When you’re low on energy and need a boost, you might be tempted to pour another coffee or reach for an energy drink. Perhaps you eat a big meal in preparation for a long journey and long day’s work. However you do it, you know that you need the energy to get through your day.
Instead of reaching for quick-fix stimulants, it’s wise to alter your diet so that you get all the energy you need from the foods you eat. You can structure your diet in such a way that it remains healthy and still gives you all the nutrients and energy to not only survive in life but to thrive each and every day.
In this article, we’ll explain why vitamins are so important in any diet, what vitamins give you energy and how you can focus on improving your energy levels naturally by adding more of the right vitamins to your diet.
Moreover, this is a much healthier approach than the quick fix. Dietary health, complemented by regular exercise, physical and mental rest, and effective stress management, all help us balance our energy levels so that we can live an optimally healthy life. They help us overcome physical and mental stress and instead support a positive mood and general well-being.
Research also finds that diet and exercise are a great way to boost emotional resilience and give you the physical and mental energy you need to succeed in life.
A natural, healthy, and wise way to boost your energy levels, keep them consistent, and prevent the crash you’d get from less healthy stimulants like coffee and sugar, is to add more vitamins to your diet. Vitamins play a wide variety of roles in the body, one of which is the conversion of food into energy.
Vitamins are a type of micronutrient. They help our body function properly, promoting optimal health and reducing the risk of illness and disease. The body needs vitamins to function, and since it can’t produce all the vitamins it needs by itself, we need to find sources of these vital nutrients in our food.
We need to take in vitamins regularly to help our body repair damage, release energy, fight off disease, and, in general, run smoothly. Without enough of each type of vitamin, we risk deficiency, which can lead to disease.
Not all vitamins share the same role. Some strengthen our immune system (vitamin C), while others, like vitamin D, help our body absorb other nutrients. Vitamin D, among its many other purposes, helps the body absorb the mineral calcium.
Vitamins, in general, help the body convert the food we eat into energy, which is then used to carry out essential functions throughout the body. However, some vitamins’ primary role is to boost the body’s energy levels. These are the B vitamins. C and D also help with energy, but let’s look at the B vitamin first.
What vitamins give you energy?
B vitamins for energy
There are eight B vitamins. Each type carries out a different function in the body, but all support energy production and release. Together, the eight types are known as the vitamin B complex. Individually, they are:
- B1 (thiamine)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B5 (pantothenic acid)
- B6 (pyridoxine)
- B7 (biotin)
- B9 (folate)
- B12 (cobalamin)
Vitamin B12 is a high energy-yielding vitamin that can help you optimize your body’s energy production. Like the other B vitamins, it helps your body turn the food you eat into glucose, a simple sugar that our body needs to carry out its functions.
B12 is a multifunctional nutrient. Not only does it help us produce energy by supporting cellular energy production, but it also plays a key role in:
- Nervous system health
- The production of healthy red blood cells
- DNA production
You can get enough B12 in your system by adhering to a varied and balanced diet. However, research has found that many US adults don’t eat a varied enough diet to get all of the essential nutrients they need.
‘A varied and balanced diet, rich in nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, can provide the amounts of vitamins and minerals needed. There is ample evidence; however, that food choice or availability often preclude such a diet. This can lead to a significant proportion of the population not meeting their optimum dietary needs.’
According to several academic research institutions, some population groups also have an increased risk of nutrient deficiencies, such as vegans, celiacs, and those with immune system issues. According to the National Institute of Health, if you have a B vitamin deficiency, you face an increased risk of mental and physical fatigue and weakness.
Researchers at Northumbria University report that ‘a significant proportion of the populations of developed countries suffer from deficiencies or insufficiencies in one or more of this group of vitamins.’
How to add more B vitamins to your diet
Nutrient-rich foods that are particularly high in b vitamins include:
Leafy green vegetables
Spinach, collard greens, romaine lettuce, and other leafy greens are excellent sources of b vitamins. They’re particularly high in B9 (folate). As with many other foods, the method you use to prepare or cook will influence the quality of nutrition and the body’s ability to extract the nutrients it needs. With leafy greens, it’s best to eat them raw (washed) or lightly steamed.
Lean beef is rich in b vitamins, so adding some beef to your diet a couple of times a week can help you maintain your b vitamin levels and help your body produce and release more energy. Beef is exceptionally high in niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6), and cobalamin (B12).
Eggs are high in vitamin b7 (biotin). They also contain healthy amounts of several other b vitamins, including riboflavin (B2) and cobalamin (B12).
Beans, peas, and lentils are excellent sources of b vitamins. They’re particularly high in folate but contain several other types of b vitamins. Those who choose to exclude meat and other animal products from their diet can still get adequate amounts of b vitamins in their diet by replacing them with legumes such as chickpeas and kidney beans.
Vitamin C for energy
Vitamin C is widely renowned for its ability to boost the immune system, helping us to stave off flu and the common cold. It boasts a range of other health benefits too. It acts as an antioxidant and is involved in tissue growth and repair. It’s also a powerful energy booster.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it doesn’t stay in the body for long. We should include sources of vitamin C in our diet daily.
Easy and popular sources of vitamin C include:
- Orange juice
- Bell pepper
Vitamin D for energy
Vitamin D isn’t the first vitamin people think about when it comes to energy-boosting nutrients. However, consistent research has found that low levels and deficiency of this vital nutrient are strongly associated with low energy and even depression.
Vitamin D’s role in the body is multifaceted. It’s renowned for promoting healthy bones and muscles and is associated with improved immune system functioning.
While not directly an energy booster, vitamin D helps us feel more energized by preventing fatigue. It supports the mitochondria – the powerhouse of cells – in using oxygen effectively.
Vitamin D is sometimes called the sunshine vitamin because we absorb it from sunlight through our skin. It’s also found in various foods, including:
- Egg yolks
- Oily fish
- Fortified foods (cereals, spreads)
Should I take vitamin supplements?
Supplements are a great way to add more of a specific nutrient to your diet. As mentioned earlier, all of the essential nutrients can be found in a healthy and balanced diet, but the fact is that many of us don’t have that. We live in a fast-paced world, and sometimes our diet suffers as a result of trying to do everything at once and opting for quick energy and fast meals over careful food choices and patient food preparation.
Some people who are at risk of nutrient deficiency can reap the benefits of supplements. For example, if you have a health condition that compromises your body’s ability to absorb iron, then you risk developing iron-deficiency anemia. Iron supplements can boost the levels of this essential mineral and prevent the onset of related illnesses.
Women who are trying to get pregnant can increase their chances of conception by adding an increased amount of folate (B9) to their diet. Daily folic acid supplements containing around 400mg of this nutrient is the recommended dose.
We absorb vitamin D through sunlight, but not everyone has year-round access to direct sunlight. During the winter months, you can still get the dietary reference intake (10mg) of vitamin D through supplements.
A licensed health professional such as your GP can provide medical advice if you’re interested in taking a vitamin supplement. Most supplements are relatively harmless, but there are some contraindications. Speak to your doctor or another professional who knows your medical history before taking any supplements or over-the-counter medication.
The vitamins most commonly used for their energy-boosting properties are the B vitamins. You can get enough of the vitamin B complex naturally through your diet, but if you don’t adhere to a healthy and balanced diet, you can use supplements to help your dietary reference intake.
Vitamins C and D are also used for their energy-boosting qualities. Overall, all of the vitamins play a role in the body’s energy production. By aiming to incorporate each one – the fat solubles being A, D, E, K, and the water-solubles being, C and the B complex. You give yourself the best chance to optimize your health and well-being, get all the energy you need, and stave off illness and disease.