host of unpleasant side effects like bone pain, changes to vision and liver damage.
As with most things, vitamin supplements are meant to be measured carefully and used where they’re needed most. A “more is better” attitude will only serve as a quick ticket to unpleasant side effects. If you have a reason for going beyond the recommended dose of a supplement, always pay attention to its “UL” or upper limit.
As a side note, this information also applies to the total number of vitamins you take regularly; certain vitamins may not be worth taking at all.
3. It’s Best to Take All Vitamins at Once
Many people wonder when is the best time of day to take all their vitamin supplements in one go. The truth is, however, that each particular vitamin fares better in different circumstances.
The fact is, some vitamins perform best before a meal, some perform best after a meal and some perform best on an empty stomach. The most common vitamins — multivitamins, vitamins C, D, A, E, K and fish oil — should be taken before your largest meal of the day. Most of these supplements are fat or water-soluble and require food for any noticeable effects. For simplicity, it’s best to get into the habit of taking these vitamins right before breakfast.
Supplements like calcium, on the other hand, are best taken before bed. Calcium is a natural muscle relaxer and fares better on an empty stomach. It’s still possible to take calcium with your other supplements earlier in the day, but your body won’t enjoy the full range of the supplemental benefits.
Though it seems as simple as popping down a couple extra pills with breakfast, managing your supplemental intake is more complicated than it seems. It’s important to give your body the right amount of vitamins at the right times — and without skipping any meals throughout the day.