Breaking Down Some Popular Energy Boosters
Ever feel like you need a little pick-me-up? Are you following an intense workout program while trying to balance work or school and the rest of life, too? Finding enough energy to get through it all can often seem like a challenge, especially when following a strict diet. There are many energy boosters out there that can help you avoid hitting that dreaded afternoon slump.
But before you consider using a supplement, you should first take a good look at your diet. Be sure you are getting enough calories to lose weight, but also enough to get you through your workout. Even if you are following a calorie-restricted diet, it doesn’t mean it should be devoid of nutrients or enough fiber to keep your energy levels up. Make sure you are consuming your meals at equal intervals throughout the day to avoid any crashes or cravings you may get. That means you need to eat nutrient-dense foods including plenty of vegetables, greens, and complex carbohydrates. Don’t forget that hydration can also have a direct effect on energy levels, so make sure you keep hydrated throughout the day. Aim for 3 to 4 liters of water. If that’s all in check, then it’s time to add in some of the following energy boosters to be sure you are energized and pumped up come workout time!
Vitamin B6 and B12 – Vitamin B6 is a mighty vitamin that is involved in more than 100 chemical reactions in the body, including assisting in the production of amino acids, which are essential for building proteins. And as we all know, proteins are essential for the repair and growth of muscle tissue. Vitamin B6 also assists in the neurotransmission of important neurotransmitters involved in regulating mood. And as an energy booster, vitamin B6 also helps metabolize the food we eat, converting these foods into energy we need to get us through the day! Research has shown that athletes have an increased need for Vitamin B6 and that performance can be improved with supplementation.
Vitamin B12 is also important in carbohydrate metabolism and maintenance of nerve cell transmission, which is important in muscle contraction, coordination and muscle growth. It is also involved in the metabolism of every cell in the body, especially affecting DNA synthesis and regulation and fatty acid synthesis and energy production. Vitamin B6 and B12 are often found in energy drinks and pre-workout supplements, and of course they can also be found as a single vitamin or sold as part of a daily multivitamin.
Caffeine – This is probably the most well-known energy booster, and is the major energizing ingredient in coffee, tea, energy drinks and pre-workout products. This competitive inhibitor of an enzyme that blocks degradation of cAMP prolongs the presence of epinephrine, allowing energy levels to remain high for long periods. Also, caffeine can increase the activity of key neurotransmitters that lead to an increase in the stimulatory response and focus. The major downfall of caffeine is dependent on the person’s sensitivity. If you are caffeine sensitive, you may not want to use pre-workout supplements or large cups of coffee later in the day, as you will most likely be too energized to sleep later! Typical dose of caffeine is ~100 to 200 mg.
Tyrosine – This is a nonessential amino acid, shown to improve cognitive and physical performance during high stress, fatigue and prolonged work. Tyrosine can improve mental alertness, increase reaction speed, and magnify concentration ability. It is a ready source for the production of energy-boosting compounds that are involved in alertness, concentration and coping with stress or pressure. The best way to get tyrosine is to supplement, which can be done via individual doses of tyrosine or as part of another energy product. Doses of tyrosine should be between 500 to 1000 mg per day.
Grape Seed Extract – Research has shown that oxidative stress can impact an athlete’s ability to perform. Oxidative stress can lead to aggravation of muscle cramping and increase time to recovery. Although regular training can result in the body’s ability to adapt to oxidative stress, this balance can be disrupted when training for competition, as increases in the production of free radicals beyond the everyday oxidation our bodies experience can lead to muscle damage and reduced recovery. Antioxidants can work to decrease the harmful effects of oxidative stress caused by free radicals by binding to them and neutralizing their effects. The antioxidant grape seed extract can provide muscle protection during workouts, but in a way, also help to provide energy. Supplementing with grape seed extract has been shown to increase time to exhaustion, reduce the feeling of fatigue and improve physical performance during workouts. Grape seed extract can increase oxygenation of our muscle cells and as a result more oxygen is available for energy production. Dosing for grape seed extract is 400 mg per day. Grape seed extract can be found on its own, but is commonly contained in powdered greens products, and some pre-workout products.
Alpha Lipoic Acid – This is anantioxidant with the ability to recycle other antioxidants, such as vitamin C and glutathione, after they have been used. It can also help to increase the formation of glutathione. G lutathione is an important antioxidant that helps the body eliminate potentially harmful substances. Additionally, ALA is also an insulin mimicker, which means it can stimulate insulin sensitive tissues, such as muscles, to increase the uptake of important nutrients into our cells, including glucose, by activating the glucose transporter GLUT-4. Thus, more glucose can be taken up by our muscles, instead of being stored as fat. Increasing glucose uptake into the muscle cells can also cause an increase in nutrient transport into the muscle cells, including amino acids and other essential nutrients. Therefore, supplementing with ALA can help keep your muscles fueled with important energizing nutrients during workouts. ALA dosing can range between 200 to 600 mg per day.
Green Tea – Improves alertness and acuity, assists in the ability to concentrate, and can amplify energy levels. In addition to its caffeine content, the unique polyphenols, catechins and flavanoids, in green tea can stimulate thermogenesis, increasing 24-hour energy expenditure or heat production in the body. Dosing for green tea varies; look for an extract that contains at least 75 to 80 percent polyphenols and 50 percent catechins.
Ginseng – This is an adaptogenic herb from the Araliacae plant family. It has been used as a tonic that induces well-being and balance in the body, having an effect on metabolism, motivation and performance. Ginseng is a natural stimulant that can counter fatigue and stress, improve cognitive function, and enhance athletic ability by supporting the adrenal glands and the use of oxygen by exercising muscles. Common dose of ginseng is 200 mg.
Co-Enzyme Q10 – This produces energy in combination with respiration. Coenzyme Q10 transports and is involved in the breakdown of fat into energy in the body. Supplementation with dietary Co Q10 ensures that muscles and other critical tissues receive an ample amount of oxygen via the blood. Co Q10 can be used at a dose of 100 mg per day.
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