Lots of us have the greatest of intentions, but let’s face it, keeping up with a regular exercise plan is hard. So, how do you keep your eyes open as fatigue sets in and you’re a cosy chair away from an early night’s kip at 8pm?
Beat extreme tiredness and get a much needed energy-boost with these highly beneficial supplements…
1. Vitamin B12
If you search for “how to prevent fatigue” in a textbook or on the internet, vitamin B12 will generally be the number one result. Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, which has an effect predominantly on the actions and functions of the brain and nervous system.
One study examined the benefit of vitamin B12 injections over 2,000 people. They didn’t find a positive effect until they increased the dosage to 2500-5000mg every 2-3 days. However, once they increased the dosage, they found that between 50-80% of people found an increase in energy and stamina with 2-3 weeks (2-3). The use of this vitamin to reduce pain has also been examined in people with back pain (4), nerve pain (5) and even cancer (6).
2. Vitamin C
This is another vitamin supplement that’s commonly taken by a large number of individuals. It has lost its proper chemical name, which is L-ascorbic acid (or ascorbate). Vitamin C is involved with a large number of reactions, particularly with wound healing and as an antioxidant.
Vitamin C has also been somewhat effective in reducing the duration of symptoms when you get a common cold (7-8).
It has also been found that vitamin C supplementation of 1-3g daily improves the efficiency of the immune system to counteract bacteria and viruses that we come into contact with (9).
Other benefits from consuming more vitamin C have been found to be reduction in delayed onset muscle soreness following strenuous exercise (10), and a reduction in pain comparable to that seen previously with vitamin B12 (11).
If you feel your fatigue is a cold brewing or if you’ve been exposed to an environment with lots of germs (a long-haul flight, for example), then a boost of high dose vitamin C may be just the thing to re-gain your energy.
Let’s focus on a specific mineral which may assist our fight against fatigue. Magnesium is a mineral which assists with crucial functions of blood pressure and the cardiovascular system.
The release of stress hormones as a result of a hectic and demanding life can promote a state of magnesium deficiency in our body’s tissues (12). It’s been found that up to 15% of western populations do not get enough magnesium in their diet (13).
In a study examining the benefits of magnesium supplementation in those diagnosed with chronic fatigue, it was shown that 50% of the patient group were magnesium deficient (14). Intramuscular magnesium injections of 100mg weekly for 6 weeks showed an improvement in symptoms in 80% of individuals. Only 17% of a parallel group improved with a placebo injection (15).
If your daily schedule finds you stressed and anxious and this coincides with bouts of extreme tiredness, you may want to consider a magnesium supplement. Keep the dose per day approximately 200-600g. If you do not benefit over the course of 1 month, then you may not be magnesium deficient.
4. Folic Acid
Also known as vitamin B9 or folate, this substance is a synthetically produced compound which can be taken in tablet form. The human body needs folate in order to allow specific biological reactions to sustain an effectively working brain.
Deficiency of this vitamin can lead to symptoms of:
- Immune system insufficiency;
- Other signs of reduced brain function (1).
The warning signs can be general mental fatigue with loss of memory, confusion and poor reaction speed.
Tired all the time? In a study of individuals demonstrating signs of fatigue, it was found that a high dose of 10000mg of folate daily causes a reduction in symptoms.
If you have a fuzzy head when you’re suffering from extreme fatigue and this has been a long term issue, think about a high dose of daily folic acid to clear your mind.
Caffeine is a powerful stimulant of the nervous system which is readily absorbed by the body, and easily crosses the brain barrier to act on various parts of the brain (17). It also alters heart rate, respiratory rate and metabolic rate (16).
The caffeine compound is found in coffee, tea, chocolate, carbonated drinks and confectionary, in addition to being the most prominent energy-boosting ingredient in most pre-workout supplements.
Caffeine seems to improve a number of physical and mental functions by giving a temporary boost in energy. The improvements noted from consumption of a caffeine supplement include:
- Working as an endurance aid (18);
- Greater speed of reaction time (19);
- Increased mental alertness to reduce fatigue (20).
If you need a quick fix in fighting fatigue, use of caffeine 60 minutes prior to exercise can be helpful (21). If your fatigue is more deeply rooted than simply not having enough energy to get to the gym, caffeine will only act as a temporary fix.
Take home message
The key thing to consider when attempting to use supplements to manage fatigue is to identify why you are likely to have these symptoms. What is making you so tired?
- Do you suffer with a fuzzy head? Confused when tired? Maybe folic acid is the way to go.
- Is it a virus? Think vitamin C or zinc.
- Are you too stressed? Magnesium may be your answer.
- Training too hard? Consider l-carnitine or co-enzyme Q10.
- Need a quick fix? Caffeine is the best option.
The products in this article should not be used as a substitute for a varied, balanced diet. Remember to talk to your doctor to determine if a vitamin/mineral supplement is right for you.