The tasks of everyday life - from work to household chores - can make us tired and depleted. Ensuring that we are nourishing our bodies with the correct nutrients is key to a productive and happy life! Vitamins in particular are little powerhouses! They play several important functions to keep our bodies running to the best of their ability. Let’s find out: what vitamins are good for energy?September 19, 2022 7:33 pm February 24, 2022 6:03 pm
What is energy?
As human beings, we consume energy in the form of food. Thanks to energy, our bodies can perform all its functions in order to keep us alive! Most of us would agree that we associate energy with feeling positive, full of vitality and ready to take on life’s challenges. The opposite of energy is fatigue, which we associate with feeling low and lethargic.(1)
B vitamins and energy production
B vitamins are essential in the production of energy in the body. The energy production system is a complex process involving several steps. If any of the B vitamins are missing at any point along the process, this would lead to potentially harmful consequences to our health and metabolism.
B vitamins involved in the energy production process include B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), biotin (vitamin B7) and cobalamin (vitamin B12).(2)
What vitamins are good for energy?
Most B vitamins are essential for energy and play an important role in keeping our bodies functioning correctly.
In the US, a set of Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) determine nutrition requirements. These are essentially estimates of the energy and nutritional requirements of healthy people. Moreover, each country has their own set of reference values. However, these are not intended as goals or recommendations for individuals.
Let’s have a look at the RDAs for the different B vitamins that are essential to our diet. For reference, we will look at the requirements of adult males and females between aged 19 years and above unless otherwise specified. RDAs are categorized and tailored according to gender and age groups.(3)
Thiamin – Vitamin B1
Vitamin B1, more commonly known as thiamin, contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism. In addition, it plays a critical role in the growth and function of the cells in our body. Thiamin transforms energy from food into energy that is utilized by our brain and heart. Most importantly, our body needs this vitamin to process macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat and protein).(4)
For thiamin, the RDA is 1.2 mg and 1.1 mg daily respectively for males and females. It is widely found in a variety of foods. In fact, good sources include whole grain breads, nuts, peas, bananas, oranges, sunflower seeds, linseeds and jerusalem artichokes. Excellent food sources of thiamin include beans, peas and nuts. Other sources include dairy products, eggs and dried fruit. (5)
Riboflavin – Vitamin B2
Vitamin B2, also called riboflavin, plays a key role in cell growth, energy production and metabolism of fat.(6) Moreover, riboflavin is a water-soluble vitamin which means our body immediately uses it and doesn’t store it. . Excess amounts are filtered through the kidneys and excreted in urine.(7) The RDA for riboflavin is 1.3mg/day and 1.1mg/day respectively for men and women.
Good sources of riboflavin include milk, eggs and plain yoghurt. However, the best sources for a plant-based diet include mushrooms, quinoa, almonds and nutritional yeast. In addition, meat, milk, yoghurt, certain nuts and green veggies naturally contain vitamin B2.
A fun fact about riboflavin is that it is sensitive to light. For instance, this is why milk is no longer stored in glass bottles! If vitamin B2 is exposed to excessive sunlight, its stability can be altered. Nowadays milk is stored in opaque cartons or bottles in order to stay protected from the light.
In addition, not only does riboflavin contribute to normal energy-yielding metabolism, it also plays a major role in the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.(8)
Niacin – Vitamin B3
Vitamin B3, known as niacin, contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism. Niacin is found in wheat flour, eggs and fish. In addition, plant-based foods including legumes, nuts and grains provide approximately 2-5mg of niacin per serving. The RDA for niacin is 16 and 14mg/day respectively for adult males and females.
Pantothenic acid – Vitamin B5
Vitamin B5, known as pantothenic acid, is an essential vitamin which helps to release energy from the food we eat. Various foods naturally contain pantothenic acid, good plant sources include mushrooms and avocado. Moreover, breakfast cereals are also sometimes fortified with pantothenic acid. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for men and women ages 19+ years is 5 mg daily.
Pyridoxine – Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, contributes to reducing tiredness and fatigue. It also plays a role in helping the body to form haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is an important component of our red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body. The RDA for men ages 14-50 years is 1.3 mg daily; 51+ years, 1.7 mg. The RDA for women ages 14-18 years is 1.2 mg; 19-50 years, 1.3 mg; and 51+ years, 1.5 mg.Plant-based sources of vitamin B6 include bananas, oats, soya beans, wheatgerm and peanuts.
Biotin – Vitamin B7
Vitamin B7, more commonly known as biotin. Biotin plays an essential role in digesting fats, carbohydrates and proteins from food. However there is currently no recommended dietary intake for biotin. This is because there is a lack of evidence regarding the optimal amount required by most healthy people. Biotin is naturally found in nuts, seeds, sweet potato, avocados, eggs and salmon. Biotin deficiency in developed countries is rare because most people get an adequate amount simply from a varied diet.(9)
Cobalamin – Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 helps to keep the nervous system healthy and helps the body release energy from food. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for men and women ages 14 years and older is 2.4 micrograms (mcg) daily.Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal products (meat, fish, milk and eggs). If you follow a vegan diet, good sources of vitamin B12 include soy drinks fortified with vitamin B12 and yeast extract which contains added vitamin B12. Moreover, seaweed is also an excellent source of vitamin B12, dried green and purple laver are the most widely consumed edible algae and are great sources of this vitamin.
Overall, it’s important to make sure you are getting enough B12 if you follow a strict plant-based diet. Most importantly, check with your dietitian or doctor if you are unsure.(3)
Will taking a vitamin supplement give me more energy?
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