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Are vitamins better for your morning energy kick than coffee?
Reaching for that afternoon coffee? You may be better reaching for your vitamins instead
If you live in a state of permanent exhaustion, you’re not alone. We’re always plugged in, on the go, battling a never-ending to-do list and frankly, on the brink of burnout almost every day. We get through our days by doing our best to manage the chaos, stay afloat, and continuously reach for another cup of our faithful energy elixir, coffee.
While coffee is a feel-good nervous system stimulant that leaves us ready to start the day, it does so by interacting with chemicals and receptors in our brain to have us feeling alert and awake. Nowadays, more busy women and men are turning to vitamins to keep them focused by optimising their body’s natural energy-boosting processes, which will continue to work long after the caffeine hit wears off.
In this post, we examine five of the top vitamins that play an important biochemical role in the production of energy in the body - and the ones you may not be getting enough of if you’re feeling perpetually tired.
Vitamin B12: The lets-get-all-the-energy-out-of-your-food booster
What does it do: Vitamin B12 is the helper that aids your body in converting the meals you eat into the energy you need to keep you going and fight the fatigue. It may also support healthy nerve cell function, memory retention, healthy red blood cell formation and help prevent anaemia. Because the body cannot produce B12, it is essential to ensure that you’re getting enough every day.
Who is at risk: B12 deficiency tends to affect those who avoid particular food groups, have certain medical conditions or are aged over 50. Because B12 is only found naturally in animal products, vegetarians and vegans may struggle to meet their daily B12 requirements. Those with anaemia or digestive disorders like Celiac and Crohn’s disease may also lack B12. In the ageing population, deficiency can be due to having less stomach acid, through which B12 is absorbed.
How to get more B12: Eating more animal foods is a great place to start. The best sources are beef liver and clams, followed by fish, meat, poultry and some dairy products. If you’re not keen on animal products or are worried the quantities you’re eating are not enough, vitamin supplements rich in B12 like these can help you get the most energy from your diet.
Co-Enzyme Q10: The lets-keep-your-cells-energised-and-healthy supporter
What does it do: Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is needed by your body to produce energy and support the health of your cells. It’s an impressive nutrient and was the basis of the 1978 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. It helps to prevent the breakdown of every cell in your body, especially in the heart, kidneys and liver where it is found in the highest quantities.
When levels of CoQ10 are low, it may increase the feeling of fatigue and have you reaching for that next cup of coffee. Unfortunately, because of the way that coffee interferes with your sleep-wake cycle, it won’t actually give you more energy. Instead, it just masks the natural process through which your brain tells your body it’s tired and that you need sleep.
Who is at risk: As we get older, our levels of CoQ10 can decrease. Other causes include conditions like diabetes and statin treatments that are used to lower cholesterol levels. Because CoQ10 is fat-soluble, meaning that it dissolves in fat rather than in water like many other vitamins, those with very low fat in their diet may also be at risk.
How to get more: Meats, fish and nuts are the best sources of CoQ10, though there is doubt as to whether they contain enough to increase the levels in your body significantly. The way you prepare your food may play a role in this, with frying estimated to destroy up to 30% of CoQ10 available in the food. Supplements may then be a better solution for those that are feeling lethargic and are worried about declining levels of CoQ10.
Iron: Your oxygen-transporting energy helper
What does it do: If you’re always feeling overtired and low in energy, an iron deficiency is often one of the first things that your doctor will investigate. The body needs iron to produce a protein called haemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to the organs and the tissues throughout the body. Your cells then use oxygen to turn the sugars in your food into energy. Without iron, the oxygen supply throughout the body is limited, and you will feel tired and run down.
Who is at risk: Unfortunately ladies, it’s you. You can blame monthly blood loss (70% of the body’s iron found in red blood cells and muscle cells), as well as a greater tendency to diet and eat less red meat than men. Also, anyone that doesn’t eat meat, frequently donates blood or suffers from internal bleeding, will be lower in iron.
How to get more: Eating more meat is number one. While that doesn’t bode well for our vegetarian friends, plants containing iron include green leafy vegetables, peas, broccoli, sprouts, tomatoes, lima beans, corn and beets, to name a few. Unfortunately, only 10-30% of the iron you eat will be absorbed and used by the body.
Tip: Iron supplements are particularly effective in treating deficiencies because good varieties will also contain vitamin C, which helps your body absorb iron much more efficiently. To view trusted energy-specific vitamin packs that help you fight fatigue and optimise your energy, click here.
Magnesium: The all-round-goodness facilitator
What does it do: Magnesium is like the Siri of the biological world - the one that is so helpful with a multitude of processes in the body. The difference is that you can’t do without it. It’s part of almost all of the body’s major cellular, metabolic and biochemical processes, with over 600 enzymatic reactions needing Magnesium to be present for them to occur. It helps regulate our blood pressure and blood sugar, form energy from glucose and fats, aid our nerve conduction, muscle contractions and protein synthesis, control our heart rate and help our immune system keep us healthy and strong.
What Magnesium doesn’t do is just release feelings of well-being, happiness and energy, as is the case for coffee. When caffeine is in our system, dopamine (the feel-good neurotransmitter) is present in higher amounts which has us feeling great, and adrenaline is also released to have us feeling alert. Unfortunately, once the caffeine passes, so will these feelings and the reality of how the body is really feeling will quickly set in.
Who is at risk: There are many ways to lose magnesium, or not get enough in the first place. Stress, caffeine and high-sodium diets are common culprits, alongside medications, vitamin D deficiency, diabetes, Crohn’s Disease and alcoholism. The most recent Australian Health Survey showed that over 1 in 3 men and women weren’t meeting their daily Magnesium requirements. This figure doubled when the age range shifted to 14 to 18-year-olds, right when they are growing, learning and preparing for their career and lives.
How to get more: Magnesium is found in greens, non-processed whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. So eat up! While eating the right diet is important, supplements can help us close the gap so we can feel energised, perform better and stop us looping back to the coffee machine in the afternoons.
You can find a good dose of magnesium in this complete energy pack (highly recommended).
Riboflavin (B2): Your vitamin optimiser (and urine-colour-changer)
What does it do: This essential B-Vitamin supports the metabolism, the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the adrenal glands. It helps your cells grow and create energy to keep you energised and focused throughout the day. It’s also used by the body as an antioxidant to support the immune system and keep skin and hair healthy. Riboflavin should be replenished daily as it is continuously excreted and needs to be available to allow other vitamins, including B6 and folic acid, to complete their roles effectively.
Who is at risk: If you are pregnant, aged over 50, have a chronic illness or have had problems with substance abuse, you are more vulnerable to B2 deficiency. A deficiency occurs when a diet is either low in B2, the vitamin cannot be effectively absorbed by the intestines, or the body is having trouble using it.
How to get more: Many foods contain B2, including dairy products, meats and dark green vegetables. When your body has met its daily requirement, excess riboflavin gets disposed of through the urine and often turns it a bright yellow colour.
Coffee is great for a morning boost…
… But it’s actions are temporary and mask what’s really going on in the body, much like a band-aid. Optimising the way your body functions with vitamins to get long-lasting energy means you don’t have to rely on repeated trips back to the coffee machine to make it through the day.
If you constantly lack the energy you need to perform effectively at work and home, it is important to determine if you may have a vitamin deficiency. The effects of vitamin deficiencies can be draining and have a serious impact on your body and health. Taking the right vitamins consistently is key. If you would like a vitamin pack that is focused on maximising your energy levels, including the above five vitamins in easy to use daily packs click here.