One question we often receive is, how long will it take before I start seeing changes from nutritional supplementation?
This question is complicated to answer due to the numerous mitigating factors that can directly influence supplementation effectiveness and efficiency.
Everything from how nutrient deficient you are, what type of supplement you’re taking, your fitness level, and what other supplements you are currently taking; are just but a few of the factors that need to be considered.
So the answer is there is no one magic answer for those wishing to take supplementation.
However on the fundamental biological level, the body absorbs vitamins and minerals within literally a few hours, and metabolic effects such as “antioxidants” protecting the cell are almost immediate.
Factors That Influence Efficacy
As we’ve stated, several factors can significantly influence the efficacy and in some cases can even prevent your body from absorbing them at all.
Are You Nutrient Deficient?
If you’re one of those who have incredibly deficient levels of specific vitamins or minerals, the amount of time needed to feel nutritional supplementation effects may take much longer (1).
One way to speed up the process is by taking larger doses, but this requires a qualified health care professional’s guidance.
You can check with a nutritionist or dietician to investigate the health of your gut microbiome or whether you are nutrient deficient in specific vitamins and minerals.
If you are deficient, instead of taking supplements for precautionary reasons, it’s much more likely to take longer for you to feel similar effects.
Type Of Supplement
Vitamins and nutritional supplementation come in many forms, from tablets, caplets to powders and gels. However, it is well-known that the body rapidly absorbs supplements taken in liquid or powdered form. Capsules and tablets take longer to absorb because the body needs to break down the tablet’s outer layer before digesting the nutrients.
Another reason capsules are not as effective is that they contain less of the nutrients than powdered or liquid forms. Nutritional supplementation that comes in liquid form can sometimes hinder the absorption of other vitamins and minerals because there is no way to separate the two physically.
On the other hand, high-quality powdered supplements allow the essential nutrients to be delivered simultaneously without obstructing absorption as the elements have already been filtered and separated.
Water Or Fat-Soluble
Specific nutrients like Vitamin A, D, E, and K are all categorized as being fat-soluble. These supplements require fat to absorb them; this is done by combining the ingredients with fat or consuming the supplement with food (2).
The body easily stores fat-soluble supplements, and as such high doses are probably not required.
As the name suggests, water-soluble supplements dissolve in water, meaning the effect on the body is somewhat more rapid than their fat-soluble counterparts.
The vast majority of vitamins and minerals are what medical professionals call “interrelated.” An excellent example of this is the association between vitamin D and calcium.
Vitamin D plays an essential role in helping your body absorb calcium; what this means is that if you have low vitamin D levels, you will inevitably have deficient levels of calcium.
Plant-based iron is another example of where vitamins and minerals are interrelated. Plant-based iron is absorbed effectively when coupled with vitamin C. B6 is another vitamin that needs adequate zinc levels to perform at its optimal levels.
The system also works in the other direction, and sometimes nutrients compete in the body for absorption with one another. For example, copper and zinc fight each other for absorption in the small intestine.
This is important to remember because if coupled with a nutritional supplement, the body may absorb less than the actual intake suggested or recommended.
Lifestyle And Habits
Particular lifestyle habits, factors, and behaviors can cause inefficient absorption of essential nutrients. Patterns that can have adverse effects on the body are smoking and drinking; these bad habits cause malabsorption and put additional demands on the body, meaning you require higher and higher doses of nutrients.
Drinking too much coffee can also hinder the absorption of specific vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, iron, and vitamin B6. The best way to navigate this problem is to drink coffee at least an hour before taking your supplements.
Other health concerns can also have adverse effects on nutrient absorption. Those people who have gut or bowel disease can not absorb the nutrients because they no longer have adequate hormones.
Obesity is another factor that directly increases your requirement for nutrients. Obesity heightens the body’s inflammatory response, which in turn requires higher levels of omega-3s.
What Are The Signs That Vitamins Are Working?
The signs that your supplements are working is largely dependent on the individual and the factor, habits, and behaviors they display. Age, gender, pre-existing conditions, and digestive health all influence how effectively your body absorbs nutrients.
The much better option is to look for where you may have signs of deficiencies, which again depends on the nutrients you’re deficient in.
Signs to look for:
- Exhaustion or Depression
- Not being able to concentrate or focus
- Being frequently stressed and anxious
- Poor sleep quality
- Weakened immune system
- Skin looking aged
- Loss of hair
How Long Before Should I Switch Supplements?
Generally speaking, two-three months should be ample time to evaluate if the supplements provide you with many benefits. But remember, this also depends on the factors we’ve discussed above as to the time you may see positive benefits.
We are all different, so the best way to track effectiveness is to undergo regular testing, which helps evaluate the influence the supplements have.
90% of young women have deficient levels of folate and iron; however, this can be rectified within a couple of days or so.
Suddenly stopping supplementation is not advised as you may already be deficient in certain nutrient levels, so by stopping intake, you run the risk of even becoming even more deficient.
Nutritional Supplements And Exercise Performance
If you’re a professional athlete or someone who exercises regularly, then you understand the importance nutrition and supplementation has on your performance output. If you have inadequate levels of certain nutrients, your performance in terms of intensity, volume, and duration all take a massive hit.
Many newcomers to exercise, however, wonder if taking supplements can actually help improve their performance (3). They have concerns or trepidation about the effectiveness and, in particular, the ingredients contained in the supplements.
Many manufacturers make outlandish unfounded claims as to the effect their supplements have on performance in increasing strength and endurance. Some also make claims that their products help quicken recovery, allowing you to train more often, thus getting more significant gains.
It’s always important to point out that supplements do not substitute for a healthy, well-balanced diet; however, certain nutritional supplements such as greens powders, smoothies, or meal replacements can positively impact your performance.
If you are contemplating taking a supplement, consult with your local health care provider, or seek advice from a coach/trainer qualified in Sports science and Nutrition.
Ingredients In Supplements For Performance?
Nutritional supplements contain numerous ingredients such as minerals, proteins, amino acids, vitamins, and certain greens and grasses. Depending on the manufacturer, the ingredients are combined in varying amounts and combinations and come in various forms, such as powders, liquid, and capsules.
Bear in mind that due to the varying levels of certain ingredients, the effectiveness of supplements varies significantly from product to product. Another critical factor to consider is that many of the “combinations” have not been studied enough to ensure safety and effectiveness.
The majority of the research that has been undertaken is generally on young athletic men in their 20s. Also, many of the studies may involve participants performing bodybuilding while you may be a road cyclist; the bodybuilding study results probably won’t apply to you.