Whether it’s long hours of work, another terrible night’s sleep, or indulging in the wrong foods, poor diet and lifestyle create a perfect cocktail for low energy. And perhaps despite your best efforts to exercise daily, eat right, and sleep well, you’re just worn out on a cellular level.
Caffeine and other stimulants may give an immediate boost, but they do nothing for the long term, send energy levels crashing hours later, and they may disrupt the endocrine system. To combat daily stressors, here are seven all-natural supplements many claim help improve energy levels. Before you try them, however, visit your doctor to rule out any medical causes of fatigue and discuss drug interactions and potential side effects.
This adaptogenic herb long used in ayurvedic medicine benefits the body’s adrenal function and energy levels. When your body is chronically stressed, tired, or overworked, your adrenal glands may function less than optimally, leading to adrenal fatigue, hormonal and endocrine issues, additional stress or moodiness, and, of course, low energy. Ashwagandha has been shown not only to support the adrenal glands and balance cortisol levels, but also increase overall energy and improve endurance.
B12 is an essential nutrient needed for nearly every bodily function and energy production. It plays a key role in the the formation of new red blood cells; maintains normal function of the nervous system; and supports the heart, bones, and brain. Low levels can cause serious damage to the nervous system, and early signs of deficiency are chronic fatigue, moodiness, and even dementia-like traits. Because the body cannot produce B12 on its own and it’s scarce in our food system, doctors often advise those with low levels or absorption issues to take a B12 supplement.
Normal values are 200 to 900 nanograms per milliliter. However, people with levels in the range of even 500 nanograms per milliliter may still experience symptoms of low energy or lethargy. The best food sources of B12 are clams, oysters, shellfish, red meat, eggs, fortified cereal grains, and nutritional yeast. There are different forms of B12; methylcobalamin is said to be better absorbed than others.
Like ashwagandha, ginseng has been used for millennia as an adaptogenic, energy-boosting supplement. Over time, ginseng is said to reduce stress and anxiety, relieve chronic fatigue, and provide increased energy. American ginseng and Asian ginseng provide similar benefits, although it should be noted that ginseng, in general, varies drastically in quality and should be purchased from a reputable source. Ginseng is not without potential side effects and a doctor should be consulted to avoid any possible issues or drug interactions.
Iodine is an essential mineral needed for the formation and function of the thyroid gland and thyroid hormone, as well as cognitive function, yet many people are deficient in it. Symptoms of a deficiency include difficulty losing weight, consistently cold hands and feet, brittle hair or hair that’s falling out, constipation, depression, and low energy.
Natural iodine sources include seafood, especially saltwater fish, and seaweeds. It may also be supplemented with bioavailable nascent iodine. Some healthy foods may block the use of iodine, especially when eaten raw. If you have a low-functioning thyroid, avoid large amounts of raw cabbage and kale, as well as spinach.
Is lack of sleep the root of your fatigue? Is your bedroom still light despite the curtains being drawn or do you spend long hours on the computer or phone before bed? Melatonin, a very light-sensitive hormone is responsible, in part, for quality of sleep. Stress, lifestyle, light, and other factors may disrupt its production, affect your metabolism and metabolic processes, and leave you drained and unrested come morning.
If you are not sleeping well, have insomnia, or wake feeling unrested, try to minimize light in your bedroom at night. Do your best to stay away from blue light from computers, tablets, and phones. If you still have trouble sleeping or don’t feel rested, start with a very low dose of .5 milligram of melatonin and work up from there each night until you find your ideal dosage. Too much may have the opposite effect and leave you feeling tired, depressed, or hung over.
This adaptogenic root, also known as arctic root or golden root, can significantly reduce the way the body responds to stress, both mentally and physically. When taken regularly, rhodiola may improve physical performance and reduce fatigue, improve cognitive function, and boost mood. Though it is still unknown how the herb works on a chemical level, we do know that it helps maintain serotonin levels. Rhodiola can be sourced in an extracted form and can safely be taken once or twice a day for fatigue, stress, trouble concentrating, and mild depression. It is advised to take it earlier in the day in case it causes insomnia.
On a basic level, this nonessential amino acid is necessary for the creation of DNA and RNA. Glycine is also one of the main components of collagen, helps to regulate the blood sugar, and distributes glucose for energy throughout the body. It has many potential benefits: regulating moods, enhancing metabolic function, treating hypoglycemia, and relieving chronic fatigue. Though your body can make glycine, you can get it from meat, fish, and dairy, as well as soybeans, kale, spinach, cabbage, pumpkin, cucumber, beans, and bananas. It can also be sourced in an extracted crystalline form.
A version of this story first appeared on Food Matters. It has been reprinted with permission.