Moms on the go are always looking for quick ways to boost energy—either for themselves or for their kids. While most people automatically turn to coffee or energy drinks, there are healthier, more natural options. Some vitamins are actually known for their ability to support the body’s natural production of energy. Vitamin B, for instance, is considered by many to be “the energy vitamin.” But there are multiple B vitamins, just as there are several other natural compounds that boost energy.
Let’s examine some nutrients that can help boost energy without any of the added chemicals some energy drinks contain.
What are the B Vitamins?
Eight different B vitamins form what is called the B-Complex. B-Complex vitamins are known by their numbers, though they each also have a technical name. The B vitamins include:
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)
- Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
- Vitamin B9 (Folate or Folic acid)
- Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Each B vitamin has its own function, but as whole, the body uses B-Complex vitamins to assist in energy production. These vitamins help convert food into energy, particularly carbohydrates. During digestion, the carbs we regularly consume in our diets in the form of grains, pastas, fruits, and starchy vegetables, are broken down into glucose. Glucose is one of our body’s natural sources of energy, and the B vitamins help with this process.
B vitamins occur naturally in a variety of foods, and you can receive adequate amounts through a healthy, well-balanced diet. Foods your family probably already eats, like whole grains, chicken, eggs, nuts, avocados, leafy greens, broccoli, and tomatoes, are all sources of B vitamins.
If your schedule doesn’t always allow for full meal preparation—or, if you find yourself needing an energy boost between meals—you might consider a vitamin B supplement. There are supplements for specific B vitamins, like Biotin or Folic Acid, but there are also B-complex supplements that provide all eight.
Other Natural Sources of Energy
Vitamin B is excellent for boosting energy, while also ensuring that you and your family are getting enough of this essential nutrient. Certain minerals, like potassium and magnesium, are also good sources of energy. Potassium, in particular, helps with the release of natural energy from food.
When people think of energy boosters, they typically think of caffeine. Caffeine is a natural substance, but it is a stimulant. Caffeine works by activating your central nervous system. In turn, it helps combat tiredness, and improves concentration and focus.
Vitamin B and other energy-boosting vitamins are not stimulants. Many of these nutrients work by supporting your body’s natural production of energy. Caffeine is generally more popular—especially among people juggling work, family, and everything else—because it’s effects can be felt right away. Caffeine can kick in in as little as 15 minutes, and last as long as six hours.
Then there’s the “crash,” which you’ve probably experienced. Once the caffeine wears off, you might feel extremely tired, and crave another boost to get you through the rest of the day. Caffeine affects everybody differently, but some of the drawbacks may include insomnia, restlessness, irritability, and even rapid heartbeat.
The FDA suggests that the average daily intake of caffeine is 300 mg per day—roughly two to four cups of coffee. Coffee is a natural source of caffeine, as are teas, like green tea and yerba mate. Caffeine is often added to energy drinks, which we’ll get to in the next section.
Other Plants & Extracts
Caffeine may be the energy-boosting substance you think of first, but there are several other sources of energy that are often added to teas, energy drinks, and supplements. These include:
- There are eleven varieties of ginseng plants. The roots are often used as herbal stimulants, helping to reduce fatigue and promote mental clarity.
- Guarana, or Brazilian cocoa, is a South American plant that contains a compound called guaranine, which is a relative of caffeine. One gram of guarana is equal to 40 mg of caffeine.
- Taurine is an amino acid that supports brain development. It is found naturally in meat, seafood, and milk.
Energy Drinks: Benefits & Drawbacks
Energy drinks have become widely popular among people who are constantly moving: working mothers who need a midday boost before they pick up their kids from school; high school athletes looking to up their game; college students pulling an all-nighter before an exam. It’s understandable why energy drinks are the go-to for so many. Oftentimes, the results are immediate. While the occasional energy drink is fine, becoming dependent on them may do more harm than good.
Unlike natural sources of energy-boosting nutrients, or even dietary supplements, energy drinks often have additives you don’t need, like high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and preservatives. These ingredients are not exclusive to energy drinks, but if there’s a better way to get your boost, why not try it?
Perhaps the biggest drawback of energy drinks is the reason why they may initially appear so effective: quantity. You see, many energy drinks contain the natural ingredients we’ve just discussed—caffeine, guarana, taurine, and ginseng. It’s the quantity, however, that may raise an eyebrow.
Energy drinks work so quickly because they contain very high levels of these ingredients. A six-ounce cup of coffee may have 80 to 120 mg of caffeine, but a 12 ounce energy drink may contain upwards of 150 mg! Guaranine, which is related to caffeine, is often not even included in the measurement of caffeine. And that’s just caffeine; energy drinks are usually packed with large servings of numerous stimulants—including natural sugars like sucrose and glucose. Some energy drinks also contain B vitamins.
Now that we’ve explored different ways to get that much-needed boost of energy, which do you think is best for your family? Energy drinks, coffee, and tea are fine in moderation, but natural sources of energy are always better. Incorporating dietary supplements that contain energy-boosting vitamins may be a good way to support your body’s own production of energy as opposed to stimulants, which may have more short-term results.
Stephan Maldonado is a digital marketer, health & fitness enthusiast, and aspiring novelist. He is currently a blogger for SHOP.COM, where he writes about a variety of health-related topics.