Stress, hectic lifestyle, lack of adequate nutrients and sleep deprivation are some of the most common causes of low energy, fatigue and dullness.
While correction of these factors is the best way to gain back the energy, it is often easier said than done. In such cases, certain external supplements can work wonders in helping to boost the energy.
Supplements can be divided into two categories:
- Natural energy supplements-these are supplements made from compounds that occur naturally in nature and are known to have a positive impact on the body’s energy levels.
- Stimulants-these basically trick the body into believing that it has high energy. These stimulants can be addictive and excess intake may cause side effects like jitteriness or insomnia.
1. Vitamin B12Vitamin B12 is essential for energy production along with the other B complex vitamins. In addition, it s also required to prevent megaloblastic anemia, which causes an abnormality in the red blood cells, leading to fatigue, lightheadedness, etc.
It is found in most of the animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy. A variety of food products available in the market are also fortified with B12. Thus, consuming a balanced diet with the inclusion of fortified foods can help you meet your daily requirements of B12.
However, certain populations are at a risk for B12 deficiency, which include
- Older adults-with age, the intestinal production of B12 decreases and the factor responsible for absorption of this vitamin is also secreted in lesser amounts.
- Vegans-since B12 is found in animal products only, vegans are at a risk of deficiency.
- Those having GI disorders-such as IBS, Crohn’s disease, etc. are at a risk of deficiency due to decrease in the absorption of B12.
Dosage: 2.4 mcg daily for people above 14 years of age.
2. Coenzyme Q10Coenzyme Q10 is a naturally found in all cells of the body, particularly in the heart, kidney and liver. It is used by the cells to neutralise free radicals.
When the levels of this coenzyme reduces in the body, as it happens with ageing and certain diseases like heart failure, cancer, etc., it hampers the energy production, leading to fatigue.
Meat, fish and nuts contain Coenzyme Q10, but not in adequate quantities to increase the levels in the body.
Thus, supplementing this nutrient in those with a potential deficiency can have beneficial effects in enhancing the energy levels and the exercise performance.
Dosage: 30-90 mg daily.
3. IronIron is required to make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to the various organs and tissues. Deficiency of iron-known as anemia-diminishes this function, which decreases the oxygen that reaches the cells. This causes weakness and lethargy.
The causes of this deficiency can be:
- Excessive blood loss
- Diet lacking in iron-rich foods
Dosage: 8 mg per day for healthy men and post menopausal women. 18 mg per day for healthy premenopausal women.
4. MelatoninMelatonin is a hormone that is essential for sleep. Its production and release by the body depends on the time of the day-more at night and less in the mornings.
Any hormonal imbalance that causes a decline in the levels of melatonin can cause sleep disorders such as insomnia. Insomnia affects around 30% of the adults all over the world and can cause difficulty falling asleep and has adverse effects during the daytime.
Melatonin supplementation has been found to be effective in improving the sleep-wake rhythm, chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic sleep onset insomnia.
Dosage: 1-10 mg per day (optimal dose not yet identified).
5. TyrosineTyrosine is an amino acid that is produced by the body and is essential for the formation of neurotransmitters-the chemical messengers of the nervous system.
Dysregulation of these neurotransmitters has an important role in the severity of fatigue and differences in energy levels.
Studies have shown that supplementation with tyrosine can effectively enhance cognition and improve memory. It has also been concluded that tyrosine may be useful to enhance performance and energy levels after prolonged work and sleep loss.
Dosage: 45–68 mg per pound (100–150 mg per kg) of body weight.
6. BeetrootBeetroot is a great source of nitrate, which is converted to nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide is responsible for relaxing the blood vessels, which increases the blood flow and ultimately, the oxygen that is carried to the cells and tissues. Thus it is beneficial for-
- Increasing energy levels
- Regulating blood pressure
- Improving exercise performance
Dosage: 300-600 mg daily, depending on body weight.
7. Lion’s mane mushroomLion’s mane mushroom is used as a natural nootropic (compounds that help to enhance the brain function and mental capacities). Apart from its brain-boosting effects, it also has various potential benefits-
- Enhances the mood
- Alleviates stress
- Increases energy
Dosage: 500-3000 mg per day.
8. Chia seeds extractChia seeds are often extracted for their oils and sold as capsules to boost energy and enhance exercise performance along with other nutrients.
Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants, minerals, protein and fiber. Antioxidants help to remove free radicals from the body, thereby reducing inflammation, lethargy and fatigue.
Dosage: around 20 g of chia seeds twice daily (no research available for dosage of extract).
9. CreatineOne of the most popular energy supplements is creatine, since it supplies instant energy at the mitochondrial level.
The body requires Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) that provides energy for various functions. After the body uses ATP for energy, it loses one phosphate group to become adenosine diphosphate (ADP), which cannot provide energy.
Creatine provides its own phosphate group to the ADP to convert it into ATP again. This provides quick energy to the body, even if it is for a short duration.
Creatine supplementation helps to improve endurance and performance during high intensity intensive workouts.
Dosage: 3-5 g per day for up to 12 weeks.
10. CitrullineCitrulline is a non-essential amino acid that is essential for heart health and also to boost the immune system.
It is converted to nitric oxide by the kidneys. As discussed above, nitric oxide is essential to improve blood flow. It also enhances exercise performance and improves endurance.
Dosage: Upto 6 g per day for 16 days.
11. Huperzine-AHuperzine-A is extracted from a type of moss that is found in India and South East Asia. It is widely used as a dietary supplement to enhance memory and learning performance.
It has been proved to be effective in the treatment of certain neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Supplementation in patients with Alzheimer’s improved both, the cognitive function, as well as quality of life.
It has also been found that Huperzine-A has potential acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activity. In simple words, it means that Huperzine-A inhibits the breakdown of acetylcholine in the brain, which is known as the learning neurotransmitter. This helps you to stay active and learn things better.
Dosage: 100-400 mcg twice daily
12. Adaptogenic herbs
Adaptogens are non-toxic plants that have been used since ancient times to reduce physical, chemical and biological stress. Most of these herbs and roots have been in use in various alternative medicines in the East, and are now being brought into the mainstream market by wellness companies.
These herbs may interact with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis as well as the sympathoadrenal system, which are involved in dealing with stress.
Many of these plants seem to have the potential to increase strength and energy, enhance immunity and also fight fatigue. Some of these herbs include:
- Ginseng-Panax ginseng has shown to have anti-fatigue effects in patients with chronic fatigue.
- Ginkgo biloba-along with other methods, Ginkgo biloba has shown to significantly reduce fatigue and anxiety.
- Ashwagandha-it acts as an anxiolytic agent and helps to boost the mitochondrial health as well as energy levels.
- Rhodiola Rosea-a few studies have found Rhodiola rosea to be effective against physical and mental fatigue, however, better studies are needed to determine its true efficacy.
- Holy basil-it has various pharmacological properties which help in fighting stress and diseases and also promote well being, longevity and overall health.
Best Natural Stimulants
Most of you will swear-by some of these stimulants, without which you don’t feel ‘awake’. Stimulants are great for providing that instant kick of energy. Here are some of their benefits-
1. CaffeineCaffeine is used by almost everyone for its energy-boosting properties. It can be in the form of coffee, tea, cocoa beverages or some form of energy drinks.
However, excess of caffeine is known to cause restlessness, irritability and nervousness. These effects can be countered by the addition of an amino acid L-theanine, which helps in relaxation, without promoting drowsiness.
Dosage: 400-500 mg per day for normal adults.
2. Green tea extractGreen tea also contains some amount of caffeine and thus helps to boost energy.
In addition, green tea extract has also shown to improve exercise performance and endurance and reduce muscle soreness after strenuous exercise.
Dosage: around 340 mg EGCG per day (EGCG is the bioactive catechin in green tea most commonly used in supplements).
3. Yerba mateYerba mate is another plant which is used as tea and also has significant amount of caffeine, which explains its potential benefit for boosting energy.
It also helps to improve fatty acid oxidation and energy expenditure at submaximal exercise intensities, without having any negative effect on the exercise performance.
Hence, Yerba Mate supplementation may be beneficial for improving the effectiveness of exercises, especially for weight loss and sports.
Dosage: 1,000-1,500 mg daily.
4. TaurineTaurine is used as a supplement to treat various conditions such as congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, etc. It works on the sympathetic nervous system, thereby reducing stress.
Taurine supplements have also shown to improve exercise performance.
Dosage: 500-2,000 mg per day.
Benefits of supplementsIn the right quantities, these supplements help in boosting the energy and also have various other benefits which include:
1. Boosts metabolismMetabolism refers to the chemical processes that occur in the body. One of he major function of metabolism is to convert food into energy, which is done by the mitochondria. Mitochondria are the powerhouses of cells, which convert sugar, fat or protein to energy.
This process is affected by age, various diseases and other environmental factors. Various vitamins are required to enhance this function of energy production. A good metabolism is essential to keep the body free of diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and others.
2. Improves memory and clears thinkingFatigue, lack of sleep, dehydration can adversely affect the cognitive function such as
- Short-term memory
- Long-term memory
3. Reduces stressAdaptogens are certain herbs and roots which help the body to deal with stress. These have been used since ancient times to heal the body and reduce the stress.
Apart from these, some vitamins have also been found beneficial for reducing the body’s stress.
4. Enhances exercise performanceOne of the most common reason for people to opt for vitamins and supplements is its function in improving the exercise or athletic performance.
In addition to boosting energy, these supplements have beneficial effects on oxygen carrying capacity, reducing muscle soreness, etc.
PrecautionsThe dosages mentioned above are generally considered safe for normal healthy adults. However, if you are pregnant or suffer from any disorders or medical conditions, it is always best to consult your medical practitioner before consuming these supplements.
Also, if you have any known allergies, some of the above foods, such as lion’s mane mushroom may be potential allergens.
In case of any doubt, always consult your health care provider before starting new supplements.