When you scour the web for “natural energy boosters,” you’ll find that experts agree some of the best ways to bump energy levels are restful sleep, healthy diet, hydration, exercise, and the like.
But what happens when you’re doing all those things, but don’t feel like your naturally vibrant self?
That’s where vitamins and supplements for natural energy come into play.
If you’re wondering, “What vitamins should I take for energy?”… You’ve come to the right place.
These natural energy boosters may come in a bottle, but they’re typically a lot safer for you than something your doctor could prescribe. Plus, you’ll find that most of the energy supplements I outline below are are not only good for increasing energy levels, but can also improve your brain function.
The best vitamins for energy can be divided into two basic categories: natural energy supplements and stimulants.
Natural energy supplements are compounds that your body can use to support its own energy production. These include vitamins and nutrients that encourage proper mitochondrial function, fight oxidative stress, get rid of brain fog, and support your body’s metabolic function.
Stimulants, on the other hand, are what you might normally associate with “energy boosters.” While they also have a solid place in your search energy supplements, stimulants are more likely to cause symptoms like feeling jittery or an increased heart rate.
So, what can you expect when using these products?
Benefits of Vitamins and Supplements for Natural Energy
1. Improved Mitochondrial and Metabolic Function
One of the major benefits of taking vitamins that are good for energy is the way they improve the function of your cells, down to the smallest cell.
When mitochondria, amino acids, coenzymes, neurotrophic factors, and cells all work together in harmony, the benefits to your health are far-reaching.
It’s not just your DNA — improving metabolic function, a major benefit of vitamins for tiredness and lack of energy, helps protect your body against many diseases. Metabolic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity can’t take hold when your energy levels are working well.
2. Better Cognition
Do you know that feeling of mental tiredness? You may be awake and physically able to make it through the day, but your brain simply refuses to keep up.
These natural energy boosters can improve your ability to be alert, remember information you are given, and learn new information.
Sometimes, the cognitive benefits of vitamins for energy and focus will be more pronounced in people with mental deficiencies. People at risk for Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s or other neurological disease might gain the most from using natural energy boosters.
3. Reduced Stress
Adaptogens are known for their ability to reduce stress, but they aren’t the only natural energy boosters that kick stress to the curb.
When you’re able to do more and think more clearly, stress takes a backseat.
Reducing your brain fog does wonders for your stress levels, making this another important benefit of using supplements for energy.
4. Better Exercise and Athletic Performance
Finally, you’ll find that a huge number of vitamins for energy make a huge difference in how well you can exercise or perform athletic activities.
One of the main reasons people look for natural energy boosters is to increase their capacity for working out.
Find which natural energy boosters are right for you depending on your lifestyle, diet, and needs by reading about them below.
11 Supplements for Natural Energy
1. Vitamin B12
You’ll rarely find a list of natural energy supplements without reading about vitamin B12. This B vitamin is found predominantly in animal foods like meats, eggs, fish, and milk products. (1)
Your body needs vitamin B12 in order to synthesize (reproduce) DNA molecules and to produce energy within every cell of your body.
Without enough vitamin B12, you’ll probably feel sluggish. Other possible side effects of vitamin B12 deficiency include potential issues with pregnancy, heart disease, brain function, and the health of eyes and bones. (2)
Those most at risk for a vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- Older adults (3)
- Vegetarians and vegans (4)
- People with gastrointestinal problems like Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, which negatively impact absorption of minerals (5)
People in Western countries that don’t fit into the above categories are unlikely to be deficient in vitamin B12. (1) However, those descending from European or African countries, and people living in Mexico, Central and South America, or India are more at risk. (6)
Not only can vitamin B12 support your body’s natural energy creation process, there is evidence that it supports proper mental function and brain health as you age.†
For great-tasting, high-quality B vitamins for energy, try HumanN’s Active B-Complex. It contains 100 percent or more of the daily value of every B-complex vitamin to help support healthy energy and mood.†
Dosage: B12 doses vary by age. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), these are the age-appropriate daily dosages of vitamin B12: (1)
- 0-6 months: .4 micrograms
- 7-12 months: .5 micrograms
- 1-3 years: .9 micrograms
- 4-8 years: 1.2 micrograms
- 9-13 years: 1.8 micrograms
- 14+ years: 2.4 micrograms
- During pregnancy: 2.6 micrograms
- During lactation: 2.8 micrograms
2. Adaptogenic Herbs
Adaptogenic herbs, also called adaptogens, are a class of herbal plants that have effects throughout your entire body. Typically, adaptogens help your body fight exhaustion and stress so that you can better function physically and mentally in any number of situations.
These aren’t supplements for energy in the classic sense — adaptogens don’t give you the jitters or result in an immediate boost of energy.
What adaptogens do, though, is combat stress at a cellular level.
In a 2009 review, scientists state: (7)
“Adaptogens can be defined as a pharmacological group of herbal preparations that increase tolerance to mental exhaustion and enhance attention and mental endurance in situations of decreased performance… [Their action] results in increased performance and endurance.”
A reason adaptogens may be so useful in improving energy levels is the way they treat adrenal fatigue, or a general over-taxing of the adrenal glands. Sometimes called hypoadrenia, adrenal fatigue is not a diagnosable condition in the west but shares many features with what traditional Chinese medicine calls “suboptimal health status.” (8)
There are several adaptogens that function well as natural energy boosters, including ashwagandha, rhodiola rosea, and holy basil.
Perhaps one of the most versatile and health-promoting herbs on the planet, ashwagandha is a powerful antioxidant that also reduces inflammation. Scientific review talk about the many benefits of ashwagandha, like its ability to fight tumors, reduce and reverse oxidative stress, improve immune responses, and even improve heart health. (9)
The rejuvenating qualities of ashwagandha can help you to improve your overall quality of life because of how successfully it busts stress. (10)
One study of ashwagandha in athletes discovered that when given ashwagandha, elite cyclists had better endurance. (11)
Dosage: Ashwagandha dosage amounts vary, but you should generally start with a dose between 300-750 milligrams and work your way up to between 1000-1500 milligrams. (12)
Often called simply rhodiola, this adaptogenic herb is an one of the best natural energy supplements.
People who take rhodiola show better perception, cognition, concentration, and alertness. Their levels of chronic fatigue, which is associated with altered adrenal response, are also much lower. (13, 14, 15)
In fact, rhodiola can almost immediately lower your cortisol levels. (16) It may even improve mood, which, in conjunction with its other benefits, makes it a great natural energy booster for anyone dealing with feelings of sadness. (17)
Dosage: When taking rhodiola, doses vary a lot. Even a small amount (10 milligrams/day or less) may be helpful improving energy levels. Most studies use doses between 350-1500 milligrams, although I would caution on taking more than 700 milligrams per day without being monitored by your physician. (18)
Also referred to as “tulsi,” holy basil is another ancient remedy from Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine that serves to improve your metabolic function and reduce stress.
While it has been studied less than rhodiola or ashwagandha, holy basil does seem to fight bacterial infections, protect the heart, and improve immunity.
Some naturopaths and functional medicine practitioners suggest using holy basil to help treat metabolic syndrome and prevent heart disease and diabetes.
Dosage: The amount of holy basil used in studies is a wide range, anywhere from 300-3000 milligrams per day. One study found that a dose of 300 milligrams had the same impact as higher doses to reduce stress and anxiety, while others have displayed better results with higher doses. (19)
3. Coenzyme Q10
CoQ10 is an antioxidant that gets a lot of press for its ability help you age well. However, aging isn’t the only time CoQ10 can be an amazing resource for you.
This nutrient can prevent oxidative stress, naturally improve your energy levels, and help you fight infection by improving immune responses.
There are few major conditions that CoQ10 may not be able to help to prevent or treat, according to research: (20)
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Periodontal disease (advanced gum disease)
- Mitochondrial diseases
- Injury from radiation exposure
- Parkinson’s disease
- Gastric ulcer
- Kidney failure
- Muscular dystrophy
Why are the effects of CoQ10 so far-reaching? It’s because every single cell in your body uses CoQ10 for energy metabolism. Plus, you make less and less of it as you age. (21)
As a “coenzyme,” CoQ10 helps support the work of enzymes that perform many different functions in your body. It’s part of the process called “mitochondrial ATP synthesis,” and this is where it truly works its magic as a natural energy booster.
This synthesis is needed by every cell in your body — and that’s why CoQ10 finds itself in every single one. ATP synthesis cannot happen without CoQ10. (22)
When it comes to knocking down fatigue, CoQ10 has been tested in multiple human studies, because too little CoQ10 is very closely related to chronic fatigue. (23) Adding this supplement into your routine may help you recover faster and maintain alertness, even during heavy-duty exercise. (24, 25, 26)
Dosage: Most research shows the normal dose of CoQ10 to be somewhere between 30-90 milligrams per day, sometimes going as high as 200 milligrams. (20)
Taking CoQ10 can be a little tricky because it’s available in so many forms and your body will absorb more or less depending on what you eat. Since it’s a fat-soluble nutrient, try taking CoQ10 along with a meal including healthy fats like avocado or grass-fed butter.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t notice CoQ10 working at first! This natural energy booster can take up to eight weeks to build up in your system to therapeutic levels.
Ginseng is most commonly available in two forms: American and Panax ginseng.
This plant operates a lot like an adaptogen by reducing both short-term and chronic stress. (27) It also knocks out fatigue by fighting oxidative stress, which can help boost energy levels naturally. (28)
Even though ginseng doesn’t seem to improve your physical performance, its ability to reduce stress and tiredness makes it a worthwhile energy boost supplement.
Dosage: It seems that the “standard” dosage of ginseng supplements, around 300-350 milligrams per day, is actually far too low to do much good. You need at least 1000 milligrams in order to see notable effects, with the high end of doses topping out at around 3000 milligrams. (33)
5. Ginkgo Biloba
Often thought of as a supplement to improve mental clarity, ginkgo biloba is one of the natural energy boosters that works against oxidative stress and inflammation. Both of these are really important when it comes to keeping the mind clear.
Ginkgo biloba isn’t a natural stimulant that will make you antsy, but it can definitely keep your mind sharp.
Dosage: The amount of ginkgo biloba you take should range between about 120-360 milligrams every day, spread into three doses. Some studies use dosages as high as 960 milligrams.
6. Chia Seed Extract
Unprocessed, whole-grain chia seeds can be made into extract form and sold as vitamins to boost energy.
Remember that antioxidants are extremely helpful for counteracting oxidative stress in the body that can lead to fatigue and exhaustion? (37)
Well, chia seed extract is incredibly rich with antioxidants that can support your body’s disease-fighting process. (38)
Plus, chia seeds are very high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have so many health benefits I don’t even have space to list them all here! For the purposes of how omega-3s are great for energy, you should know that omega-3s:
- Reduce symptoms of the metabolic syndrome, which is typically marked by poor metabolism and a lack of energy (39)
- Decrease chronic inflammation throughout the body (40)
- Improve quality of sleep, so you can be more alert during the day (41)
Dosage: There is no standard dose size for chia seed extract. Chia seeds, as a food, are great for the diet. When getting an extract, be sure to order from a reputable company to avoid any dangerous fillers.
Creatine is one of the best supplements for energy because it provides you energy at the cellular level.
It works something like this: Like I stated above, your body needs adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in order to produce and use energy. After a cell has used an ATP molecule, that molecule is short one phosphate group. At this point, it exists in your cells as ADP, or adenosine diphosphate.
Creatine’s role here is simple. It just gives a phosphate group from its own molecular structure to an ADP molecule, making that compound ATP again.
This doesn’t result in a stimulatory effect, like a higher heart rate or the energy you might expect from a sugary snack. However, it does provide your body with short-term, high-intensity energy.
I would suggest trying creatine, particularly if you’re an athlete struggling to reach that next goal. While exercise and continued training can help increase your endurance, adding creatine will multiply the result. (42, 43, 44, 45)
One of the best reasons creatine is one of the perfect natural energy boosters for athletes is that it not only increases your energy stores, it also may reduce your chance of getting a sports-related injury.
Athletes who use creatine regularly recover from severe injury faster, have less destructive injuries, and can do more than those not taking the supplement.
Dosage: As creatine is needed in large doses, you’ll typically get it in powder form, not capsules. Some hardcore athletes take up to 30 grams each day, divided into 4-5 doses throughout the day. It seems that smaller amounts of creatine supplementation over many years, around three grams per day, will afford you some major benefits. (46)
Are you aware of the benefits of nitric oxide to your body?
If not, let me refresh you. High levels of nitric oxide are associated with:
- Better sleep
- Lowered blood pressure and risk of heart disease
- Improvements in the symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Better concentration and memory
- Less pain throughout the body (especially headaches, migraines, and back pain)
- More effective weight loss
- Improved digestion
- Increase immunity
Nitric oxide is produced when you breathe through your nose (not your mouth), which is why mouth taping is becoming an increasingly big deal in the natural health community.
At this point, you might be thinking, “Okay, but what does that have to do with how to get more energy naturally?” After all, you can’t supplement with nitric oxide.
What you can do is give your body the nutrition it needs to encourage nitric oxide production via nitric oxide precursors. Without sufficient nitric oxide, you’ll feel lethargic and have very little energy. (47, 48)
Citrulline, or L-citrulline, is an amino acid that’s a precursor to nitric oxide. When citrulline goes throughout the body to find (scavenge) nitric oxide, it helps improve metabolic function. (49) In fact, it seems to work better than L-arginine, which is one of the most popular nitric oxide precursor supplements.
This energy supplement has proven its worth many times over. Citrulline can improve performance when taken by athletes, and the improved nitric oxide it provides drastically reduces muscle soreness after workouts. (50, 51, 52)
Dosage: Start with a dose of about 1000 milligrams per day and work your way up to between 6000-8000 milligrams, taken within the hours leading up to exercise.
Beetroot is a food that’s also closely related to production of nitric oxide. This valuable food contains dietary nitrate (NO3), which provides nitric oxide molecules to the body to use.
Dietary nitrates like beetroot support heart health, although the reasons why and the mechanisms aren’t totally understood.† (53)
Taking beetroot can give you that extra edge you’re wanting for workouts and athletic performance. You may even be able to work out for longer periods of time after taking beetroot regularly.† (54, 55, 56, 57)
When I’m looking for clearer focus from the best energy supplement, I take HumanN’s SuperBeets Energy Plus. They combine the power of beetroot with green tea extract (which I’ll share more on below) for a truly effective natural energy boost.
Dosage: Depending on your weight, different doses of beetroot will provide with the amount of nitrate you want your body to have. Typically, this ranges from 300-600 milligrams. A 150-pound adult would need around 430 milligrams per day. Remember, beetroot is most effective when taken for multiple days in a row, not just once.
Ever heard of nootropics? Supplements and drugs fall into this category when they help to improve mental performance.
Many nootropics work by increasing mental clarity and performance, while reducing fatigue and keeping you more alert.
While not all nootropics are natural or even safe, there are many that have been used for thousands of years as natural energy boosters. In fact, the adaptogens we discussed earlier, creatine, ginseng, and ginkgo biloba would all be considered nootropics.
This particular nootropic, huperzine-A, has been under careful watch because of the incredible impact it might have on Alzheimer’s and age-related cognitive decline.
Even for otherwise healthy people, though, huperzine-A can help to reduce the distraction and poor cognition many of us associate with tiredness.
It comes from herbs in the Huperziceae family of plants, usually the club moss plant found in India and southeast Asia. (58)
The way it works in the brain is somewhat simple — it’s an acetylcholinesterase (AcHE) inhibitor. That word may be long, but it just means that huperzine-A stops an enzyme from breaking down the molecules of acetylcholine in your brain. (59)
Acetylcholine is often referred to as the learning neurotransmitter, and having more of it can help you stay more alert and learn effectively. (60)
Huperzine-A can improve memory, cognition, and even behavioral issues in people struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. (60) It’s not just Alzheimer’s patients, either — at least one human trial has found an improvement in memory with adolescents. (61)
Dosage: Taking huperzine-A as one of your favorite natural energy boosters is best done in cycles of about 2-4 weeks at a time, although exact cycle lengths haven’t been standardized yet. You should take between 50-250 micrograms each day, and it’s totally fine to take the entire dose at once since it stays in your system for awhile.
11. Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Although it has many other benefits, like protection from diabetes and heart disease, lion’s mane is best known for its brain-boosting effects. But it’s a natural energy booster for more reasons than that — it also combats fatigue, aging of DNA, anxiety, and depression. (63)
Lion’s mane encourages “neurite outgrowth” in the brain: simply, the longer growth of dendrites and axons from your neurons. (64, 65) The reason this matters is because your axons and dendrites degenerate as you get older or suffer from nerve damage. (That’s why it’s also a potential Alzheimer’s treatment, like huperzine-A.)
Another way it can help improve the brain’s energy production has to do with a little protein known as neurotrophic growth factor (NGF). Neurons have to communicate with NGF in order to function the right way, and lion’s mane activates this expression. (66)
In healthy people with mild cognitive impairment, lion’s mane was able to improve parameters of cognitive function. (67)
Dosage: The study above is one of the only available pieces of research on lion’s mane in humans. It used 1000 milligrams, three times per day (for a total of 3000 milligrams). There are no standardized doses of lion’s mane yet — some manufacturers suggest a dose of as little as 300 milligrams per day.
4 Natural Stimulants
Most of us associate coffee with caffeine, for good reason. But it’s found in other things too, like teas and even some herbs.
According to one review: (68)
“Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive substance in the world. In Western society, at least 80 percent of the adult population consumes caffeine in amounts large enough to have an effect on the brain.”
Caffeine is a highly effective stimulant. After all, few substances have gained the place in our average morning routine the way coffee has.
Using caffeine for stimulation and alertness can be good for your body, but the major drawback is that you can develop a tolerance to it. Once you have a tolerance, you need a lot more caffeine to “feel it,” and you might not be getting the full effect anymore.
- Anaerobic performance
- Muscle power
- Adrenaline response
- Athletic endurance
- Objective and perceived cognitive performance
- Reaction time
Too much caffeine isn’t a wise idea. But there might also be something you can add to your coffee or tea to offset some of the most problematic side effects when using these natural energy boosters.
Dosage: Many supplements for natural energy contain some form of caffeine. From day to day, up to 400 milligrams is considered safe for healthy adults (200 milligrams for pregnant women). However, 500 or more milligrams at a time will help you produce a faster result, like if you’re headed into a heavy workout. (76)
2. Green Tea Extract
Green tea extract contains catechins, an antioxidant. (77) Antioxidants like these stop your body from incurring excessive cellular damage — one result of which is that they can help to delay or offset muscle fatigue. (78, 79, 80)
Although the concentration is less than in coffee or black teas, green tea also contains the stimulant caffeine. (81)
When adding in a green tea extract to a workout routine, both sedentary and athletic people experience an improvement in antioxidant activity and, by extension, muscle soreness and endurance. (82, 83, 84)
In supplement form, you can take green tea catechins, also called green tea extract.
In terms of improving energy levels and exercise performance, green tea extract can also help to improve cognition and VO2 max (oxygen uptake) while decreasing the oxidation that happens while you exercise. (87, 86)
On top of green tea’s ability to act as a natural energy booster, you may also be able to take advantage of it to lose weight. Green tea catechins increase adiponectin content, which is associated with lower body fat. (88)
Dosage: If you simply drink green tea, it’s hard to know how much will produce the desired effect. When testing green tea catechins, most studies have recorded the amount of EGCG (one of the individual catechins) in the extract. Most green tea extract supplements are made up of about half EGCG, and for significant effects, you should be consuming about 400-600 milligrams of EGCG every day. (89)
3. Yerba Mate
Another tea filled with antioxidants, yerba mate can also be purchased in supplement form (from yerba mate leaf).
A serving of yerba mate has about the same caffeine content as one 8-ounce cup of coffee. (90) Interestingly, yerba mate acts like green tea in that it is a stimulant to the body and brain but does not increase blood pressure or heart rate. (91)
One benefit of taking yerba mate as a natural energy booster is that it may have an antidepressant effect on the brain. (92) Since symptoms of depression can really drag the energy from you, this is one way yerba mate improves energy levels.
Athletes taking yerba mate also see an increase in their performance and capacity. (93)
This natural stimulant also keeps your mind sharp. When using yerba mate, you may notice improved cognition, learning, and memory. (94)
Dosage: Most of the time, scientists give three glasses of yerba mate to subjects each day for up to two months. It seems that yerba mate is safe in up to 1.5 liters every day, but no higher doses have resulted in any kind of toxicity. As a supplement, yerba mate works in doses between 1000-1500 milligrams daily. (95)
There is limited evidence that taurine can improve your capacity for exercise. (98)
While taurine is a naturally occurring amino acid, there are occasionally side effects associated with its use. Be careful when you take or drink taurine, and avoid sugary energy drinks with other added ingredients that are bad for your health.
Dosage: Most studies look at taurine in doses between 500-2000 milligrams per day for efficacy. It seems that you can safely take up to three grams of taurine every day without adverse events. (99)
How to Take Natural Energy Boosters
Each supplement has its own dosage, but the majority of the supplements for natural energy above are available in capsule or powder form. Some, like yerba mate, green tea, and coffee, work best as beverages.
The recommended doses, if known, are given for each individual product.
However, it’s a good idea to take the recommended dosage on the actual supplement you’re taking. Manufacturers put a lot of time into formulating products, and many vitamins and supplements contain co-ingredients to support the action of the main ingredients. It’s best to follow the instructions.
While these natural energy boosters are relatively safe, it’s not a good idea to start a new regimen with many new additions at once. Try one or two, beginning with a small dose and working your way higher. Pay attention to any side effects you might experience or added benefits as you increase dosages.
You should always talk to your healthcare provider before you start taking a new supplement.
Side Effects of Energy Supplements
Many of the natural energy boosters on this list are known to be very safe and have little to no side effects or drug interactions. These include:
- Vitamin B12 (1)
- Ashwagandha (8)
- Rhodiola rosea (16)
- Holy basil (19)
- Ginseng (100)
- Beetroot (101)
- L-theanine (75)
- Green tea extract
- Yerba mate
The minor side effects of the other supplements on this list are:
CoQ10: On occasion, CoQ10 will cause diarrhea or rash. These symptoms are usually minor and don’t last long. (20) CoQ10 doesn’t bioaccumulate, so taking it for a long time shouldn’t cause it to make symptoms worse. (102)
Ginkgo Biloba: Side effects of ginkgo are reported to include headache, dizziness, heart palpitations, nausea, gas, and diarrhea. An allergy to ginkgo will result in a rash. It’s possible it interacts with bleeding disorder medications, so don’t start ginkgo biloba before speaking to your doctor if you take a medication for bleeding problems. (103)
Citrulline: Citrulline may rarely cause mild, short-term stomach discomfort. (50)
Lion’s Mane: Generally, lion’s mane is safe and non-toxic, even when taken for a while. (104, 105) However, you can be allergic and will develop contact dermatitis if this is the case. (106) One case study recorded a report of respiratory distress from lion’s mane. (107)
Caffeine: For some people, caffeine may cause an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose, cortisol, insulin resistance, and anxiety. (76) These often happen with repeated, high-volume use.
Taurine: Because it’s included in drinks that also contain caffeine, tons of sugar, and other ingredients that aren’t so great, taurine is sometimes associated with negative health effects. One case study recounts the story of a patient who had general itchiness, stomach upset, and dizziness after drinking a taurine beverage. (108)
Natural energy boosters come in two main types: supplements that provide better natural energy by improving your body’s process of energy production, and stimulants.
The top 11 natural energy supplements are:
- Vitamin B12
- Adaptogens (ashwagandha, rhodiola, and holy basil)
- Ginkgo biloba
- Chia seed extract
- Lion’s mane mushroom
The best natural stimulants include:
- Green tea extract
- Yerba mate
These supplements provide your body with improved metabolic and mitochondrial function via a reduction of oxidative stress. They can also reduce your stress levels, increase cognitive function, and give you an extra edge when working out.
Many natural energy boosters don’t have significant side effects, although there are a few to be aware of. Stick to the dosage suggested on the product label for the supplements you try, and speak with your healthcare provider before starting a new supplement regimen.
†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.