Best Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements for Boosting Energy
Are you always exhausted? Do you wake up feeling like you just want to go back to sleep? Is it painfully difficult to focus on everyday tasks? If so, you might have a vitamin or mineral deficiency.
While they aren’t the only cause of fatigue (stress, depression, and certain medical conditions may be to blame), vitamin or mineral deficiencies are a common contributor. If you don’t do anything to combat it, fatigue can begin to take over your life.
Vitamins, minerals, and supplements might not be able to single-handedly cure you of fatigue. However, the ones on this list will almost certainly help. By incorporating them into your day-to-day life, you’ll help yourself feel energized, focused, and motivated.
Minerals and Vitamins for Energy
Plenty of people around the world take vitamins for energy and weight loss. And for good reason–many vitamin deficiencies can result in significant physical and mental fatigue. Even if you take a multivitamin, it’s a good idea to look into additional supplements to help boost your energy. Here are some of the vitamins and minerals that have been scientifically shown to give you more energy:
The B vitamins
You probably already know that B vitamins rank among the top vitamins for energy and tiredness. And while supplementation of one B vitamin will help improve energy levels, the most effective supplementation route is to take what’s known as a B-complex. There are eight B vitamins, and many of them work together to support several vital processes:
- Brain and nerve health and function
- Energy production
- Heart health
- Red blood cell production
- The production of some hormones
- Muscle support
The B vitamins are essential for good health, and research supports their ability to fight fatigue. A 2011 study found that a high-dose B-complex supplement was able to significantly lower work-related stress and associated symptoms. Especially if you don’t always eat a balanced diet, a B-vitamin supplement is a great first line of defense when it comes to feeling consistently tired.
Magnesium deficiencies can cause serious health issues if not treated. This mineral is essential for neurological health, and it also aids in turning food to energy. Often, fatigue is the first sign of a deficiency.
Several studies have indicated that magnesium supplementation reduces fatigue in a variety of populations. It’s especially useful for reducing physical fatigue in athletes, which is part of why it’s included in the popular athletic supplement ZMA, which contains highly bioavailable forms of zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6.
Magnesium supplementation also seems to help in the production serotonin, which can reduce depression and anxiety. If you suffer from either of these and also find yourself dealing with a lack of mental energy, a magnesium supplement may be worth taking.
There’s no single best vitamin for energy and metabolism, but zinc is one of the most effective ones you can find. It’s necessary for over 300 enzymes to function properly, and a deficiency often leads to a slowed metabolism, which in turn causes a lack of energy. In a study with cancer patients, it was shown to reduce fatigue, and it’s necessary for proper immune function and muscle growth, too.
Like most minerals, zinc is lost in sweat. If you’re a very active person and have been experiencing fatigue, a zinc supplement may be able to help you regain energy and feel better.
A decent portion of articles on vitamins for energy and focus seem to leave out vitamin D. And while plenty of people have claimed that vitamin D3 helped reduce their fatigue, it wasn’t until recently that clinical research confirmed it. First, a 2014 study found that supplementation decreased fatigue in cancer patients. At that point, there was no available research to confirm whether or not D3 supplementation helped with fatigue for generally healthy people.
Then, a 2016 double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that supplementing with vitamin D3 reliably improved fatigue symptoms. Interestingly, over 77% of trial participants who complained of fatigue had a vitamin D deficiency when tested.
While you can lower your risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency by getting enough time in the sun, this is a great vitamin to start with if you aren’t sure what’s causing your fatigue. There is such a thing as too much vitamin D, though–supplementing more than 40,000 IU per day may be toxic.
Potassium is an electrolyte that is lost when you sweat–that’s why you see it as an ingredient in most sports drinks. Over time, though, a sustained potassium deficiency (called hypokalemia) can be harmful or even fatal.
Potassium is present in all of the body’s cells, and it has a range of functions. When someone is deficient in it, it can cause significant physical and mental fatigue. Getting back to normal functioning isn’t always easy with a potassium deficiency–most clinical research has indicated that supplementation usually needs to involve large amounts of potassium over a significant period of time in order to restore patients to normal.
If you want to supplement your potassium intake, you can take it in pill form, or you can buy electrolyte drinks or powders. A high-quality electrolyte powder will have a balanced ratio of all five electrolytes: potassium, sodium, calcium, chloride, phosphate, and magnesium. Many popular sports drinks only have a few of the necessary electrolytes.
No list of vitamins for energy and weight loss is complete without iron. Most of know that iron can improve energy levels in people who are anemic, or iron-deficient. However, more recent research has indicated that iron supplementation in non-anemic women was able to significantly reduce fatigue. The study’s authors reported that supplementing with 80mg of iron per day was able to “reduce tiredness by 50%.”
It’s worth noting that iron supplements, especially in large doses, can cause stomach upset and may also be especially harmful to people with inflammatory bowel syndrome and similar conditions. It’s a good idea to split up a supplement into more than one dose and to take it with food. Alternatively (or alongside an iron supplement), you can also add more iron-rich foods to your diet. Heme iron, which is found in meats and fish, is the type that’s most easily absorbed by your body. Nonheme iron is found in plants like beans and leafy greens, but it’s harder for the body to absorb.
Other Natural Energy Boosters
Vitamins and minerals aren’t the only things that can boost energy. And given the size of the supplement industry, we’re all surrounded by countless herbs for energy and motivation. But what actually works? The following additional supplements have been tested by both science and time, and they might just help you increase your energy.
You can get omega-3 fatty acids in your diet (eggs and fish with a higher fat content are great sources), but if you have trouble getting enough, a fish oil supplement might be helpful. Some research into causes of chronic fatigue syndrome has indicated that people with chronic fatigue have lower ratios of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. It’s not clear if an omega-3 deficiency is one of the causes of chronic fatigue, but supplementing with fish oil does seem to help.
Additional research into treatments for the fatigue caused by Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) found that supplementing with fish oil significantly improved fatigue. Of course, if you don’t have an existing omega-3 deficiency or SLE, fish oil may not help your fatigue. But it does have several other health benefits–the omega-3s EPA and DHA, which are found in fish oil, seem to have a protective effect on the heart and may also support better cognitive function.
The mitochondria are known as the powerhouses of the body’s cells. But in order for them to work, they need access to fuel. L-carnitine is the amino acid that transports fatty acids into the mitochondria so they can produce energy. Because of its energy-production abilities, it’s commonly used by athletes to help increase power output and endurance. You can incorporate L-carnitine into your diet by eating meats and certain types of fish and meats (especially beef). It’s also naturally produced in the body, and vitamin C is necessary in order for you to do so efficiently.
If you’re suffering from fatigue and looking for natural energy boosters, though, supplementing with L-carnitine might help you start feeling better. You’ll likely find it offered in a few different forms. Acetyl L-carnitine is one of the most common forms found in supplements, and it has the added benefit of supporting neurological health and cognitive function. If you’re an athlete or want a faster energy boost, L-carnitine L-tartrate absorbs more quickly than other forms.
Many L-carnitine supplements come in the form of capsules, but you can also find it in liquid form. This makes it easier to add to pre-workout or BCAA drinks, or even into your morning coffee.
CoQ10 with NADH
It may seem unusual to list two supplements together. You can take one or the other, but as we’ll see in a moment, they may work more effectively for fatigue when taken together. CoQ10 is a commonly-taken supplement. It’s a coenzyme, meaning that it helps enzymes in the body work more efficiently. Like L-carnitine, it’s involved in cellular energy production. Within the mitochondria, CoQ10 is involved in production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the molecule used to power the body. Essentially, CoQ10 helps your body produce energy more efficiently, making it a prime choice for an energy booster.
NADH stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide plus hydrogen. Like CoQ10, this is a molecule that is vital to the production of ATP. Research into chronic fatigue syndrome has shown that treatment with a combination of CoQ10 and NADH significantly improves physical and mental fatigue when taken over a period of eight weeks. This particular study tested the combination against a placebo.
Logically speaking, it makes sense to take these two supplements together, since both are involved in ATP production. If you have high enough levels of CoQ10 already, adding in a supplement might not do much for your energy production. However, if you find yourself chronically low on energy and looking for a boost, this combination (or even just taking CoQ10) by itself is worth a shot.
If you’re a weightlifter, you probably are already familiar with creatine. It’s commonly sold as a powder, although you can sometimes find it in capsule form. And like many natural energy boosters on this list, it may help your body produce more energy. When you regularly take creatine, your muscle cells store additional phosphocreatine. Phosphocreatine can produce phosphate, which is important in the ATP cycle.
As your body uses ATP for energy, the ATP molecule loses a phosphate ion and becomes adenosine diphosphate (ADP). In order to be used again for energy, ADP needs to be turned back into ATP. Phosphocreatine gives you a ready supply of phosphate, so ADP can be quickly turned back to usable energy in the form of ATP.
Creatine is primarily used to support physical energy production, but some research suggests that it may also help combat mental fatigue. Because of its well-documented role in energy production, it is also being investigated as a possible treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome.
Final Thoughts on Vitamins for Energy and Focus
A lack of energy often has negative impacts on your personal and professional life. However, by choosing vitamins, minerals, and other natural supplements, you may be able to regain some of the energy you’ve lost. Remember that it may take some time to feel the full effects of a supplement and that no single supplement is likely to be a cure-all–a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise are important if you want to regain normal energy levels. Take your time, be patient, and you’ll hopefully start feeling some relief from fatigue soon.