Will Taking B-Complex Vitamin Supplements Give Me Energy?

B vitamins won't give you more energy.
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Question: I have been looking like crazy for a B vitamin supplement that will give me a ton of energy, but there are so many at so many prices. It would be nice to have the field narrowed for those of us who don't want to spend lots of money.

Answer: Although B vitamins are essential for energy production in the human body, taking them as supplements probably won't make you feel more energetic. 

What Are B-Complex Vitamins?

The B vitamins are a family of water-soluble vitamins including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, cobalamin and folate.

They have a few different functions but as a group they're involved in taking the foods you eat and turning them into energy. 

You're probably already getting enough B-complex vitamins from the foods you eat, as long as you're eating a reasonably balanced diet. They're found in a wide variety of foods, so deficiencies are rare unless you have specific health problems. But, if you're worried that your diet may be deficient, any inexpensive B-complex supplement will give you all the B vitamins you need. 

If you're looking for a B-complex vitamin supplement to make you feel more alert or more motivated, you're probably going to be disappointed. It's true your body needs the B-complex vitamins to produce energy from the foods you eat and they're essential for brain and nerve function, but they can only do so much. Energy comes mostly from the foods you eat, especially from carbohydrates, although your body can use protein or fat as fuel.

The B-complex vitamins are involved in various metabolic processes that make the energy happen, but they can't create energy from nothing so you really need to eat right to feel more energetic.

So B-Complex Vitamins Aren't Like 'Pep Pills'?

No, they're not and B-complex vitamins don't act like caffeine either.

You just won't get any kind of energic buzz from B-complex supplements. If that's what you're looking for, then you're better off with a cup or two of coffee or strong tea. Of course, you can also purchase energy supplements or energy drinks.

Okay, So Why Do the Energy Supplements Always Have B Vitamins?

For marketing. It makes them look good. You'll find energy supplements in the form of tablets or liquids. Their main ingredient is caffeine (that's what actually works), but energy supplements often contain some combination of B-complex vitamins even though they don't really add anything extra. The energy drinks you find everywhere? Same story. It's the caffeine that perks you up.

Why Take B-Complex Vitamins Then?

To be honest, unless you have an actual deficiency, pregnant, about to become pregnant or have a health problem that messes with your B vitamin levels, there just isn't any reason to take B vitamin supplements. 

So, what do you do if you want more energy? There are several things you can do.

Start by getting the right amount of physical activity and sleep your body needs and try to reduce your stress levels. As far as your diet goes, it's a good idea to improve the quality of the foods you eat if you want to feel more energetic. 

Be sure to eat lots of colorful fruits and vegetables because they're low in calories and super high in nutrients and antioxidants. Eat whole grains every day instead of refined grains and choose healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, flaxseeds and canola oil and monounsaturated fats found in nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil. Choose healthier protein sources such as lean beef and pork, skinless chicken and turkey, and up your intake of vegetarian proteins like dry beans and soy foods.

Eating all those healthy foods will be easier if you cut out all the junk foods and sugary beverages. And if you drink more than occasionally, you might feel better if you decrease your alcohol consumption.

If you make all those changes and you still feel droopy and tired, you should speak with your health care provider who can determine if you have any health problems that are causing you to feel less than energetic.

Sources:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Eating to Boost Energy." 

Gropper SS, Smith JL, Groff JL. "Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism." Sixth Edition. Belmont, CA. Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2013.  

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