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What Vitamins Give You Energy?

What Vitamins Give You Energy?

Have you been feeling tired and lacking energy lately? Do you find yourself reaching for another cup of coffee or sugary snacks for a quick energy boost or to make it through the day? 

From a functional medicine perspective, we want to dig down and understand why energy levels are lacking. A possible root cause is nutrient deficiencies. Micronutrients, including vitamins and minerals, are required for brain health, cognition, metabolism, and mood. And without enough essential nutrients, you’ll feel fatigued. 

“From a functional medicine perspective, we want to dig down and understand why energy levels are lacking. A possible root cause is nutrient deficiencies. Micronutrients, including vitamins and minerals, are required for brain health, cognition, metabolism, and mood. And without enough essential nutrients, you’ll feel fatigued.”

We are all looking to have more energy and feel better, and in today’s article, I’ll walk you through the nutrients you need to get your energy back. Keep reading to learn more about:

  • How you make energy
  • Why energy might be low
  • The best vitamins for energy
  • Lifestyle tools for increasing energy
  • Supplement strategies 

Let’s get started! 

How You Make Energy 

To understand the role micronutrients play in energy production, let’s first review how we make energy. 

When we eat, we break down and absorb carbohydrates, fats, and protein. These macronutrients contain calories, and our cells use them to produce energy. 

Inside each cell are hundreds or thousands of tiny organelles called mitochondria. Macronutrient fuels, mainly glucose, fatty acids, and some amino acids, head into the mitochondria, where they go through the citric acid cycle and electron transport chain

These multi-step, complex reactions turn macronutrient fuels into energy called ATP. (Source 1)

As you can see in these depictions, turning calories into ATP requires a lot of cofactors in the form of B vitamins and other nutrients. Efficient ATP production also needs oxygen. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, the iron-containing protein that carries oxygen to cells. 

These nutrients can be limiting factors in energy production. I’ll discuss each in detail below. 

Best Vitamins For Energy

The following nutrients are critical for energy production in cells: 

Vitamin B1 

Vitamin B1, in its active form thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP), is essential for transforming glucose and amino acid into acetyl-CoA so it can enter the citric acid cycle, playing a critical role in energy metabolism. Vitamin B1 food sources include whole grains, meat, and seafood. (Source 2, 3)

Vitamin B2

Vitamin B2, riboflavin, is a cofactor in the citric acid cycle and electron transport chain in its active form of FAD. It helps turn carbs, fat, and protein into ATP. Riboflavin comes from liver, dairy products, meat, seafood, and nuts. (Source 2, 4)

Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3, called niacin, is another critical cofactor for energy production through the citric acid cycle and electron transport chain in mitochondria. Its active form is NAD+ and is an essential compound for preserving health as we get older. Learn more about NAD+ and its many benefits in this article. (Source 2)

Your provider may prescribe niacin supplementation to lower cholesterol levels and improve metabolic health. (Source 5)

Dietary sources of niacin include liver, poultry, fish, pork, beef, tomato sauce, brown rice, and peanuts. (Source 6

Vitamin B5

Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid, is required to produce coenzyme A. Coenzyme A carries acetyl groups (from macronutrients) into the citric acid cycle for conversion to ATP. Natural sources of vitamin B5 include liver, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, poultry, fish, avocados, and dairy products. (Source 2, 7)

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6, known as pyridoxine, is involved in amino acid metabolism, methylation, and glucose production, among other functions in the body. You’ll find vitamin B6 in chickpeas, liver, fish, poultry, potatoes, bananas, and beef. (Source 2, 8)

Folate 

Folate is vitamin B9. The synthetic version is called folic acid

Folate works hand in hand with vitamin B12 in the methylation cycle. Methylation is a critical process in every cell of the body. Folate is essential for protein and fat metabolism, glutathione production, genetic expression, and more. A deficiency in folate can lead to anemia, which impairs oxygen transport to cells. 

Food sources of folate include leafy green vegetables, avocados, legumes, and liver. (Source 9

Vitamin B12 

Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is a B vitamin that is typically associated with energy and cognition. It’s involved in turning fat into energy and in the methylation cycle. A vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with anemia and fatigue and is more common in older adults

Vitamin B12 is specific to animal foods, including meat, shellfish, eggs, poultry, and dairy products. (Source 2, 10)

Vitamin C

Like the B vitamins, vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient. We typically think of vitamin C in terms of immune system function; however, it also plays an important role in energy production. Vitamin C is a cofactor in the synthesis of carnitine, which transports fatty acids into the mitochondria, where they can be used as fuel to produce ATP. (Source 2)

Learn more about vitamin C’s many roles and benefits, including genetic expression, as well as food sources and supplementation, in this article

Magnesium

The mineral magnesium is critical for many body processes, including ATP production and energy utilization. Most ATP in cells is bound to magnesium. Magnesium also regulates several citric acid cycle enzymes. (Source 2)

In addition, magnesium helps relax muscles and the nervous system to promote sleep. Sleep is essential for good energy during the day. 

Nuts, seeds, legumes, and leafy greens are fantastic sources of magnesium, although the food supply is becoming increasingly depleted in magnesium and supplementation may be supportive. (Source 11)

Iron 

As mentioned above, iron is required to carry oxygen to cells for efficient ATP production. Iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia are common causes of fatigue. (Source 2

Animal sources of iron are better absorbed. These include shellfish, red meat, and organ meats. Plant sources include legumes, tofu, and green vegetables. (Source 12)

Iron supplements may be suggested in cases where iron levels are low. Iron supplements need to be taken separately from calcium foods and supplements for proper absorption. 

Coenzyme Q10

CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant associated with mitochondria. It helps protect the delicate mitochondrial structure from oxidative damage so that it can effectively produce ATP. In addition, CoQ10 is involved in gene expression related to metabolism. (Source 13)

Low Energy Root Causes

As you can see, many nutrients are responsible for energy production. A deficiency in even one can cause physical and mental fatigue. 

“As you can see, many nutrients are responsible for energy production. A deficiency in even one can cause physical and mental fatigue.”

Root causes of nutrient deficiencies might include:

  • Undereating. Not getting enough of the nutrients the body needs through food. 
  • Diet high in processed foods. It’s possible to eat enough calories but still miss crucial micronutrients required to process the calories. 
  • Restricted diet. Vegans, vegetarians, and others following restricted diets may have difficulty meeting micronutrient needs. 
  • Digestive issues. Issues in the gut may prevent critical nutrients from getting absorbed into the body. 
  • Increased needs. In some cases, individuals may require higher amounts of specific nutrients because of genetics, illness, intense training, life phase, or other factors. 

How To Boost Energy Levels

If you’re feeling low energy, here are some steps to cover the basics and boost energy. In addition, be sure to work with your functional medicine provider for root cause investigation. 

  1. Eat a balanced diet. Choose whole foods and a variety of both plant and animal foods to support micronutrient levels. If you follow a therapeutic or vegetarian diet, work with your dietitian to ensure you are meeting all your needs. 
  1. Test micronutrient levels. I recommend the NutraEval test from Genova, which takes a deep dive into micronutrient levels. It provides valuable information so you can personalize your diet and supplement routine. Learn more about micronutrient testing here
  1. Prioritize good sleep. No amount of diet or lifestyle change will significantly improve energy if you aren’t sleeping well. Sleep is essential. Get my best sleep support tips here
  1. Manage stress. Stress will zap your energy, so be sure to practice good self-care. Stress-supporting herbs, known as adaptogens, may be supportive. Ashwagandha is an example. Please work with your provider for guidance and medical advice

Supplements for Low Energy 

In addition to diet and lifestyle change, dietary supplements are incredibly supportive for providing micronutrients and supporting energy levels. 

I recommend starting with a high-quality multivitamin containing vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. These nutrients support ATP production in the mitochondria of cells and help fill in any dietary gaps. 

I formulated Core Med Science Active B-Complex Multivitamin with Minerals with the citric acid cycle and electron transport chain in mind. It contains B vitamins in their active forms, vitamin C, zinc, and several other nutrients for comprehensive support. The liposomal delivery system mimics your cell membranes (and mitochondria), improving absorption and the body’s ability to utilize the nutrients.  

While multivitamins carry many health benefits, energy support and meeting daily micronutrient needs are primary benefits. Layer a multivitamin along with good lifestyle habits and personalized supplements, and you’ll feel better in no time. 

“Layer a multivitamin along with good lifestyle habits and personalized supplements, and you’ll feel better in no time.”


References

  1. Spinelli, J. B., & Haigis, M. C. (2018). The multifaceted contributions of mitochondria to cellular metabolism. Nature cell biology20(7), 745–754. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6541229/ 
  2. Tardy, A. L., Pouteau, E., Marquez, D., Yilmaz, C., & Scholey, A. (2020). Vitamins and Minerals for Energy, Fatigue and Cognition: A Narrative Review of the Biochemical and Clinical Evidence. Nutrients12(1), 228. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7019700/ 
  3. National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements. Thiamin. Accessed 12/12/22: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/thiamin-healthprofessional/ 
  4. National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements. Riboflavin. Accessed 12/12/22: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Riboflavin-HealthProfessional/ 
  5. Ganji, S. H., Kamanna, V. S., & Kashyap, M. L. (2003). Niacin and cholesterol: role in cardiovascular disease (review). The Journal of nutritional biochemistry14(6), 298–305. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12873710/ 
  6. National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements. Niacin. Accessed 12/12/22: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Niacin-HealthProfessional/ 
  7. National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements. Pantothenic Acid. Accessed 12/12/22: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/PantothenicAcid-HealthProfessional/#h7 
  8. National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin B6. Accessed 12/12/22: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-HealthProfessional/ 
  9. National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements. Folate. Accessed 12/12/22: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/ 
  10. National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin B12. Accessed 12/12/22: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/ 
  11. National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements. Magnesium. Accessed 12/12/22: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/ 
  12. National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements. Iron. Accessed 12/12/22: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/ 
  13. Garrido-Maraver, J., Cordero, M. D., Oropesa-Avila, M., Vega, A. F., de la Mata, M., Pavon, A. D., Alcocer-Gomez, E., Calero, C. P., Paz, M. V., Alanis, M., de Lavera, I., Cotan, D., & Sanchez-Alcazar, J. A. (2014). Clinical applications of coenzyme Q10. Frontiers in bioscience (Landmark edition)19(4), 619–633. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24389208/ 


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