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Published on July 1, 2021

Do Vitamins and Supplements Help With Energy?

Do Vitamins and Supplements Help With Energy?
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If you are looking to improve your energy, there are a myriad of ways to do so. However, if you are looking for a more natural and healthful way to improve your energy, you may be curious whether there are any supplements you can take to help and whether these supplements even work.

So, do supplements work?

In this article, I will look into whether or not any supplements exist to help you boost your energy levels. I will also break down a few vitamins that you can take to help boost your energy naturally.

Can Supplements Help Improve Your Energy Levels?

Vitamins and minerals are essential for our bodies to function. Vitamins help with cellular energy production, DNA synthesis, and neurologic function, which can lead to a reduction in both mental and physical fatigue.[1]

Preventing deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals will help to promote adequate energy levels. But which vitamins and minerals are the most crucial? Let’s take a look at the top vitamins and minerals to improve energy levels.

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Vitamins and Supplements That May Boost Energy Levels

Here are some of the most important vitamins and supplements that may help boost your energy levels.

Vitamins

1. Vitamin D

According to the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, a common symptom of Vitamin D deficiency is muscle fatigue.[2]

Vitamin D is not found in many foods, so taking an oral supplement may be the best solution if you have a deficiency you want to correct. It is recommended that adults up to 70 years of age take 600 IU per day of Vitamin D, and those over 70 take 800 IU/day. Recommendations may vary for women who are pregnant or lactating, so it is recommended that you speak with your doctor before starting supplementation.[3]

2. Vitamin B12

There are eight B vitamins in total that are all essential for the body. B vitamins are especially important for brain function, including energy production. Having a deficiency of various B vitamins can therefore lead to fatigue.[4]

One of the most crucial B vitamins for energy is Vitamin B12, also known as Cobalamin. Older adults and those who have undergone weight loss surgery are particularly at risk for Vitamin B12. If this applies to you, it may be helpful to start taking a Vitamin B supplement to promote adequate energy levels.

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Because Vitamin B12 is water-soluble, it is generally considered safe to take a larger amount. If you consume more Vitamin B12 than your body needs, you will simply excrete it in your urine. However, if your body is short on Vitamin B12, it will store what it needs, which may help to improve your energy levels.

3. Iron

Individuals who have iron deficiencies have a condition known as anemia. One of the major side effects of anemia is fatigue. According to Mayo Clinic, some groups of people may be more predisposed to having an iron deficiency. Those include women who are menstruating, vegetarians, those with a disorder causing an inability to absorb iron (such as celiac disease), or women who are pregnant are more likely to have anemia.[5]

If you are looking to increase your iron levels to improve your energy levels, you may wish to include more iron-rich foods in your diet. These foods include meat, eggs, and leafy green vegetables. It is also important to eat enough foods with Vitamin C as these can help your body to better absorb iron. Foods rich in Vitamin C include broccoli, citrus fruits, and leafy greens.

If adding these foods into your diet does not seem realistic for you, an iron supplement may be the best solution for improving your energy levels. Make sure to speak with your doctor before starting an iron supplement to determine whether it is appropriate and what the adequate dosage is.

Supplements

1. Ashwagandha Root

While less researched, a study from 2012 in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine looked at whether Ashwagandha root supplementation could improve energy levels. They found that supplementation with this herb reduced stress levels, which may lead to overall improvements in energy.[6]

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Ashwagandha root is becoming more common, and it is easier than ever to find it on the shelves at your grocery or health food store. However, it is very important that you speak with your primary care physician before starting with this supplement to ensure that it is appropriate for you.

2. Creatine

Creatine is becoming more and more popular, especially among gym-goers. Creatine is an amino acid, which is one of the building blocks of protein. More and more weightlifters have been using creatine supplements to improve gym performance and help build muscle.

If you are an athlete and have low energy levels, creatine supplementation may be for you. A study conducted in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that creatine supplementation was helpful in improving recovery, reducing the risk of dehydration, and preventing sports-related injuries.[7] Given the improvement seen in athletic performance with creatine supplementation, it stands to reason that, for athletes with low energy levels, creatine supplementation may be indicated.

3. Melatonin

If your low energy levels are caused by sleep deprivation, melatonin may be the right supplement for you. While melatonin does not directly boost energy levels, you may still see an improvement from taking it. This natural hormone helps to play a role in sleep. If you have insomnia or just difficulty falling asleep, it may help to take a melatonin supplement at night before bed to help regulate your sleep schedule and improve your energy levels during the day.

Certain populations have been found to have lower levels of melatonin secretion, which may lead to difficulty sleeping and subsequent poor energy levels during the day. Individuals who are elderly or have type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, high blood pressure, or Alzheimer’s disease may be affected.[8]

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Melatonin supplements are available in most grocery stores and pharmacies. Melatonin also comes in gummy form, which makes taking it easy and delicious.

In Conclusion

There are a host of supplements on the market that claim to work and help boost your energy levels. However, it can be tough to tell which supplements are actually going to do what they claim to. Given the research, it is clear that some supplements may help boost energy levels for those who are deficient in them.

When you are looking to start a supplement for improvement in energy levels, as discussed, it is extremely important to contact your doctor to get their opinion. Not only will they be able to help you decide on the right dosage of these supplements for your body, but they will also be able to advise you on which supplement would be most appropriate given your lifestyle and lab values.

Featured photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NCBI: Vitamins and Minerals for Energy, Fatigue, and Cognition: A Narrative Review of the Biochemical and Clinical Evidence
[2] The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism: Improving the Vitamin D Status of Vitamin D Deficient Adults Is Associated With Improved Mitochondrial Oxidative Function in Skeletal Muscle)) According to Cleveland Clinic, certain medical conditions predispose individuals to Vitamin D deficiency. Those with cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, obesity, and kidney and liver diseases may be more at risk. Additionally, older adults, those who have undergone weight loss surgery, and those who are homebound or have darker skin tones may be more likely to have a deficiency in Vitamin D.((Cleveland Clinic: Vitamin D Deficiency
[3] Cleveland Clinic: Vitamin D Deficiency
[4] NCBI: B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy—A Review
[5] Mayo Clinic: Iron deficiency anemia
[6] Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine: A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults
[7] Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine
[8] Healthline: 11 Vitamins and Supplements That Boost Energy

More by this author

Samantha Klig, RD

Registered Dietitian

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Published on July 15, 2021

Shift Work Disorder: 17 Ways to Manage it Better

Shift Work Disorder: 17 Ways to Manage it Better
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Are you having trouble sleeping? Or do you feel like you can barely stay awake when you need to? Are you left tired and irritable, lacking the joy and motivation that life once brought? If these complaints are tied to your long or rotating work schedule, you may be suffering from shift work disorder—a common ailment among professions with schedules outside the typical 9 am to 6 pm range.[1]

Why does it matter? Let’s be honest—being tired stinks. It feels terrible and leaves you vulnerable to many health risks that well-rested people aren’t as susceptible to. Not only that, but it can also wreak havoc on your relationships and quality of life.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to help manage this, and you can start trying them out today! Some of the solutions may not be what you expect. For instance, you might have linked improved sleep to exercise, but did you know that being compassionate with yourself can also have an impact?

Who Are Affected by Shift Work Disorder?

Twenty-five million people are shift workers in the country, so you are far from alone if you are struggling with this. Shift work disorder is a condition frequently affecting anyone who works a job where their schedule is outside standard business hours. Nurses, police officers, firefighters, and factory workers are common examples of professions with schedules that rotate around the clock.

Rotating shifts naturally leads to a change in one’s schedule, including sleep. As your sleep schedule becomes more chaotic, your body is unable to adjust and regulate itself and can result in having difficulty falling or staying asleep. This inevitably leads to less sleep, which is where some big problems can arise.

What Are the Symptoms?

Sleep is one of the most important (and underrated) aspects of our lives. Enough sleep and good quality sleep are critical to our emotional, mental, and physical health.

Insufficient sleep can lead to a significantly increased risk of physical health problems, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and gastrointestinal disorders. Mentally, being tired contributes to having scattered concentration, difficulty processing information, and being more likely to make mistakes or have an accident. Emotionally, the fallout of being chronically exhausted is linked to poor emotional regulation including being irritated more quickly, as well as an increased likelihood of developing anxiety and depression.[2]

Any of this sound familiar? If so, keep reading for some scientifically-based tips to help you manage your sleep better and get your life back.

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17 Ways to Manage Shift Work Disorder Better

Quality sleep, or the lack thereof, impacts us physically, mentally, and emotionally. The most impactful plan of attack against shift work disorder and to regain quality sleep must also reflect that.

I suggest reading through all of the tips and formulating a plan based on what you think will work for you. Start by trying out one thing and build from there as you are able. Remember to construct a plan that addresses your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Let’s start in the most obvious place first:

Your Job

1. Make Your Schedule the Best It Can Be

Randomly rotating shifts has been found to have the worst impact on our health.[3] If you have to rotate your schedule, request to rotate shifts in a clockwise fashion.

For example: work the day shift, rotate to the nights, then to the early morning shift, then start back on the day shift. Sounds silly? It’s not. Studies show that our bodies more easily adjust to changes in schedule when completed in a clockwise manner.[4] This is because of something called our circadian rhythm—24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock that carry out essential functions. The most commonly known of these is sleep. It has been discovered that our circadian rhythm adjusts forward more easily than it does backward.

2. Speak to Your Manager About Keeping Your Workplace Bright

Special lights have been designed to assist with circadian rhythm. It turns out that absorbing bright light that is most similar to sunlight can positively impact regulating our circadian rhythm.[5]

3. Avoid a Long Commute to and From Work

Having a long drive home after working a rotating shift is statistically not in your best interest. It’s been shown that fatigued/sleepy employees are 70% more likely to have a workplace accident and 33% more likely to be involved in a traffic accident.[6]

To avoid putting yourself at risk by driving when you’re not at your best, catch a nap before leaving work, pull over to sleep, or stay at a friend’s house nearby.

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4. Speak to Your Manager About Your Concerns

Many companies that operate around the clock are willing and able to make accommodations to those working alternative shifts. Whether it’s helping you find a schedule that works best for you or connecting you with other programs designed to support your well-being, being in good communication with your employer is to everyone’s benefit.

Sleep Attitudes and Environment

5. Change Your Perspective and Start Prioritizing Sleep

Here’s the deal: despite some pretty well-known dangerous effects of not getting enough sleep, somewhere along the line, our society began to think of sleep as a luxury. Some even consider it a badge of honor to “power through” without much (or any) sleep. People have been made to feel embarrassed or lazy if they get the recommended amount of sleep each night.

Here’s the bottom line: sleep is not a luxury.

Let me repeat that—sleep is not a luxury, and getting a consistent and healthy amount does not make you a slacker. Sleep is actually when our body does a lot of repair work on itself—blood vessels, muscles, and other organs. Sleep also boosts our immunity.

If we could help people feel as proud about sleeping as we do about them working out regularly or sticking to a healthy diet, people might be a lot healthier.

6. Make Your Sleep Space as Conducive to Rest as Possible

This means tweaking your environment so it’s as enticing as possible for your body to go to sleep. Keep the room dark using blackout blinds, reduce the temperature (our body rests best when slightly cool), limit interruptions (phone calls, visitors, noise), and remove electronic devices.[7]

Set yourself up for success by supporting yourself through your surroundings. If you wanted to lose weight, you wouldn’t frequently surround yourself with cookies, cake, and ice cream, right? Same idea here.

Personal Habits and Choices

7. Stick to a Regular Sleep Schedule as Closely as Possible—on Workdays and Days Off

This is obviously difficult when your schedule changes on the regular, but the more consistent you can keep your bedtime, the easier time your body has getting to sleep and staying that way.[8]

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8. Allow Yourself Time to Catch Up on Sleep

Having enough days off to rest and recuperate is an important aspect of protecting your health. You wouldn’t expect to be able to drive across the country on one tank of gas, right? Filling your own personal gas tank is just as important.

9. Take Naps, but Don’t Overdo It

It’s recommended by the Cleveland Clinic to take a 90-minute nap just before starting your shift and then a 30-minute nap during your “lunch break” at work.[9] Again, this is all about keeping some gas in your tank and not allowing yourself to get to the point where you are running on fumes. Short naps will help you stay refreshed and alert on the job.

10. Limit Caffeine to the Start of Your Shift

Most of us love a good hit of caffeine, especially when we are tired. But overdoing it or having caffeine too late in your shift can negatively impact your ability to get to sleep when you finally have the time to do so. Moderate your intake to help yourself get some quality sleep.

11. Avoid Alcohol Before Bed

Unwinding after work with a drink can be tempting. It can make you drowsy, which many people mistakenly believe will help them get better sleep. Unfortunately, alcohol will actually keep you awake (or wake you up later). This obviously impairs your ability to get the quality of sleep you are looking for.

12. Don’t Smoke

Much like alcohol, people turn to nicotine to “calm their nerves” or help them relax. Also, like alcohol, nicotine has been shown to disrupt sleep.[10] Cut back or cut this habit out as able.

13. Eat Well and Eat Smart

Choose convenient nutritious meals and snacks. Nutritious food is the foundation from which our body creates the needed chemicals for quality sleep. Foods high in saturated fat and sugar have been shown to have the worst impact on sleep.[11]

Also, timing is everything as they say. Eating too much or not enough before your shift can cause you to feel tired.

14. Get Regular Exercise

According to numerous studies, exercise can be as effective in treating sleep disorders as prescription medication.[12] Yes, you read that correctly—regular exercise is the bomb!

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This one can be tricky to convince people to do, especially if they are already tired and short on time. If you don’t have the time to hit the gym, take a brisk walk, dance around your living room to your favorite song, or mow your lawn. Despite feeling tired, getting up off the couch and moving around (moderate to vigorous exercise) is best for reducing the time it takes to get to sleep and improving the quality of sleep.

Mental and Emotional

15. Establish Consistent Practices That Help You Relax Before Bed

This can include yoga, deep breathing, a warm bath, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, meditation, and hypnosis. These are designed to reduce physical tension and quiet your mind from thoughts that are keeping you awake. There are lots of great apps and free videos that can help you with this.

16. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT as it’s known, works by helping you to identify thoughts and behaviors that make sleep worse and then developing new habits consisting of thoughts and behaviors that promote sleep. There are psychologists and life coaches who are specially certified in CBT that can help you with this.

17. Show Yourself Some Compassion

Sounds silly? Well, it’s not. A seven-year study conducted at the University of Mannheim concluded that the daily practice of self-compassion positively impacted people’s quality of sleep.[13]

The concept of showing ourselves compassion is foreign (and uncomfortable) to many of us. Try going easy on yourself for being grumpy, and give yourself some credit for the efforts you are making in tough circumstances. What would you say to your best friend if they were struggling with the same situation? I routinely ask my clients this question as it’s sometimes easier to be compassionate to others than ourselves. This tip might take some practice, but the effort could result in a better night’s sleep.

Final Thoughts

Okay, there you have it—17 different ways you can help yourself manage shift work disorder, feel more rested, more like yourself, and enjoy life again. To get started with your plan, pick out a few tips that you can implement today, but remember to choose a well-rounded approach—addressing the physical, mental and emotional.

Be patient with yourself. It takes time to build new habits. And show yourself some compassion and kindness—you might just be able to sleep better when you do.

Featured photo credit: Yuris Alhumaydy via unsplash.com

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Reference

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