The Betterment Project

When to Take Supplements and Why Supplement Timing Matters

By Carey Brandenburg


The standard day provides 16 hours for work, exercise, and leisure. It’s never quite enough, which is why it’s best to put some decisions, like when to take supplements, on autopilot. Those vitamins, minerals, and brain-boosting herbs are important. But taking them “when you feel like it” is a failing proposition.


If you’re following the recommendation on our Superhuman Supplements, you’re already taking your pills in the morning. They’re effective any time, but we’ve designed them to deliver the most benefit when taken within 30 minutes of waking. And there’s a reason we make that recommendation.


First, the morning is an ideal time to build in the consistency you need to turn a new behavior into a habit. Research from the University College London intentional new habits can form in as little as a few weeks. But in the worst-scenario, they can take up 9 months to become automatic. Consistency—doing the thing at the same time every day—is one deciding factor. Another is to utilize what psychologists call habit chaining, or tying the new behavior to a long-established routine.


By placing your supplements next to your toothbrush or coffee maker, for instance, you link them to something you’re already doing, and taking them becomes part of your automatic morning ritual.


So timing matters. But still you might still wonder: Why not take the pills before bed? Well, you can. But here’s why the morning is best.  



1/ You’ll Spike Your Energy When It Matters Most


Some supplemental ingredients work behind the scenes to stabilize blood sugar, build muscle tissue, and repair cell damage. But others jump straight into the fore by giving you a noticeable boost in cognition, energy, and creativity.


Our White Lightning capsules, for instance, deliver a host of plant-based ingredients designed to shift your brain into high gear. KSM-66 ashwagandha, for instance, improves concentration and memory. And B vitamins, which you’ll find in most energy drinks (and our multi-vitamin), clear away brain fog so your synapses can fire fast. There’s a reason why some companies are now administering B12 injections to help people overcome hangovers. The stuff works fast.

So sure, you can take these compounds at night. But some of their most acute and exciting effects will be lost to sleep.  



2/ You’ll Tame the Hormone Wave


Yes, men have a hormonal cycle. It’s the 24-hour kind that’s attached to circadian rhythm, and it explains why some hormones, such as testosterone, are higher in the morning. That gives you a natural energy and vitality—not to mention morning erections.


But some of those hormones have downsides. Take the stress hormone cortisol. It’s good to have a nice flow in the morning, since cortisol motivates you to get out of bed and speed through your shower to get to work on time. But cortisol can also undermine performance by pushing you into fight-or-flight mode and impairing your judgment.


That’s where supplement can help. Certain vitamins—again, B vitamins play a role here, counter cortisol spikes by stimulating production of mood-soothing hormone called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA. Whereas cortisol pushes you toward action, GABA produces a feeling of calm and self-control. In one study published in the journal Psychopharmacology, 215 men taking a supplement heavy on vitamin B reported less stress and better cognitive performance over a month-long trial period.


As a stress hormone, cortisol also increases your blood pressure. But S7, a plant-derived blend that you’ll find in our supplements, has been clinically shown to increase nitric oxide levels by 230 percent, which in turn relaxes arteries so blood can flow more easily.  


By taking supplements in the morning, you’re allowing the pills’ compounds to affect you when you need them most. You’ll feel calmer and more capable, and your body will weather the day’s stresses with less damage. 



3/ You’ll Take Advantage of Breakfast


There are two reasons you should pair supplements with food.


First, a meal or snack can ease discomfort. Not everybody feels queasy after taking supplements, but some people do. And if you’re one of them, food is the easiest way to soothe your stomach, according to the Cleveland Clinic.


The second reason to pop your pills with a meal or snack is that some nutrients simply won’t break down in the absence of dietary fat. Vitamins A, D, E, and K, all of which you’ll find in our MultiMan capsule, are fat-soluble nutrients. They’ll pass right through an empty stomach.


An Omega-3 pill can help, and indeed, you’ll find one included with our Superhuman Supplements. But that gives you just over 1 gram of fat, while research from The Journal of Nutrition suggests that you need at least 3 – 5 grams to break down fat-soluble vitamins. That’s an easy number to hit: You’ll get about 5 grams of fat with a either a large egg or a piece of toast with a small pat of butter.


Now what if you don’t usually eat breakfast? What if you’re an intermittent faster who routinely ignores the day’s first meal? In that case, you have two options.


First, you can take your supplements a little later, when you finally do break your fast. If that’s at, say, 11:30 a.m., then you’ll just get your cognition and mood boosts a little later in the day. No harm there.


Second, you can wash the supplements down with a spoonful of extra-virgin olive oil, MCT oil, or some other high-quality fat. Will that break your fast? Technically, yes. But according to researchers at the University of Florida, the primary benefits of fasting occur when your body begins metabolizing fat-derived molecules called ketones. You enter a state called ketosis and experience the host of metabolic changes that follow.


While eating carbs, or possibly even protein, will throw you out of ketosis, pure fat will not. So by washing down supplements with oil, you can enjoy the full benefits of fasting while still absorbing fat-soluble vitamins. 


If you’re still unsure whether you need supplements at all, have a look at this: Why Getting Your Nutrition Only From Food Is a Bad Idea.


And if you haven’t already, sign up for our newsletter (in the footer here). We’ll deliver a weekly dose of self-improvement right to your inbox.

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