Energy is what we need in order to move, think, and survive. The human body relies on chemical energy to perform physiological functions and biological activities. Did you know that our brain, despite representing only 2% of our total body weight, uses around 20% of the oxygen and calories we take in (1)? Yep! Since the brain has no storage for energy, it requires a constant supply of glucose, a main source of energy for the brain in order to function (2).
Aside from our brain, other parts of our body and systems need energy too. We burn energy with any kind of physical exertion. A study conducted by Harvard revealed that 30 minutes of walking burns an average of 133 calories, swimming uses around 216 calories, and reading in a chair consumes about 40 calories (3).
In fact, we also expend energy when in a state of rest or even during sleep! When we sleep, our bodies consume 22 calories every half hour. Calories used during sleep are allocated to automatic bodily functions such as breathing, temperature regulation, circulation, and cellular repair and growth (4).
How to address low energy levels
Without enough energy to burn when we’re both awake and asleep, our bodies and brains would have difficulty in functioning. Insufficient energy levels commonly result in fatigue, a state associated with physical and mental tiredness or weakness. An imbalance of energy levels can be enough to affect your professional, social, and personal life (5). So it’s super important to ensure you’re getting the energy you need.
The body’s energy-producing process is called cellular respiration. Cell respiration is how we get energy from the food we eat. Cellular respiration takes the nutrients, especially glucose, from what we eat and oxygen we breathe in to produce energy. There are plenty of processes involved in creating usable energy for our bodies, but they all begin with us eating nutritious foods, the primary source of energy.
To achieve a balanced diet, most adults are encouraged to consume various foods from each of the five food groups (6) — vegetables and legumes, fruits, grains and cereals, lean meat (including eggs, tofu, nuts, etc.), and dairy daily. Apart from food, it can be equally beneficial to consider taking vitamin and mineral supplements to make sure that your body gets the energy it needs. These supplements can help boost energy necessary for performing day-to-day tasks and enjoying activities including exercise, work, and spending time with friends and family.
Types of energy supplements
There are various energy supplements in the market today. Here are some that you may want to consider to boost energy:
Iron is essential to supporting and maintaining energy production. It is a component of specific proteins including haemoglobin, the oxygen transport protein in the red blood cells (7). This makes iron a vital mineral that helps transport oxygen throughout the body.
Certain foods are high in iron such as lamb, spinach, tofu, and cashews. While we can get iron from everyday food consumption, it may not be enough. Our bodies only absorb around 18% of iron from a diet that includes animal meat and even less amounts from a vegetarian diet (8).
Iron absorption can also be affected by the kinds of foods and drinks that we consume and how we prepare them. For example, only 6% of iron is absorbed by the body from uncooked broccoli while 30% is absorbed from cooked broccoli. On the other hand, certain foods and drinks may limit your body’s ability to properly absorb iron. Tea, coffee, and wine are some examples of common beverages that may interfere with iron absorption. These everyday beverages contain tannins which bind to iron, making it unabsorbable by the body (9).
Apart from being more conscious about your diet, a complementary solution would be to get iron from energy supplements. Ideally, your personalised vitamin pack with iron should also contain vitamin C as it aids in the efficient absorption of iron for boosting energy.
*Iron should only be taken if prescribed by your doctor.
Within the traditional medicinal system of India called Ayurveda, ashwagandha has long been touted for its rejuvenating properties among a wide array of health benefits (11). Used as a tonic, stimulant, astringent, ashwagandha is said to relieve fatigue, fight acute and chronic stress, while boosting energy and improving physical stamina (13).
Ashwagandha, specifically its root extract, also contains sleep-inducing qualities (14), whereas the herb’s alkaloids are similarly used as insomnia treatment (15). This too has energy boosting implications given our body’s need for energy during sleep. Why? During sleep, cellular healing and growth take place to replenish our energy expended in our waking hours, a process necessary for us to feel well-rested and energised for the next day!
Sleep deprivation drastically affects how the body stores energy and controls energy availability. Since energy is not properly refueled when someone lacks sleep, people may end up using as much as one-third more energy than the well-rested person. This inefficient use of energy could result in tiredness, sluggishness, and disengagement as we go through the day (16). Proof that sleep really is critical to how you show up each day.
Ashwagandha, specifically the leaves and roots, is typically consumed in powder form (12). The powder can then be mixed with water, ghee (or clarified butter), or honey. However you choose to consume ashwagandha, be it in its powdered form or as a synthesized energy supplement, the herb can provide energy boosting benefits to both mind and body.
By being a cofactor for enzymes during cellular respiration, magnesium assists with the breakdown of glucose essential for maintaining our energy levels (17).
This essential mineral is naturally present in plenty of foods—almonds, pumpkin seeds, soy milk, whole wheat bread, avocado, milk, and more. A high-fat diet may interfere with magnesium absorption, so following a low-fat diet is the key to getting enough magnesium to boost energy. While magnesium is found in both animal and plant products, you may still not be getting enough of it. For example, in Australia, one out of every three people don’t get enough of their daily magnesium requirement (18) of 400 mg (male adults from 19 to 30 years old) or 310 mg (female adults of the same age group) (19) .
A magnesium deficiency and its associated lack of energy are increasingly becoming a common problem for Australians. Mostly, this issue is due to consuming too many processed foods rather than whole foods in combination with other lifestyle factors. Certain groups are also at higher risk of magnesium deficiency, such as those who have alcoholism and / or are in advanced age (18).
If you have any trouble adjusting your diet for it to contain more magnesium-rich foods, you can consider a vitamin subscription pack containing magnesium supplements. Vitable’s Magnesium citrate is a type of magnesium that is highly bioavailable and helps maintain energy production in the body.
B complex vitamins are often grouped together because in most cases, each B vitamin plays a key role, and consuming them together may enhance their health benefits, including energy boosting effects.
B complex vitamins support energy production through their involvement in the energy-producing metabolic pathways for fats, proteins, and carbohydrates (20). In addition, B vitamins are also involved in storing and releasing energy in the body’s cells (21). For instance, vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B6 all play a role in cellular energy production.
Another B complex vitamin that contributes to boosting energy is B12. Vitamin B12 aids in the production of red blood cells, repair of body tissue, and nerves health, all of which play a part in making us feel energised throughout the day.
According to Healthdirect.gov.au, Australians are encouraged to eat one to three servings of lean meat, poultry, eggs, or fish per day to get their daily fill of B complex vitamins (22).
While getting enough vitamin B12 is possible for vegetarians and vegans, these individuals may be at higher risk of B vitamin deficiency due to a more limited choice of foods rich in the vitamin. Some B complex vitamins for energy can help, as long as they contain B12 or cyanocobalamin.
Acetyl L-carnitine or ALC is the acetylated and bioavailable form of L-carnitine. This vitamin supports energy production as a cofactor needed for the body’s production of energy and is required for the formation of free long-chain fatty acids into acylcarnitine. To get a little technical with you, these processes shuttle fatty acids into the mitochondria, where they are subsequently oxidised and thus, energy is created (23)!
Apart from playing a major role in the production of energy, research has revealed that ALC can maintain healthy energy levels and decrease oxidative stress (24). ALC is also better tolerated by those who experience chronic fatigue (25).
Certain animal foods and animal byproducts make excellent sources of carnitine, such as beef steak, cod, chicken breast, and whole milk. However, ALC, which is available as a vitamin supplement for energy, is more bioavailable than L-carnitine (27). This key characteristic helps the body absorb the nutrients faster.
Vitamin C supports energy production by aiding in the transport of fatty acids into the mitochondria to create energy (26). Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid also helps boost iron absorption which is also an essential energy booster.
Despite vitamin C’s many health benefits, our bodies cannot naturally produce it. Fortunately, plenty of readily available fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C. This includes oranges, tomatoes, broccoli, lemons, and berries. It is highly recommended to consume these foods raw or lightly cooked at most, then eat them as soon as they’re sliced. This is because several steps of food preparation, including cutting, heating, and cooking, affect the efficacy of the vitamin C they contain (28).
As a nutrient that supports and fortifies your immune system, you may want to consider incorporating vitamin C as an energy supplement in your daily diet. There are plenty of energy-booster supplements that contain vitamin C, but to fortify your immune system, you can include other natural antioxidants to complement its effects such as rosehip, vitamin E, vitamin A, or beta-carotene (29).
Vitable offers easy-to-assemble vitamin subscriptions in Australia that are completely customisable to cater to your daily vitamin needs. We’ll even have your personalised vitamin packs delivered right to your doorstep. Vitable is everything you need in a vitamin subscription for energy and beyond - from a personalised vitamins plan to safe and reliable vitamin delivery.
Find out more about other areas that the above supplements can help you with:
*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.
- Clark D.D., et al. “Basic Neurochemistry: Molecular, Cellular and Medical Aspects.” Published 1999 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC124895/ . Accessed on 2 September 2021.
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- Harvard Health Publishing. “Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights.” Published March 2021 on https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-of-leisure-and-routine-activities . Accessed on 2 September 2021.
- Sleep Foundation. “How Your Body Uses Calories While You Sleep.” Published November 2020 on https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-your-body-uses-calories-while-you-sleep . Accessed on 2 September 2021.
- Better Health Channel. “Fatigue”. Published (n.d.) https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/fatigue . Accessed on 2 September 2021.
- Harvard Health Publishing. “Eating to boost energy.” Published July 2011 https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/eating-to-boost-energy. Accessed on 2 September 2021.
- Linus Pauling Institute. “Micronutrient Information.” Published on 2019 on https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/iron. Accessed on 3 September 2021.
- National Health and Medical Research Council. “Iron.” Published (n.d.) on https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/iron . Accessed on 2 September 2021.
- Better Health Channel. “Iron.” Published (n.d.) https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/iron . Accessed on 2 September 2 2021.
- National Library of Medicine. “Iron amino acid chelates.” Published Nov 2004 on https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15743019/ . Accessed on 2 September 2021.
- Narendra Singh, et.al. “An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda.” Published on July 2011 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3252722/ . Accessed on 2 September 2021.
- Manvir Kaur Gill, et.al. “Role of Ashwagandha Incorporated Functional Foods for Betterment of Human Health: A Review.” Published on April 2019 on https://www.researchgate.net/publication/332402696_Role_of_Ashwagandha_Incorporated_Functional_Foods_for_Betterment_of_Human_Health_A_Review . Accessed on 3 September 2021.
- Battacharya SK, et.al. “Adaptogenic activity of Withania somnifera: an experimental study using a rat model for chronic stress.” Published on 2003 on https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091305703001102?via%3Dihub . Accessed on 3 September 2021.
- Langade, D., et.al. “Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) Root Extract in Insomnia and Anxiety: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study.” Published on September 2019 on https://www.cureus.com/articles/22928-efficacy-and-safety-of-ashwagandha-withania-somnifera-root-extract-in-insomnia-and-anxiety-a-double-blind-randomized-placebo-controlled-study . Accessed on 3 September 2021.
- Kumar, A., et.al. “Protective effect of Withania somnifera Dunal on the behavioral and biochemical alterations in sleep-disturbed mice (Grid over water suspended method).” Published on 2007 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17585686 . Accessed on 3 September 2021.
- Mindy Engle-Friedman. “The effects of sleep loss on capacity and effort.” Published on December 2014 on https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4608917/ . Accessed on 3 September 2021.
- Jahnen-Dechent, W., et.al. “Magnesium Basics.” Published on February 2012 on https://academic.oup.com/ckj/article/5/Suppl_1/i3/447534. Accessed on 3 September 2021.
- Health Direct. “Foods high in Magnesium.” Published on (n.d.) on https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/foods-high-in-magnesium . Accessed on 3 September 2021.
- National Institutes of Health. “Magnesium: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.” Published on (n.d.) on https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/ . Accessed on 3 September 2021.
- Whitney, E. “Understanding Nutrition Australia and New Zealand Edition, 2nd edition.” Published on 2014 on https://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Record/6225217 . Accessed on 3 September 2021.
- Braun, L., et.al. “Herbs & Natural Supplements: An evidence-based guide. Volume 2, 4th ed.” Published on 2015 on https://researchdirect.westernsydney.edu.au/islandora/object/uws:34980 . Accessed on 3 September 2021.
- Health Direct. “Foods high in Vitamin B12.” Published on (n.d.) on https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/foods-high-in-vitamin-b12 . Accessed on 3 September 2021.
- Scott Mendelson. “Metabolic Syndrome and Psychiatric Illness.” Published on 2008 on https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780123742407500127?via%3Dihub . Accessed on 3 September 2021.
- Ferreira, GC, et.al. “L-Carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine roles and neuroprotection in developing brain.” Published on June 2017 on https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28508995/ . Accessed on 4 September 2021.
- Valentina Tomassini, et.al. “Comparison of the effects of acetyl L-carnitine and amantadine for the treatment of fatigue in multiple sclerosis: results of a pilot, randomized, double-blind, crossover trial.” Published on March 2004 on https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14759641/ . Accessed on 4 September 2021.
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