When you need to supplement to correct a nutrient insufficiency, maintain healthy levels of a blood biomarker, or help achieve a health-related goal, you want to do everything you can to make the process as easy as possible. Maybe you struggle with remembering to actually take your supplements, or perhaps you have difficulty swallowing pills and would rather avoid the process altogether.
Five registered dietitians share their top advice when it comes to taking supplements to help you optimize you get the most out of your supplement regimen.
1. Plan ahead
Some supplements are best taken under specific conditions—like with or without food, or at different times of the day—so it’s important to understand the supplements you’re taking from the start. “Before you get into the nitty- gritty of how you're going to remember to take them all, list all the supplements you intend to take each day, the time of day you need to take them (or if it's flexible), and if they should be taken with food or water,” says Molly Knudsen, MS, RDN. “Once you have a clear picture and understanding of your regimen, then you can strategize on how you'll actually implement that plan into your daily life.”
2. Get organized
“If you travel a lot or forget to take your supplements, a weekly pill organizer can be a helpful tool to not miss a beat,” offers Stevie Lyn Smith, MS, RDN, CSSD, CDN. The act of organizing at the start of the week can prompt you to remember your supplements later on, and having the physical organizer present can help make taking supplements on the go a breeze.
3. Make pills easier to swallow
Do you have trouble taking your supplements in a pill? Juliana Dewsnap, RD recommends changing their form: “If the pills are too large to swallow, you can try crushing a tablet or emptying a capsule in a smoothie or other food where you won't notice the texture.” This can also work with powder-containing capsules. Just split the capsule open (like with probiotics) and use the powder inside. Always check supplement packaging before doing this as sometimes manufacturers won’t recommend changing the form if it impacts the efficacy of the supplements.
*This is not advice on how to take over-the-counter or prescription medications.
Nutrition scientist Molly Murphy, MPH, RD, LDN agrees, adding “if swallowing pills is difficult and that's a deterrent from taking them, swallowing with a straw can also be helpful.” Just be sure the straw is large enough to fit the pill through.
Another option is to find supplements in forms other than capsules, like gummies, powders, or liquids.
4. Keep supplements somewhere visible
Making small changes in your environment can influence your behavior so that taking your supplements becomes pretty easy. “When incorporating any health changes, it's important to make the best choice, the easy choice,” shares Michelle Darian, MS, MPH, RD. “If you take a supplement at night, store it next to another item you use each night, like a toothbrush.”
Need some other useful spots to place your supplements? “If you need to take them with food, leaving them on the kitchen counter or in a drawer you frequently open at mealtime can make it easy to remember,” explains Stevie.
5. Set reminders
To help you stay consistent, use tools that push alerts to reduce the onus of having to remember on your own. Knudsen shares, “ Just like you set a reminder to wake up in the morning or for that virtual meeting, you can set a recurring reminder on your phone to prompt you to take your supplements.”
Though many people likely rely on their phones for these notifications, “Whatever method someone uses to keep their life organized already is the perfect place to add in supplement management,” according to Murphy. So go ahead and put your old-school daily planner or kitchen chalkboard to good use!
And for supplements that need to be taken under specific conditions, reminders work particularly well. “If you're taking something like an iron supplement where timing matters, you can set it as an appointment in your calendar or a reminder on your phone so you will get the notification to remind you to take the supplement on an empty stomach,” says Stevie.
6. Use the “buddy system”
Michelle recommends holding yourself accountable by leaning on those around you: “If the buddy system helps to serve as a reminder, ask a friend or family member to check in.” Technology and tools can be incredibly helpful, but sometimes it’s the people you care about and trust who can provide the best support.
7. Build a routine
“No matter what,” says Stevie, “the more you establish taking supplements as part of your regular routine, the easier it will be to stick with it. Make it a part of a routine or actions you already do each day like brushing your teeth or washing your face.” But how do you go about successfully incorporating a new habit into an existing routine? This is where many of us falter, but the practice of habit stacking can make it easier.
“‘Habit stacking’ is a great way to incorporate something new into your routine,” says Dewsnap. “For example, every night I brush my teeth and wash my face after, and then I take a magnesium supplement. This mindset of doing actions in a specific order helps me remember to do it daily.”
Taking supplements can be an important part of improving your health. But it can also be intimidating figuring out which ones to take as well as when and how they are best taken. InsideTracker provides supplement recommendations— with other food and lifestyle suggestions—to improve unoptimized biomarkers. Each supplement recommendation also comes with detailed information on:
- How the supplement impacts your health
- When you should take the supplement
- Specific tips from registered dietitians for taking that supplement
- Potential side effects or contraindications of use
For InsideTracker customers, this not only helps create a supplement regimen, but the recommendations conveniently summarize the information you need to plan ahead and map out what your ideal daily routine should look like.
And no matter what, supplements won’t work if they never make it out of the bottle. These tips can help you build habits to successfully incorporate supplements into your daily routine.