The human body strives for homeostasis—a state of balance that maintains a constant internal environment—to keep us functioning at our best. Yet, we know that our bodies cycle in both obvious (hunger and sleep/wake cycles) and not-so-obvious (temperature, brain wave activity, heart rate, and hormone production) ways. As a result, many aspects of our physiological experience, including our energy levels, vary throughout the day and from day to day.
While it’s normal for our energy levels to fluctuate, chronic low energy can be frustrating and disruptive. Today, however, there are more options than ever before to safely enhance energy levels, including innovative supplements that help our bodies maintain optimal function as we age. By exploring the top supplements for energy, you can better understand how to create a strategy that addresses your needs in specific, targeted ways.
Supplementing for Energy
A healthy diet and active lifestyle can go a long way toward supporting healthy energy levels. However, even those dedicated to eating well and exercising regularly can find themselves struggling to keep up, particularly as you enter midlife. Using supplements as part of an overall plan to fortify your vitality can help you create a stable internal environment that optimizes physical and mental functioning.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen used to reduce the effects of physical and mental stressors. It comes from an evergreen shrub, Withania somnifera, used for hundreds of years in Ayurvedic medicine, a traditional holistic healing system in India. Its medicinal potential has been studied in both animals and humans, with data supporting its use in the treatment of diabetes, anxiety, and even cancer. Significantly, ashwagandha has been found to energize both the mind and body. Research suggests that it can enhance cognitive function, increase physical endurance, improve speed and neuromuscular coordination, and increase aerobic capacity.
Supplement considerations: To receive the physical endurance and energizing benefits of ashwagandha, its root extract may be taken in capsule form. Look for a safe and reliable source, as some imported sources may contain unsafe levels of heavy metals. Ashwagandha is generally considered free from side effects but is not recommended for use by pregnant women.
Another powerful adaptogen that protects the body from the effects of stress and acts against fatigue is the root extract of Rhodiola rosea. This flowering perennial grows at high altitudes in the arctic regions of North America, Europe, and Asia, and its anti-stress and antidepressant properties have been the subject of substantial research. Though its effects are not as significant as those of prescription drugs for the treatment of depression, fewer undesirable side effects make it a viable alternative therapy. Rhodiola extract has also been found to effectively treat chronic or prolonged fatigue and improve both physical stamina and mental capability under stressful conditions. As such, it may provide a useful boost to both physical and cognitive abilities, while minimizing the effects of stress.
Supplement considerations: Rhodiola extract is available as a supplement alone or in combination with other fatigue-fighting compounds. As with most supplements taken by mouth, side effects are generally limited to mild digestive symptoms. Since Rhodiola has an energizing effect, it may be best to avoid taking it too close to bedtime.
The B vitamins are water-soluble cofactors essential for important enzymatic reactions in the cells and tissues of the body. Vitamin B12, which includes several forms called cobalamins, is a large, complex molecule containing cobalt. It is required for healthy functioning of the brain and nervous system, for RNA and DNA synthesis, and for the production of red blood cells. Since vitamin B12 is essential for both the functioning of the nervous system and the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, it is clear that a deficiency may impact energy reserves and cause anemia and fatigue. Indeed, vitamin B12 deficiency has been implicated in causing excessive daytime sleepiness.
The energy-boosting potential of vitamin B12 has made it perhaps the most well-known supplement for revitalization today—and for good reason. In a 2019 study on patients with Crohn’s disease and pernicious anemia, B12 injections have been found to significantly improve energy levels, mood, and concentration. While the results of injectable B12 supplementation may not translate directly to oral supplementation, previous research on the treatment of B12 deficiency in patients with Crohn’s disease found that oral supplementation offered an accessible, low-cost, alternative route of administration that was also effective and which many patients preferred.
Supplement considerations: Found naturally in meat and animal products, vitamin B12 is also available in supplement form and as an intramuscular injection. Vegetarians and vegans may be challenged to gain adequate B12 through diet. Ensuring sufficient intake through dietary sources or high-dose oral supplements helps to maintain homeostasis, but B12 injections may be required for individuals with intestinal malabsorption disorders.
Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, is a fat-soluble compound that acts as a strong antioxidant. It is instrumental in helping our cells produce energy and in fighting oxidative stress. Though it is produced naturally in the body, especially in metabolically-active tissues like the heart and the immune system, production decreases with age. For this reason, targeted intake can help to increase and restore CoQ10 levels. Dietary sources include meat, fish, and whole grains.
CoQ10 has been found to be beneficial for treating heart failure and high blood pressure and for aiding recovery from heart surgery. Since CoQ10 is central to the body’s cellular energy production, it is also critical to maintaining energy homeostasis. In double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies, oral administration has been found useful for alleviating the effects of physical fatigue and it may be used to counteract the muscle weakness that sometimes accompanies the administration of statin drugs.
Supplement considerations: The fat-soluble CoQ10 is best absorbed as a soft-gel or in a gelatin capsule and taken as a divided dose to ensure a steady concentration in the blood. However, not all forms of CoQ10 are ideal for all users. As we age, our bodies not only produce less of this critical compound, but we lose the ability to reduce it to its active form Ubiquinol. For this reason, it is generally recommended that adults over 40 and individuals with chronic health conditions take the active form of the supplement, Ubiquinol, as it is immediately bioavailable and does not require reduction.
Green tea has gained a great deal of attention in recent years for its positive health benefits and disease-fighting potential. These benefits are primarily the result of the amino acid L-theanine. Along with caffeine, another ingredient in green tea, L-theanine has been proposed as a treatment for a multitude of serious health conditions, including cancer, diabetes, and obesity.
Importantly, L-theanine has been found to have effects on the brain that are similar to that of naturally-occurring neurotransmitters, and its influence on alpha waves is similar to the alert relaxation achieved through meditation or biofeedback. Researchers measuring brain waves through electroencephalogram (EEG) have found that L-theanine has a calming effect without causing drowsiness, improves memory, and relieves the effects of stress. It has also been shown to improve cognition and mood in older adults.
Supplement considerations: Taking L-theanine as a supplement allows you to take a metered dose with or without the caffeine that accompanies it in tea. Because of its ability to enhance brain function without significant side effects, L-theanine is useful for regulating emotions and promoting alpha brain waves, which are associated with focus and creativity.
Maintaining Optimal Energy Stores
To keep our minds and bodies running at optimal efficiency and comfort, our energy reserves must ideally match the daily demand. By emphasizing a healthy diet and prioritizing exercise, we can support the stable internal environment needed for this. But the stresses and challenges we encounter in day to day life often leave us physically and mentally drained despite our best efforts. To combat stress and enhance functioning, reaching for a top supplement for energy can provide both short-term relief and ongoing support.
As with prescription drugs, the intake of potent supplements should be undertaken with the input of your trusted healthcare practitioner. To identify appropriate dosages and guard against dangerous interactions between supplements and prescription medication, your provider should have a complete list of all your drugs and supplements as part of a thorough history. Working with a knowledgeable practitioner will help to ensure that supplements for energy are a safe complement to a healthy lifestyle.
If your energy reserves are regularly falling short of the daily demand, BodyLogicMD can help. The BodyLogicMD network is comprised of top medical professionals who can evaluate your unique situation and determine if supplements are the solution for you. Contacting a local practitioner for an in-depth assessment and access to nutritional planning, stress management, and the highest quality supplements. Or, take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz to find out how hormones may be impacting your daily life.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases.
Charlotte is a patient care coordinator specializing in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. She is committed to helping patients who struggle with the symptoms of hormonal change and imbalance explore their treatment options and develop effective strategies to optimize wellness.