The Best Time to Take Vitamin D, According to a Registered Dietitian

Medically Reviewed by Felicia Newell, M.S., RDN

October 23, 2023

There's no specific “best time” to take vitamin D. What’s important is that you choose a time that keeps your supplementation consistent day after day.

Vitamin D supplementation is common in the United States, with about one-fifth of the adult population taking a daily supplement in one form or another (1). Although our bodies can synthesize vitamin D on their own (from sunlight), dietary sources are also essential, especially in regions or seasons with less sun exposure (2).

When vitamin D levels are healthy, it can keep doing its (very) important job throughout the body. These jobs include:

  • Maintaining healthy bones and muscles
  • Aiding in the absorption of calcium
  • Regulating cell growth, mood, and hormones
  • Supporting immunity, skin health, and pregnancy
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure

Who Should Supplement With Vitamin D?

Despite the availability of vitamin D from sunlight and certain foods, some individuals may still require supplements to maintain optimal vitamin D levels. This group of people often includes those with limited exposure to sunlight, such as those living in northern latitudes or indoor workers, as their bodies may not produce sufficient vitamin D. Additionally, people with darker skin, whose melanin content reduces the skin's ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight, may also need supplements (4).

Certain health conditions may necessitate vitamin D supplementation as well. For instance, those with conditions like Crohn's disease or celiac disease, which affect nutrient absorption, may fail to absorb sufficient vitamin D, despite adequate intake(5). Lastly, as we all have unique physiologies, there are certain people without a diagnosed health condition that have a reduced ability to absorb vitamin D, thus requiring supplementation.

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When Should I Take My Vitamin D Supplement?

When it comes to the optimal time for taking vitamin D supplements, several factors come into play, including absorption, convenience, and potential interactions. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it’s best absorbed when taken with a meal that contains fats. Data shows that supplement absorption was 32% to 57% higher when taken with a meal that contains fat (8).

In terms of convenience, taking supplements at a consistent time each day can help establish a routine and improve adherence. Many people choose to take their vitamin D supplement at breakfast or lunch, as these meals tend to contain fats that help boost absorption.

Native Note: There are two medications that could impair the absorption of vitamin D: Orlistat (a weight loss drug) and Cholestyramine (a cholesterol-lowering drug). Moreover, steroids can interfere with how the body metabolizes vitamin D. Therefore, always consult with a healthcare provider before starting a new supplement regimen.

Morning vs. Evening

Taking vitamin D supplements in the morning has its advantages and disadvantages. A primary advantage is that morning doses often coincide with meals that contain fats, ensuring optimal absorption. Additionally, establishing a morning routine with supplements can lead to better adherence. The downside, however, is that for some individuals, morning schedules can be hectic, making it easy to forget to take the supplement.

Conversely, taking vitamin D supplements in the evening might fit better into some people's routines, especially those who have more time or eat larger, fat-containing meals. On the downside, taking vitamin D late in the day could interfere with sleep in some individuals, as there is ongoing research suggesting that vitamin D may affect melatonin production, the hormone that regulates sleep. 

The timing of when to take your vitamin D may also depend on your daily sunlight exposure. For instance, if you receive most of your sunlight in the afternoon and evening, it could be beneficial to take your vitamin D supplement in the morning to maintain a more consistent level throughout the day. 

Weighing these pros and cons, and considering individual habits and lifestyle, can help determine the most suitable time for taking vitamin D supplements.

With or Without Food

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it's absorbed better when taken with meals that contain fats. When ingested with a meal that includes dietary fat, vitamin D is incorporated into the fat droplets that are formed in the stomach. These droplets are then released into the small intestine where they’re absorbed. 

Without the presence of dietary fats, the absorption of vitamin D can be significantly reduced. Therefore, it's generally recommended to take vitamin D supplements with a meal to enhance absorption, especially a meal that contains healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, or oily fish.

Consistency & Routine

Establishing a consistent supplementation routine is crucial for maintaining stable levels of vitamin D in the body. Regular intake helps to avoid fluctuations in vitamin D concentrations and ensures that the body has a steady supply of this essential nutrient. Unpredictable dosing could lead to periods of deficiency, which might compromise bone health, immune function, and other essential processes in which vitamin D plays a role. 

Consistent supplementation is especially important in cases where dietary intake or sun exposure is insufficient. Remember, it's not just about taking the supplement, but making it a habitual part of your daily routine. That said, it's recommended to incorporate vitamin D supplementation into a fixed part of your day, in alignment with your meal or sleep schedules, depending on what works best for you personally.

Considerations for Health Conditions

Certain health conditions or medications may influence the timing and dosing of vitamin D supplements. For example, medical conditions such as Crohn's disease, celiac disease, or any condition that affects fat absorption can hinder the body's ability to absorb vitamin D, potentially necessitating a higher dose.

A dropper and bottle of NativePath Vitamin D3+K2 tincture

Harness the Power of the Sun

Our Vitamin D supplement takes vitamins D3 & K2 with organic MCT oil to support bone, cardiovascular, & immune health while balancing mood & elevating energy.

Add to Cart

Similarly, individuals with obesity might require more vitamin D as the vitamin is extracted from the blood by fat cells, altering its release into the circulation. Certain medications, such as anticonvulsants, glucocorticoids, antifungals like ketoconazole, and HIV/AIDS medicines, can speed up the breakdown of vitamin D and may require an increased intake. 

It's vital to discuss these factors with your healthcare provider so they can tailor the dosage and timing of your vitamin D supplementation to your specific health needs. Remember, what works for one person may not work for another, and individualized medical advice is key to effective supplementation.

Vitamin D & Seasonal Changes

The optimal time to take vitamin D can also depend on the season and the amount of sunlight exposure you’re getting. During the summer months or in sunnier climates, your skin is naturally exposed to more sunlight, which triggers the body to produce vitamin D. Therefore, supplementation might be less necessary during these times, although it's always wise to verify this with a healthcare provider. 

On the other hand, in the winter or in less sunny environments, sunlight exposure is reduced, which may mean an increased need for vitamin D supplements.

What Should My Vitamin D Levels Be At?

According to the Institute of Medicine, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D for most adults is 600 international units (IUs) per day, increasing to 800 IUs for those over age 70 (6). However, some studies suggest that higher amounts may be beneficial. It's important to note that excessive intake may lead to toxicity, highlighting the need for a balanced approach.

Vitamin D deficiency, on the other hand, can have serious health implications. In children, it can cause rickets, a disease characterized by delayed growth and deformities of the bones. In adults, deficiency may result in osteomalacia, leading to bone pain and muscle weakness. 

Research also links low vitamin D levels to a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in older adults, severe asthma in children, and certain types of cancer. Considering these potential risks, maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D is crucial for overall health (7).

Frequently Asked Questions

Our bodies naturally produce vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight, particularly UVB rays. This process begins when UVB radiation is absorbed by the skin, promoting the conversion of 7-dehydrocholesterol to previtamin D3, which is transformed into vitamin D3—or cholecalciferol—via heat from the sun. This vitamin D3 is then metabolized into its active form, calcitriol, in the liver and kidneys, which is crucial for bone health and immune function.

The best time to get vitamin D from the sun varies depending on geographical location and time of year, but as a general rule, midday is the most efficient time. This is when the sun is at its highest point, and the UVB rays are the most intense, which maximizes your body’s ability to produce vitamin D. You can also choose to get your sunlight in the early morning or evening. It may just take a little longer since the sun isn’t quite as strong.

It's important to remember that prolonged exposure to the sun increases the risk of skin damage and skin cancer, hence why exposure should be limited to 10-30 minutes per day for fair-skinned individuals, while darker-skinned individuals may require a little longer. After initial exposure, apply sunscreen to prevent any harmful effects from the sun.

A dropper and bottle of NativePath Vitamin D3+K2 tincture

Harness the Power of the Sun

Our Vitamin D supplement takes vitamins D3 & K2 with organic MCT oil to support bone, cardiovascular, & immune health while balancing mood & elevating energy.

Add to Cart
Lauren Manaker
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Lauren Manaker

Lauren Manaker is an award-winning registered dietitian (RDN), certified lactation educator (CLE), author, and speaker with over 20 years of experience. She earned her BS in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Florida (go Gators!) and an MS in Clinical Nutrition from Rush University in Chicago.

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    Medical Disclaimer

    This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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