Vitamins for Energy: A Review of Scientific Research

Can some vitamins and dietary supplements improve your energy? Learn the current scientific knowledge and research into energy and vitamins.

New Health Journal

March 31, 2024

Scientific research and new studies have revealed significant links between certain vitamins and enhanced energy levels. The connection underscores the importance of vitamins for energy in combating fatigue and suggests which vitamin supplements people may consider when trying to increase mental or physical energy levels.

Vitamin and Amino Acid Deficiencies: A Potential Cause of Low Energy

Even in developed nations like the US, vitamin and amino acid deficiencies pose a significant health challenge and potential cause of chronic low energy. One nutrient that exemplifies this issue is Vitamin D. Despite the widespread availability of dietary sources and supplements, Vitamin D deficiency remains a prevalent concern across the globe, affecting an estimated one billion people. This deficiency has been linked to a range of skeletal and non-skeletal diseases, including osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers, underscoring the importance of adequate Vitamin D levels for overall health.

Numerous vitamins and amino acids are essential for energy production and metabolism, and deficiencies in these can lead to symptoms of fatigue and low energy. For example:

  • Vitamin B12 is vital for nerve function and the production of red blood cells and energy, with deficiencies leading to tiredness and weakness.
  • Iron, an important component of hemoglobin, helps in transporting oxygen throughout the body; its deficiency can result in anemia, significantly affecting energy levels and causing fatigue.
  • Magnesium plays a pivotal role in energy production and muscle function, and its deficiency is also associated with symptoms of fatigue.
  • Amino acids, such as L-carnitine, involved in energy metabolism, can also affect energy levels when in short supply.

This article summarizes the main vitamins and amino acids which, especially if one is deficient in them, can lead to chronic fatigue.

Vitamin B12: Essential for Blood and Nerve Health

Vitamin B12, critical for healthy blood and nerve cells and DNA synthesis, is predominantly found in animal products. Consequently, vegans, vegetarians, pregnant individuals, those with anemia, or those with absorption issues may face deficiencies. Scientific studies, however, present a nuanced view on B12 supplementation, indicating a lack of conclusive evidence that it directly boosts energy in the general population. This underscores the importance of targeted supplementation, especially for those at risk of deficiency.

Vitamin D: The “Sunshine Vitamin”

Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” Vitamin D is synthesized through skin exposure to sunlight and is also found in certain foods. Its role extends beyond bone health, potentially impacting energy levels and muscle function. Yet, global data reveals a widespread deficiency, affecting nearly 1 billion people, including those in higher-risk groups like older adults and individuals with darker skin tones. While supplementation can mitigate deficiency, consultation with healthcare providers is recommended to tailor intake and avoid adverse interactions with medications.

Iron: Crucial for Oxygen Transport

Iron’s role in forming hemoglobin is vital for oxygen transport in the body. Deficiencies can lead to fatigue, particularly in older adults, women with heavy menstrual periods, and children. Clinical guidance based on blood tests can help address iron deficiency through appropriate supplementation.

Magnesium and Zinc: Supporting Cellular Energy

Magnesium is indispensable for energy production, nerve function, and muscle function, with severe deficiencies linked to chronic health conditions. Zinc, while needed in smaller amounts, supports DNA production, cell growth, and immune health. Both nutrients can be supplemented cautiously to avoid excessive intake and potential side effects.

Emerging Supplements: Creatine and CoQ10

Creatine and Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) supplements have garnered attention for their potential to support energy production at a cellular level. Creatine, primarily known for enhancing muscle mass and exercise performance, and CoQ10, valued for its antioxidant properties and support in physical activity recovery, illustrate the diverse approaches to boosting energy through supplementation. However, scientific consensus emphasizes the need for further research to fully understand their effects on energy and fatigue.

Supplementation offers a pathway to addressing nutrient deficiencies and supporting energy levels, underscored by scientific inquiry into their mechanisms and efficacy. As the body of research grows, it illuminates the complexities of how these nutrients influence health and energy, highlighting the importance of personalized healthcare decisions based on individual needs and scientific evidence.

L-Carnitine: Energy and Cardio Health Support

L-Carnitine, a nutrient synthesized by the body, plays a pivotal role in energy production by transporting fatty acids into the mitochondria for metabolism. Scientific research has shown that L-Carnitine supplementation can be possibly effective for a range of health conditions. For instance, it appears to improve exercise tolerance in individuals with chest pain (angina) and enhance exercise ability in those with cardiac syndrome X. It’s also been used to alleviate symptoms and improve exercise capacity in heart failure patients. Furthermore, L-Carnitine may modestly improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels, playing a supportive role in managing hyperlipidemia.

For more detailed information, visit the WebMD page on L-Carnitine.

Taurine: Cardiovascular and Neurological Benefits

Taurine, another vital amino sulfonic acid found abundantly in the brain, retina, heart, and platelets, is essential for various bodily functions. Scientific studies suggest that taurine supplementation could benefit individuals with congestive heart failure (CHF) and liver inflammation (hepatitis) by lowering blood pressure and calming the nervous system, which may help prevent worsening heart conditions. It also supports nerve growth and might have implications for improving athletic performance, managing diabetes, and boosting energy, although these uses require more scientific evidence to substantiate their effectiveness.

The recommended intake of taurine to match dietary amounts would be below 306mg per 100g, which is the level found in foods like turkey. Higher doses typically come from supplements, which have been investigated for their potential health benefits.

Though the body generally produces taurine, dietary intake becomes necessary for those who cannot synthesize it, such as infants or individuals with certain medical conditions. For a comprehensive look at taurine, including dosages and sources, check out the information on WebMD’s page on Taurine, and refer to the research on taurine levels in food on PubMed.

L-Tyrosine: Cognitive Enhancement and Stress Response

L-Tyrosine, a non-essential amino acid involved in protein synthesis, has garnered interest in the scientific community for its potential role in improving cognition and memory, particularly under stress or multitasking scenarios. Studies have noted that while L-Tyrosine does not typically affect cognitive or physical performance under normal circumstances, it may enhance cognitive flexibility and working memory during multitasking or challenging conditions.

The recommended dietary intake for a blend of phenylalanine and tyrosine is about 25 mg per kg of body weight, but if consuming tyrosine alone, the intake may be adjusted to ensure adequate levels. Dietary sources, such as steak, provide significant amounts of L-Tyrosine, up to 2174 mg per 6 oz serving, which is often used as a benchmark for safe intake from foods.

For more information on L-Tyrosine and its cognitive benefits, a detailed overview can be found on RxList’s Tyrosine page.

L-Arginine: Cardiovascular Health and More

L-Arginine, an α-amino acid, is well-known for its role in protein synthesis and multiple health benefits. As a precursor to nitric oxide, it is crucial in relaxing arteries and enhancing blood flow, potentially offering benefits like lowering blood pressure and improving symptoms of conditions like angina and peripheral arterial disease. The amino acid is also noted for its immune-boosting properties and potential to enhance athletic performance. Dietary sources such as pumpkin seeds and turkey provide significant amounts, suggesting that intake from food can contribute substantially towards meeting daily requirements. L-Arginine is available as a supplement in various forms, with its use being supported by scientific evidence for specific health conditions.

For more information about L-Arginine and its uses, visit the Mayo Clinic’s page on L-Arginine.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Essential for Metabolic Health

Riboflavin, also known as Vitamin B2, is a water-soluble vitamin necessary for the body’s energy production and cellular function. It assists in breaking down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, playing a vital role in maintaining the body’s energy supply. Riboflavin has also been linked to the prevention of cataracts and the maintenance of healthy skin and mucous membranes. While the body does not store riboflavin, it requires a regular dietary intake, and excess amounts are readily excreted, often leading to the characteristic bright yellow color in urine. Food sources like almonds and dairy products are rich in riboflavin, and supplementation is considered safe at high doses due to the body’s ability to excrete excess amounts.

To explore the functions and benefits of Vitamin B2 in more detail, you can visit Harvard’s The Nutrition Source page on Riboflavin.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin): Metabolism and Cholesterol Regulation

Vitamin B3, commonly referred to as niacin, is another essential B vitamin that aids in metabolizing food into energy. A key component in cellular metabolism, it is involved in DNA repair and stress response.

High doses of niacin have been researched for their efficacy in improving cholesterol profiles, including a significant increase in HDL (good) cholesterol and reductions in LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides. However, such therapeutic doses should be supervised by a healthcare provider due to potential side effects, including the well-known ‘niacin flush’ and more serious risks like liver damage. Niacin is found in many common foods and is often included in multivitamin supplements.

For a thorough understanding of niacin and its impact on health, more information is available on Healthline’s page about niacin.

Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol): Beyond Bone Health

Vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, is well-recognized for its role in bone health, aiding in the absorption of calcium and maintaining phosphorus levels in the blood. Beyond that, Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to fatigue, muscle weakness, and mood alterations such as depression. Addressing Vitamin D3 deficiency has been shown to improve these symptoms, highlighting its broader impact on well-being. Despite its importance, many individuals do not meet the recommended intake, with a significant portion of the population, particularly those in less sunny regions, experiencing deficiency. Supplementation with Vitamin D3 can significantly improve levels in those who are deficient, potentially alleviating fatigue and enhancing overall health.

For insights into the benefits of Vitamin D3 and how it can affect energy levels, you can refer to the research on PMC’s study on the effect of Vitamin D3 on self-perceived fatigue.

Vitamin B6: Metabolism and More

Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is instrumental in over 100 enzyme reactions in the body, mostly concerned with protein metabolism. It also contributes to cognitive development through neurotransmitter synthesis and immune function by maintaining the health of organs that make white blood cells. Due to its role in hemoglobin production, it may help prevent anemia and, consequentially, related fatigue. Vitamin B6 is widely available in foods, and deficiencies are rare. When supplementation is required, it should be done under medical supervision to prevent nerve damage associated with excessive intake.

For in-depth information about Vitamin B6 and its many roles in the body, you may read the resources available at the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements.

Creatine Monohydrate: Muscular and Neurological Support

Creatine monohydrate is widely recognized for its benefits on muscular energy, particularly in high-intensity training contexts. Its ability to rapidly replenish ATP stores in muscles is well documented, leading to improved strength and reduced fatigue during short bursts of intense exercise.

Beyond its muscular benefits, emerging research indicates potential neuroprotective properties, suggesting its role in reducing age-related damage and supporting cognitive functions like reducing mental fatigue. While generally safe for most individuals, there are specific contraindications, such as for those with kidney or liver disease, diabetes, or pregnant and nursing women. It’s also advisable to monitor the interactions with other medications, as creatine may influence blood sugar levels and should be used cautiously with certain drugs.

For those looking to maintain dietary levels of creatine, common food sources include red meat and fish, with recommendations to replenish approximately 1-3 grams of creatine daily either through diet or supplementation. Consultation with a healthcare professional is recommended for personalized advice and before initiating any supplement regimen.

More on creatine monohydrate’s role in fitness and health can be found at Healthline.

Ginger: Digestion and Blood Sugar Regulator

Ginger, a spice revered for centuries in traditional medicine, boasts a variety of health benefits. Known primarily for its digestive properties, ginger stimulates digestion and has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce nausea, and possess anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It’s also been identified as a natural blood sugar regulator, with potential therapeutic implications in diabetes management. The active components of ginger, such as gingerol, contribute to these health benefits and make it a staple in many wellness regimens.

Detailed health benefits of ginger are further discussed at Chopra.

Ginseng: A Natural Energy Booster

A valued herb in traditional Chinese medicine, ginseng is renowned for its potential to increase energy levels and combat fatigue. Its active components, ginsenosides, have adaptogenic properties, which are believed to help the body withstand physical and mental stress.

People who consume ginseng often report feeling a notable increase in warmth and energy, which is not typically accompanied by the jitteriness that stimulants like caffeine may induce. Instead, ginseng users describe a more sustained kind of energy, contributing to enhanced physical performance and cognitive function, such as improved memory, behavior, and mood.

This sense of increased energy may also translate into better endurance and a more alert state of mind, allowing for longer periods of concentration and reduced mental fatigue. Clinical trials suggest that these benefits may be due to ginseng’s effect on lowering oxidative stress and increasing energy production in cells, making it a subject of interest for those looking to enhance their energy levels through natural means.

Ginseng is widely regarded as an adaptogen, a term used to describe herbs that purportedly bolster the body’s resilience to stressors of all kinds. Adaptogens are thought to help the body “adapt” by normalizing physiological functions, including energy levels and the immune system, without disrupting other areas of health. This concept is rooted in herbal medicine, suggesting that adaptogens can counteract the adverse effects of stress by supporting overall well-being and homeostasis. The use of ginseng as an adaptogen is supported by its traditional application and some modern studies, although more research is necessary to fully understand its mechanisms and efficacy.

For a detailed examination of ginseng’s impact on energy, Healthline’s overview on ginseng provides a comprehensive summary. Additionally, research published on PubMed offers scientific insight into ginseng’s various health benefits.

Parsley: More Than Just a Garnish

Parsley, a common herb in culinary use, is also a potent source of flavonols, compounds with potential health benefits. Research suggests that flavonols may improve blood flow to the brain and potentially protect against cognitive decline with aging. While parsley is consumed typically in small amounts as a seasoning, its concentrated sources of flavonols can contribute to a balanced diet rich in antioxidants.

More on parsley’s nutritional and health benefits.

Turmeric: A Potent Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant

Turmeric, and its active component curcumin, has been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. It’s well-known for its powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Curcumin, in particular, is associated with benefits ranging from neuroprotection to cardiovascular health, and there’s growing interest in its role in preventing chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer. While the consumption of turmeric is common in culinary doses, higher concentrations in supplement form can significantly amplify these health benefits.

To understand the full spectrum of turmeric and curcumin’s health benefits, a comprehensive guide is available on Healthline.

L-Theanine: The Relaxing Amino Acid

L-Theanine, an amino acid found primarily in green tea, has been studied for its potential to mitigate the jittery side effects commonly associated with caffeine consumption. The calming effect of L-Theanine is attributed to its ability to increase alpha brain wave activity, promoting a state of relaxed concentration. By modulating aspects of brain function, it appears to enhance the positive aspects of caffeine such as alertness, while reducing unwanted effects like anxiety and increased heart rate.

This balancing act can make L-Theanine especially appealing for those who want the focus that caffeine provides but are sensitive to its stimulatory impact. The combined use of caffeine and L-Theanine is reported to produce a more rounded and smooth subjective experience, as L-Theanine seems to take the edge off caffeine’s stimulant effect without diminishing its energy-boosting properties.

For those interested in the synergy between L-Theanine and caffeine, taking supplements or consuming beverages that contain both compounds could potentially offer enhanced cognitive benefits while minimizing the less desirable effects of caffeine alone.

To explore this topic further and understand the full scope of L-Theanine’s interaction with caffeine, checking sources like PubMed for scientific articles and reviews would be beneficial.

Energy Vitamins in Drink Format

Most of the compounds discussed are available in pill or powdered form. For convenience, some people may prefer them in a format that can easily be added to teas, coffees, or other beverages.

B vitamins, such as B12, B6, and B-complex formulations, are popular for their role in energy metabolism, helping the body convert food into energy. These water-soluble vitamins can be found in liquid forms, powders, or effervescent tablets that dissolve in water, making them a convenient addition to your morning drink.

Amino acids like L-theanine, found in tea, can provide a calming effect without sedation and can be mixed with caffeine in coffee for a focused yet relaxed energy boost. L-arginine, an amino acid that promotes nitric oxide production, can support blood flow and is also available in powder form to mix into drinks.

Adaptogens, such as ginseng and rhodiola, are herbal supplements that some believe can improve the body’s ability to handle stress and fatigue. They are available in various forms, including powders and tinctures, which can be easily added to your tea or smoothies.

This article is not professional healthcare advice. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice.

New Health Journal (NHJ) reports developments in health research, health trends, and wellness options. Our nonprofit mission is to advance public health and wellness knowledge by publishing concise digests of useful and interesting health topics.