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12 Best Supplements For Energy and Cognitive Function

The human brain and body are pretty remarkable. At the same time, they aren't exactly made to put up with the schedules and workloads thrown at them. Work, school, raising kids, cleaning, responsibilities – day in and day out. The super-wealthy can just disappear on a yacht off the coast of southern France when their energy levels need to recharge. The rest of us, however, need to evaluate our lifestyles and schedules. A hand from nature can help, too. Whether you're struggling with chronic fatigue, trying to ditch caffeine, or looking for something to help you reach maximum energy potential, these are the best supplements for energy to get you where you want to be.

What are the Best Supplements for Energy?

It's just about impossible to get all the nutrients your brain and body need through food alone. Unfortunately, your body needs vital minerals for important cellular processes. If you're lacking a specific nutrient or coming up short overall, your energy production will dip. Supplementing your diet with energy boosters can help you fill the gaps and maintain steady energy levels with minimal side effects.

1. Adaptogens Like Rhodiola Rosea and Ashwagandha

While adaptogens may be a new concept for folks in the US, Chinese and Ayurvedic traditional medicines have understood their energizing and balancing powers for centuries. In the 1940s, the Soviet Union pioneered a ton of scientific adaptogen research on herbs like ginseng, rhodiola rosea, and ashwagandha. (1) They were particularly fond of rhodiola rosea for its anti-depressant qualities and stimulating effects on the central nervous system. (2) The Soviets also found that rhodiola rosea improved endurance in Olympic athletes and helped soldiers fend off cold temperatures while staying alert. Ashwagandha and rhodiola make a great combination for improving physical performance, overall energy, and cognitive function. While rhodiola is stimulating, ashwagandha has a calming and balancing effect.

2. All B Vitamins (Especially Vitamin B12)

B vitamins are all essential for supporting a healthy brain. Although vegans, vegetarians, and older adults are the most at-risk for developing a vitamin B12 deficiency, that doesn't mean the rest of us are getting enough through diet. Your body has a difficult time absorbing B vitamins through the stomach and intestines, even when you consume enough. As you age, your intestines don't absorb vitamin B12 as well as they used to. Likewise, daily alcohol use or other factors can make it harder for your body to absorb vitamin B1 (thiamine) which has disastrous consequences on energy levels as well as overall physical and mental health. With low vitamin B levels, you'll experience reduced energy, fatigue, pins and needles in your hands or feet, memory and cognitive issues, and balance problems. Look for a vitamin B complex or B12 supplements to boost energy production and meet all of your needs in one fell swoop.

3. CoQ10

Every cell in your body contains coenzyme Q10 otherwise known as CoQ10. Cells use CoQ10 to protect themselves from free radical damage and oxidative stress. That's why you often see this coenzyme in anti-aging products. Good news: your body can make coenzyme Q10 if you eat plenty of meat and nuts. Bad news: your body may not produce quite enough to keep your energy levels at optimal levels. Fortunately, it's perfectly safe and easy for most people to resort to supplementing their diet with CoQ10.

4. Vegan Protein Powder

If you're feeling low-energy day in and day out, your diet may need a protein boost. Comprehensive vegan protein powder can help. By "comprehensive" we mean that it needs all of your essential amino acids and some non-essentials, too. Do your homework here. Just like with supplements, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't monitor and regulate protein powders. Look for products made only from organic ingredients and tested for contaminants. You may even be able to find some awesome vegan protein powders with boosts already added in like adaptogen herbs, chia seed powder, flax powder, or ginseng.

5. Ginseng

Speaking of ginseng, it's an awesome adaptogen and energy supplement. Revered throughout traditional Chinese medicine, ginseng fights oxidative stress which helps boost energy with minimal side effects. Studies have reached different conclusions about ginseng's effect on physical performance. However, it's free-radical fighting properties do seem to boost mental energy levels naturally and fight fatigue. (3)

6. Cordyceps

Have you ever heard of cordyceps? It's a type of mushroom that grows naturally in mountainous regions of China. Traditionally, local populations in China used cordyceps to treat kidney problems, low sex drive, and, you guessed it: fatigue. If you're an athlete, meet your new secret weapon. Cordyceps improves athletic performance and oxygen intake. As a bonus, when you take cordyceps you also get powerful antiaging and memory-boosting benefits. Studies have found that the antioxidants in cordyceps can manage free radicals and reduce oxidative damage. (4)

7. Vitamin D

If you live in a northern climate or actively avoid sunlight, you're probably lacking vitamin D. Your bones need adequate levels of vitamin D to process and store calcium. Not only that, but research shows that vitamin D plays an important role in healthy energy levels, cognitive function, and mental performance. (5) Low vitamin D levels are associated with fatigue and intense symptoms of depression like insomnia, concentration problems, lethargy, forgetfulness, feeling hopeless, and even thoughts of suicide. Unfortunately, it's difficult to consume enough vitamin D through diet alone. Sure, you can eat mushrooms and take fortified cereals, but supplementing vitamin D is your best bet to get your daily recommended intake.

8. Creatine

Creatine isn't just great for building muscle. It's also excellent for improving your body's natural energy. If you can power through a great workout, that momentum can also boost your energy levels throughout the rest of the day like a ripple effect. Studies found that creatine can help improve energy production and eventually gain muscle weight from intense workouts. (5)

9. Amino Acids

Protein is important. However, for your muscles and cells to use protein effectively, you also need amino acids. Specifically, you need all nine essential amino acids for protein synthesis. Pay special attention to your protein powders here. Many brands – even whey products – don't include adequate levels of some vital aminos like leucine. Tyrosine is another amino acid that contributes to energy production. (6) Supplementing this amino acid can improve cognitive function, alertness, and overall energy because it plays an important role in brain chemistry and neurotransmitter production.

10. Guarana

Guarana gets a lot of attention thanks to energy drink manufacturers. However, many people don't realize that you can take guarana as a supplement on its own. Amazonian tribes have used guarana for centuries due to its countless medicinal properties. Yes, guarana contains caffeine – six times more than coffee, in fact. However, it also contains plenty of antioxidants like theobromine and tannins (also found in many teas). Studies have found that when combined with a multivitamin, guarana can help reduce mental fatigue. (7)

11. Coffee with Mushroom Powder (Seriously!)

Do you even need heaps of scientific research to tell you that caffeine is good for boosting mental performance, increasing energy, and improving overall wellbeing? If you're suffering from a lack of energy, give your healthy morning cup another boost with some mushroom powder. Yes, really. Medicinal mushrooms contain plenty of antioxidants and enzymes that support energy and cognitive function, while also supporting your immune system. (because it's hard to feel energetic if you're always getting sick) You can also consider stacking L-thenine with your morning coffee. L-theanine is a nootropic in its own right. Together, caffeine and L-theanine are an unstoppable morning combo.

12. Multivitamins

Before you start popping herbal supplements left and right in the name of health care and energy production, make sure you're taking a multivitamin. Yes, it's important to consume a well-balanced diet. Your body absorbs vitamins and minerals from food much better than pill or gummy form. However, it's impossible to get 100% of your daily value 24/7. A multivitamin will make sure you're not missing any of the major vitamins like vitamin C, vitamin D, potassium, and other minerals. However, adequate levels of important nutrients are often lacking in many multivitamin supplements - especially minerals like calcium and vitamin B12. When you choose a multivitamin, go for a pill if you can stomach it. Gummy options usually contain fewer vitamins overall and in smaller amounts than listed on the bottle.

6 Safe Energy Supplements for Pregnant Women

Ditching your caffeine isn't an easy task and you still need to keep energy levels up. While the supplements below are generally safe – and often encouraged – in pregnancy, you should always talk to your health care professional first.
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium
  • Ginger
  • Magnesium
  • Probiotics
  • Fish Oil

Other Ways to Improve Your Energy Levels and Overall Wellbeing

Balanced energy starts with how you take care of your body and manage your daily life.
  • Exercise and physical activity
  • Get Enough Sleep
  • Eat a well-rounded and protein-packed diet
  • Write down your schedule and sink into a routine

The Bottom Line

Supplements for energy aren't a miracle solution. However, as part of an active lifestyle and well-rounded diet, these dietary supplements can improve mental performance, physical performance, and provide a much-needed pick-me-up.
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