Eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep are the best ways to maintain your natural energy levels.
But these things are not always possible, especially when balancing the demands of life.
Fortunately, there are many supplements you can turn to for an energy boost.
Here are 11 natural vitamins and supplements that may boost your energy.
Ashwagandha is one of the most important medicinal herbs in Indian Ayurveda, one of the world’s oldest medicinal systems (1).
In one study, people given ashwagandha showed significant improvements in several measures of stress and anxiety, compared to those given a placebo. They also had 28% lower levels of cortisol, a hormone that increases in response to stress (3).
Strengthening these findings was a review of five studies examining the effects of ashwagandha on anxiety and stress (4).
All of the studies showed that those who took ashwagandha extract scored better on tests measuring stress, anxiety and fatigue.
In addition to improving mental fatigue and stress, research also suggests ashwagandha can alleviate fatigue associated with exercise.
A study of elite cyclists found that those who took ashwagandha were able to cycle 7% longer than those given a placebo (5).
Summary Ashwagandha is thought to reduce mental and physical fatigue, thereby increasing energy levels.
Rhodiola rosea is an herb that grows in certain cold, mountainous regions. It’s widely used as an adaptogen, a natural substance that enhances your body’s ability to cope with stress.
In one study, researchers combined and analyzed the results of 11 studies that examined the effects of rhodiola on physical and mental fatigue in more than 500 people (7).
Of the 11 studies, 8 found evidence that rhodiola can enhance physical performance and ease mental fatigue. There were also no major safety risks associated with rhodiola supplements.
Another review concluded that rhodiola carries a low risk for side effects and may be helpful for alleviating physical and mental fatigue (8).
A 12-week study compared the antidepressant effect of rhodiola to the commonly prescribed antidepressant sertraline, or Zoloft (11).
Rhodiola was found to reduce symptoms of depression, but not as effectively as sertraline.
However, the rhodiola produced fewer side effects and was better tolerated than sertraline.
Summary Rhodiola is thought to increase your body’s capacity to adapt to stress by easing physical and mental fatigue. It may also help alleviate fatigue in people with depression.
CoQ10, which stands for coenzyme Q10, is made naturally in the body. It’s also known as ubiquinone because it’s ubiquitous in the body, meaning it’s found everywhere.
When levels of CoQ10 decline, your body’s cells cannot produce the energy they need to grow and stay healthy, which may contribute to fatigue (14).
Fish, meat and nuts contain CoQ10, but not in large enough amounts to significantly increase levels in your body (15).
Therefore, CoQ10 supplements may be a better solution for reducing fatigue in people who have declining or low levels.
CoQ10 levels decrease with age and may be low in people with heart failure, certain cancers, type 2 diabetes or in people who take statins, a class of medications used to lower blood cholesterol levels (16, 17, 18, 19).
However, CoQ10 supplements are unlikely to increase energy in people with adequate levels of the enzyme (12).
Additionally, studies in both humans and animals suggest that CoQ10 supplements are safe in appropriate doses (20).
Summary CoQ10 is a nutrient that your body's cells require to produce energy. Aging, certain diseases and statin treatment are associated with low levels of CoQ10, which may increase feelings of fatigue. CoQ10 supplements may help correct this.
Along with the other B vitamins, vitamin B12 helps transform the food you eat into energy that your cells can use.
It also keeps your body’s nerves and blood cells healthy and helps prevent a type of anemia that can make you weak and tired (21).
Vitamin B12 is found naturally in a variety of 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 by consuming a balanced diet containing foods rich in B12 (22).
Nevertheless, some populations may be at risk of a B12 deficiency, which occurs when your body does not get enough or is unable to absorb the amount you need.
As a result, some people’s energy levels may receive a boost with B12 supplements.
People who may be at risk of deficiency include:
- Older adults: Approximately 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 proteins, which are required for proper absorption (23).
- Vegans: Vegetarians and vegans are at risk of B12 deficiency since animal foods are the only natural food source of this vitamin (24).
- Those with GI disorders: 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 (25).
However, there is no evidence that suggests supplementing with B12 — or any of the B vitamins, for that matter — can boost energy in people who have adequate levels (22).
Summary Vitamin B12 plays an important role in energy production. Aging, eliminating animal products from your diet and diseases affecting the GI tract can all contribute to low levels of B12 and result in fatigue and weakness.
The body needs iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen from your lungs to the organs and tissues throughout your body.
Without adequate levels of iron, your red blood cells cannot effectively carry oxygen to the body’s tissues.
This results in iron deficiency anemia, which may leave you feeling fatigued and weak (26).
- Iron-poor diet: The richest sources of iron in the diet include meat and seafood. For this reason, iron requirements for vegans are 1.8 times higher than for people who eat meat.
- Blood loss: More than half of your body iron is in your blood. Therefore, blood loss through heavy periods or internal bleeding can dramatically deplete levels.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant women require twice as much iron to support normal fetal growth. Unfortunately, about half of all pregnant women develop iron deficiency anemia.
In these cases, an iron supplement may be needed to correct a deficiency and avoid complications associated with iron deficiency anemia, including fatigue.
Summary Red blood cells require iron to transport oxygen to your body’s tissues. Without iron, oxygen delivery to the entire body is limited, which may result in extreme fatigue. A diet low in iron, excessive blood loss and pregnancy can increase iron needs.
Creatine is a compound that is naturally found in red meat, pork, poultry and fish. It acts as a source of quick energy in your body.
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the energy currency of life. When your body uses ATP for energy, it loses a phosphate group and becomes adenosine diphosphate.
Therefore, when your body needs a quick source of energy, creatine lends its phosphate to ADP and becomes ATP.
This gives you the energy needed for high-intensity, short-duration exercises, such as:
- Short sprints like the 100-meter sprint or intermittent sprints in sports like football or soccer (32, 33, 34).
- Short, powerful bursts of activity like the shot put or jumping (35).
- Activities that require large amounts of force, like weightlifting (36).
A review of 53 studies found that creatine supplements improved bench press strength by 5%. This translates to a 10-pound increase in weight for someone who can bench 200 pounds (91 kg) just from taking creatine (37).
In another review, older adults who took creatine gained 3.1 pounds (1.4 kg) of lean muscle mass compared to those who did not (38).
These gains in muscle strength and size are largely attributed to the participants’ ability to train harder for longer due to increased energy supply.
Summary Supplementing with creatine increases your body’s energy stores. This increased energy allows you to train harder and longer.
The name “citrulline” comes from Citrullus vulgaris, the Latin word for watermelon, from which it was first isolated (39).
Citrulline works to increase nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide acts as a vasodilator, causing the inner muscles of blood vessels to widen and thus increasing circulation.
Citrulline also plays a role in the urea cycle, helping to eliminate ammonia from the body. Ammonia production is a major contributor to fatigue that is triggered by intense exercise.
In one study, people who took citrulline finished a cycling test 1.5% quicker than those taking a placebo. The citrulline group also reported less fatigue and quicker recovery (46).
In another study, taking citrulline supplements allowed people to exercise 12% longer and 7% harder, compared to a placebo (47).
The safety of citrulline is also well established, even in large doses (48).
Summary L-citrulline produces nitric oxide in your body, which dilates blood vessels, allowing increased nutrient and oxygen delivery to your body’s cells. This can help decrease fatigue and plays a role in energy production.
Similar to l-citrulline, nitrate produces 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, particularly in regards to exercise.
In some cases, taking beetroot supplements allowed people to exercise 25% longer compared to taking a placebo (53).
This is because the nitrate found in beetroot decreases the amount of oxygen required to exercise at various intensities.
The less oxygen you need to exercise, the less tired you will feel and the longer you will be able to exercise.
However, while harmless, the color pigments in beetroot may stain your urine or stool red (58).
Summary Beetroot contains a compound called nitrate, which relaxes your blood vessels. When used as a supplement, beetroot can increase oxygen delivery throughout your body, allowing you to exercise longer.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that plays a role in sleep. It’s produced and released depending on the time of day — rising in the evening and falling in the morning.
Chronic insomnia can make you constantly tired and low on energy. Symptoms include difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, waking up too early and poor sleep quality (59).
However, it is currently unclear whether taking melatonin supplements can help reduce fatigue for people with these conditions (66).
Summary Melatonin is an important hormone that plays a role in sleep. Supplementing with melatonin may be an effective way to alleviate insomnia by helping improve alertness and decrease fatigue.
Tyrosine is an amino acid that is naturally produced by your body. It is found in most high-protein foods, including chicken, eggs and dairy products.
Tyrosine is important for producing neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that transmit messages in your brain.
These neurotransmitters are thought to decline with mentally and physically demanding activities, which can negatively affect concentration and energy levels (68).
Currently, research suggests tyrosine is only beneficial for people who have low stores of neurotransmitters due to stressful or cognitively demanding situations (69).
Additionally, supplementing with tyrosine has been proven to be safe (72).
Summary Supplementing with tyrosine may help restore levels of neurotransmitters in your body, thereby helping improve mental cognition and energy levels.
Caffeine is commonly consumed for its energy-boosting properties in the form of coffee, tea, cocoa beverages, energy drinks and sodas (73).
But combining L-theanine with caffeine as a supplement may be an easy 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 (75).
Summary Combining caffeine with L-theanine is an effective way to improve your energy levels while reducing the negative side effects and jitters.
Life can take a toll on your energy levels.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to maintain your energy, including consuming a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly.
However, for many people, these things are not possible all of the time.
When this is the case, there are many supplements and vitamins that may help boost your energy when you need it most. Some work better for increasing energy during exercise, while others may be best when you need a quick pick-me-up.
Furthermore, all the supplements on this list have a well-established safety profile when used appropriately.
Nevertheless, remember that it’s still best practice to check with your doctor or registered dietitian to determine if these supplements are safe for you to use.