Ask the Dietitian – Black Friday 2023 Edition
Written by: Ryah Nabielski, MS, RDN
In this year’s Black Friday edition of Ask the Dietitian, I will answer some of the Twenty2 Nutrition community’s most-asked supplement questions, including:
- When is the best time to take supplements for optimal results? Should I take them with food?
- How do I incorporate supplements into my daily routine?
- What is stevia? How is it different from sugar?
- What is third-party testing? Why is it important?
- What is the proper way to store supplements to maintain potency and shelf-life?
- Can I take too many supplements? How long should I take them for?
- Can kids use protein powder?
- Can I take too much collagen?
- Are green powders safe for breastfeeding moms?
We’re covering a lot; let’s dive in!
Q: When is the best time to take supplements for optimal results? Should I take them with food?
A: In many cases, the best time to take supplements is when it fits into your schedule, and you remember to take them. It’s perfectly fine to take most (or all) supplements with breakfast if that works best for you. However, there may be some additional considerations depending on the specific supplement, such as:
- Creatine – If you use creatine to improve strength and performance, you can take it before, during, or after exercise. However, you’ll still get the benefits of creatine if you take it any time of day. If you have difficulty remembering to bring it to the gym, take it whenever it’s convenient.
Learn more about creatine and best practices in Creatine Part 1 – Creatine Explained and Creatine Supplement Benefits and Creatine Part 2 – Creatine + HMB and Creatine FAQs.
- Probiotic – Take probiotics any time of day, with or without food, or as directed by your dietitian or healthcare provider. In most cases, I recommend my clients take probiotics with food. Learn more about probiotic supplements here.
- Protein powder – The timing of protein powder is up to you! Use protein powder with a meal, snack, or after exercise. Read Protein and Protein Powder FAQs if you have other questions about protein.
- Multivitamins – Multivitamins contain B vitamins, which can be stimulating, so the best time to take a multivitamin is early in the day with food. Take it along with breakfast, lunch, or a morning snack. You can also divide the dose between two meals to improve nutrient absorption.
Be sure to choose a multivitamin compatible with your needs and stage of life, such as Twenty2 Nutrition Prenatal Women’s Multivitamin if you’re a woman in your reproductive years or Twenty2 Nutrition Men’s Multivitamin.
- Omega 3 Fish Oil – Fish oil supplements can be taken anytime, preferably with food. Read more about the health benefits of omega-3s here.
Q: How do I incorporate supplements into my daily routine?
A: Taking supplements requires building a new habit. Here are some suggestions to help you establish your supplement routine:
- Prepare supplements in a pill container for the week
- Put daily supplements in a dish on the counter or table where you’ll see it
- Keep bedtime supplements on your nightstand
- Keep refrigerated supplements at eye level in your fridge
- Set a calendar reminder to take supplements
- Use sticky note reminders
Q: What is stevia? How is it different from sugar?
A: Stevia rebaudiana is a plant originating from South America. It contains natural glycosides up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, but it doesn’t contain any sugar (and therefore no calories or carbs like sugar). Most commercial stevia is a stevia extract made into a liquid or powder. Only a tiny amount of stevia is required to sweeten a beverage or recipe.
Q: What is third-party testing? Why is it important?
A: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates supplements in terms of manufacturing practices and safety. However, the FDA doesn’t effectively regulate supplements in terms of quality, purity, or label claims. Many independent tests of dietary supplements reveal what is in supplements (ingredients and dosage) doesn’t match what the label claims. Investigations also reveal many widely available supplements are contaminated with toxins, including heavy metals.
Because it’s so hard for consumers to know what supplement brands to trust, many companies will have their raw ingredients and final products third-party tested by a non-biased lab to ensure the quality of their products. You want to purchase supplements from companies that third-party test their products and are transparent with the results.
Q: What is the proper way to store supplements to maintain potency and shelf-life?
A: Keep supplements in their original (opaque) container and store them away from heat and light. Refrigerate supplements with fragile ingredients, like omega-3 fats and probiotics, to maintain product quality with use.
Q: Can I take too many supplements? How long should I take them for?
A: There is no hard and fast rule about how many supplements you should take or what is too many. It depends on your preferences, budget, health status, and other factors. Working with a supplement-knowledgeable Registered Dietitian can be extremely helpful.
Sometimes, I have clients come to me taking 20+ supplements per day. Since it can be hard to know what’s doing what, we scale back and clarify what supplements are most important for their current goals. Other times, clients may have digestive issues, and we need to work on gut healing before specific supplements can be absorbed and tolerated.
I like to think about supplements in two categories. First, consider your foundational nutrition supplements, like a multivitamin, fish oil, probiotic, and anything else that supports your health and lifestyle over the long term.
Second, there are supplements that you experiment with for a specific goal that tend to be more short-term. For example, if you are recovering from an injury, you might use anti-inflammatory nutrients and joint support for a few months. Or if you are going through a stressful time, you could add some additional sleep support to your routine.
Q: Can kids use protein powder?
A: The answer to this question is my favorite and most often used answer: it depends! It depends on your child’s age, size, dietary patterns, and other factors. This is an excellent question for your pediatrician or pediatric dietitian if you need personalized guidance.
On one hand, there is some concern from the medical community about children getting too much protein as their kidneys develop. While it’s hard to overeat protein from food, getting too much from liquids is easier.
If your child is healthy and already eating a variety of protein sources, they may not need supplemental protein regularly. Also, please note that serving sizes listed on protein powder containers are for adults, so you’d need to adjust the serving accordingly.
On the other hand, there are cases where children aren’t getting enough protein, are very picky eaters, or have a food allergy or other conditions where supplemental protein is an amazing tool to support their growth and development. Again, your pediatrician can help you determine the best approach for your child.
Q: Can I take too much collagen?
A: Collagen has many health benefits, and the modern diet tends to be low in natural collagen sources, making supplementation helpful for aging, skin health, bone health, meeting protein needs, and more.
Getting dietary protein from various sources is important to ensure you are getting enough of the essential amino acids. Collagen, on its own, isn’t complete in its amino acid profile, but combining collagen and egg protein improves the balance.
Research suggests that as much as 36% of daily protein can come from collagen sources, with the rest from mixed dietary sources. Practically, if your protein goal is 100 grams per day, you could get 20-30 grams of protein from collagen and still maintain a good protein balance. For reference, Twenty2 Nutrition Collagen Egg Protein includes 15.5 grams of collagen protein per serving.
As always, please work with your doctor or dietitian for individual nutrition advice.
Q: Are green powders safe for breastfeeding moms?
A: In most cases, Twenty2 Greens are safe while breastfeeding. However, we always recommend discussing supplements with your healthcare provider prior to use.
For more information on nutrition for breastfeeding, please read Breastfeeding Benefits, Nutrition, and Tips for Successful Breastfeeding.
Black Friday is the perfect time to stock up on foundational supplements and experiment with new ones to support your health goals through the holidays and into the New Year. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for supplementation, a few well-placed supplements, in addition to a nutritious diet and active lifestyle, can be incredibly beneficial.
If you have burning supplement questions that I didn’t answer here, please check out previous editions of Ask the Dietitian (here and here) or contact customer support, and we’ll be sure to cover your question in the next addition.
This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider before changing your diet or beginning a new supplement, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, take medication, or have a medical condition.
Ryah Nabielski, MS, RDN is a Registered Dietitian, functional nutritionist, writer, and recipe creator. Ryah helps clients use a natural, food-as-medicine approach to improve fertility, pregnancy, hormone balance, autoimmunity, and discover a healthy relationship with food and body. Learn more about Ryah and her private practice at econutrition.co.