The best time to take your vitamins is whatever time you’ll actually stick to moving forward. After all, consistency is key when it comes to an impactful supplement routine. “We have daily micronutrient requirements, not weekly or monthly, for an entire array of essential vitamins and minerals, including those all-important B vitamins,” nutrition scientist Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN explains.
Some vitamins are water soluble, while others are fat soluble (ie, vitamins A, D, E, and K). B vitamins are water soluble by nature. So you might assume that you’ll reap the most benefits taking your B complex on an empty stomach with a wonderfully hydrating glass of water, right?
While that might be a fine practice (perhaps even first thing in the morning for ease of routine), Ferira explains that it’s an internet myth and nutrition misnomer that water-soluble vitamins require an empty stomach and water.
“Yes, B vitamins are soluble in water, that’s their biochemical design. Thankfully, the body and its cells and organs are made up of lots of water. That’s why daily hydration goals are so important. But the notion that B vitamins need water, an empty stomach, and no other nutrition ‘noise’ for absorption is silly,” she says.
“In fact, B vitamins’ water-soluble nature means they dissolve with ease, absorb with ease, and excrete with ease (ie, when our body has gotten its fair share). It also means they don’t store in our adipose tissue , aka body fat, so you have to be even more cognizant of replenishing them daily,” Ferira goes onto say, concluding: “The reality is this: You can take B vitamins on an empty or full stomach, with water or any beverage that delights you.”
To each their own. Another nutritionist we chatted with prefers to incorporate “B complex supplements an hour before or two hours after a meal, although it can be taken with a meal if you experience queasiness taking it without food,” notes registered dietitian Jess Cording, MS, RD, CDN.
And if you take medication, always check with your doctor before integrating a B vitamin complex. As Cording notes, B vitamins may impact your ability to absorb certain medications, and therefore, should be spaced away from them sufficiently. That’s where personalized nutrition and supplement timing comes in.
Speaking of supplement timing, it’s important to differentiate between an exclusive B complex (ie, only B’s), versus a multi-nutrient complex that also features some B vitamins. “If the supplement you are taking only has B vitamins in it, then there is no specific indication to take with or without a meal,” echoes registered dietitian Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD and founder of BZ Nutrition. If, however, your B complex also contains zinc, you’ll definitely want to pair this supplement with a meal, as zinc may cause queasiness on an empty stomach.
Indeed, some people are more sensitive to supplements than others. While B vitamins are generally known to be gentle on the stomach, everyone is unique. “If your B vitamin complex is actually woven into a comprehensive multivitamin/mineral supplement, aka a multi, then it’s actually way more likely that some of the minerals might contribute to stomach discomfort if taken on an empty stomach first thing in the morning,” shares Ferira.
If that’s the case, you would be better served by pairing your B complex-infused multivitamin with a meal. “In fact, the limiting factor of a multivitamin for optimal absorption are the fat-soluble vitamins anyway, so most people would benefit from taking their multi with or soon after a meal or snack,” Ferira adds.