3 Big Mistakes Supplement Users Make

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

If you’re new to the supplement world, you probably know how confusing getting started with supplements can be.

With so many options, it’s hard to know what to do, and it’s very easy to make mistakes.

Well, we know exactly how you feel, because we’ve been there too. So we're going to try to make it a little easier for you.

Below are three basic (but essential) tips that could make a huge difference to just about anyone new to the world of supplements.

Supplement Mistake 1: Taking Them Incorrectly

We get asked this question very often here at Life Extension:

“How should I take my supplements? Should I take them with or without food? Should I take them with or without my medications?”

Does it really matter? The answer is yes.

The best thing to do is to look at the product label. Any supplement worth taking should explain how to take it right there on the bottle.

But we know, we know — everybody likes a rule of thumb to run with, so here are a few:

  1. Multivitamins are best taken with food. Why? Because this will ensure you don’t irritate your stomach. Some people are just a little more sensitive than others, and if you’re like them, taking a multi without food may give you a stomach ache.

  2. Fat soluble nutrients are best taken with a meal that contains fat. These include vitamins A, D, E, and K. It also includes supplements like CoQ10, fish oil, and curcumin. Like dissolves like, so it’s not a good idea to take a fat soluble nutrient on an empty stomach, since you won’t get the best absorption.

  3. Certain supplements are better absorbed on an empty stomach. This may include your amino acids such as L-tryptophan and L-carnitine. Amino acids, in particular, compete for absorption.

  4. Meds should not be taken at the same time as your supplements, as they may interfere with your medication’s activity. This is especially true for minerals. Supplements can also interfere with the absorption of your meds, possibly delaying the time they peak in your blood. This holds especially true for fiber supplements.

  5. Allow at least two hours between the timing of your meds and your supplements. And if you’re really not sure, consult with your pharmacist. As usual, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

    Supplement Mistake 2: Buying the Wrong Form

    Because you’re faced with so many options at the store, you may not think twice about picking a particular formula. But we hope to change this, because it really does matter.

    Now, we’re not going to mention brands here, because that’s not the focus of this blog. What you should be focused on when shopping, however, is purchasing a high quality nutrient that is actually absorbable. You don’t want to throw your money down the drain, do you?

    Here’s an example. If you’re an avid supplement taker, you’ve probably noticed there are different types of magnesium at the store. You’ll find magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate, magnesium oxide, and so on. However, if you are concerned about brain health, none of these forms of magnesium are ideal.

    To the under-informed customer, they may all seem the same … but they’re definitely not. For brain health, the ideal form is magnesium threonate.

    And here’s another general rule to go by: When buying minerals, go for the chelated versions — this is where the mineral is attached to an amino acid or organic compound. These are also better absorbed.

    Supplement Mistake 3: Storing Them Incorrectly

    Storing your supplements in the right place can make a big difference in their quality and potency. In fact, the top threat facing your supplements is moisture, believe it or not. Water can oxidize and damage the ingredients, so definitely keep your supplements in a dry location.

    High temperatures are also a problem, as they can interfere with the delicate structure of a nutrient and even cause them to break down.

    So, your supplements should be stored in a cool, dry place. Contrary to popular belief, the bathroom is NOT a good place to store them. Trust us on this.

    What about You?

    Do you have any questions about taking supplements you think we should have included? Have any of the mistakes mentioned above slowed down your own progress when you were starting out?

    If so, please tell us about it in the comments!

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    32 comments:

    Unknown said...

    is it okay to keep one's vitamins in the refrigerator?

    LifeExtension said...

    Unknown - The problem with keeping your vitamins in your refrigerator is that you could be creating moisture when you take the bottle out of the fridge. The air inside the bottle could form condensate once it reaches warmer temperatures. Your kitchen cupboard is a better area to store your vitamins.

    Elsie Stockdale said...

    I've found that asking my pharmacist about supplements works best. She knows what meds I personally am taking and can advise on when and how I should take supplements with that in mind.

    LifeExtension said...

    Elsie Stockdale - Good! We're glad your pharmacist is helpful. Thanks for reading.

    Lynda said...

    Thanks for the tip re taking omega 3's and COq10 with fat, I haven't been doing that. I take all my supplements with breakfast (oats, whey + berries), very little fat at all in that. If added seeds to my oats, would that be enough to help with absorption?

    LifeExtension said...

    Lynda - Our pleasure! The seeds could help. You could always increase the amount of healthy fats in your breakfast by adding flax oil.

    Anonymous said...

    Question about fat soluble nutrients to be taken with a meal that contains fat. Guess i've gotten it wrong, because i take them w/shredded wheat, in which i add a banana, some strawberries and/or blueberries, prunes, etc. Besides flax oil, as noted above, anything else i can eat to help absorption?

    LifeExtension said...

    Anonymous - Anything with fat may help. Examples of foods include eggs, milk, cheese, butter etc. Also, you could save the fat soluble nutrients for meals like lunch and dinner which usually tend to include more fat. Animal protein is usually a good source of fat. Hope this helps!

    Stephanie said...

    I'm glad I found this post! Now I know why I become ill if I take my vitamins on an empty stomach. Do you have any advice on what to eat while swallowing calcium and/or cranberry pills?

    Jane Smith said...

    I changed to a naturopathic doctor about 3 months ago and she put me on liquid vitamins, minerals, etc. I sent to PureFormula for them as she warned that all vitamins are not equal and some even get added "fillers" that don't even get digested. As for storing these liquids, they go into the refrigerator.
    They actually cured muscle knots in my back that were threatening, because of pain, using the computer, my art work and my all around comfort.

    LifeExtension said...

    Stephanie - It's best to take calcium in divided dosages with meals. Generally cranberry extracts can be taken with or without food.

    LifeExtension said...

    Jane Smith - Thanks for chiming in!

    Mouz lo said...

    This is a really good read for me, Must admit that you are one of the best bloggers I ever saw.Thanks for posting this informative article.

    http://www.mouzlo.com/protein.html

    ssmrnmalik said...

    Yes, it’s confusing getting started with supplements. I also took supplements on empty stomach having the idea that they would affect more but the result was very opposite. I had a chance to consult with a doctor and he ushered me how to take supplments the right way. The article, I have read now has increased the knowledge. Life Extension is giving platform to people to have awareness.

    Samreen M
    Bolee.com

    LifeExtension said...

    Mouz lo - Thanks for the kind words. We appreciate them!

    LifeExtension said...

    ssmrnmalik - We're glad that you're managing better in taking supplements. Let us know if we can be of further help!

    Health Supplements said...

    That's a very informative article for everyone who rely on health supplements for fulfilling the nutrients requirements. You have already mentioned three basic but important tips that could make a big difference to anyone who is new to the world of health supplements. In my opinion, one should make sure to inform his/her physician before starting this self treatment. Following a strict routine that are advised along with the supplements is one more important thing to remember. Checking the expiry date and precautions before starting a supplements regime is something one must do as well.

    One should avoid these mistakes and can see good results for sure.

    Life Extension said...

    Health Supplements - We appreciate the feedback!

    Anonymous said...

    If a supplement states take two a day, is it better to take them together or space them out say one in the morning one in the evening? I have been told that the body will absorb only what it needs and the rest is passed in urine. With the cost being high for some supplements I can't afford to waste anything I am taking.

    MARA said...

    How warm is too warm for supplement storage? Another question, I sometimes don't finish taking all my supplements until bedtime. How does sleeping affect the metabolism of pills, or even food? Are they digested and absorbed just as well as when awake?

    Life Extension said...

    Anonymous - If the bottle says two a day, consider taking one in the morning and one at night. This helps to ensure you obtain maximum absorption. :-)

    Life Extension said...

    MARA - Good questions. Supplements are best stored at room temperature (70 F). Too hot is 86 F. Regarding the metabolism of pills, it all depends. Some things are better absorbed with food, so for that you need adequate digestion. At night, digestion slows down. So in this instance, the absorption of a nutrient may not be optimal. But certain things need to be taken at night for best effect. An example is magnesium if taken for sleep.

    Anonymous said...

    I live where it's almost always over 23C. what's my best option? Also, I hear it's best to take certain vitamins at different times than other vitamins and minerals or it blocks the absorbtion. is that correct, and which ones? Thank you for a great post.

    Anonymous said...

    You should not take your iron and calcium at the same time. And you should not take your iron tablets with tea or any milk drink. Take with Orange juice to help with absorption. As I have to take Iron three times a day, my bariatric nurse said it is OK to take my two calcium tablets at the same time.

    Life Extension said...

    Anonymous - Try storing supplements in your kitchen cupboard. Yes, certain amino acids compete for absorption. This link goes into a little more detail: http://ow.ly/sbcMW

    Peter Riley said...

    The human body is so complex, for a lay person to attempt to heal oneself is asking for trouble. When people say you should not take them on an empty stomach. On the contrary, here is an excellent example of what to take before going to bed on empty stomach. ZMA containing Zinc, Magnesium and B 6. It works the same way Creatine works, most people are deficient. ZMA is a good starting point for taking supplements, get into the habit at night before bed, the mornings and afternoons will soon fall into place.

    Peter Riley said...

    ZMA would be better at night on empty stomach, because most folk are deficient in Zinc, Magnesium, and possible B6.

    Life Extension said...

    Peter Riley - Thanks for the tip!

    Badfan said...

    I bought NAC, milk thistle, and liver efficiency from you. The temperarure where I live is below zero. Will this affect the potency of the supplements?

    Life Extension said...

    Badfan - First, we'd like to thank you for your support! Thanks for doing business with us. Although, we don't normally test our supplements in freezing conditions, it's unlikely that storing the supplements in cold temperatures is going to affect them negatively. Heat and humidity are two main factors that affect supplement potency.

    Badfan said...

    Thanks for replying. My liver enzymes are elevated for some reason. I'm trying my best to avoid a liver biopsy. The supplements I bought only last one month. Could the enzymes be lowered in one month ? My doctor told me I might have autoimmune hepatitus. What are the supplements that you recommend for this disease? Please reply whenever you have a chance.

    Life Extension said...

    It's hard to predict if your liver enzymes will drop within a month. Elevated liver enzymes signal there is some type of liver damage going on. Consider supplements like vitamin D and curcumin. They help to balance immune activity. Autoimmune diseases are due to an overactive immune system. For additional liver support consider phosphatidylcholine. Here are two links which provide additional suggestions: http://bit.ly/1frYscy http://bit.ly/1ceEIBu

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