Wired and tired? Try these natural energy boosters - Food for the Brain

Wired and tired? Try these natural energy boosters

When you signed up for COGNITION you rated your energy score as [… insert ‘number’] out of 10. We note you experience [QID NO=94 C=SleepCalm D=7], [QID NO=96 C=SleepCalm D=7], [QID NO=98 C=SleepCalm D=7], [QID NO=104 C=SleepCalm D=7].

[* how to add ‘and before last item if selected, or none if only one selected]

Already you are learning ways to de-stress and increase energy.

These include:

Here’s a few more actions that can help.

B vitamins and C

Numerous studies have linked low levels of vitamin C with increased fatigue. For example, a study at the University of Alabama Medical Center assessed the vitamin C intake of 411 dentists and their spouses, then, using a questionnaire, determined their ‘fatigability’ score. Researchers found that the 81 subjects who consumed less than 100mg of vitamin C per day reported a fatigability score averaging 0.81. Conversely, the 330 participants who ingested more than 400mg a day reported an average score of just 0.41.(1) The researchers concluded, ‘These limited data suggest that individuals consuming the generally accepted RDA for vitamin C report approximately twice the fatigue symptomatology as those taking about sevenfold the RDA.’

Supplementing vitamin C alongside B vitamins can also have a marked impact on how you feel and your energy levels. A 2011 randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial gave 198 men between the ages of 30 and 55 in full-time employment either a supplement containing vitamin C, B complex and minerals or a placebo. After assessments at 14 and 28 days, those receiving the supplement were found to have greater physical and mental stamina, concentration and alertness than those taking the placebo.(2)


Coenzyme Q10 (Co-Q10) is a vital link in the energy equation. In cell studies it improves energy, reduces stress and acts as an antioxidant.(3) Co-Q10’s magical properties lie in its ability to improve the cell’s capacity to use oxygen. A study at the Free University in Brussel tested sedentary young men supplementing with 60mg of Co-Q10 daily and found improved endurance and heart strength after just four weeks. In other words they were fitter – without exercising! Other studies show that supplementing Co-Q10 increases resilience and reduce fatigue. For example, in  one study supplementing 300mg of Co-Q10 a day, participants were found to have more energy and demonstrated improved physical performance during fatigue-inducing workload trials, where they had to cycle for two hours twice a day on an exercise bike, working at 80 per cent of their maximum heart rate.(4) It also helps to stabilize blood sugar in diabetics.(5)

We recommend 50 to 200mg of Co-Q10 a day for an energy boost although there is no known harm in taking more. It is especially effective in older people, over 50, as levels decline with age. No studies have reported toxicity of Co-Q10, even at extremely high doses taken over many years.

Supplements containing L-theanine and the amino acid GABA, or its precursors can help to make you feel more relaxed and less ‘edgy’.(6) Theanine is a calming amino acid found in tea, not coffee. Our advice is to cut right back on caffeine in general with a max of one cup of coffee in the morning, away from food. Switching to tea would be best. Theanine is including in some supplements supporting relaxation.

Adaptogenic Herbs

Adaptogenic herbs moderate stress hormone levels and have been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years as natural energy boosters. Siberian Ginseng, Rhodiola rosea, Ashwaganda and Schisandra have been found to alleviate fatigue and other symptoms of stress.(7) The three most reputable adaptogens are the Ginseng family (Korean and American), Reishi mushroom (also known as Lingzhi in China) and Rhodiola. In Asia, especially China and Japan, Resihi has been revered for 5,000 years. Chinese reishi mushroom (Ganodermum lucidum) is often used to modify or enhance the effects of other stress-fighting herbs. It also helps lower insulin levels.(8)

You’ll find these, or combinations of these, in any health food shop, perhaps with theanine and the amino acid tyrosine (9), which supports adrenal function. Supplementing such a combination is especially helpful if you’re weaning yourself off caffeine.