The Best Time Of Day To Take Vitamin D, According To Experts
Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient for our health and well-being for a number of reasons (think mood, bone health, immunity, and more).* Unfortunately, though, many of us don't get enough. Research demonstrates an alarming 93% of Americans1 fail to get in just 400 IU of vitamin D per day from their diet—and the science is abundantly clear that 400 IU doesn't even come close to cutting it, anyway.
Given that, it's no surprise that vitamin D supplementation has become such a massive and important topic. Thing is, though, reaping the benefits of the sunshine vitamin in supplement form isn't as simple as grabbing the first bottle you see and popping it haphazardly. Instead, getting your supplement routine right ensures you're doing right by your health and your wallet.
So, when is the best time to take vitamin D—and how can you get the most out of your regimen? Here's what the experts have to say.
The benefits of supplementing with vitamin D
The reason why vitamin D supplements have become such a necessity for most people: "There are essentially no good, natural food sources of vitamin D," says renowned vitamin D researcher Michael Holick, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine at Boston University and author of The Vitamin D Solution.
Since a three-ounce serving of farmed salmon contains about 447 IU2, a cup of fortified milk offers up to 100 IU3, and eight ounces of vanilla yogurt provides just 86 IU2, you'd have to eat a truly unrealistic amount of D-containing foods to rack up a significant amount (i.e., an amount to achieve vitamin D sufficiency). "You really cannot get enough vitamin D from your diet," Holick confirms.
And while you can get some vitamin D from sunlight, it's still practically impossible to meet your needs via food and safe skin exposure alone, explains Holick. "Unless you're a lifeguard, it's unrealistic to think you can get enough vitamin D exposure from the sun," he says.
In fact, his research on vitamin D levels4 has found that average serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] levels (the body's clinical biomarker of vitamin D status) of adults in the U.S. were only hovering around 18 to 22 ng/ml at the end of winter, and still only at 29 ng/ml at the end of summer. Both fall below the 30 ng/ml cutoff for baseline vitamin D sufficiency5. (i.e., the cutoff, not the goal). "The difference is small regardless of season," Holick says. "You still can't get enough."
Because of these different factors, Holick (along with many other health practitioners and researchers) recommends supplementing with vitamin D daily.
(Want some recommendations that'll actually help you meet your needs? Check out our favorite vitamin D supplements.)
What to consider with timing your vitamin D supplement
Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it strongly prefers a source of fat in order to be properly absorbed in the body. According to integrative dietitian Whitney Crouch, RDN, CLT, vitamin D supplements are "best absorbed when taken with food6 containing avocado, olive oil, flax, or other sources of beneficial fats."* So, popping your standard D supplement on an empty stomach probably isn't the best idea.
There's one important exception here, though. "If your supplement is already packaged with adequate fats included, there's no need to take it with food," Crouch adds. This is a rare feature among vitamin D supplements offered today, so it's important to check product labels to make sure yours contains some kind of fat or oil to foster absorption, Holick says.
If that is the case, though, you can feel free to take your vitamin D sans food. And if not, you'll still absorb some vitamin D. "We've done studies and shown that vitamin D with oil can be taken with a full meal, on an empty stomach, with additional fat or without it," says Holick.
To optimize absorption, mindbodygreen uniquely and expertly formulated our vitamin D3 potency+ with three built-in, high-quality organic oils (from extra-virgin olive oil, avocado, and flaxseed) to be sure you're maximizing the fat-soluble bioavailability of this critical nutrient.* With this absorption support, you can get the most out of your vitamin D, regardless of when you take it (not to mention the healthy omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids).*
The link between vitamin D & sleep
Research has shown that vitamin D is involved in the production of the hormone melatonin7, which helps regulate your circadian rhythm and sleep. As mindbodygreen's vice president of scientific affairs, Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN, explains, "The vitamin D and sleep relationship appears to be a bidirectional one. Suboptimal vitamin D status is linked to lower sleep quality and shorter sleep duration8, and inadequate sleep is linked to a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency9. The science is young and emerging here."
Holick concurs, "There is some evidence to suggest that vitamin D promotes sleep, but research is ongoing." Indeed, vitamin D deficiency has been linked with several sleep issues10, and a recent Nutrients meta-analysis11 even found that individuals that take a vitamin D supplement have better sleep quality than those that don't.*
So, when's the best time to take vitamin D, then?
According to the experts, when you take your vitamin D supplement is really up to you. "It does not have to be taken at a certain time," says Connie Weaver, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Nutrition Science at Purdue University. "The best time is whenever in your schedule you can remember to take it."
And if your D supplement contains some healthy fats, you've got plenty of flexibility. To stay consistent, though, Crouch suggests tying your vitamin D supplement to some other part of your routine that happens daily, like drinking your morning coffee or brushing your teeth, or timed with some other daily regimen.
If your D3 supplement doesn't contain fat, try tying it to your breakfast (and just make sure you've got some healthy fat like avocado in there). If lunch or dinner works better for your D ritual, go for it!
And if you happen to take your vitamin D at different times or even forget to take it here and there, don't panic. "Vitamin D is very forgiving," Holick says. "If you forget it one day, you can take double the next day." No sweat!
Is it better to take vitamin D in the morning or at night?
You can take your vitamin D supplement at any point in the day—what's most important is that you get in the habit of taking vitamin D daily, as benefits are most noticeable with consistent use. If your supplement doesn't have built-in fat for enhanced absorption, be sure to also take it with a snack or meal that contains healthy fats (e.g., avocado, olive oil, etc.).
What is the proper way to take vitamin D?
It's best take your vitamin D with some fat to optimize the vitamin's absorption. Some vitamin D supplements, like mbg's vitamin D3 potency+, actually feature built-in fats (which is rare) to enhance its bioavailability.* If your vitamin D supplement does not include a source of fat, you should take it with or after consuming a snack or meal that includes some fat to ensure your body can fully utilize the fat-soluble vitamin.
There's no question that taking a vitamin D supplement is a smart idea and investment in your health. Once you've gotten your levels tested and picked out a high-quality supplement (like mbg's vitamin D3 potency+), tack it onto an established part of your daily routine like eating your breakfast or after lunch, so you don't forget.
Remember: If your supplement doesn't contain fats to support absorption, you'll want to pair your vitamin D with some sort of fat, preferably something healthy like avocado, fish, olive oil, etc. Want specific recommendations? Check out our vitamin D supplement roundup.
RELATED STORY: 5 Important Health Benefits Of Vitamin D
Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, relationships, and lifestyle trends with a master’s degree from American University. Her work has appeared in Women’s Health, Prevention, Self, Glamour, and more. She lives by the beach, and hopes to own a taco truck one day.