For a lot of habits, we develop routines. That way we build a control system so we don’t forget to do what we planned. Usually, we take supplements when we have a meal. We won’t forget to take them then, and often the effect of supplements is better when they are taken with food. Is there a best time for supplements, water, and food?
Much of this article is about how I handle supplements, food, and water. Although my behaviour is based on scientific research, you can say that these texts are my opinion.
As I often say on this website, for any scientific research that is positive about something, there is research that is negative. That’s why I try everything and see how my body reacts. I let that guide me in my decisions.
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Table of contents
- 1 The best time for supplements, water, and food
- 2 Know what you are doing with supplements
- 3 Bulk drinking, what’s that?
- 4 Intermittent fasting
- 5 Timing is essential
- 6 Living by the clock?
The best time for supplements, water, and food
The best time for supplements depends on the different supplements. For most, it is best to not take them on an empty stomach. The best time for water is right after getting up. The best time for food depends on your preference as long as you don’t eat all day long but have certain dedicated times for a meal.
Know what you are doing with supplements
Don’t just take supplements because your friend is raving about them. Base your choice for a specific supplement on either the results of a blood test or the directions of a doctor or dietitian.
Some supplements don’t react very well or are optimal when taken together. Others enforce each other. That’s why expert guidance is important.
The best time for supplements
The word supplement already specifies what is usually the best time to take them: during a meal or right after. Depending on the supplements the best meal for that is breakfast.
Some supplements don’t settle well on an empty stomach. Magnesium, for example, can cause diarrhoea. But there are exceptions, like prebiotics and probiotics.
Also, Iron is best taken on an empty stomach, with a glass of orange juice because vitamin C promotes the absorption of iron. Which doesn’t mean you should take the vitamin C capsule on an empty stomach as well, because vitamin C is water-soluble and therefore would leave the body too quickly.
When it’s about your health, you shouldn’t skimp on quality. Choose a brand that is natural, organic, and certified. A good brand has a clear description of its content and label instructions on how to take the supplement.
One of the main reasons that people need supplements nowadays is the terrible state of our agriculture. Due to the manipulation of produce, poor soil care, pesticides, and herbicides, our food does not contain enough vitamins and essential nutrients.
Personally, I think it’s a shame that this practice is allowed to continue. But I try to contribute by only buying organic food. And by choosing organic supplements.
Bulk drinking, what’s that?
The human body consists roughly of 63% water. We need to drink enough water to make sure our body stays hydrated. Enough is the number of litres you get when you multiply your weight in kg by 0,044. For women that comes down to 2 to 2,5 litres, men will need a bit more, 2,5 to 3 litres.
Hydration aids the absorption of nutrients in the intestines, the transport of substances through the body, and the regulation of the body temperature.
After a night’s sleep, our body is dehydrated. It’s best to drink at least one glass of water at room temperature right after we are out of bed. Preferably even more. If you don’t like water, herbal tea is fine as well.
Water during meals
It’s a bit strange the first question in a restaurant we get is “What do you to drink?”. By drinking during the meal, the food is sent through the stomach too quickly, so that the nutrients cannot be absorbed properly.
Too much fluid also prevents the stomach acids from doing their job. It is better to chew very often. Then the food becomes moister through your saliva, which also contains enzymes that partially digest your food before it reaches your stomach.
We don’t drink the half-hour before a meal, nor the half-hour after.
Ice cold water is not very healthy
Cold water increases the risk of respiratory infections and various types of throat problems. It can cause mucous membranes to become inflamed more quickly. Drinking cold water causes your blood vessels to contract, which slows down the flow of blood.
Cold water makes the fat of the food harder which your stomach is digesting, disrupting the digestion process.
And in summer drinking ice-cold water makes your body temperature go down, so your brain will give the message to warm up. Making you warmer instead of cooling off.
Take an example to the animals
If you feel a lack of energy during the day, it might be that you sip too much. Try to have 3 or 4 moments during the day to drink a lot of water all at once.
The reason for this is that our body still isn’t adjusted to the fast modern life. When we were cave people there wasn’t always water or food around, so whenever there was a chance to drink, we drank a lot all at once.
Have a look at your pet. A healthy cat or dog will drink a lot all at once as well. 🙂
Obesity is a huge problem, especially in the Western world. Some obese people have a disease, but most just eat too much, too often, and the wrong food.
Mind you, I don’t look down on fat people. Beauty ideal images do more harm than good. However, it is a fact that a number of bodily functions work better if there is not too much weight on them.
The best solution: eat less
When Tom and I were still living in the Netherlands we ate 3 meals a day. And the most simple solution when we were told to lose weight because our cholesterol levels were too high, was to eat less.
We live in Spain now, where they eat 5 meals a day. At a different time schedule than the Dutch do. What we adapted very quickly to was switching the main meal to lunchtime instead of dinnertime. But dining at 11 pm is silly in our eyes.
So by accident, we became intermittent fasters. I must admit I am more strict in it than Tom is. Between 8:30 am and 5 pm I have breakfast and lunch ending at 5 pm with a couple of nuts and dates.
Timing is essential
Apart from the timing of water, food, and supplements, a healthy lifestyle is a complete set of habits, including exercise and sleep.
Specifically, if you want to lose weight it is beneficial to exercise before breakfast. You will burn more body fat. By the way, I spend an hour before breakfast on several activities.
>>> Have a look here for an infographic I made about a well-spent hour <<<
Right after a meal, it’s better not to perform heavy exercises. Wait for at least half an hour. And if you have trouble sleeping then a stroll right before going to bed is beneficial.
Going to bed and getting up at the same time gives the best chance of regular and good sleep. Even when you haven’t slept well, try to have a regular bedtime window, with an hour of slack on both sides.
Living by the clock?
My clock is not a dictator, but the regular daily activities are all more or less on their own time. I don’t use an alarm clock, so if I happen to be awake an hour later than usual, all activities shift up accordingly.
Do you have specific times for specific activities? Tell me in the comment box.
20 thoughts on “What is the Best Time for Supplements, Water, and Food?”
I surround myself with animals and I write about animals and yet, I never thought to drink like animals… what you say is so true!! I actually didn´t think about the time I took my supplements either. They are multi-vitamins with gingseng, chewable ones, and I just pop one in around lunchtime as if it´s a sweet. I will take more care from now on for sure. I also downloaded your 1-hour activity pdf too. Thank you for this important information.
It’s so funny at times, the things we do with really noticing them, isn’t it. Or the things we see without even truly looking. I don’t have pets (I am very allergic to them, to their hairs actually) so I have my knowledge from an alternative Dutch doctor. And I thought it made sense.
Wonderful, you downloaded my PDF. I hope you will benefit from the information!
Hi Hannie. Yes, I agree that our meal is good at a fixed time. Last time when I was a full time yoga trainer I couldn’t get a regular meal because my timing of classes was different every day. In the long run, I started to suffer gastric problems.
I always have a habit of drinking 2 glasses of warm water after I wake up in the morning as I find that this way helps me pass motion easily. I also try to drink more water during the day rather than at night as I realize that too much water at night can cause water retention. When I know I will be out for a long day, I always carry a bottle of water in my bag.
Everyone has a different body. We have to know our own body well to know what suits us.
Hi Janet. I can imagine you started to get health problems. What a contradiction, when you think about it, here you teach a very healthy sport (yoga), but because of the time schedule you get into trouble. I guess that is the reason you don’t teach full time anymore?
Yes, we are all different. That’s what I also say all the time: listen to your body – what is good for me, doesn’t have to be good for you. But I don’t have to tell you this, because you already know. 🙂
Are these habits of a healthy person? I must say, I’m proud to be doing most of it except for the intermittent fasting and eating lesser (I love food). Are house chores considered as exercise? LOL.
Your point about bulk drinking is very interesting. Without realizing, I do drink like the animals! I tend to forget, so got to drink up as much in one sitting.
Always enjoy reading your post. Looking forward to the next one.
Yes, Ina, house chores are very much so considered as exercise! All the different movements you make then – bending, stretching, carrying heavy buckets, you name it. If you have a pedometer on your phone (and have your phone in your pocket) you’ll notice how many steps you are taking doing the ordinary house chores. 🙂
I am older than you, so I am inclined to say these are the healthy habits of an aging person. Younger people can benefit from those habits too of course, but they will for instance less likely have vitamin deficiencies, or other ones, than us. So there can be a difference.
A great read as always.
I was never one for taking supplements (except when I was force-fed them as a child, LOL – why are parents so cruel to their children. I would’ve much preferred chocolate).
However, I have started taking a number of supplements over the past few years.
I was diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency about 2 years ago, so I take a supplement for that, as well as a multivitamin, and I’ve added an omega-3 supplement ot the list now as well.
I loved your analogy about drinking water in the same way that animals do, and it does make a lot of sense. I know for my high activity levels I drink plenty of water (3.5 litres a day on average), and whereas I’ll occasionally “drink like an animal” I am prone to sipping throughout the day.
So, thank you for that, something for me to consider.
I must ask you, how do you find intermittent fasting?
Was it difficult to begin with?
Did it take you long to get used to it?
I’m well aware of the benefits of intermittent fasting, but unfortunately I’m someone who’s constantly hungry, even though I eat more than most people (a lot of exercise and a high-running metabolism).
It’s something I’ve considered for a long time, but I’m just not sure I could go an extended period of time without a meal.
Fantastic as always Hannie, really enjoyed reading this.
Ha ha, poor you as a child. You should have convinced your parents chocolate is a healthy supplement too! Which in fact it is, just not the sugary bars. But being a sportsman you will know about that.
It wasn’t hard to get used to intermittent fasting and strangely enough it didn’t take me long to get used to. But that is probably because the benefits for me were huge, namely: I sleep so much better now. Occasionally I am late with that last ‘snack’ of the day. Usually I take a handful of nuts and some dried apricots around 5pm. But if we had an appointment or came back from our walk at a later time, it can happen I eat a bite at 6 or 7pm. And I instantly notice that at night.
Given all your sporting activities it might not be for you. What you can do is try for one week to skip breakfast. One week is doable, don’t you think? Then in another week (subsequently or after some time) try to skip dinner. I guess if you make the goal pretty small (just one week) you might get it doen. And you can really notice what it does to your body in a week. So afterwards you can evaluate.
BTW there are a couple of very good BBC programs about intermittent fasting.
Oh, and what was helpful for me in the beginning was the app Simple by AM Apps.
Take care 🙂
Thank you ever so much for your reply.
Actually, that does make a lot of sense, and I do seem to adapt to changes in nutrition quite quickly.
I actually dropped milk and sugar from my diet in August 2019, and I didn’t think I’d make it a month. Admittedly, the first week was a real struggle, but I soon got used to it after that, and over a year later I still haven’t touched either.
The only thing with intermittent fasting for me is that I’d have to time when I do my workouts (to ensure I have energy) and I may also end up eating huge meals when I am supposed to be eating.
All very interesting. Thanks again Hannie.
That is the biggest advantage of intermittent fasting, Partha: because your body gets so much time to digest the food and recover, you can eat as much as you want. Chances are high you won’t eat as much as you suspect because of that time span, but you’ll find out soon enough.
The human body is capable of much more than we usually think!
I am the same as Susan, above. I never considered that drinking bulk mounts of water could be beneficial. Interesting.
Intermittent fasting is really good for us, and I normally only eat within an eight hour window each day. I’ve never had a problem with weight, but it’s more because I only eat small meals, and they consist of real foods…. lots of vegetables, and fruits, as opposed to processed stuff that contains questionable ingredients.
Unfortunately, because of the madness with covid, I am still involved in a business where I am dictated to by the clock. I am looking forward when people can travel again, and I can move on from here and throw the alarm clock away 🙂
Thanks for sharing 🙂
Marvellous eating habits, Andrew! You are one of the few people – so far – I meet that do intermittent fasting. But I love it as well. (Sorry, that was an abvious remark) 😀
Oh, aren’t we all sick and tired of the virus without even having it. I shall be so glad too when it will be over, if it ever is going to be over. Pff
Hi Hannie, very informative article and I downloaded your 1-hour activity pdf.
I normally start my day with an hour on the treadmill. I usually only eat lunch and dinner. So after 6 in the evening I don’t eat anything till between noon and 1 pm. I have done that naturally for as long as I can remember.
My husband eats breakfast, lunch, dinner and he usually snacks as well.
We both keep pretty active with yoga, Pilates, Jiu Jitsu, and free weights. We eat pretty healthy and I grow most of vegetables in summer and buy local, organic when must purchase.
We don’t take supplements but now you have me thinking maybe we should. How do you know if you need to take supplements? What types should we take?
Thanks again this informative article.
Wow, you both are really active! Good for you, Deb.
I wouldn’t just take supplements because everybody else does. I base my intake partly on the basis of my blood tests (vitamin D and Iron) and partly on how I feel or what the circumstances are. At the moment I take extra vitamin C, Selenium and Zinc because of the virus. And when I am tired for a couple of days in a row I take some extra superfood powder from YourSuper.
But the blood test is the starting point! If you do that yearly you also get a feel for what belongs to you and what is abnormal.
Good evening Hannie,
Living by the clock? Yes, and no.
The alarm clock rings at 07.00, every day of the week. It is hard like in the army.
If I do not get up like kind of early, I think my morning is too short.
We normally have breakfast at 09.30 to 10.00. By that time, I had a bunch of supplements.
I like to be physically active in the morning. We have lunch at 15.00. In the afternoon brain work and computer and diner is at 20.00.
Lots of seeds, nuts and water from our own well. For our age, we have nothing to complain about. I always say the more we reconnect with nature, the better.
Thank you for an interesting read I can agree with 100%.
Being satisfied and grateful is half of the deal won, isn’t it, Taetske. By the sound of it, it seems you have a wonderful life and I totally agree nature is an important for our well-being.
Having an own well in Spain! What luxury. 🙂 I guess it’s also a necessity if you’re living in the campo.
What an insightful post! I did not realise that cold water could be bad for you! Just as well I’m a naturally cold person so I usually add a touch of hot water to take the edge off!
I certainly live by the clock in terms of eating, sleeping and getting my 3pm tea in! I just love routine.
Thanks for such an informative post, I’ll bear this in mind when taking my daily supplements.
Thanks, Sharon. The funny thing is, that while cold water is bad for the inside, a cold shower is good for the outside. When you always have cold hands and/or feet, a cold training could be a solution. Take a hot or or lukewarm shower and then gradually turn the tap to cold. It helps me! 🙂
This was really interesting and I learned something new. I didn’t know that our bodies absorb iron more easily when taken with vitamin C. Next time I eat iron-rich foods I make sure to down it with some lime water or orange juice.
I usualy drink around 1.5 liter of water per day although I do not really keep count, but it is a rough guess. Add to that 4 or 5 cups of tea (black and green tea). So, I think that I do not reach the expected amount of 2.5 liters … maybe 2 … but I will do my best to drink more water. When I drink water, I usually take in a lot at once, like the animals 😉 Perhaps this is due to the fact that I live in a hot climate, and so when I drink I always down 2 or 3 glasses at once.
I will definitely pay attention to your tips in this article. I don’t do exercise, but I am very active, and so I often end up doing several activities before breakfast time. I usually always drink a glass of water when I get up (well, this morning it was chocolate soy milk, but that was an exception 😉 )
Great, Christine, as far as I can see you’re doing fine with the amount of liquid. Personally I would swap a couple of black or green tea for some herbal tea, but that’s my preference 🙂
I don’t count coffee as liquid intake, because of the caffeine. Black and green tea contain caffeine as well.