Vitamin B12 is brain food. It helps us in so many ways and it’s considered an essential nutrient for a reason. As a vegan, I’ve been taking B12 for over a decade now. However, if you’re new to B12 supplements, you may wonder what time you should be taking it.
The best time to take vitamin B12 is early in the day, first thing in the morning or with breakfast. It doesn’t matter much if you take it with a meal or on an empty stomach, but it may be best absorbed on an empty stomach by avoiding food interactions.
Below I’ll dive into the details a bit more, and also talk about who needs B12, why they need it, and why you probably should start taking it right now! I’ve also gone the extra mile and reviewed the top B12 supplements to choose from! (One of them is perfect for vegans.)
Best Time of Day to Take Vitamin B12
Like mentioned above, the best time to take your vitamin B12 is early in the day. This will give you some extra energy for the day. Meanwhile, taking it later on in the day might interfere with your sleep.
If you like caffeine, you might want to wait an hour after your morning brew or cup of joe to take the supplements, however.
Caffeine interferes with the absorption of many vitamins and minerals. It also increases the frequency of urination, which can flush the vitamins out of your system early on.
Can You Take Vitamin B12 on an Empty Stomach?
The short answer is yes. In fact, vitamin B12 will be absorbed better on an empty stomach. This is due to the interactions it has with certain foods that can decrease its absorption with those foods.
Best Vitamin B12 Supplements
Here are the vitamin B12 supplements I would recommend. You only need one of them, but I’m listing 3 since they each are best for different people.
If you’re a vegan, this is the perfect way to get your B12. This multivitamin combines vitamin B12 with the two other nutrients that vegans lack most often—vitamin D and omega-3.
This multivitamin is made specifically by vegans, for vegans. The packaging it comes in actually has an awesome vegan graphic on it. I love the smell of the vitamins (citrus), too.
Go read my full review of why I believe this is the best multivitamin for vegans, hands down. It’ll make you want to stop taking whatever else you’re taking right now and switch to this!
Deva Vegan Vitamin B12 (Sublingual)
This was the vitamin B12 I took before I switched to Future Kind’s multivitamin. It’s a great choice—I’ve trusted DEVA with several other supplements in the past, and I’ve had no problems with any of them.
If you don’t like swallowing pills, this B12 is especially good for you, as it’s a sublingual. This means you can just let the tablet dissolve under your tongue.
It has a great flavor, actually, and I appreciate that the flavor is not from sugar. It’s just a bit of xylitol, sorbitol, and “lemon flavor.” And of course, it’s all vegan.
Each tablet contains 100% of your daily requirement for folic acid, too, along with vitamin B6. So if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, this is the go-to product for you.
Overall, this is a solid pick for your B12 supplemental needs, with a few extra nutrients to seal the deal! Check price on Amazon.
Garden of Life B12 Vitamin (Spray)
This is another trusted brand that gets great reviews. This B12 is actually a spray, and it’s just as delicious as the DEVA sublingual.
Some say this B12 works for them in a way that others do not and their results were dramatic. But as far as I can tell, it’s just another great B12 option that can definitely handle your needs. So if a spray sounds fun, go for this one! Check price on Amazon.
Benefits of Taking Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is called an essential nutrient for a reason. It’s a critical factor in various body processes.
Vitamin B12 is considered vital in making your body produce red blood cells.
If you don’t get enough of the nutrient, your body will form fewer red blood cells, and even not develop them properly. This is the primary cause of megaloblastic anemia, which will leave you fatigued and feeling weak.
Benefits the Brain
You’ve probably heard about memory loss being associated with vitamin B12 deficiency. This is true in principle.
The vitamin assumes an important role in the prevention of brain atrophy, which is the degradation of neurons in the brain. This will often lead to memory loss or dementia.
Vitamin B12 can significantly improve your memory. There’s also research circulating about vitamin B12 supplements boosting cognitive functions and your level of attention.
Supports Bone Health
Ensuring that you receive the daily dose of vitamin B12 can correlate directly to your bone health.
One alarming study sheds light on that matter, showing that more than 2,500 adults who were vitamin B12 deficient also had low bone mineral density.
If you’re a woman, you’re more at risk of developing osteoporosis if you have low vitamin B12 levels.
Improves Mood and Depression Symptoms
Yes, taking vitamin B12 can improve your general mood, and make you feel happier.
The specific reason for that isn’t completely understood. However, we know that this nutrient plays a vital role in the production and metabolizing of serotonin, the chemical that’s in charge of regulating our mood.
A study was conducted on people with depression who were also vitamin b12 deficient. Those who took both antidepressants and vitamin B12 showed less depressive symptoms than those taking antidepressants alone.
Gives an Energy Boost
You’ll often find vitamin B12 supplements marketed as the go-to product if you want some extra energy. You’ll even find it in a lot of energy drinks.
The truth is, all B vitamins play different, but equally important, roles in energy production.
However, if you don’t feel like you have a deficiency in vitamin B12, or weren’t clinically diagnosed with it, you might not need to take the vitamin just for an energy boost.
Who Should Take Vitamin B12?
You’re now probably aware of the various health benefits of this nutrient, but should you be taking it?
In truth, a lot of people should start taking supplemental vitamin B12, and you could be one of them!
All long-term vegans should supplement with B12.
The original source of B12 is actually bacteria, which are vegan enough (bacteria aren’t animals). Humans of the past actually got B12 by eating dirty plants and drinking from streams. But today, our water and food are a lot cleaner, so they don’t give us B12.
As a result, today’s food options for B12 are just products of animals who ate grass or drank water from nature.
People who eat animal-based foods have these options: If they eat 2 eggs, 3 ounces of tuna, and 3 ounces of beef, they’ll receive more than double their daily B12 intake. But for vegans (like me), those options are off the table. Luckily, we can just take a supplement and all is well.
Seniors are in special need of vitamin B12, too. 3.2% of adults older than 50 years have significantly lower vitamin B12 levels. Additionally, up to 20% may already be vitamin B12 deficient, or on the verge of becoming deficient.
Other Conditions to Take Vitamin B12 for
- Digestive tract condition
- Crohn’s disease
- Grave’s disease
How Much Vitamin B12 Should You Take?
The RDI (recommended daily intake) for vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg. This applies to almost anyone over the age of 14.
However, your lifestyle, age, or special circumstances can mean that you should be taking more or less than the RDI.
Here are some guidelines for B12 doses, depending on your specific situation.
Adults Aged Below 50
Most adults should meet the RDI of 2.4 mcg through diet. This is the ideal dosage for this age group, and supplementing with B12 isn’t needed (unless you’re vegan or in another at-risk category).
Adults Aged over 50
Like we’ve mentioned above, older people are more prone to vitamin B12 deficiency than younger people. It’s worth mentioning that up to 62% of adults over 65 have very low levels of this nutrient.
At this age, the body starts naturally producing less stomach acid and intrinsic factor. These are the two main components that can negatively affect the absorption of the vitamin.
This is why the National Academy of Medicine says that senior adults should be taking most of their B12 from supplements.
How much exactly? 500 mcg seems like the sweet spot for getting the B12 levels back on track. If you’re showing deficiency signs and symptoms, taking up to 1 mg daily can give you incredible results! Don’t forget to consult your healthcare provider if the symptoms persist or worsen.
Pregnant women are special. It should come as no surprise that they naturally require higher vitamin B12 than the rest of the population. The RDI during pregnancy is 2.6 mcg.
Vitamin B12 deficiency in infants that breastfeed can cause developmental delays. It can also lead to unrestfulness, low appetite, and failure to thrive.
The RDI for breastfeeding women is 2.8 mcg.
Two More Recommendation for Your Vegan Journey
1. I already mentioned this one above, but this is the best vegan multivitamin I’ve found in 13 years of being vegan. It has vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3—and nothing else. Translation: It only has the nutrients vegans are actually low in. Read my full review of Future Kind’s multivitamin here (with 10% discount).
2. This is the best vegan starter kit I know of. It’s a bundle of 9 beautiful e-books that help you transition to a healthy plant-based diet the right way. The advice is spot-on, and it has print-outs and checklists that make it easy to implement. Read my full review of Nutriciously here.