Taking Vitamin C On Empty Stomach: 3 Tips for Optimal Absorption

  • By Patrick Dougherty
  • 10 minute read
Vitamin C on An Empty Stomach: 3 Tips for Optimal Absorption. A cardboard cutout stomach. Three vitamin C capsules sit on top of the stomach cutout

Taking nutritional supplements alongside a healthy diet is one of the best ways to maintain optimal body function. Whether it's a few nutrients or a one-and-done multivitamin, they're great for filling in dietary gaps. But while filling your supplement organizer is a great reminder to take your nutrients, your body absorbs vitamins and minerals differently, which means timing is everything. Some are absorbed best with food, while others should be taken on an empty stomach.

One vitamin that falls into the latter groups is the super-immune nutrient, vitamin C. Because it is water soluble, the best time to take vitamin C is on an empty stomach. This practice can lead to better absorption—but also unwelcome GI side effects. If you're someone who experienced gastric upset when taking vitamin C without food, this article is for you. We're breaking down the importance of getting enough vitamin C, how much you need, and the best ways to avoid side effects.

Key Takeaways

  • Can you take vitamin C on an empty stomach? Yes! In fact, that is the best time to take vitamin C.
  • As one of the water-soluble vitamins, Vitamin C is best taken on an empty stomach for optimal absorption. B vitamins are also water soluble and absorb better when taken on an empty stomach.
  • The fat-soluble vitamins are best absorbed when taken with a fat containing meal. Dietary fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K.
  • Some cheaper forms of Vitamin C used in low-quality supplements can cause gastric distress when taken on an empty stomach.

  • High-dose Vitamin C on empty stomach (over 2 grams in a serving) may also cause indigestion.

  • NutriGenesis® is a fermented form of Vitamin C (and other vitamins and minerals) found in quality supplements. This nature-identical form is easy to take on an empty stomach.

What Is Ascorbic Acid And Why Do We Need It?

What is vitamin C and why do we need it? It's an essential nutrient found in foods pictured here, including citrus fruits, kiwis, peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, cranberries and corn

If you take vitamins, you already know Vitamin C has a pretty big reputation as a potent immune booster—but that’s just one of its functions.

Vitamin C is one of the water-soluble vitamins that cannot be produced in the body and must come through diet or supplementation.

While few mammals can endogenously make vitamin C, humans aren’t one (guinea pigs are, though!). The human body lacks the enzyme called gluconolactone oxidase required for producing ascorbic acid. 1 We can’t store vitamin C either.

You’ll sometimes hear vitamin C called ascorbic acid, and it plays several critical roles in optimal performance, including:

  • Collagen synthesis
  • Wound healing
  • Bone formation
  • Blood vessel and blood flow health
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Antioxidant
  • Immune function
  • Nitric oxide bioactivity
  • Neurotransmitter synthesis
  • Maintaining iron stores
  • Cognitive function and mood
  • Antioxidant regeneration

Need us to expand on how vital this water-soluble super-nutrient is? Although it’s essential for optimal function, its antioxidant function is perhaps the biggest.

Because vitamin C is an electron donor and a reducing agent, most of its physiological and biochemical actions are attributed to this, which is why it’s classified as such a powerful antioxidant.

But vitamin C has a unique feature that most other molecules don’t have. Molecules require an entire outer shell of electrons to maintain stability; when they lose electrons, they become unstable and highly reactive (i.e. they generate free radicals).

However, vitamin C is the exception to the rule. When vitamin C loses an electron, it remains relatively stable, making it one of the best free radical scavengers in the body, hence why it’s such a powerful antioxidant.

But it’s important to remember that because vitamin C isn’t stored in the body, replenishing it daily is essential. Individuals who might be susceptible to vitamin C deficiency could benefit from using vitamin C supplements. Taking vitamin C on an empty stomach is the most efficient way to do so. The best time to take vitamin C is up to you; as long as your stomach is empty, you will enjoy better absorption.

On top of that, although it plays a significant role in immune function, getting sick increases the demand for vitamin C even more due to increased inflammation and metabolic demands. 2

How Much Vitamin C Do You Need?

How Much Vitamin C Do You Need? Determine your upper limit with a test where high-dose vitamin C on an empty stomach is taken until gastric distress, pictured as a man sitting on a couch and grimacing as he holds both hands over his abdomen in discomfort

Looking at the RDI for vitamin C, you might think it’s pretty low.

Currently, the RDI for vitamin C is just 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women. 3 This is about what you’d find in six ounces of orange juice.

Some studies, however, find that if you’re looking for immune support, you will need higher intake: at least 2,000 mg per day. 4

Although that may seem like a stretch from the recommended intake, vitamin C is one of the water-soluble vitamins, which means there’s little risk of toxicity. When you take vitamins that are water-soluble, whatever isn’t used will be excreted. Similar to vitamin C, folic acid is another essential nutrient that needs to be taken daily, especially important for pregnant women.

Ideally, if you want to experiment with taking vitamin C at higher doses, you can test your appropriate intake by doing a vitamin C flush (i.e. testing for bowel tolerance).

It’s best to do this test on an empty stomach and somewhere where you’ll have a toilet readily available, as taking vitamin C at high doses can lead to GI upset. Here's what you need to do

  • Dissolve 2,000 mg of powdered vitamin C in water
  • Keep track of how much you consume and at what time
  • Every 20 minutes, drink another 2,000 mg (write it down)
  • Continue consuming 2,000 mg every 20 minutes until you reach bowel tolerance (you experience loose stools)

Once you’ve rushed to the toilet, you’ve hit your maximum for vitamin C.

But before you note that dose down, subtract 1,000 mg from your final quantity—this is the amount that’s enough to maintain levels without sending you rushing from the room.

Intake requirements vary, so the time needed to reach vitamin C saturation can take hours, but most people will get it in 2 to 3 hours.

But if you want an ultra-convenient way to max out your vitamin C intake while simultaneously supporting overall health and immune function, there’s a simple fix: stack Performance Lab NutriGenesis Multi and Performance Lab PL-Immune.

They’re two of the most innovative vitamin C-rich supplements designed to supercharge your body. From filling in nutrient gaps to supporting five types of immune cells, NutriGenesis Multi and PL-Immune provide your body with everything they need to kick them into high gear.

Oh, and there’s no need to worry about testing your water-soluble vitamin C tolerance—the appropriate doses are taken care of for you.

Can You Take Vitamin C On An Empty Stomach?

Can you take vitamin C on empty stomach? A woman holding a vitamin C capsule up to her mouth and smiling. In her other hand she holds a glass of water

While vitamin C has low toxicity, when you take it will dictate how effective it is. The best time to take vitamin C is on an empty stomach.

Because it's a water-soluble nutrient, Vitamin C doesn't require fat for proper absorption, which means maximum absorption happens when there's no competition.

Take your vitamin C first thing in the morning before eating, or at least 30 minutes before meals. However, large single doses of vitamin C can cause gastrointestinal upset, so people with sensitive stomachs could experience cramping, gas, or diarrhea.

How To Maximize Vitamin C Absorption (And Minimize Gastric Upset)

If you're having trouble taking vitamin C on an empty stomach—let's be realistic, many people do—there are a few things you can do to maximize absorption without dealing with the nasty GI side effects. Here are 3 tips to help:

1. Choose the proper supplement form

If you find that powdered or capsule forms of vitamin C are causing minor gastric distress, opting for a liposomal form may be better suited.

Liposomes are phospholipids that surround vitamin C and protect it from harsh environments like the stomach and degradation. Once it passes through the stomach, it's absorbed in the intestine and directly into the bloodstream. But why liposomal?

Research shows that less than 30% of vitamin C in tablet form is absorbed, whereas up to 98% of liposomal vitamin C is absorbed. 5 Alternatively, if you're enhancing vitamin C with cofactors, you could increase its absorption rate substantially.

NutriGenesis is our recommended form of vitamin C. It presents the vitamin in nature-identical form, including all the cofactors that enable absorption. More on that in our next section.

2. Use food first

Increasing your intake of vitamin C-rich foods as part of a balanced diet should be a priority, but if you're still not meeting your daily requirements, opt for a gentler vitamin C supplement made from whole food sources.

There are several vitamin C powders on the market made from dehydrated and powdered foods, which ensure optimal absorption and provide a slew of other nutrients in the process.

Buffered ascorbic acid can even be suitable for people who experience stomach upset with conventional vitamin C supplements. Buffered vitamin C is mixed with magnesium, potassium, and calcium to reduce GI symptoms and allow for higher doses.

3. Reduce the dose

If you're taking your vitamin C supplement on an empty stomach (which you should be), consider lowering the dose slightly to avoid the potential for upset stomach.

Vitamin C as NutriGenesis

Vitamin C as NutriGenesis matches nature. A halved orange surrounded by golden nutrient chemical structure models against a pale background

NutriGenesis® is a proprietary form of dietary fat-soluble vitamins, water-soluble vitamins and key minerals designed to mimic nutrient production in nature, making them highly bioavailable and easy for the body to recognize and utilize.

This process involves creating complex nutrients that include cofactors, such as peptides, lipids, carbohydrates, and beta-glucans, which are typically found alongside vitamins and minerals in natural food sources.

The aim of NutriGenesis® technology is to produce nutrients that are closer to the form found in whole foods, which may enhance absorption and effectiveness within the body compared to synthetic or isolated forms of vitamins and minerals.

By replicating the natural structure of nutrients, NutriGenesis® seeks to bridge the gap between traditional supplements and the nutritional benefits of a whole-foods diet, potentially offering a more balanced and effective way to meet dietary needs.

NutriGenesis technology is used in various dietary supplements to enhance their absorption and effectiveness.

Supplements with NutriGenesis Vitamin C

Performance Lab® Immune

Performance Lab® Immune white bottle atop a pile of oranges

Ingredients: Vitamin D3 (liposomal from lichen), Vitamin C (via NutriGenesis®), Selenium (via NutriGenesis®), Zinc (via NutriGenesis®), Lactococcus lactis strain Plasma (Postbiotic), Glutathione.

Performance Lab® Immune restores immune health that may be weakened by nutritional shortfalls, stress, toxins and poor diet. It also activates and coordinates 5 types of immune cells. The end result helps your immune system to fight, adapt and evolve to best defend your health.

More on Performance Lab® Immune

Performance Lab® NutriGenesis Multi

Performance Lab® NutriGenesis Multi for Men and for Women. White boxes and bottles against a white background. Formula for men white bottle and box with plus symbol icon on a square of blue. Formula for women with plus symbol icon on a square of pink

Ingredients: 24 cultured essential vitamins and minerals complexed with cofactors for optimal potency. Includes 100 mg of vitamin C per serving.

Performance Lab® multivitamin is presented in formulas for men's and women's distinct nutritional needs. These products feature NutriGenesis® lab-grown vitamins and minerals with cofactors, enzymes and probiotics that enhance their absorption.

More on Performance Lab® NutriGenesis® Multi

Conclusion: Addressing Vitamin C Deficiency

Taking vitamins daily is tricky enough, but when you factor in that different nutrients are best absorbed at different times, things can get complicated.

If you've been wondering "Can I take vitamin C on an empty stomach?" You have your answer in this article: absolutely! In fact, the best time to take vitamin C is when your stomach is empty.

Vitamin C on an empty stomach is sometimes linked to GI issues, which may happen with the ascorbic acid form. In these cases, changing your supplement form, relying on whole food-based sources, or lowering your dose could solve your problem.

Adjust your supplement routine to take vitamin C on an empty stomach comfortably and you will enjoy the best absorption and greatest nutritional support for your body from this all-star nutrient.