When supplementing with vitamins, it’s important to understand the changes they promote in the body. In terms of energy-promoting supplements, there’s lots of over the counter and natural vitamins available. So, which are the best vitamins for energy?
With advancements in technology and more fast-paced lifestyles, fatigue is becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s society. This can occur with changes in work schedules, sleep deprivation, or lack of a balanced diet. The National Centre of Sleep Disorders reported 50-70 million Americans have sleep disorders.1 In Canada, it was reported that 1 in 3 adults are unable to easily stay awake throughout the day.2 These disruptions to our schedules as well as deficiencies in our diets can lead to feelings of reduced energy and fatigue.
Diet plays a large role in ensuring we get our daily nutrients. However, sometimes taking vitamins is a great way to supplement our diets. Food can play a large role in helping achieve day-to-day energy levels. Having a balanced diet can increase levels of vitamins and minerals that are essential. 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 usually promote increases in ATP levels in the body.
Starting off with vitamin B12, this is an important vitamin in producing ATP (or, energy). Previous studies have shown that vitamin B12 plays a large role in the processes that are involved in ATP production.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, supplementing with vitamin B12 pills may help support an overall healthy diet.
Citrulline is another common supplement used to increase energy. This compound plays a role in the urea cycle, which just refers to the process by which the body converts toxic substances into urea and releases it as urine.4 This supplement is often taken as a mixture with malate, which is another compound involved in the processes that produce ATP.4 A 2002 study with citrulline/malate supplementation found a decrease in feelings of ‘energy-loss’ or fatigue.4 This study looked at the effect of this supplement on exercised muscle and found a 34% increase in the rate of ATP production during exercise.4 Based on these results, citrulline malate supplementation has benefits in terms of energy production. These supplements can be found at most supplement stores. People taking certain medications should not take citrulline supplements – speak with your healthcare provider to make sure this is safe for you.
Certain deficiencies with diet can often lead to fatigue or feelings of a ‘lack of energy.’ One of the most common diet related deficiencies throughout the world is iron deficiency.5 Patients who suffer from anemia or iron deficiency often report feeling increased fatigue.6
So, can supplementing with iron help offset these effects?
A research study was conducted in 2012 to determine whether iron supplementation has beneficial effects on fatigue.7 This group found that iron supplementation helped improved feelings of depleted energy in women who were suffering from iron deficiency.7 Using a psychological scale for assessing fatigue, they found that the mean score on this scale decreased by 47.7% after receiving iron supplements.7
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 that may aid in reducing stress.8 In a sleep study conducted in 2019, it was found that ashwagandha supplementation helped improve sleep quality and overall, help reduce stress.8 Both anxiety and stress were assessed using a generalized scale, and the results showed a significant decrease in stress scale scores following supplementation with Ashwagandha.8
Another adaptogen, Rhodiola rosea, is a plant with similar effects as ashwagandha. Studies have reported that this plant may be associated with protection from stress as well as stress-related fatigue.9 The extracts of this plant influence the molecular cascades in our cells that eventually lead to a stress response.9 By inhibiting certain parts of these pathways, Rhodiola rosea may offset stress and fatigue-related effects.9
Overall, having a healthy well-balanced diet is one of the best ways to prevent vitamin deficiencies. So which vitamin is best for energy? Well, that depends directly on individual needs. Working with a physician and/or nutritionist is the best way to ensure that your diet is meeting your body’s nutritional needs, and to prevent deficiencies. It is important to ensure that with busy schedules, you’re still taking care of your body’s needs, which includes a balanced diet and an appropriate amount of sleep every night. These holistic options may provide improvements to energy levels or prevent feelings of fatigue. It is important to learn what works best for your body and speaking to a physician about these choices can be beneficial for overall health. Always speak with your doctor before taking vitamins or supplements to make sure they are right for you.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency. Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency.
- Public Health Agency of Canada. 2019. Are Canadian adults getting enough sleep? Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/canadian-adults-getting-enough-sleep-infographic.html
- Kennedy DO. 2016. B vitamins and the brain: mechanisms, dose and efficacy- a review. Nutrients. 8(68): 2-29.
- Bendahan D, Mattei JP, Ghattas B, Confort-Gouny S, Guern MEL, Cozzone PJ. 2002. Citrulline/malate promotes aerobic energy production in human exercising muscle. Br J Sports Med. 36(4): 282-289.
- Auerbach M, Goodnough LT, Shander A. Iron: the new advances in therapy. Best Pract Res Clin Anaesthesiol. 2013; 27:131–40.
- Neidlein S, Wirth R, Pourhassan M. 2021. Iron deficiency, fatigue and muscle strength and function in older hospitalized patients. ECJN. 75: 456-463.
- Vaucher P, Druais PL, Waldvogel S, Favrat B. 2012. Effect of iron supplementation on fatigue in nonanemic menstruating women with low ferritin: a randomized controlled trial. 184(11): 1247-1254.
- 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.
- 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.
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