As a doctor, one common question that my patients ask is “how long does it take for supplements to work?”
Even though this is a very popular question, there is no straightforward answer. The time it takes for a supplement to work depends on a variety of factors.
In this article, I’ll show you when and how certain supplements should start producing results. I’ll also give you a few tips to help you get the most out of your supplements and approach them with realistic expectations.
The Main Consideration: Metabolization
When you ingest a supplement, it needs to be metabolized in your body: the ingredients in the supplement need to be absorbed into your body before they can start working.
Supplements that are metabolized quickly are able to give you results that you can feel after just a couple of days, or potentially even faster. On the other hand, some supplements may need a significant “loading” period before they start to produce any noticeable effects.
There are 3 main factors that affect the duration it takes for a supplement to work.
Factor #1: Format of the Supplement
First of all, you need to consider the type of supplement that you are using. Some supplement formats metabolize faster than others. For example, water-soluble vitamins will be able to circulate through your body faster than fat-soluble vitamins.
Delivery method matters! Consuming a dietary capsule is likely to take longer to work than a tincture with a liquid that you place underneath your tongue.
Sublingual administration, the process in which a product is placed under your tongue, is an extremely effective delivery method for fast results. There are a variety of supplements that can be administered in this way – some are available in the form of liquids, while others come in the form of sprays or small pills.
When it comes to herbal supplements, the topic gets a little tricky. It generally takes time for the active chemicals in herbal supplements to start working in your body. Some herbal supplements can take a few weeks to start kicking in, while others may even require longer-term usage to produce any results.
Factor #2: Your Deficiencies
Most people are taking a supplement because they are trying to solve a deficiency in a specific nutritional area.
If you have a serious nutritional deficiency, it can take more time for a supplement to work. Your body’s current equilibrium is its deficient state. Even with a high-quality supplement that is well suited to solve the deficiency, to pull your body out of this state takes time.
If you are taking a supplement without a deficiency, for example supplementing with creatine for better results in the gym, then you may experience faster results.
Factor #3: Supplement Quality
The quality of the supplement you take plays a major role in how fast it will work.
The tricky thing here is that it can be very difficult to tell which supplements are truly high-quality. Every company that sells supplements claims to be better than the rest. Some of them promise the moon, and make it very difficult to truly understand what benefits you might get from their products.
If you’re concerned with the time it’s going to take for your supplement to work, make sure you research the absorption method the supplement company is using. There are a few companies that use special technologies to improve the absorption rate of ingredients. These products may come at a higher price, but the enhanced absorption method could mean they will take effect quickly.
Ok Dr. Zayed, Just Tell Me How Long My Supplements Will Take to Work
Alright, in this section I’m going to give an approximate breakdown of how long certain supplement categories will take to work. Keep in mind your results will vary greatly depending on the brand of the supplement, the delivery method, and your body.
Vitamins, minerals, proteins, and herbal supplements all have different ways of being metabolized and absorbed into your body. The specific category of your supplement will play a large role in dictating how long it will take to show results.
Water-soluble vitamins generally start to produce effects within one day. Fat-soluble vitamins on the other hand need fat to be metabolized. They may take a little longer – give them a few days to start working. The B vitamin family tends to show faster effects than other vitamins that are available.
Supplementing daily with iron is required to produce effective results, it’s not the type of thing you can jump in and out of. It can take a while for an iron supplement to work, and most people will start to feel the effects within two to three weeks. It is extremely important not to take too much iron, and to ensure you stay consistent and don’t skip days.
Protein is a relatively fast-acting supplement. To help build muscle, many people use protein powder in shakes before or after a workout.
Protein contains amino acids that are used in muscle repair. Protein powder supplements help improve energy and endurance during workout sessions. They will also help improve muscle recovery after the workout.
Most people should be able to feel the effects of a protein supplement shortly after they finish their workout session.
Creatine is also a relatively fast-acting supplement, and is often used as a pre-workout product. Most people take creatine about 30 minutes to one hour before exercising. It’s a highly researched supplement that can be used to boost energy during high output physical activity.
The time it takes for collagen to work depends on why you are taking the supplement. Some people start to see improvements in their skin within the first four days. Studies show that about twelve weeks are needed for optimal results.
How long it will take for probiotics to have an effect will again depend on your reason for using them. For diarrhea, a probiotic supplement may start to produce results within two days. To balance your gut microbiome, it will take longer.
Will Taking A Higher Dose Make Supplements Work Faster?
It can sometimes take a while before you experience any benefits from a supplement. This is why a lot of people either decide to give up on the supplement or take a high dose. The idea behind taking a higher dose is that the supplement will work faster. Unfortunately, this is not how things work.
In fact, if you decide to take a higher dose than recommended, you may end up doing more damage than good. Never take a higher-than-recommended dose of any supplement or medication.
The body can only metabolize and absorb a certain amount of chemicals and nutrients. If you decide to ramp up your dosage beyond recommend limits, many of the ingredients will just be expelled from your body. Not only are you wasting money, you’re potentially exposing yourself to serious side effects.
There are serious risks associated with an overdose of certain supplements. A high dose of certain vitamins in particular may lead to dangerous long-term complications.
If you take too much vitamin B6, for example, you could experience permanent nerve damage. An excessive dose of niacin can lead to serious liver damage. When you take too much vitamin B9, also known as folate, it may cause a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Herbal supplements can also cause adverse side effects at high dosages. The risk of severe negative effects greatly increases when you take more of these supplements that what is recommended.
Using supplements can be a great way to solve nutrient deficiencies and improve overall health. Pace yourself, and approach them with realistic expectations.
Some supplements work rather quickly, while others take a significant amount of time to yield results. It is important to understand how long you should allow before determining whether a supplement is effective or not. Above all, don’t get frustrated and ramp up the dosage to a potentially unsafe level.