Best supplements for energy

March 7, 2024

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<img src=",413" srcset=";resize=360,239 360w,;resize=180,119 180w, " sizes="(max-width: 620px) 100vw, 620px" width="620" height="413" class="wp-image-873718 alignnone size-landscape_thumbnail" alt="Happy woman wearing bright colours jumping into the air" title="Best supplements for energy" /> <p>Looking for an energy uplift, but don’t want to rely on caffeine? While a balanced diet, regular exercise and good sleeping habits are, of course, key to optimising energy levels, every now and then we all need an extra ‘boost’. Plenty of supplements claim to help, but these can often contain caffeine. Read our expert’s advice to find which one might suit you.</p>
<h2>What is energy?</h2>
<p>When we talk about ‘<a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">energy</a>’ we’re typically referring to stamina, a sense of vitality and a healthy ability to undertake daily activities, whether they be physical or mental.</p>
<p>If you often feel lacking in energy you’re not alone – <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">one in eight Brits</a> complains of feeling tired ‘all the time’, while a quarter of us are tired ‘most of the time’. Common solutions to this lack of mojo come in the form of caffeine – from energy shots or drinks – or sugar – generally sweet snacks. Although these may seem like the perfect quick fix, the stimulant effect of <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">caffeine</a> may last longer than you think, and eating too much sugar can result in <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">energy levels spiking and crashing</a> later in the day, leaving you feeling altogether worse.</p>
<h2>Why is caffeine so effective?</h2>
<p>More than <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">90 per cent of US adults consume caffeine regularly</a> and it’s a similar story in the UK, with many of us relying on a frequent caffeine boost. As a stimulant, <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">caffeine</a> has well-known benefits: it increases alertness, focus and physical performance. It does this by increasing <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">activity in the brain</a> and central nervous system and at the same time increasing the circulation of other stimulatory chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline in the body. The result is an <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">increase in energy</a>, a heightened sense of awareness and a <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sharper memory</a>. It typically takes 15-60 minutes to feel the effects of caffeine, and this may last for around 3-5 hours – although this depends on <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">how well you absorb and process caffeine</a>.</p>
<h2>Eight supplements for energy</h2>
<p>If you’re looking for an alternative to sustain your energy levels and maintain alertness and focus, here are some common options:</p>
<h3>1. Ashwagandha</h3>
<p>(<em>Withania somnifera</em>) A small woody plant with a yellow flower, it’s the root of the plant that is said to support energy levels by improving your body’s resilience to <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">physical</a> and <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">mental stress </a>and potentially helping you <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">sleep better</a> too. Studies suggest ashwagandha, taken for a period of up to three months, is likely <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">safe with a low risk of side effects</a>, although the long-term effects are unknown and it may not be appropriate for everyone.</p>
<p><strong>How much should I take</strong>: dosage varies depending on your specific needs, but approx. 250-500mg per day appears to be effective.</p>
<p><strong>How quickly does it work</strong>: you may see some effects within two weeks, although the full benefits won’t be felt for about 4-6 weeks.</p>
<h3><strong>2. Rhodiola rosea </strong></h3>
<p>With a reputation for <a href=",treat%20gastrointestinal%20ailments%20and%20impotence." target="_blank" rel="noopener">tackling stress, fatigue and burnout</a><u>,</u> this established herbal supplement has been reported to enhance physical and mental performance.</p>
<p><strong>How much should I take: </strong>the recommended daily dose for an adult is <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">400mg</a><u>,</u> taken in two divided doses; it is generally considered safe for use for a period of <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">up to 12 weeks</a>.</p>
<p><strong>How quickly does it work:</strong> the effects will vary from person to person, with some reporting short term improvements in stress and fatigue within 1-2 weeks of use, more <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">significant improvements</a> may be seen after eight weeks.</p>
<h3>3. Coenzyme Q10</h3>
<p>(CoQ10) A natural substance found throughout the body, CoQ10 is involved in <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">energy production</a>. As we age, we tend to produce less of this important compound and this may <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">contribute to fatigue</a>. Supplementing may help reduce tiredness and improve exercise capacity because CoQ10 <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">supports the energy generators</a> in our cells, called mitochondria.</p>
<p><strong>How much should I take: </strong>General recommendations vary depending on your circumstances but 30-200mg per day is a typical range. CoQ10 is fat-soluble so taking it with a meal may optimise absorption. If you take prescription drugs check with your healthcare practitioner before supplementing.</p>
<p><strong>How quickly does it work: </strong>The effects of CoQ10 are not immediate and <a href=",take%20up%20to%20eight%20weeks"><u>may take up to eight weeks</u></a> before you feel the benefit.</p>
<h3>4. L-theanine</h3>
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<p>This amino acid found in tea helps <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">promote relaxation</a> and calms the mind; as a result it may boost mental alertness and arousal. When L-theanine is combined with caffeine, for example in tea, it helps improve your performance at <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">brain challenging tasks</a>.</p>
<p><strong>How much should I take:</strong> A 200ml cup of <a href=",%2C%20%26%20Priestley%2C%202011)%20." target="_blank" rel="noopener">regular tea provides 25mg</a> L-theanine – when taken as a supplement an adult dose varies from 200-400mg daily and is typically taken for a period of 4-8 weeks.</p>
<p><strong>How quickly does it work: </strong>The calming effects of L-theanine may be felt in 60 minutes with improvements in alertness and cognition experienced after <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">60-90 minutes</a>.</p>
<h3>5. Beetroot</h3>
<p>Containing high levels of nitrate, a beetroot juice shot may help relax blood vessels which can then increase the delivery of oxygen throughout the body. Keen sports people and athletes who drink beetroot juice report seeing an improvement in their <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">endurance and performance</a>.</p>
<p>Key to the beetroot’s success is that you drink the juice slowly and avoid using mouth wash or cleaning your teeth after drinking. The reason for this is that it’s the <a href=",NO%20as%20the%20first%20step." target="_blank" rel="noopener">beneficial bacteria in the mouth</a> that convert the nitrates in beetroot to active nitrites.</p>
<p><strong>How much should I take: </strong>Approximately 300ml of regular beetroot juice or one concentrated shot.</p>
<p><strong>How quickly does it work: </strong>Taken as a juice or shot, beetroot takes about <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">90 minutes </a>to be effective, with the peak benefits experienced within 2-3 hours of consumption.</p>
<h3>6. Matcha</h3>
<p>A type of green tea, <a href="/howto/guide/health-benefits-of-matcha-tea" target="_blank" rel="noopener">matcha</a> is a concentrated source of <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">plant chemicals called polyphenols</a>, as well as caffeine and L-theanine – all of which benefit the brain and help optimise how it works.</p>
<p><strong>How much should I take: </strong>Despite many health benefits, matcha is best consumed in moderation. This is because a cup contains <a href=",mg%2Fg%20%5B27%5D." target="_blank" rel="noopener">more caffeine than green tea</a> and while some caffeine may be helpful, too much may have an adverse effect for some people. Aim for 1-2 cups per day.</p>
<p><strong>How quickly does it work</strong>: The speed of effect will be similar to that of caffeine and L-theanine from other sources – approx. 15-60 minutes.</p>
<h3>7. Yerba mate</h3>
<p>A caffeinated herbal tea made from the leaves and stems of the <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Ilex paraguariensis</a> shrub, this drink increases energy through the action of caffeine and other natural chemicals. The caffeine stimulates parts of the brain that relieve mental and physical fatigue, improve memory and concentration and speed reaction time. It also improves alertness. Some consumers claim the effects are more sustained than that from a coffee or energy drink and, because it increases the release of certain gut hormones, it may have a <a href=",by%20direct%20induction%20of%20satiety." target="_blank" rel="noopener">mild appetite suppressant effect</a>, too.</p>
<p><strong>How much should I take:</strong> The amount of caffeine in a cup of yerba mate is similar to that of a <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cup of coffee</a> (about 80mg), but the method of consuming the drink – pouring extra water into the “mate” – may result in an intake of more than 260mg of caffeine per serving. Long term consumption at high levels is not recommended and may be linked with an <a href=",mat%C3%A9%20as%20compared%20with%20nondrinkers." target="_blank" rel="noopener">increased risk of certain cancers</a>. It is also advisable to avoid smoked versions.</p>
<p><strong>How quickly does it work:</strong> The speed of effect will be similar to that of other caffeinated drinks – approx. 15-60 minutes.</p>
<h3>8. Kombucha</h3>
<p>This is a mildly fizzy, <a href="/howto/guide/health-benefits-kombucha" target="_blank" rel="noopener">fermented drink</a> made from sweetened tea. It contains small amounts of naturally occurring caffeine (about a third of the amount found in the tea it was made from), L-theanine as well as <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">vitamins and minerals</a> including energising vitamin C and the B group vitamins such as B1, B6 and B12.</p>
<p><strong>How much should I take:</strong> There are very few clinical studies to prove kombucha’s safety or efficacy and the composition of the drink may vary between products and batches. Furthermore, there have been some reports that drinking too much may lead to <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">unpleasant side effects</a>. Aim to limit your intake to 1-2 servings a day.</p>
<p><strong>How quickly does it work:</strong> Thanks to the caffeine, L-theanine and vitamins, kombucha may provide a mild but instantaneous energising effect. In addition to this, drinking kombucha in moderation and as part of a balanced diet may provide a more sustained improvement in energy production.</p>
<h2>What about diet?</h2>
<p>What and <a href=",did%20not%20influence%20leptin%20concentrations." target="_blank" rel="noopener">when you eat</a> is also key to sustaining energy levels for the longer term. A varied and balanced diet, rich in nutrient-dense foods like fruit, vegetables, dairy, nuts and seeds should provide the nutrients you need. These include <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">macronutrients</a> (carbs, fat and protein) to provide energy and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that are key to extracting the energy from your food. Of these the most relevant are:</p>
<li>B vitamins: all the <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">B vitamins</a>, with the exception of folate, are involved in one or more of the steps that transform the food you eat to the energy your cells use.</li>
<li>Vitamin C: this is involved in <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">energy release</a><u>;</u> it supports iron absorption from plant sources and increases the mobilisation of iron from body stores.</li>
<li><a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Iron</a>: this is needed to make haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen from your lungs to the organs and tissues of the body that need it.</li>
<li>Magnesium: it plays a number of roles in <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">energy production</a>, so no surprise then that low levels are associated with physical and muscle fatigue.</li>
<li>Zinc: people with <a href=",associated%20with%20lipid%20membrane%20damage." target="_blank" rel="noopener">chronic fatigue</a> may be low in this important mineral, it acts as co-factor helping to restore <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">energy pathways</a>.</li>
<li>Iodine: it regulates the conversion of your food to energy – milk and dairy are key food sources of <a href="/howto/guide/what-iodine#" target="_blank" rel="noopener">iodine</a> in the UK diet.</li>
<h2>What else will boost my energy when I’m feeling tired?</h2>
<p>If you lack energy, it’s worth taking a look at your lifestyle to see <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">what healthy changes</a> you can make to boost your energy as well as your overall health.</p>
<li>Get adequate sleep: burning the midnight oil to meet a deadline may leave you feeling <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tired, grumpy and low in energy</a>. Although the amount of sleep we need varies, experts generally recommend adults achieve seven hours per night. Read more about <a href="/howto/guide/how-much-sleep-do-i-need" target="_blank" rel="noopener">how much sleep you need</a>.</li>
<li>Keep active: in addition to sport and structured exercise, everyday movement such as housework, <a href="/howto/guide/10-benefits-of-walking" target="_blank" rel="noopener">walking</a> and dancing are important for maintaining health, supporting sleep and <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">improving energy levels</a>.</li>
<li>Take a power nap: if you’re looking to sharpen your cognitive powers then <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an early afternoon nap</a> may be the answer, with physical performance potentially improved when your nap lasts <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">90 minutes</a>.</li>
<li>Low glycaemic foods: eating a <a href="/recipes/collection/low-gi-breakfast-recipes" target="_blank" rel="noopener">breakfast</a> and afternoon snack that has a <a href="/howto/guide/spotlight-low-gi" target="_blank" rel="noopener">low glycaemic</a> value (a measure of how a food affects your blood sugar levels) may help stabilise blood sugar and <a href=",and%20energy%20balance%20in%20Asians" target="_blank" rel="noopener">improve your energy balance</a>.</li>
<li>Cold water immersion: supporters believe a <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cold-water dip</a> may help improve energy levels – numerous anecdotal reports support this effect but only <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">limited research</a> has been done to validate the claims.</li>
<h2>So, how can I help my energy levels?</h2>
<p>Without doubt, the best way to sustain energy levels is to eat a balanced, healthy diet, maintain your hydration levels, get adequate sleep and stay active. That said, the challenges of modern life take their toll on our energy levels. Fortunately, there are alternatives to your regular caffeine or sugar hit – so whether you’re looking for a quick pick-me-up or a more sustained energy supply there are plenty of options to choose from.</p>
<p><strong>Enjoyed this? Now read…. </strong></p>
<p><a href="/howto/guide/five-reasons-youre-waking-up-tired-with-no-energy">5 reasons you’re waking up tired with no energy</a><br>
<a href="/howto/guide/eat-right-sleep-tight">How to eat for a good night’s sleep</a><br>
<a href="/howto/guide/how-much-sugar-is-in-a-can-of-cola">How much sugar is in a can of cola?</a><br>
<a href="/howto/guide/spotlight-caffeine#">All you need to know about caffeine</a><br>
<a href="/howto/guide/why-sugar-bad#">Why is sugar bad for you? </a></p>
<p><em>Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a BANT Registered Nutritionist® with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition &amp; Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.</em></p>
<p><em>All health content on <span class="skimlinks-unlinked"></span> is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.</em></p>

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