Everything you need to know about top omega supplements

Timing Your Fish Oil: When to Take Your Supplement

Published March 22nd, 2019

When it comes to taking fish oil, you understandably have many questions. How does it help? What brand? And, one of the questions I’m most often asked: When do you actually need to take it for optimum benefit?

Choosing to take omega-3 supplements is one of the best decisions that you can make for you and your family. From increased energy and pain relief to mental health benefits, heart health, and even greater concentration, omega-3s are essential fatty acids that we simply do not get enough of through food intake alone. Sure, it’d be great if we could all just eat enough fish every day to maintain an appropriate omega-3 level, but what about the toxins and heavy metals in fish? What if you don’t even like fish? If that weren’t enough, you’d have to eat so much fish each week to reach the optimal amount of omega-3s that you’d be bored of it all after the first few days (not to mention filled with those fish toxins).

Fish has its place. It’s healthy in moderation, so long as you try to choose the least-contaminated varieties. The numerous vegetables and other foods filled with a high quantity of omega-3 fatty acids also play an important role in your health. However, it just isn’t realistic to think that you can achieve a healthy blood level of omega-3s through food alone. That’s why my family takes our supplements each day, even though I’m always sure to pack my kids’ lunch boxes with grass-fed beef jerky and chia seed treats, and even though we always start our morning off with a high-quality, omega-3 filled breakfast.

After experimenting with the various brands that I reviewed for this site, and particularly toying between Nordic Naturals and Omega XL, I ultimately settled on Omega XL as our family’s go-to supplement (the oil actually coming from green lipped mussels finally swayed me, as there has been a lot of research into the health power of those green-lipped mussels). From there, I based my decision on when to take fish oil on a few basic factors:
  1. When would we be most likely to take our fish oil? After all, I’m a mom!
  2. What time of day is actually best for the body to receive an omega-3 supplement?
  3. Is anyone taking any medications or other supplements that might interact with our fish oil?

You May Need to Take Your Fish Oil With Food

We need our omega-3s, no doubt about it, and most people don’t experience side effects when taking a quality omega-3 supplement. Your body wants it! The stories you hear about indigestion, disgusting fish burps, nausea-inducing smells — all of that usually stems from a lower-quality or rancid supplement. This is why I can’t stress enough the importance of really checking out our review blogs and testing out our highest rated supplements, in particular. Don’t just pick the first supplement that you see on the shelf at your local pharmacy. Sadly, because the supplement industry is so poorly regulated, there’s a good chance that what you see on the bottle isn’t even what’s inside of the capsules! You want to pick a trustworthy, reputable brand.

All of that said, there are some of us who are just plain sensitive. No matter how pure and natural a fish oil capsule, some people will be apart of the unfortunate few who experience stomach woes following supplement consumption. If you or someone in your family has a sensitive tummy, go ahead and plan to take your fish oil around meals.1 The meals will aide in the oil’s absorption, easing any gastrointestinal discomforts. It’s also worth noting that fish oil absorbs so much better when taken with fats, anyway.2 So, maybe take your supplement alongside a meal of healthy fats.

Don’t Forget to Take Your Other Medicines Into Account

Fish oil is an incredible natural blood thinner. You shouldn’t take it within a few hours of taking other natural blood thinners,1 like the equally beneficial turmeric. You should also space out your fish oil from that ibuprofen you just popped for a headache. Always check to make sure that your other supplements or over-the-counter products aren’t also blood thinners. If they are, space them out from your omega-3 product by at least a few hours.

Prescription drugs can get a little trickier. If you’re on prescribed blood thinners, definitely talk with your doctor before taking fish oil.3 Fish oil is amazing for so many conditions, but it does interact with blood thinners, and your doctor may need to help you safely plan out when to take your capsule or adjust your dose based on your blood thinner. Of course, people taking blood thinners find this to be true about a variety of foods, herbs, spices, and supplements that thin the blood. It’s always best to check with your physician when you want to add a supplement to a blood thinner regimen.

Check the Label

Often, your supplement’s label will offer suggestions on the best time to take your fish oil, such as in divided doses throughout the day with meals. If your label’s suggestion can fit into your schedule, that may be the best way to take your capsule. Fish oil supplements vary — some have you taking multiple pills a day, some just one or two. Following the label might just be your best advice.

When Will You Remember to Take Your Fish Oil?

My family takes our 2 Omega XL soft gels every morning with breakfast. I find it easiest to put into our morning routine. We get up, get ready for the day, take our supplements, and eat breakfast. For us, breakfast is usually the fattiest meal of the day, too — we routinely have flaxseed cereal, avocado, grass-fed butter on toast, and kale smoothies. Fish oil capsules fit right into our morning diet, as they are then easily absorbed with the healthy fats.2

For you, however, morning may be the worst possible time to take your fish oil — and that’s okay! As long as you’re getting that omega-3s, you’ll start seeing the benefits, and you’ll begin balancing out the more dangerous, and far more common omega-6s that pop up in Western diets on the regular. So, just make sure to pick a time that’s easiest for you to remember.1 And, as I said before, if you have a sensitive stomach, you may not want to take your supplement without having eaten at all!

Can You Take Fish Oil at Night? Does the Body Have a Preference?

This is a great question, but believe it or not, with all the research that’s been done regarding the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, a set time to take supplements doesn’t seem to have been determined. Feel free to take your fish oil whenever is right for you. If you think you’ll be more likely to remember to take your fish oil at night or to take your fish oil before bed, by all means, make popping an omega-3 supplement part of your nightly ritual. The most important thing is to just get that omega-3s!

What About Athletes?

Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly essential to athletes. Taking fish oil as an athlete helps reduce the inflammation that comes from intense exercise, as well as reduce muscle pain and fatigue. Still, there doesn’t seem to be any specific time that athletes should take their fish oil just as there isn’t a specific time for the general population to take their omega-3s.

You might want to avoid taking your fish oil right before a big race unless you know how your stomach reacts to your brand, as it could potentially make any indigestion worse when combined with high energy cardio. Instead, considering how well omega-3s aide in healing, you might choose to take your fish oil supplement post-workout, to help with recovery and further boost your energy. Pair it with an omega-3 rich snack, like walnuts, and the healthy fat will also help with the absorption. Omega-3s have made a world of difference for me as a runner.

Ultimately, Fish Oil Timing Is Really All About You

With fish oil supplements, you don’t have to stress so much about taking the pills at a certain time of day. It’s really more about your personal preference and individual needs. Have to take it with food? Need to consider its interaction with other medications? Prefer to take fish oil before bed? Go right ahead. Your body will thank you no matter when or how you take your fish oil.

When you do start regularly getting enough omega-3s in your diet and through your supplement, you’ll be amazed at how differently you’ll feel. Searching for more omega-3 tips? Don’t forget to check out my comprehensive list of omega-3 supplements and my past blogs on the topic.

References:

Can You Take Fish Oil at Night? (n.d.). Retrieved March 19, 2019, from https://www.livestrong.com/article/481436-can-you-take-fish-oil-at-night/

Is it true that fish oil is better absorbed when taken with a fatty meal? (n.d.). Retrieved March 19, 2019, from https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/is-it-true-that-fish-oil-is-better-absorbed-when-taken-with-a-fatty-meal/fish-oil-absorption/

Sinatra, S. (2018, December 13). Is It Safe to Mix Fish Oil and Blood Thinners? Retrieved March 19, 2019, from https://heartmdinstitute.com/heart-health/is-it-safe-to-mix-fish-oil-and-blood-thinners