Which vitamins are best for improving energy?

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When supplementing with vitamins, it is important to understand the changes they promote in the body. In terms of energy supplements, there are many natural and over-the-counter vitamins. So what are the best vitamins for energy?

With advances in technology and faster lifestyles, fatigue is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society. This can happen with changes in work schedules, sleep deprivation, or a lack of a balanced diet. The National Center of Sleep Disorders reported that 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders.1 In Canada, it has been reported that one in three adults is unable to easily stay awake throughout the day.2 These disruptions in our schedules as well as deficiencies in our diet can lead to feelings of low energy and fatigue.

Diet plays an important role in ensuring that we get our daily nutrients. However, taking vitamins is sometimes a great way to supplement our diet. Food can play an important role in helping to achieve day-to-day energy levels. Eating a balanced diet can increase levels of essential vitamins and minerals. Food is converted into “energy” by our cells in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is just a long name referring to the energy “currency” of cells. The best vitamins for energy generally promote increased levels of ATP in the body.

Over-the-counter vitamins

Starting with vitamin B12, this is an important vitamin in the production of ATP (or energy). Previous studies have shown that vitamin B12 plays an important role in the processes involved in the production of ATP.3 This vitamin can be purchased over the counter or can be found in certain foods. Vitamin B12 is one of the best vitamins for energy. Meat, fish and animal products are often rich in vitamin B12.3 For vegetarians and vegans, however, vitamin B12 supplementation can help maintain an overall healthy diet.

Citrulline is another commonly used supplement for increasing energy. This compound plays a role in the urea cycle, which simply refers to the process by which the body converts toxic substances into urea and releases it as urine.4 This supplement is often taken in a mixture with malate, which is another compound involved in ATP production processes.4 A 2002 study with citrulline/malate supplementation found a decrease in feelings of “loss of energy” or fatigue.4 This study looked at the effect of this supplement on exercised muscles and found a 34% increase in the rate of ATP production during exercise.4 Based on these findings, citrulline malate supplementation has benefits for energy production. These supplements can be found at most supplement stores. People taking certain medications should not take citrulline supplements – talk to your healthcare provider to make sure it is safe for you.

Certain nutritional deficiencies can often lead to fatigue or feelings of “lack of energy”. One of the most common dietary deficiencies in the world is iron deficiency.5 Patients who suffer from anemia or iron deficiency often report feeling increased fatigue.6

So can iron supplementation help offset these effects?

A research study was conducted in 2012 to determine if iron supplementation has beneficial effects on fatigue.7 This group found that iron supplementation helped improve feelings of energy depletion in women with iron deficiency.7 Using a psychological fatigue rating scale, they found that the average score on this scale decreased by 47.7% after receiving iron supplements.7

Other Supplements

On the other hand, there are other natural supplements that can be used to increase energy. Ashwagandha, an herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine. Ashwagandha has adaptogenic effects, which means it can help reduce stress.8 In a 2019 sleep study, ashwagandha supplementation was found to help improve sleep quality and overall reduce stress.8 Anxiety and stress were assessed using a generalized scale, and results showed a significant decrease in stress scale scores after Ashwagandha supplementation.8

Another adaptogen, Rhodiola rosea, is an herb with similar effects to ashwagandha. Studies have reported that this herb may be associated with protection against stress as well as stress-related fatigue.9 Extracts from this plant influence molecular cascades in our cells that eventually lead to a stress response.9 By inhibiting parts of these pathways, Rhodiola rosea can offset the effects of stress and fatigue.9

Overall, eating a healthy, balanced diet is one of the best ways to prevent vitamin deficiencies. So which vitamin is best for energy? Well, it directly depends on individual needs. Working with a doctor and/or nutritionist is the best way to ensure your diet meets your body’s nutritional needs and to prevent deficiencies. It is important to ensure that with busy schedules you continue to take care of your body’s needs, which includes a balanced diet and an appropriate amount of sleep each night. These holistic options can improve energy levels or prevent feelings of fatigue. It’s important to learn what works best for your body, and talking to a doctor about these choices can benefit overall health. Always consult your doctor before taking any vitamins or supplements to make sure they are right for you.

The references:

  1. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Sleep deprivation and deprivation. Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency.
  2. Public Health Agency of Canada. 2019. Do Canadian adults get enough sleep? Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/adult-canadians-sleep-enough-infographic.html
  3. Kennedy DO. 2016. B vitamins and the brain: mechanisms, dose and efficacy – a review. Nutrients. 8(68): 2-29.
  4. Bendahan D, Mattei JP, Ghattas B, Confort-Gouny S, Guern MEL, Cozzone PJ. 2002. Citrulline/malate promotes aerobic energy production in human muscles. Br J Sports Med. 36(4): 282-289.
  5. Auerbach M, Goodnough LT, Shander A. Iron: new therapeutic advances. Best Practice Res Clin Anesthesiol. 2013; 27:131–40.
  6. Neidlein S, Wirth R, Pourhassan M. 2021. Iron deficiency, fatigue, and muscle strength and function in older hospitalized patients. ECJN. 75: 456-463.
  7. Vaucher P, Druais PL, Waldvogel S, Favrat B. 2012. Effect of iron supplementation on fatigue in non-anaemic menstruating women with low ferritin: a randomized controlled trial. 184(11): 1247-1254.
  8. Salve J, Pate S, Debnath K, Langade D. 2019. Adaptogenic and anxiolytic effects of ashwagandha root extract in healthy adults: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical study. 11(12):e6466.
  9. Panossian A, Wikman G. 2009. Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue and molecular mechanisms related to their stress protective activity. 4(3): 198-219.
  10. Photo by Picas Joe from Pexels
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