Wondering what vitamins give you energy? There are several vitamins and supplements that have been shown to give you a boost, both mentally and physically, even if there is no single vitamin that can be called the “best” for the job.
Let's take a quick look at some of the more popular substances readers are trusting to boost energy and give themselves a little kick in the butt.
Yes, we have to include caffeine in this list, even though, unlike everything else here, caffeine isn't a vitamin, herb or amino acid. What it is is one of the best sources that exist to boost energy, which puts it in a category all its own. Basically, there's caffeine, and then there's everything else.
So before we get into the "everything else" category, here are two natural sources of caffeine that aren't coffee, tea, sugary drinks, or pills.
HELO Caffeine Vaporizer
Up first is HELO. Because while it doesn't contain vitamins, and isn't a supplement, HELO does contain that other compound that we know for a fact supplies energy — caffeine.
HELO is a caffeine vaporizer (aka vape pen) that delivers a nearly instantaneous dose of energy-boosting inhaled caffeine almost directly into your bloodstream. That means it's faster-acting than supplements, energy shots or coffee. And it comes in better flavors, too!
Each HELO vape contains 800 "puffs" or "inhales" in the Plus size, and 400 in the standard Air size, of naturally flavored and vaporized caffeine. HELO’s flavors include Strawberry Ice, Pink Slush, Banana Ice, Caramel Coffee, Tropic Slush, Aloe Grape and more. HELO is also our pick for the best caffeine vape for 2023 and best caffeine supplement.
HELO Caffeine Patch
The HELO caffeine patch might be the most convenient method of caffeine delivery ever created. Unlike products that require you to drink something, eat something, or swallow a pill, you simply apply the HELO caffeine patch once a day and let it deliver its caffeinated goodness. (Read more about caffeine patches at our ultimate guide to caffeine patches.)
The HELO Patch contains other ingredients that can help with energy production, including taurine and vitamin B12, and comes in packages of 15 for around $10, as of this writing — which makes it a bargain over just about any other form of caffeine out there.
When talking about vitamins and supplements that increase energy levels, we should have an entire section dedicated to a class of supplements known as adaptogens. So let's get into it.
Adaptogens, as the name suggests, help your body "adapt" to certain environmental stressors. Why is that important? And how does it relate to energy levels?
It's pretty simple, really. As anyone who has been under stress for a prolonged period of time knows, stress wears you down — both mentally and physically. There's a reason why someone going through an intense period of stress will describe feeling "wiped out" or "run down." Because they are!
Stress robs your body of the compounds it needs to maintain your energy levels, because so much of your body's resources are devoted simply to dealing with the mental and physical strain you're under.
So it stands to reason that vitamins and supplements that help your body adapt to physical and mental stress — i.e. adaptogens — should give you more energy as a side benefit. Think of it this way — adaptogens don't necessarily boost energy or give you more of it. But they help keep the energy you do have from being drained away by, and wasted on, stress. Make sense?
Two of the more popular adaptogens in particular — Ashwagandha and Rhodiola Rosea — can help give you more energy by lessening the energy-draining effects of stress.
Ashwagandha plays a vitally important role in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Several studies have shown that it possesses "rejuvenating properties" (another way of saying it boosts energy levels) by having an effect on your endocrine and cardiopulmonary systems, though scientists are not quite sure how it works.
Regardless, Ashwagandha is prized for its ability to make you more resilient overall, and less likely to suffer severe negative effects — including lower energy levels — that are often associated with periods of prolonged stress.
An herb that generally grows in colder climates, Rhodiola Rosea is another well-known compound that can help protect your mind and body from the negative effects of stress.
In several randomized double-blind studies, it was shown to have beneficial effects on physical and mental performance, and was even shown to have positive effects on people suffering from depression, with few to no side effects.
Vital for the creation of muscle tissue, amino acids help your body convert glucose into energy and have long played a role in helping bodybuilders train and recover from exercise.
Some of the more popular amino acids for an energy boost are L-Citrulline, L-Theanine, Tyrosine and Creatine.
L-Citrulline is an amino acid first isolated from watermelon that helps increase energy in two main ways. First, it helps improve circulation and blood flow to your muscles. And where there's increased blood flow, there's typically more energy.
Second, Citrulline plays a role in eliminating waste, particularly ammonia, from the body. Basically, it plays a role in helping your body detoxify itself, which means less "baggage" floating around for your body to deal with, and thus, more energy.
L-Theanine is similar to the adaptogens covered above, in that it can be very effective in helping your body deal with stress. As anyone who drinks a lot of tea is probably aware, L-Theanine is present in high amounts in drinks like green tea (less so in black tea), and in particular matcha, which can contain up to five times the amount of theanine as regular green tea.
Theanine really comes alive when it's combined with caffeine (again, as in green tea), because it tends to offset some of the negative side effects many people experience from caffeine — nervousness, jitters, etc. So it helps caffeine do its stuff, without the bad side effects.
Creatine and Tyrosine are two popular amino acid supplements, with one providing physical energy, and the other mental energy. Well-known to anyone familiar with weightlifting, creatine is valued for its ability to provide immediate, if short-lived, energy to muscles. This makes it popular with athletes looking for an edge on the field or court.
Tyrosine, meanwhile, is prized for its ability to increase mental alertness and focus. Like many other compounds on this list, it also helps protect your mind and body from the ravages of chronic stress.
If you're hoping to get instant energy from a vitamin, you'll probably be disappointed. No vitamin is like caffeine in its ability to provide an instant pick-me-up. Instead, think of vitamins as tonics — they keep your body healthier overall, which in turn helps give you more energy. Here are a few of the vitamins with a big impact on your energy levels.
If you’re wondering, “What is the energy vitamin everyone is talking about?,” it’s probably Vitamin B12. However, right off the bat, let's dispel the myth that B12, like caffeine, is a source of an instant energy boost.
In almost every case, it isn't. It's not like you can pop a B12 supplement and expect it to have the same effect as if you'd taken a caffeine pill, took a few puffs of a HELO (see above), or downed an espresso. It doesn't work that way.
What B12 does do is help you have more energy over the long term. It helps your body turn nutrients into glucose, which is what your cells need to produce the energy to do … well … everything. It also plays a crucial role in your body's ability to produce red blood cells, which is what brings oxygen to every cell and organ in your body.
The only time it's likely to produce an instant energy boost, however, is if you're deficient in it. Determining that requires a blood test and a visit to your doctor.
As a side note, we have lots of information that can help you determine if B12 is right for you, including our articles on B12 vs. caffeine as an energy source, and our picks for the best B12 inhaler.
Vitamin C is another one of those compounds that won't provide an instant jolt of energy, but that will instead help maximize your body's ability to convert food into energy.
Like Vitamin B12, Vitamin C is vital for maintaining a healthy metabolism, which in turn is what provides you with energy. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb other vitamins, so it can help any other vitamin supplements you take, or vitamins that you get from food, be more efficiently absorbed.
Vitamin D has only a tangential effect on energy, but it's worth mentioning here because of the increased awareness of the mind-body connection, and how our moods can affect us physically.
You may have heard Vitamin D referred to as "The Sunshine Vitamin." That's because we produce it when we're out in the sun. In fact, lack of sun and a Vitamin D deficiency can produce what's known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Which, as the name suggests, is a condition that's marked by a decrease in mood and energy.
If getting enough Vitamin D means that you feel better mentally, it naturally follows that it should help boost your physical energy. So think of Vitamin D as a gift for your mind, which will pay off in benefits for your body as well.
The main quality beetroot has going for it is its nitrate concentration, because nitrates are renowned for their ability to produce mental and physical stamina.
In fact, researchers writing in the Journal of Applied Physiology made the “remarkable” finding that athletes who drank beetroot juice pedaled farther and faster on exercise bikes than those who didn't. Studies like this abound — another showed that kayakers improved their race times, adolescents could exercise for longer periods, and walking up steep hills became easier.
However, beetroot does not act instantly. Participants in those studies consumed beetroot juice or powder anywhere from six days to a few hours before their performance was measured. So be aware that it does take time to get into your system before it can do its thing.
Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10 for short, is a powerful antioxidant that your body naturally produces, and that has been linked to increased energy and mental focus in several studies.
There are many factors that can cause your CoQ10 levels to drop — chief among them, your age. Levels of CoQ10 tend to peak at around age 20 and decline from then on. By the time you reach 80, CoQ10 levels are about half of what they were at their peak. But even by your 30s and 40s, they may drop to a level low enough that you start to "feel it." This is when many people turn to supplementation.
CoQ10 helps with energy production by stimulating mitochondria in your cells, which leads to an increase in adenosine triphosphate, better known as ATP. And it's this that provides the energy boost.
In just one of many studies on this subject, athletes who took CoQ10 supplements outperformed a control group who didn't. It has also been shown to help fight chronic fatigue and act as something of an "anti-aging" compound (to the extent such a thing exists).
Iron's role in energy is well established. The way it contributes to your energy is quite simple — it allows all of your cells (including all of your muscles, organs and other tissue) to absorb and use oxygen.
However, like Vitamin B12, iron supplements may not do much for your energy levels if you don’t have an iron deficiency. A doctor can run a blood test to check for anemia, the condition caused by an iron deficiency. If your iron levels are normal, iron may (or may not) give you a boost.
Check with your doctor before beginning supplementation with iron (or anything we've mentioned here! We're not doctors!)
There you have it. A 100% non-exhaustive list of vitamins, herbs, enzymes, plants and amino acids that can kick your mind and body into high gear. In your quest to find the best sources of energy for you, never forget that there's always good old caffeine (if it’s something that you can tolerate). Good luck … and power up!