Will taking supplements or fortified foods with extra B vitamins make you peppier?
The answer is yes … if you’re very deficient in B vitamins. But you probably aren’t. Deficiencies in B vitamins are not common. We see deficiencies of vitamin B12 with long term use of metformin (a common diabetes medication) and in long term consumption of an unsupplemented vegan diet. Other causes B vitamin deficiencies are alcohol abuse, extreme dieting, gastrointestinal surgeries, and metabolic disorders.
Without a vitamin deficiency to fix, you need to look elsewhere to add pep to your step. Taking extra B vitamins when you don’t need them won’t make you feel any more energetic than putting double postage on a letter will get it to its destination faster.
So why do so many people reach for B vitamins to boost energy? The answer is probably based in misunderstood or twisted facts.
How B vitamins affect energy
Your body requires several B vitamins and they each have important roles, including roles in energy metabolism. That part is truth. B vitamins play a part in converting calories from food (or energy from food) into a molecule called ATP or adenosine triphosphate. ATP is the energy currency of the cell. Cells run on ATP.
All this talk of energy is why people are confused. But we’re not talking about pep. If you have moderately good vitamin status, your body will produce and use ATP. If your cells couldn’t create or use ATP, you would be dead. Taking in extra B vitamins won’t increase your ATP production or your energy level. And putting two stamps on a birthday card won’t get it into your mom’s hands in half the time.
If you feel more energetic after consuming a fortified granola bar or an energy drink, it’s unlikely to be from B vitamins. It’s probably from caffeine in the drink or simply from getting some energy in you in the form of calories.
What’s the reason for low energy?
If it’s not low B vitamins, then what? There are lots of reasons that you might have low energy.
- Inadequate sleep
- Too much work
- Too much stress
- Poor eating
- Under eating
- Medical problem such as anemia, thyroid disorder, depression, heart disease, sleep apnea or diabetes
- Lack of exercise
- Lack of daylight
If you can’t identify the problem and a solution, a visit to your primary care provider is in order. If diet is the culprit, well, that’s my expertise. Call a registered dietitian nutritionist. Find one in your local area. Want some good reading material? Visit the website of my colleague Dr. Jo. She’s got tons of tips for boosting energy. You can start with these 4 actionable tips to power up your energy.
For more about B vitamins and supplements, check out the Office of Dietary Supplements. And to get started on healthier habits for energy (or for anything else), take a look at 5 Steps to Build Healthy Habits.
Cheers to happy and energetic living!