Understanding how supplements work is essential to optimising your wellness. Taking supplements at the wrong time or in the wrong amount can reduce impact. Our resident nutritionist reveals her top ways to hack supplements and optimise their impact on your wellness.
When I first start working with a client, they’re often already taking supplements of some kind. But they don’t always know how these supplements work – or why the supplements aren’t having the positive impact they hoped for.
It could be that they’ve been sold the new ‘wonder’ product that sounds appealing but isn’t really what they need. Taking supplements at the wrong time of day, in the wrong combination or in the wrong form and dose can also be an issue. Even taking supplements with caffeine can inhibit absorption.
As you can see, it’s easy to get into a situation where the effects of supplements are cancelled out. By understanding how they work, you can solve these issues. These are five ‘hacks’ which could make your supplements work better for you.
Hack #1: Take the right product
To start with an example, I often see people taking expensive Collagen powders for younger-looking skin. But once digested in the body it’s broken down into component amino acids. These might not then be used to make collagen. The solution could be to take something cheaper. Like good old Vitamin C, which can support your own collagen production. Situations like this show why I always recommend working with a trained practitioner, so they can create a supplement plan that works best for you.
The delivery of the supplement can also impact how supplements work. Hard, solid-tablet formulas can be difficult to digest and absorb. You might be better off taking supplements that support digestive health to aid absorption of nutrients from food, or taking liquid or powder formulas that can be easier to absorb.
Hack # 2: Take your supplements at the right time
People often take a handful of supplements with breakfast, not knowing if they’re best taken with food or without. While you may choose to take your supplements with food to avoid an upset stomach, some amino acids and minerals like iron are better absorbed on an empty stomach, 30 minutes before you eat.
Some supplements love being taken together. But some prevent each other from working. Caffeine also limits the effectiveness of commonly used supplements such as Calcium, Magnesium and Iron. So if you’re a morning coffee drinker, it’s best to avoid taking supplements at this time.
Hack # 3: Check the form your supplements come in
Some supplements use cheaper forms of the vitamin or mineral to keep costs down. This is especially true with calcium carbonate, iron as ferrous fumerate, or magnesium citrate. These may be poorly absorbed and can cause digestive upset.
It’s important to choose a mineral chelate (the thing it’s bound to) in a form that suits you. You can find a list of these in my article on what should (and shouldn’t) be in your multivitamin. Most supplements also contain non-actives, which have no nutritional benefit but are used to bulk up the tablet or bind the ingredients together. As well as giving your body extra work to do when processing the supplement, some of these can also irritate the gut.
Hack # 4: Check the dose
This is by far the most common reason why supplements don’t work. Unless you consult a professional beforehand, you won’t be aware of what constitutes a therapeutic dose of the vitamin or mineral you’re taking. A good example is Magnesium. The dose found in supplements can be as low as 50mg. But most people really need to be taking 200-600mg a day to see the benefit.
Hack # 5: Don’t waste your money on doubling up
Always read what’s in your supplement before buying it. You could be taking multiple formulas for different purposes and inadvertently be doubling up on nutrients. Certain vitamins and minerals, especially Iron, Iodine and even Vitamin D, should be taken in accordance with how much you actually need. Ideally you should have your levels of these tested before you take them, to make sure you’re taking the right supplement and the correct amount.
Ultimately, to reap the benefits of your supplements you should always consult a trained practitioner before starting out. They can help you discover whether there are other factors that need to be addressed first. Gastrointestinal health, use of medications, drugs, alcohol, stress, hormone imbalance, illness and other lifestyle factors can all impact the supplements you should take.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any condition. If you have a medical condition, are pregnant, or take any form of medication, consult a trained professional or doctor before taking supplements.