In this article you will learn:
What timing your supplements means and why it is important
What types of timings are important and which ones aren't
What the therapeutic range and upper limit is for most nutrients
Download a free PDF guide:
This article summarizes information presented in my premier biohacking course, the BodyHacker Basics Masterclass. I've taken a downloadable PDF from one of the lessons in this course and attached it here to help you with the information in this article. We will be talking mostly timing in this article, but the PDF has upper limits and therapeutic ranges for nutrients listed in nice, detailed, nerdy spreadsheet fashion. Enjoy.
In total there are over 20+ vitamins and minerals that your body needs on a daily basis, and unfortunately all of them have complex relationships with each other that can make it challenging to get the most out of a supplementation program. Why? Because many nutrients compete for absorption or interfere with others, enhance others' behavior or simply deplete other nutrients.
So, if everything is affecting everything else - what do you do? This is why supplementation should always be in a comprehensive fashion, meaning all of the nutrients, because you will undoubtedly create imbalances if something is missing.
The next part is regular, comprehensive health testing. If you are taking supplements, you should be testing yourself regularly to understand what is changing in your body or whether or not these interventions are working. Don't rely on fancy marketing gimmicks of sexy models looking off into the sunset at their success - you need the data.
A third note is employing the right form of nutrients, like chelates for minerals, because this will ensure maximum bioavailability. Every nutrient out of those 20+ comes in several forms. Some are cheap and bullshit, while others will actually help your body but are more expensive. Don't scrimp, because you only get one body in this life.
Finally, there's timing.
Timing is the idea that certain nutrients should be timed for optimal utilization. This can be true for many reasons, but in general there are 3 basic types of nutrient relationships: synergistic, antagonistic and competitive.
The first is synergistic, meaning beneficial relationships. These are nutrients that support one another, like the B vitamin complex or boron with vitamin D and calcium. Timing these together may help them be absorbed or utilized better. The second is antagonistic, and within this grouping you can further divide the antagonists into competitors or non-competitors.
In simpler terms, some nutrients may have an antagonistic relationship, meaning they will drain other nutrients, while others outright compete for absorption. If you take too much zinc, for example (over 50mg per day) for prolonged periods of time - this may lower your copper reserves for several reasons. This is an antagonistic relationship, but it's not a big deal if you take a little zinc (1-30mg at a time) with copper at the same time so it is relatively non-competitive.
On the other hand, competitive relationships means that taking the nutrients together is not a good idea because they compete for absorption in the intestines. This final category of nutrients that compete for absorption is the one I pay attention to when looking at timing. If you are taking a complete nutrition program according to my Everyday Basics guide, you will account for synergistic relationships and also for any potential deficiencies that one nutrient may cause in another over time.
In my opinion, considering all of these relationships is way too much to fucking think about. So, aside from using the best quality form for your supplements, the only real thing to worry about is if they directly compete with each other when you’re taking them. In this regard, I will outline principles I use in my own planning and timing of supplements so that there is minimal interference.
However, keep in mind that you will always have some level of bullshit to deal with between genes, dietary factors, toxins and other obstacles of absorption. Take it all as more incentive to test regularly and be as comprehensive as possible, as consistently as possible.
Supplement Timing Principles
— Take vitamin E and tocotrienols apart by at least 2 hours because they compete for
absorption, and take vitamin E apart from vitamins D, A and K for the same reasons.
— Take vitamin D, iodine, creatine, copper, carnitine, B vitamins and resveratrol before 4pm because they are stimulatory and may disturb sleep (more on which supplements will mess with your sleep in future chapters).
— Take calcium at least 2 hours apart from iodine, as it may interfere with its absorption, and don’t take it with zinc because it may reduce its absorption. This second part isn’t too bad if you’re taking chelates, and in general, if you adhere to the principle of no more than 300mg of calcium at a time you should be fine even if you take zinc and calcium together.
— Take nitric oxide supplements or high nitrate foods apart from iodine, as nitrates compete for absorption on the same transporter as iodine.
— Take 8mg of zinc for every 1mg of copper, and take them apart; usually copper in the
morning and zinc in the evening for its benefits on sleep. (Note: your ratio may be different, so always employ testing to determine what’s best.)
— Take boron apart from riboflavin as they can bind together. Calcium and riboflavin can also bind together.
— Take manganese apart from calcium as they may compete for absorption.
— Take copper apart from the B vitamins, specifically B5, B6 and B3 as they can impact its absorption. Also, take copper apart from vitamin C, and iron, as both of these can also reduce its absorption.
— I don’t really take iron, but know that iron is finicky and has several competitors that block its absorption. If you are taking iron and it isn’t working well for you, consider the Timing of other nutrients like zinc, copper, vitamin E and manganese, as all of these can interfere with iron absorption.
— Take calcium and magnesium in a ratio of 1:1, and no more than 2:1. Also, don’t take more than 300-400mg of calcium at one time so that it can both be absorbed and also not mess with other nutrients.
This last part is important because our diet and intake (especially in the US) is very highly skewed toward calcium with a deficiency in magnesium. To add to this, the commonly held recommendation of a 2:1 ratio is actually a slight misinterpretation of some research in the 1980’s by a French scientist named Jean Durlach. In this research Durlach concluded that the ratio of a total daily intake should not exceed 2:1 for calcium to magnesium because of the reasons we’ve already discussed. But this has been taken as a strict recommendation instead of seeing it as the limit of a range of intake.
In other words, the 2:1 ratio is not how much you should be taking in every day, but rather an upper threshold you shouldn’t pass. Today the WHO recommends 1300mg per day of calcium and the recommended daily intake in the US for magnesium is around 400mg per day. If you stick to these guidelines, the ratio of calcium to magnesium is more than 3 to 1, which is very imbalanced and can lead to a whole host of problems because there isn’t enough magnesium in your body.
Because most people don’t supplement or take in highly nutritious foods that contain
magnesium, this ratio is often even greater, and it has influenced what’s in our food. The result is usually a 4 to 1 calcium to magnesium ratio or greater. What many don’t realize is that magnesium is the master mineral that controls all of the electrolytes, including calcium, and it has also been implicated as a key regulator for bone health and strength.
This is interesting because all of the marketing in the US associates calcium with bone strength, but it’s also not surprising since the dairy industry is behind this push.
Despite these efforts, cases of osteoporosis are sky high in the US, so obviously something is missing. So, what do you do? Most alternative practitioners who have experience in this area will recommend a ratio of between 1:2 to 1:1, with many cases being documented of a higher magnesium to calcium intake being effective for osteoporosis in women especially.
This means that if you take 500mg of magnesium, your appropriate calcium dosage should be around 250mg to 500mg. Remember that other nutrients play a role in calcium metabolism, so it’s less about dumping a ton of calcium in your body and more about whether you are utilizing it or not.
(For another great resource on vitamin specifics, see this article here)
Therapeutic Ranges + RDI
RDI or recommended daily intake is the amount recommended by the powers that be for intake of a particular nutrient. In your free PDF handout from my BodyHacker Basics Masterclass, I've compiled the RDI and therapeutic ranges for the 20+ nutrients into one handy-dandy spreadsheet. This is important because, for most nutrients, the therapeutic range (i.e. the amount that actually can help you heal) is considerably higher than what is "recommended."
This is important because many people think they can cure their nutritional woes with food alone. I'm sad to say that this isn't the case most of the time. Between genes, toxicity, lifestyle and imperfect planning - there is no way you can get everything you need from food alone. Food should be your first place to start, and having a healthy and wholesome diet is extremely important, but in today's world supplementation is sadly a necessity if you want optimal health.
Another important point with all of this is health testing. Regular testing of your nutrients through specific tests like the SpectraCell Micronutrient test will give you an idea of whether the supplements, timings, forms, etc. you're using are actually working. This is a practice, and you have to test regularly while you maintain your routine to understand what is actually happening and whether your stuff works or not.
Many people have genetic factors that predispose them to having deficiencies or not processing certain nutrients very well. B vitamins are an example, with B6 being a specific one. B6 can come in the form "P5P" or regular pyridoxine. If you have genetic issues, regular B6 will accumulate and can be damaging. Or you may take a therapeutic amount and find that it isn't increasing your body's stores.
This is why I always go for the active, most bioavailable forms of nutrients, which in this case would be P5P. A great product for getting P5P is this one by Optimal Health Systems.
Creating your own routine of supplements and timing, along with other important decisions in the day like when you eat, what you eat, when you sleep, when you wake up, when you work, etc. is all part of the overall practice of life. Don't get overwhelmed and realize it is a practice that must be done and refined every day. I am here for you if you need support, so don't be afraid to reach out.