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The Best Supplements for Sustained Energy Boosts

Medically reviewed by 
The Best Supplements for Sustained Energy Boosts

In the relentless hustle of today's fast-paced lifestyle, a pervasive lack of energy has become a commonplace concern for many individuals. The demands of daily life, compounded by stress and inadequate sleep, often leave people searching for effective and practical solutions to combat fatigue. This quest has led to a growing interest in dietary supplements as a means to support sustained energy boosts.


Understanding Energy Metabolism

Energy metabolism is a complex and tightly regulated process that involves the production, storage, and utilization of cellular energy (adenosine 5'-triphosphate, or ATP) from nutrients. The breakdown and utilization of macronutrients – carbohydrates, fats, and proteins – fuels the body's metabolic pathways.

In cellular energy metabolism, ATP is generated from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins through enzyme-catalyzed reactions. Glucose, obtained from dietary carbohydrates, is the preferred fuel for most cells. Metabolism involves glycolysis in the cytoplasm and oxidative phosphorylation in the mitochondria, yielding ATP. Glycolysis is the enzymatic process within the cytoplasm of cells, where glucose is broken down into pyruvate. Pyruvate can then enter the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle or convert to lactate to generate ATP. Free fatty acids, sourced from dietary fats or stored triglycerides, can serve as substrates for energy production through oxidative phosphorylation, which produces more than double the energy of equivalent weights of carbohydrates or proteins. Protein building blocks, called amino acids, can also enter the TCA cycle. (58

Micronutrients serve as cofactors and coenzymes in the enzymatic reactions that drive the conversion of macronutrients into energy. Key micronutrients include vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and minerals like magnesium, zinc, and iron. For this reason, micronutrient deficiencies often lead to symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, and reduced physical performance. (36

The differential for fatigue is extensive, given the myriad factors that can contribute to fluctuations in energy levels. Fatigue is a complex symptom influenced by various physiological, psychological, and lifestyle factors. Anemia, characterized by a deficiency in red blood cells or hemoglobin, is a prominent cause of fatigue as it impairs the efficient transport of oxygen to tissues. Suboptimal dietary choices leading to nutrient deficiencies can hamper energy metabolism and contribute to persistent fatigue. Hormonal imbalances, such as thyroid dysfunction or adrenal fatigue, can disrupt the body's energy-regulating mechanisms. Inadequate sleep, whether due to poor sleep quality or insufficient duration, significantly impacts energy levels, impairing cognitive function and physical performance. Addressing fatigue requires a comprehensive evaluation and holistic approach that includes a balanced diet, adequate sleep, stress management, and targeted interventions based on individual health assessments.

Criteria for Selecting Energy-Boosting Supplements

Unlike pharmaceutical medications and conventional food products, the regulatory processes governing dietary supplements are distinct and often less stringent. This disparity can result in variations in product quality, safety, and efficacy. The absence of standardized manufacturing practices and quality controls increases the risk of inconsistent potency and potential contamination. Safety concerns arise due to limited pre-market evaluations, potentially exposing consumers to adverse effects. Moreover, the lack of stringent regulations on labeling can lead to misinformation, impacting consumers' ability to make informed choices. (59

To navigate these challenges, individuals must prioritize buying supplements from reputable brands that follow current good manufacturing practices and outsource third-party testing for quality assurance. Seeking guidance from healthcare professionals is crucial to making informed decisions, as they can offer personalized advice based on individual health needs and mitigate the potential risks associated with supplement use. (14

When selecting energy supplements (or any supplements, for that matter), individuals need to understand the safety profile, scientific evidence of efficacy, and compatibility with individual health conditions. The safety profile ensures that the chosen supplements do not pose unnecessary risks. Scientific evidence of efficacy provides confidence in the supplements' ability to deliver the intended benefits, substantiating their use as a viable part of a health regimen. Compatibility with individual health conditions ensures a tailored approach, considering specific needs and potential contraindications with existing medications, supplements, or preexisting health issues. (29

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is a water-soluble vitamin essential for energy production and red blood cell formation. B12 is indispensable for converting homocysteine to methionine, a process crucial for synthesizing DNA, RNA, and proteins. Additionally, B12 aids in producing myelin, the protective sheath around nerves, supporting optimal nerve function. (52

Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms can manifest gradually and include fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, depression, numbness, and tingling. Vitamin B12 is found naturally in animal products, so vegetarians and vegans are at the highest risk for deficiency. (52, 55

Vitamin B12 supplements are available individually, as part of multivitamins, or within B complex vitamin formulations. Vitamin B12, most commonly administered orally or through intramuscular injections, is available in various forms, including cyanocobalamin, hydroxocobalamin, adenosylcobalamin, and methylcobalamin. Methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin are the most active forms of B12. Supplements can contain vitamin B12 in doses ranging from 5-1,000 mcg. (52, 55)


Iron is critical in oxygen transport and energy metabolism. Most iron in the body is found in hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to various tissues. Additionally, iron is a key component of myoglobin, aiding in oxygen storage within muscle cells and facilitating energy production through cellular respiration. (46)

Signs of iron deficiency can significantly impact vitality and performance. Fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath are common symptoms, as reduced hemoglobin levels compromise the body's ability to deliver sufficient oxygen to tissues. Iron deficiency is one of the most common causes of anemia, especially in menstruating women. Iron deficiency can also hinder thyroid hormone synthesis, resulting in hypothyroidism, further exacerbating fatigue and muscle weakness.

Iron supplementation is often recommended to address deficiencies. Ferrous iron, particularly ferrous sulfate or fumarate, is commonly prescribed due to its high bioavailability. However, these iron salts typically cause constipation as a side effect, reducing compliance with therapy. Alternative forms, such as ferrous bisglycinate, tend to be gentler on the digestive tract. Guidelines recommend treating iron deficiency by dosing oral iron in doses of 120 mg of elemental iron daily for adults and 3 mg/kg (up to 60 mg) daily for children. (8

Unnecessary iron supplementation can result in severe side effects. Excess iron can accumulate in organs, leading to toxicity (multisystem organ failure, coma, convulsions, and death). In households with children, accidental iron overdose is a concern, as iron supplements can resemble candy. Secure storage and strict adherence to recommended dosages are imperative to prevent unintended iron toxicity in adults and children. (37

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

CoQ10, or ubiquinone, is a vitamin-like molecule that acts as an essential cofactor in the electron transport chain (ETC) in cells' mitochondria (often called the "powerhouse" of cells due to their central role in energy production). This ETC is a series of protein complexes within the inner mitochondrial membrane that creates an electrochemical gradient to generate ATP. CoQ10 is one of the facilitators of electron transfer during cellular respiration. Beyond its role in energy production, CoQ10 also exhibits antioxidant properties, protecting cells from oxidative damage.

CoQ10 levels tend to decline as individuals age, impacting cellular energy production and potentially contributing to fatigue. Additionally, certain health conditions and medications may further deplete CoQ10 levels. Supplementation with CoQ10 has shown promise in addressing these concerns. Studies suggest that CoQ10 supplementation may enhance energy levels, particularly in aging populations or individuals with conditions associated with mitochondrial dysfunction. (26, 40, 42

Research shows that CoQ10 supplementation in daily doses of 50-200 mg effectively reduces fatigue. CoQ10 exists in ubiquinone and ubiquinol forms, with ubiquinol being the reduced, more bioavailable form. 


Magnesium is a mineral cofactor for over 300 enzymatic reactions in the human body. Mitochondria store and use magnesium to produce ATP, but the body also requires magnesium for protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, and blood sugar control. (38

Nearly half of the US population consumes less than required dietary magnesium. Common symptoms associated with magnesium deficiency include muscle weakness, cramps, and spasms, as magnesium deficiency disrupts the proper function of ion channels and neuromuscular transmission. Additionally, fatigue and lethargy may arise due to magnesium's involvement in ATP production.

Magnesium supplements come in various forms, such as magnesium citrate or glycinate, with varying bioavailability. Magnesium malate is most commonly recommended to treat fatigue and muscle pain because of malic acid's role in cellular energy production. Supplementing with magnesium (~500 mg daily) helps reduce fatigue in patients with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), offer notable benefits in reducing inflammation and providing the body with energy (calories). These polyunsaturated fats play a crucial role in the body's inflammatory response, helping to balance and modulate inflammation. By influencing the production of inflammatory mediators, omega-3 fatty acids contribute to a more controlled and less excessive inflammatory state.

The link between omega-3 supplementation and improved energy and cognitive function is well-established. Omega-3 fatty acids are integral components of cell membranes, facilitating efficient nutrient transport and aiding in cellular energy production. Moreover, these fatty acids support optimal brain function, promoting neurotransmitter synthesis and maintaining the structural integrity of brain cells. Enhanced cognitive function often correlates with improved energy levels and mental alertness.

Dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, as well as plant-based sources like flaxseeds and walnuts. However, omega-3 supplements, particularly fish oil capsules, can be a convenient and effective option for those seeking concentrated and standardized doses. Omega-3 dosages vary based on individual needs and health conditions. Generally, a daily intake of 1,000-1,500 mg of combined EPA and DHA is recommended for maintaining overall health, while higher doses may be advised for specific health goals or conditions. (44

Adaptogens: Herbal Energy Supporters

Adrenal fatigue is a term used to describe a collection of nonspecific symptoms, such as fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating, attributed to the purported dysfunction of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in response to chronic stress. While not recognized as a medical diagnosis in conventional medicine, proponents suggest that prolonged stress leads to overstimulation of the adrenal glands, eventually resulting in an inadequate production of hormones like cortisol. This state of adrenal exhaustion is often associated with feeling "wired but tired," where individuals experience heightened alertness and restlessness yet concurrently battle fatigue and a lack of sustained energy.

Adaptogens are a class of botanical herbs that have gained attention for their remarkable role in enhancing stamina, reducing fatigue, and supporting adrenal function. These botanicals assist the body in adapting to stressors and modulate the body's stress response.

Rhodiola has been studied for its potential to improve physical and mental performance. It is believed to modulate stress response pathways, mitigating fatigue and enhancing endurance. Administration of 50 mg of rhodiola extract twice daily significantly reduced fatigue levels in students during a 20-day examination period. 

Ashwagandha, a revered herb in Ayurvedic medicine, is recognized for its ability to support adrenal function. A large pool of evidence supports ashwagandha's use to reduce stress and anxiety, support cognitive function, and enhance stamina. Research suggests that ashwagandha may modulate hormonal pathways, including cortisol and thyroid hormones, to produce desired results. (17

Ginseng, both the Asian and American varieties, contain ginsenoside compounds that enhance mitochondrial function, resulting in anti-fatigue effects. Evidence demonstrates reductions in fatigue by up to 75% when ginseng is administered for three months.

Lifestyle Considerations and Complementary Strategies

While energy-boosting supplements can play a valuable role in enhancing vitality, it's crucial to emphasize their integration into a holistic approach encompassing diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management. A comprehensive lifestyle plan is the cornerstone for optimal health and sustained energy levels.

Prioritize a nutrient-dense, balanced diet rich in whole foods. Ensure adequate intake of macronutrients, micronutrients, and hydration. Energy-boosting supplements should complement, not replace, a well-rounded diet. (34

Engage in regular physical activity tailored to individual preferences and capabilities. Exercise enhances circulation and oxygenation, activates mitochondrial energy production, and promotes better quality sleep. (41

Prioritize sufficient and restful sleep. Sleep is crucial for energy restoration, growth and development, immune function, and cognitive performance. (24

Chronic stress can deplete energy reserves. In addition to adaptogenic supplements, stress-reducing techniques, such as mindfulness, meditation, or yoga, will assist in managing stress responses.


Key Takeaways

In pursuit of sustained energy boosts, carefully chosen dietary supplements can offer valuable support, enhancing overall vitality. However, to maximize these benefits, a holistic approach combining supplements with healthy lifestyle practices is essential.

A well-rounded energy enhancement strategy encompasses a balanced diet, regular exercise, quality sleep, and stress management. Professional guidance is paramount in selecting and using supplements, ensuring personalized recommendations that align with individual health needs.

By embracing this comprehensive approach, individuals can cultivate lasting energy. 

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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