Woman taking a supplement

3 Big Mistakes Supplement Users Make

Published: April 2021 | Updated: April 2021

Getting started with supplements can be confusing. Having so many options makes it hard to know what to do, and it's very easy to make mistakes.

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 the three most common mistakes supplement "newbies" make—make sure you aren't guilty of any of these, to ensure you're getting the most out of your supplement regimen.

Not following the instructions on the label is a big mistake

Man taking out supplemnts from a bottle

If you just take a supplement when it's most convenient for you, without any regard as to what the instructions on the label say, you could be making the biggest, most common newbie mistake.

Indeed, it does matter how and when you take your supplements! Before you put anything into your body, always read what the instructions say, and follow them—otherwise, the supplements might not work as intended, or could even interfere with your health.

Here's why.

  • Multivitamins are best taken with food—if you don't follow this rule and swallow them on an empty stomach, you could experience digestive discomfort.
  • Fat-soluble nutrients are best taken with a meal that contains fat. These include vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as 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.
  • Amino acids are best taken on an empty stomach. This includes popular supplements such as L-tryptophan and L-carnitine. If you don't follow this advice, your body may not absorb these nutrients as well.
  • Prescription medications may not work if you take a supplement at the same time, since some supplements can interfere with your medication's activity. Supplements, particularly fiber, can also interfere with the absorption of your medications, possibly delaying the time they peak in your blood. Allow at least two hours between the timing of your medications and your supplements. And if you're really not sure, consult with your pharmacist. As usual, it's better to be safe than sorry!

Not being picky about supplements is a big mistake

Woman deciding between two supplemts

Because you're faced with so many options at the store, you might not think twice about picking a particular formula—or, you might be drawn to the most interesting packaging or most clever-sounding name. But if you're going to pay attention to anything that's on the bottle, look at the fine print on the label.

What matters most is that you're buying a high-quality nutrient that is actually absorbable. And knowing how to determine that might require some research.

For example, take magnesium. You'll find multiple varieties at the store—magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate, magnesium oxide and so on. However, if you want to take magnesium to support brain health, none of these forms of magnesium are ideal. For those seeking cognitive support, the ideal form is magnesium threonate because of its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.

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.

You could ruin your supplements by storing them incorrectly

Woman putting away supplements into medicine cabinet

Where you keep your supplements matters. Sure, you might have plenty of room in your medicine cabinet, but this might be the worst place to store them. Instead, find a place that's cool and dry.

In fact, the top threat facing your supplements is moisture, believe it or not. Water can oxidize and damage the ingredients. Meanwhile, high temperatures are also a problem, as they can interfere with the delicate structure of a nutrient and even cause them to break down.

Get the most from your supplements

Your health and wellness are worth protecting, and supplements can help you get there with the targeted nutrition you need. But knowing what supplements to take is only the first step. Buying supplements in the proper form, storing them correctly and taking your vitamins and minerals with or without food are all important to optimizing the health benefits of the nutrients you take.

References

  • US Pharmacist. 2007;1:42-55.
  • Magnes Res. 2016;29(3):95-101.
  • J Dairy Sci. 2018;101(4):2763-2813.

Scientifically Reviewed By: Michael A. Smith, MD

By: Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN