Supplements for Energy: How do They Work?

Charles Wispert
January 24, 2020

In my last blog “Energy! What is it and how can I improve it” I defied what energy is with regards to the human body. I explained how energy is produced by the foods we consume and how it is produced in the cells. In the cells energy is produced in the mitochondria. The mitochondria produce energy in the form of ATP. I stressed the point that the entire energy producing process is a nutrient dependent process. In other words, the entire energy production process requires vitamins, minerals, cofactors and enzymes that come from the food we eat to work properly. If you are deficient in any of the nutrients needed to produce energy, the whole process could be derailed and the symptoms of fatigue become more evident and the risk for disease grows stronger. In this blog I will discuss in more detail about the nutrients involved in the cellular energy production. In today’s fast-paced world, more and more individuals are struggling with fatigue. Fatigue can be defined as a feeling of tiredness, exhaustion. Fatigue is most often related to everyday factors such as overwork, stress, poor sleep and lack of exercise. Fatigue may also be caused by illness, prescription and nonprescription drugs, medical treatments and from nutritional deficiencies. Certain medications prescribed or over the counter can rob your body of important nutrients important for energy production.

Let’s review cellular energy production. Mitochondria are among the most important organelles within a cell and are essential for numerous cellular processes, most notably, energy production. Mitochondria produce energy by turning glucose and oxygen into ATP, the cellular energy currency. The central set of reactions involved in ATP production are collectively known as the Krebs cycle (or the citric acid cycle). Each step of the Krebs cycle requires vitamin-derived cofactors and minerals to operate. A deficiency in any one of these can have a significantly negative impact on energy levels. Although vitamins and minerals cannot be broken down to provide energy, they do assist in the reactions that release energy from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Now lets take a look at some of the more common supplements used to boost energy:

Vitamin B complex consist of thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9), and cobalamin (B12). Although each has a specific role within the body, many have similar functions including involvement with carbohydrate, protein, and lipid metabolism, and the conversion of these substances into energy; acting as coenzymes in many chemical reactions, including the Krebs cycle; production of red blood cells and iron metabolism; proper immune system function; and the manufacture of hormones and neurotransmitters to name a few. For example, vitamin B3, is known to encourage energy production through increased ATP generation. Vitamin B12 serves as a cofactor for enzymatic processes involved in the formation of methionine (an essential amino acid), succinyl CoA (an important intermediate in the citric acid cycle), and tetrahydrofolate (needed for red blood cell production). In addition, vitamin B12 deficiency, which affects 10 to 30% of adults over the age of 50, presents with symptoms such as fatigue, malaise, cognitive impairment, depression, and anemia.

Magnesium is required in over 300 biochemical processes in the body, including serving in mood stabilization, sleep and stress responses, nutrient utilization, and metabolism. Magnesium is also stored within the mitochondria and acts as an important cofactor for mitochondrial enzymes. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is found in virtually all cell membranes, particularly mitochondria, where it is a crucial component of the conversion of energy from carbohydrates and fatty acids into ATP. CoQ10 in human is concentrated in tissues with high-energy requirements, such as the heart and skeletal muscle. Doses of 300 mg have been used successfully to support energy production as well as physical performance during exercise. D-ribose can be produced by the body but as the body ages production declines. D-ribose is a component in the structure of ATP. There is substantial research that suggest D-ribose can help recover energy stores in your cells, improve heart function in those with certain heart diseases, improve symptoms of certain pain disorders, benefit exercise performance, and improve muscle function. If someone is following a Keto lifestyle, They may want to consider supplementing D-ribose as they are not consuming the foods necessary to produce adequate amounts. Standard does of 3-5 grams a day. Doses may vary depending on the condition being treated.

PQQ protects the mitochondria from oxidative stress and aids in the stimulation of the production of new mitochondria. PQQ also has antiinflammatory properties. It is considered the new kid on the block but is gaining quite a reputation based on good clinical research. It is best taken with CoQ10 and the doses most quoted is 20mg daily. L-carnitine is another nutrient the body can manufacture but also decreases with age. One of its most prominent roles is to aid in a process of using long chain fatty acids as energy called beta oxidation. It is found mostly in red meat. It is common for anyone following a vegan lifestyle to be deficient in L-carnitine. It comes in mutlipal forms and doses very depending on the form used and what condition is being treated. The dose ranges form 500mg-2grams. Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) has many beneficial roles. With respect to the mitochondria, it is an antioxidant that works specifically on the mitochondria. It is also important in glutathione production which is the bodies master antioxidant.

In addition to the above mentioned nutrients there are other dietary nutrients considered to be beneficial due to their roles in energy production, including:

Creatine is stored in the body as phosphocreatine. It is directly related to ATP production by recycling phosphate to produce energy during anaerobic activity.
Vitamin C, an antioxidant, which may preserve mitochondrial membrane potential and may improve mitochondrial function by providing hydrogen and supporting electron transport
Vitamin E, an antioxidant, which protects cell membranes from lipid oxidation
Nitric Oxide, found in beetroot juice. Beetroot juice has been shown to increase levels of nitric oxide (NO), which serves multiple functions related to blood flow, gas exchange, mitochondrial biogenesis and efficiency, and muscle contraction, all of which may support energy levels.

Evidence demonstrates that supplements may help boost energy. Ultimately, the goal is to address the cause of fatigue and provide the body with the tools it needs to sustain long-term energy. Ideally, we would be able to get everything we need from the food we eat. Unfortunately, even with a perfect diet, food these days is not what it used to be. Things like depleted soils, storage and transportation of food, and, increased stress and nutritional demands make it hard for us to obtain everything we need for the modern diet. So don’t go out and buy all of the above supplements. I will use some of the supplements on my clients but not all depending on the symptoms I’m treating. My recommendation would be look for foods with high concentrations of the nutrient that may be lacking and increase consumption if possible. I don’t take supplementing lightly and I am not a fan just giving a supplement for every symptom. If done improperly, supplementing can be counter productive. I would also add that the quality of the supplement is important and should be taken into consideration before starting any supplement program. If there is any doubt about the need to supplement or what to supplement, contact me.

Health and happiness,


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