What’s the Buzz

How to Maximize Vitamin Supplement Intake

cartoon with vitamin bottle and vitamins surrounding

In a perfect world, eating a balanced diet with just the right amount of nutrients is all you need to do to nourish your body properly. In reality, even if you lead a healthy lifestyle and eat a varied diet, you may not be getting all the nutrients your body needs. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the standard American diet contains insufficient amounts of essential nutrients. As a result, many Americans don’t receive proper nutrition from their daily food intake.

Taking vitamin and mineral supplements can help fill the nutrient gaps in your diet. Supplements can help your body maintain immune function and peak performance by providing essential nutrients lacking or deficient in your diet. 

But to get the most out of your mineral and vitamin supplements, you need to take them the right way. This article will talk about some tips to maximize vitamin supplement intake. 

What form of vitamin is best absorbed?

To understand what form of vitamins is absorbed best, we need to understand bioavailability. Simply put, bioavailability is the amount of a dietary supplement that is absorbed from the digestive system and is ultimately available for use by the body’s tissues and organs. The bioavailable form of a dietary supplement is typically significantly less than the dose mentioned on the package. 

Various factors affect bioavailability. For example, alcohol and caffeine can lead to reduced absorption of certain nutrients. Digestive issues can prevent the proper absorption of vitamins and minerals from food and dietary supplements. Medications can interfere with how well the body can absorb vitamin supplements. Even psychological stress can affect the body’s ability to absorb important vitamins. 

Some factors can enhance the bioavailability of a dietary supplement. Timing, the presence of food, different combinations of dietary supplements, and proper storage can all enhance the ability of the human body to absorb vitamin supplements. For example, taking fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E, and K) with a fatty meal enhances their absorption. Taking vitamin C and iron together enhances the bioavailability of iron; you can even use orange juice if vitamin C is not available.

How can I maximize my vitamin intake?

Time of day

You can take your daily multivitamins at any time of day, but experts say that taking them in the morning is best because they stimulate metabolism and brain function. 

With or without food

Most supplements should be taken with meals, as your body absorbs vitamins and minerals better with food, and this can also help reduce stomach upset. But there are some exceptions. Your body absorbs iron best on an empty stomach. So, if you’re taking single nutrient supplements containing iron, it’s best to take them on an empty stomach, preferably with a glass of citrus juice, because vitamin C enhances the proper absorption of iron. High-calcium foods, on the other hand, can interfere with iron absorption. 

Fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins

Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C and the eight B vitamins: vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B7 (biotin), vitamin B9 (folic acid), and vitamin B12 (cobalamin). 

Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body, so you need to take them regularly to maintain healthy levels. Also, unlike their fat-soluble counterparts, water-soluble vitamins can be taken with or without food, regardless of the fat content of the meals.  

Fat-soluble vitamins are vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K. Unlike water-soluble vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body. They are best taken with fats or oils for better absorption. Stick to healthy fats, such as nut butter, olive oil, and avocado to take with your fat-soluble vitamins. 

Personalized supplements 

Taking vitamins formulated for your age and sex can help you get the nutrients your body needs most. For instance, vitamins for seniors typically contain more calcium and vitamin D for bone health. Senior vitamins also have more vitamin B12 than those formulated for younger adults. Women’s vitamins are formulated with iron to replace the loss due to monthly menstrual bleeding. 

Nutrient combinations matter

Some vitamins and minerals are synergistic, meaning they increase each other’s absorption and should be taken together. Examples include:

  • Vitamin C and iron.
  • Vitamin C and vitamin E.
  • Vitamin E and vitamin A.
  • Vitamin A and iodine.
  • Vitamin A, iron, and zinc.
  • Vitamin K and vitamin D.
  • Vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate.
  • Potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

On the other hand, certain supplements don’t work well together because they decrease the absorption of each other. For maximum absorption and health benefits, the following nutrients should not be taken concurrently:

  • Calcium and iron.
  • Calcium, zinc, and magnesium.
  • Zinc and copper.

Doses of vitamins and minerals

Clinical nutrition organizations such as the Food and Nutrition Board have issued the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for essential nutrients, i.e., the average daily intake of vitamins and minerals needed to meet nutritional needs. Keep in mind that RDAs vary by age and sex. It’s important to check that your supplements contain enough nutrients but not excess. 

Remember that mega doses of certain nutrients can be harmful. For example, excessive vitamin D can lead to high calcium levels in the blood. Excess water-soluble vitamins can be dangerous too. Excessive vitamin A, taken at doses of 10,000 IU or over, has been linked to birth defects. 

Medications can affect vitamin absorption

Some over-the-counter and prescription medications can interact with vitamins and minerals, potentially reducing absorption. Others can increase the absorption of nutrients in supplements; though uncommon, this interaction can increase your risk of toxicity. Check with your doctor if there are any potential interactions between your medications and supplements. 

Prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes can aid nutrient absorption

A healthy digestive system is essential for the body to absorb nutrients from your diet and your supplements. Gut-boosting products such as prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes can help to keep your digestive system as healthy as possible.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements. You should look for quality brands, such as those verified by Consumer Lab, Pharmacopeia, or NSF International. These organizations test supplements and confirm that the bottle contains what the label says. 

Expiration date

Most supplements have a time frame during which they are effective. This is usually two years from the date of manufacture. You should check the expiration date on any product before taking it. Taking expired vitamins may result in reduced effectiveness because the supplements slowly degrade over time.


Improper storage of vitamins and minerals can lead to inactivation and degradation of the nutrients. Check the label for proper storage instructions - for most vitamins, the recommendation is to “Keep away from light, moisture, and heat. Store at room temperature (15-30C or 59-86F).” 

Along with a healthy diet, supplements containing vitamins and minerals can help you stay healthy. Supplements can also help prevent certain diseases and health conditions caused by deficiencies of vitamins and minerals. Before starting any new supplement, talk to a healthcare professional and follow these tips to maximize the benefits of your vitamin supplements.



  1. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/08/should-you-take-dietary-supplements
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0955286399000741
  3. https://brainmd.com/blog/what-is-bioavailability/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK234926/