The 10 Best Supplements for an Energy Boost
By Melissa Anzelone, ND
In this article:
It seems simple; if we are low in energy, we must be using more energy than our body can create. In the scientific world, research points to two main possible causes of low energy: a large amount of energy is being used for an increased inflammatory response or the body is not able to efficiently produce energy from the food we eat.
There is a connection between these potential causes of low energy. Often, a high level of inflammatory response switches our metabolism over to a less efficient way to produce energy. High levels of an inflammatory response may also correlate or be related to chronic diseases. So, if you are sick in some way, you may be consuming a lot more energy than normal.
A huge “energy stealer” is our stress hormone cortisol. When high, cortisol stimulates the liver to break down storage sugar called glycogen and reroutes it to our brain or muscles, which break the sugar down for energy. This way we can respond to whatever is causing us stress. For example, our brain needs more energy if we plan to work until 2 a.m. to meet a deadline.
Elevated cortisol can also lead back to a high inflammatory response. High cortisol tends to come with the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. These molecules can increase the intensity of an inflammatory response, signaling our immune system to deploy or create immune cells, which, in turn, uses more energy.
In the same respect, if we don’t respect our circadian rhythms, the natural cues from our body to go to bed around 11 pm and wake around 7 am, or if we toss and turn at night, our cortisol levels can increase and fuel the low energy cycle described above.
The main carrier of energy in the body, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), is an organic compound that exists in every cell in our body. Mitochondria, an organelle deemed the powerhouse of the cell, works to create energy from our food. With natural aging or even its own energy production, the mitochondria can produce damaging molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS). These molecules can damage our mitochondria and decrease energy production. A lot of science today is centered around keeping our mitochondria healthy since they run the show.
Diet can play a big role in the quality of the energy we get from our foods and can support or hinder a healthy inflammatory response. A diet primarily consisting of carbohydrates is deemed nutrient-poor, as those who eat a diet like this are usually missing key vitamins and nutrients that are found in macronutrients like protein and fat. A diet high in carbohydrates can also favor a high inflammatory response, ultimately leading to extra energy expenditure.
A high inflammatory response has been theorized to be the foundation for many things that can lead to poor health. Some pain patterns have also been theorized to come from a high inflammatory response.
Some scientists believe depressive symptoms are rooted in an inability to produce high levels of energy. A decreased ability to fight off pathogens like bacteria or viruses may be associated with a decreased ability to produce energy as well.
The term chronic stress is used to describe long-term (more than 6 months) elevated cortisol. Over longer periods, this hormone elevation can start to damage/desensitize parts of the body that are involved in stress management. Scientists have proposed that burn out of the adrenal glands can happen, leading to chronic underproduction of cortisol and an extreme lack of energy.
It may sound counterintuitive, but low-intensity exercise may stimulate energy production. Nutrient-dense (think whole foods and variety) diets give the body the highest quality source of energy. The body can get more and better quality energy from a piece of chicken than a sugary breakfast cereal. Being mindful of your natural circadian rhythm is key to producing a healthy amount of energy. The quality and quantity of sleep matters and can be supported by practicing good sleep hygiene. This includes sleeping in a dark room, avoiding electronics before bed, and going to bed before 11 pm.
Our “new normal” work-from-home schedule can have us reaching for more coffee than we anticipated, but supporting the body’s natural energy production is the best way to regain vitality.
CoQ10 is characterized as a chemical compound called a quinone. CoQ10 is naturally produced in all organisms—from bacteria to humans. This essential nutrient is key in energy production in the mitochondria.
It also helps to reduce any damage from ROS to the mitochondria. Essentially, CoQ10 protects our main source of energy in the body.
Ashwagandha, also known by its Latin name Withania somnifera, is a well-known herb categorized as an adaptogen.
Adaptogenic herbs help to support healthy levels of cortisol, our stress hormone, in the body. This herb can support a healthy inflammatory response which can conserve energy in the body. Its antioxidant properties can help to protect our mitochondria from damage.
3. B Vitamins
B vitamins are a family of water-soluble vitamins that act as cofactors, or needed elements, to many chemical reactions in the body. Many B vitamins are needed for the mitochondria to make energy. Others, like B6, support healthy levels of neurotransmitter production, leading to the conservation of energy.
B vitamins have also been thought to help protect against ROS, keeping our mitochondria healthy.
Tyrosine is a non-essential amino acid created from another amino acid called phenylalanine. This compound is key in supporting healthy levels of neurotransmitters, leading to energy conservation.
Tyrosine is also a key player in energy production within the mitochondria. So, without it, efficiency in energy production may decrease.
Rhodiola, or Rhodiola rosea, is an adaptogenic herb similar to ashwagandha, but it has unique properties of its own.
This herb can support healthy cognition and energy production, by promoting healthy levels of cortisol production. It can also stop the “energy drain” of mental fatigue as it supports focus and concentration.
6. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a key nutrient needed for energy production. It is naturally made in the body through our skin’s contact with UV light. With indoor living and avoiding the sun becoming popular practices in the modern world, many may be deficient in this essential vitamin.
Vitamin D plays a key role in breaking down our food into energy. It can specifically support healthy sugar break down, theoretically supporting a healthy inflammatory response in the body.
Citrulline is an amino acid that can be made by the body or consumed through food like watermelon. This compound plays a key role in energy production in the cell.
This amino acid helps to produce molecules that can be used directly for energy in the mitochondria.
Melatonin is well known for its ability to support a healthy sleep cycle, a key element in energy production.
Melatonin has a direct effect on energy production by regulating when and where sugar should be broken down for energy. It also plays a role in regulating how fast or slow this sugar should be broken down. It’s theorized that melatonin also supports healthy levels of sugar in the bloodstream, leading to a healthy inflammatory response.
Magnesium has over 300 jobs in the human body. This abundant mineral supports the transport of energy through the mitochondria by acting as a counter ion, or way to balance, what comes in and out of this energy-producing organelle.
It is essential to moving the energy from the mitochondria so it can be used by all of the cells in the body.
10. Greens Blends
Greens blends, or superfood blends, are often found in powder form and can be added as a nutrient boost to smoothies or other foods. These dehydrated blends of nutrient-dense vegetables like kale, beets, spinach, and others can provide antioxidant support to prevent mitochondrial damage or key nutrients like magnesium or vitamins needed to support energy production.
Energy production in the body is essential for every function. Thankfully, there are lifestyle and supplement recommendations to support this process.
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