Ashwagandha is one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda, one of the oldest systems of medicine in the world.
Ashwagandha is thought to increase energy by increasing the body's ability to adapt to physical and mental stress.
In one study, people who took ashwagandha showed significant improvements on several measures of stress and anxiety compared to those who took a placebo. They also had a 28% reduction in cortisol levels, a hormone that increases with stress.
A review of five studies on ashwagandha's effects on anxiety and stress further strengthens these findings.
All studies show that people who take ashwagandha extract score higher on tests measuring stress, anxiety, and fatigue.
In addition to improving mental fatigue and stress, studies have shown that ashwagandha can relieve exercise-related fatigue.
One study of elite cyclists found that those who took ashwagandha cycled 7% longer than those who took a placebo.
Additionally, studies show that ashwagandha supplements are safe and have a low risk of side effects.
2. Rhodiola rosea
Rhodiola rosea is an herbaceous plant that grows in some cold mountainous areas. It is widely used as an adaptogen, a natural substance that enhances the body's ability to cope with stress.
In one study, researchers combined and analyzed results from 11 studies that examined the effects of rhodiola on physical and mental fatigue in more than 500 people.
Of these 11 studies, 8 found evidence that rhodiola can enhance physical performance and relieve mental fatigue. There are also no major safety risks with Rhodiola rosea supplements.
Another review concluded that rhodiola has a low risk of side effects and may help relieve physical and mental fatigue.
Rhodiola rosea has also been suggested to help relieve depression, which is often associated with fatigue.
A 12-week study compared the antidepressant effects of rhodiola rosea with the commonly used antidepressants sertraline or zoloft.
Rhodiola rosea has been found to reduce symptoms of depression, but is not as effective as sertraline.
However, Rhodiola rosea causes fewer side effects than Sertraline and is better tolerated.
3. Vitamin B12
Like other B vitamins, vitamin B12 helps convert the food you eat into energy that your cells can use.
It also keeps the body's nerves and blood cells healthy and helps prevent a type of anemia that can make you weak and tired.
Vitamin B12 is found naturally in many animal proteins, such as meat, fish and dairy products. Many foods are also fortified with B12, allowing most Americans to meet their vitamin B12 needs through a balanced diet of B12-rich foods.
However, certain groups of people may be at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency, which occurs when your body doesn't get enough or absorbs the amount it needs.
Therefore, some people may experience a boost in energy levels from vitamin B12 supplements.
People who may be at risk for deficiency include:
Elderly: About 10-30% of adults over the age of 50 have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12 from food. This is because they produce less stomach acid and protein, which are necessary for proper absorption.
Vegans: Vegetarians and vegans are at risk for B12 deficiency because animal foods are the only natural food sources of this vitamin.
People with gastrointestinal conditions: Conditions that affect the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, such as celiac disease and Crohn's disease, may interfere with the body's ability to absorb B12.
However, there is no evidence that supplementing with B12 (or any B-complex vitamin) can enhance energy in people with adequate B12 levels.
The body needs iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to organs and tissues throughout the body.
Without adequate iron levels, your red blood cells cannot efficiently carry oxygen to your body's tissues.
This can lead to iron deficiency anemia, which may make you feel tired and weak.
Causes of iron deficiency anemia include:
- Iron-deficient diet: The richest sources of iron in the diet include meat and seafood. Therefore, the iron requirement of vegetarians is 1.8 times that of meat eaters.
- Blood loss: More than half of the body's iron is found in the blood. Therefore, blood loss from menorrhagia or internal bleeding can drastically reduce levels.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant women need twice as much iron to support normal fetal growth. Unfortunately, about half of pregnant women suffer from iron deficiency anemia.
In these cases, iron supplementation may be needed to correct iron deficiency and avoid complications associated with iron deficiency anemia, including fatigue.
However, because consuming too much iron can pose health risks, talk to your doctor to see if iron supplements are right for you .
Melatonin is a natural hormone that plays a role in sleep. Its production and release depend on the time of day—it rises in the evening and sets in the morning.
Melatonin supplementation may be an effective way to relieve insomnia, a sleep disorder that affects approximately 30% of adults worldwide.
Chronic insomnia can leave you feeling constantly tired and low on energy. Symptoms include difficulty falling or staying asleep, waking up too early, and poor sleep quality.
For people with chronic fatigue syndrome, melatonin supplements have been shown to improve focus and energy while reducing fatigue.
Interestingly, reduced melatonin production has been linked to aging, Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure.
However, it's unclear whether taking melatonin supplements can help reduce fatigue in people with these conditions.
Melatonin supplements appear to be safe. What's more, they don't cause your body to produce less melatonin and are not associated with withdrawal or dependence.
6. Coenzyme Q10
CoQ10 stands for coenzyme Q10, which is naturally produced in the body. CoQ10 comes in many forms, including ubiquinone and ubiquinol. They are ubiquitous in the body, meaning they are present in all cells.
All cells contain CoQ10, but the heart, kidneys and liver have the highest levels. Cells use CoQ10 to produce energy and protect themselves from oxidative damage.
When CoQ10 levels drop, your body's cells are unable to produce the energy they need to grow and maintain health, which can lead to fatigue.
Fish, meat, and nuts contain CoQ10, but the amounts are not high enough to significantly increase CoQ10 levels in the body.
Therefore, for people with declining or low levels, supplementing with CoQ10 may be a better solution for reducing fatigue.
CoQ10 levels decrease with age and in people with heart failure, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, or people taking statins (a class of drugs used to lower blood cholesterol levels) Probably lower.
However, CoQ10 supplements are unlikely to increase energy in people with adequate levels of the enzyme.
Additionally, studies in humans and animals show that CoQ10 supplements are safe at appropriate doses.
Research shows that one of several forms of CoQ10, called ubiquinol, may be more effective at increasing CoQ10 levels in older men.
Creatine is a compound found naturally in red meat, pork, poultry and fish. It is a source of fast energy in your body.
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the energy currency of life. When your body uses ATP for energy, it loses its phosphate group and becomes adenosine diphosphate.
So when your body needs a quick source of energy, creatine converts its phosphate into ADP and into ATP.
This gives you the energy you need for high-intensity, short-term exercise, such as:
- Short sprints, such as the 100-meter sprint or interval sprints in sports such as football or soccer.
- Short, powerful bursts of activity such as shot putting or jumping.
- Activities that require a lot of strength, such as weightlifting.
A review of 53 studies found that creatine supplementation increased bench press strength by 5%. For someone who can bench press 200 pounds (91 kilograms) on creatine alone, this means a weight gain of 10 pounds.
In another review, older adults who took creatine gained 3.1 pounds (1.4 kg) of lean muscle mass compared with older adults who did not take creatine.
Increases in muscle strength and size are largely attributed to participants being able to train harder for longer periods of time due to increased energy supply.
The name "citrulline" comes from Citrullus vulgaris, the Latin word for watermelon, from which it was first isolated.
Citrulline increases nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide acts as a vasodilator, causing the muscles inside blood vessels to expand and increase blood circulation.
This allows blood, oxygen, and nutrients to be delivered to all parts of the body. However, when the ability to produce nitric oxide is limited, weakness and low energy may occur.
Therefore, as a precursor of nitric oxide, citrulline supplements can increase energy levels by increasing the availability of oxygen and nutrients to the body's cells.
Citrulline also plays a role in the urea cycle, helping to eliminate ammonia from the body. The production of ammonia is the main cause of fatigue caused by strenuous exercise.
As a result, citrulline can reduce the fatigue associated with strenuous exercise, allowing you to exercise for longer.
In one study, people who took citrulline completed a cycling test 1.5% faster than those who took a placebo. The citrulline group also reported less fatigue and faster recovery.
In another study, taking citrulline supplements allowed people to exercise 12% longer and increase intensity by 7% compared to a placebo.
The safety of citrulline is also well established, even in large doses.
9. Beetroot powder
Beetroot powder is made from beetroot vegetables and contains high amounts of nitrates.
Similar to L-citrulline, nitrates produce nitric oxide in the body, which relaxes blood vessels and increases blood flow and oxygen delivery.
This allows your body to produce energy more efficiently, especially during exercise.
Analysis of multiple studies shows that beetroot supplementation increases the time it takes for athletes to feel fatigued during exercise.
In some cases, taking beetroot supplements allowed people to exercise 25% longer than taking a placebo.
This is because the nitrates found in beetroot reduce the amount of oxygen required for exercise of varying intensity.
The less oxygen you need to exercise, the less fatigue you experience and the longer you can exercise.
In addition, beetroot supplementation may also reduce high blood pressure, since nitrates increase the production of nitric oxide in the body.
However, while the pigments in beetroot are harmless, they may stain your urine or stool red.
Tyrosine is an amino acid naturally produced by the human body. It is found in most high-protein foods, including chicken, eggs, and dairy products.
Tyrosine is important in the production of neurotransmitters, the chemicals that carry messages in the brain.
These neurotransmitters are thought to decline with mentally and physically demanding activities, which can negatively impact concentration and energy levels.
Many studies have found that tyrosine supplements help increase alertness and energy levels. They can also help restore memory and clarity in sleep-deprived people.
Currently, research shows that tyrosine is only beneficial in people with low neurotransmitter reserves due to stress or higher cognitive demands.
Additionally, tyrosine supplementation has been shown to be safe.
11. Caffeine and L-Theanine
Caffeine is commonly consumed in the form of coffee, tea, cocoa drinks, energy drinks and sodas for its energy-boosting properties.
However, many people limit or avoid caffeine entirely because it can cause irritability, nervousness, jitters, and crashes after the initial energy boost.
But combining L-theanine with caffeine as a supplement may be a simple way to prevent these side effects.
L-theanine is an amino acid found naturally in tea and some mushrooms. It is thought to promote relaxation without increasing drowsiness.
Multiple studies have shown that the combination of caffeine and L-theanine can improve memory and reaction time and reduce fatigue and mental fatigue.
Overall, these results suggest that adding L-theanine can help you get the same energy-boosting benefits of caffeine without the unwanted side effects.
Although L-theanine is well tolerated, it is recommended to limit caffeine intake to less than 400 mg per day. This is equivalent to 3-5 cups of coffee.
Life can take a toll on your energy levels.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to maintain your energy, including eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.
However, for many people, these things are not always possible.
In this case, there are many supplements and vitamins that can help give you energy when you need it most. Some medications are better at increasing energy during exercise, while others may work best when you need a quick pick-me-up.
Additionally, all of the supplements on this list have a complete safety profile when used properly.
Still, keep in mind that the best course of action is still to consult your doctor or registered dietitian to determine whether these supplements are safe for you to use.