Supplements for energy that will pep you up without frying your adrenals

By Kim Crawford, M.D. Last updated: January 25, 2018
best energy supplements

Energy boosting supplements to help you avoid adrenal fatigue!

Supplements for energy include everything from herbs that help your adrenal glands produce less toxic cortisol to products that give you a quick “boost” you then pay for later. How do you pay for it and what am I talking about here? If you’re in the mood to be an audio learner here is a great interview about “all things energy.” If you want to watch it, you can come back for the supplement details. I know you are thinking “what did she mean when she said I would pay for it by using energy supplements?”

I’m glad you’re thinking these thoughts because there are quite a few energy products selling which slowly or quickly make your adrenal glands produce the heart pounding, “unsustainable energy giving” catecholamines, epinephrine, and some nor-epinephrine.

which vitamins give you energyThese drugs or supplements are the things you should stay away from because although you will get a “bang” of energy from amphetamines and ADHD drugs like Adderall and Ritalin, in the long run, they drain you of energy and make you sick. Even drinking too much coffee or energy drinks can make you sick wth adrenal fatigue.

If you are thinking “what does she mean? How can energy drinks make me sick?” you are also perhaps thinking “what is adrenal fatigue?” If you are a regular reader of mine, you know what it is. However, if not, here’s what you need to know before deciding what supplements for energy to put in your body.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

A drink or pill that stimulates your adrenal glands to make more “adrenaline” and cortisol is a substance that will eventually make your adrenal glands “burn out.” Hence, the name adrenal fatigue.

Supplements for energy which will not tax your adrenals don’t give you a “rush.” Instead, they give you a nice pick-me-up and sustain your energy levels throughout the day. If you have fatigue that is starting to interfere with sleep patterns, have been under physical or mental stress, and use energy drinks, etc. then you likely are in one of the stages of adrenal fatigue.

If this is the case, do not worry because I can fix anything. Again, if this is you, you just need the right diet plan, rest, and adrenal fatigue supplements. Then, you need to learn about the healthy supplements for energy which are safe to take forever. So, now, on with that discussion and you’ll be set for life. In addition, everything discussed below is safe to take if you have adrenal fatigue or adrenal stress of any sort.

Vitamins-the most basic supplements for energy:


Glutathione is a very special antioxidant vitamin. It recycles a variety of other antioxidants including vitamin E, vitamin C, and alpha-lipoic acid. We use more than 6 percent of the total energy or ATP production in our body to synthesize and regulate levels of glutathione within our cells. Overall, glutathione is truly the body’s master antioxidant. It is a small protein produced naturally in our cells.

However, we lose the ability to make our own glutathione as we age at a rate of 1% per year after age 20. Therefore, we can easily become glutathione- energy supplementsdepleted.

Everything from exercise in excess to stress to injury, infection, and environmental toxins are some of the factors that can significantly reduce your body’s supply of glutathione. It amps up cellular energy naturally without harming and, in fact, helping your adrenal glands. It is also a shield against illness and aging.

Reduced glutathione levels result in feeling low on energy. It also causes a greater vulnerability to cellular damage, inflammation, accelerated aging and a weakened resistance to disease.

To point out, we’re not just talking colds and flu here! We’re talking about heart disease, cancer, inflammatory arthritis and lots more.

Increasing glutathione will improve mental function, rapidly increase energy levels, and improve concentration. It also improves heart and lung function and allows for a better exercise work-out. Oral preparations cannot be absorbed, so sprays and injections are the only routes of “delivery.”

B-Complex Vitamins:

B-complex vitamins are water soluble so you can’t overdose on them unless you have a  MTHFR deficiency and then watch out for the wrong folate supplements. More importantly, your B’s are great for natural energy. These essential vitamins help us convert food into fuel, allowing us to have healthy energy levels throughout the day.

While many of the B vitamins work in unison, each has specific benefits. At the same time, energy production is a trait they all share. Vitamins that give you energy in the “B class”  are B1, B2, B3, B6, and the special star, B12. The B’s play a major role in keeping our bodies functioning smoothly. To point out, the prior article linked will provide you with specific information on what each of these B’s does.  However, since B12 is the star let’s take a moment and discuss it here.


B-12 may be the most well-known of all the B vitamins as a vitamin to increase energy levels. People use B-12 (with studies to show good reason) to boost mood, energy, and concentration. Vitamin B-12 deficiency, on the other hand, is characterized by low energy conditions, including fatigue and weakness caused by anemia.

It can even cause dementia, so everyone over 50 with memory issues should get a check up. In the short term, low B12 levels can cause fatigue, mood changes, and dementia-like symptoms. In the long term, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to permanent nerve damage, severe anemia, and immune suppression.

A crucial step for vitamin B12 absorption occurs in the stomach, where your stomach acid plays a key role. It helps to extract the B12 from your food. If you’re taking medications that suppress gastric acid production, such as proton pump inhibitors for heartburn, you are at higher risk for B12 deficiency.

Regular consumption of aspirin is also associated with a higher risk of B12 deficiency. Also, please read this next fact slowly as most people don’t know this. The popular diabetes drug, Metformin, is also associated with B12 deficiency.

B12 is involved in the re-cycling and utilization of glutathione so when “Granny” says she feels more energetic after a B12 shot and her doctor scoffs, believe Granny! Her effective glutathione levels are getting a boost, and her ATP is going up within minutes of getting her shot. Let me add B12 supplementation is not “just for grannies” and this is covered well in the article…you guessed it, vitamin B12!

Vitamin D:

Vitamin D makes our muscles work more efficiently and boosts our energy levels. This is on top of all the other healthy functions it has such as being anti-heart disease and anti-cancer.

You may recall from other articles that mitochondria are the energy-generators (ATP) in all of our cells. Fatigued muscles is a common symptom in vitamin D deficient patients.

This muscular fatigue is likely due to reduced efficiency of the mitochondria. This vitamin is deficient in almost everyone in the U.S. Don’t be mistaken; you cannot get enough from the sun without damaging your skin! Take it with vitamin K for optimal absorption.


Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) improves energy levels to varying degrees. In addition, it improves brain focus to some extent. More importantly, it is a total must-take if you are on Co-Q 10 depleting statin drugs.

Amino Acids:

When I think of natural energy supplements, I first and foremost think of acetyl l carnitine. Acetyl is the group put on l-carnitine supplements to make them safe and also to allow blood-brain transport. L-carnitine is a protein synthesized from the amino acids lysine and methionine.

vitamins that give energyCarnitine is a nutrient that helps the body break down fat and turn it into energy. Carnitine is a “conditionally essential” nutrient. Although our bodies can make it, they don’t produce enough.

Carnitine shuttles fats from the outer region of cells into the cells of respiration (mitochondria), where fats and glucose break down to make ATP. The acetylated version called acetyl-l-carnitine or ALC is an amazing supplement.

It increases energy, increases many facets of brain health, increases muscle mass, helps burn fat, lowers blood sugar and cholesterol and more. Not to mention, it’s one of my favorite all-around supplements.

L-tyrosine is another amino acid favorite for energy amping as is it’s “cousin,” SAMe. Both of these amino acid derivatives will increase the neurotransmitter dopamine which then boosts both mood and energy levels.

Taurine is a popular amino acid supplement for energy, but it’s indirect in that it can be useful to help lower cortisol levels when someone is in adrenal stress or fatigue.

Not an amino but I’ll throw this in here:

D-ribose is a form of sugar the body manufactures using glucose. It’s found in the DNA and RNA of all living organisms. D-ribose powder can shorten the recovery period following exercise by improving energy metabolism in many studies. There are no studies showing that it improves baseline energy other than those who are deficient but I have some AWS members who just swear by it! The real reasons why (in my opinion) is that is has indeed been shown to increase mitochondrial energy production.

Herbals AKA adrenal adaptogens and mitochondrial boosters:

vitamins that give you more energyAs we age, our cells of respiration (mitochondria) produce less ATP.  When this happens, we start losing energy, and our mitochondria undergo “apoptosis” or cellular death one by one.

We know we can increase ATP production and slow mitochondrial apoptosis with supplements which function to enhance mitochondrial function. The main boosters are discussed in the article linked just above. But we also boost our mitochondria when we support adrenal function to lower cortisol.

These particular mitochondrial boosters often have a variety of vitamins, minerals and what are called “adaptogenic” or adrenal supporting herbals.

Here are the most commonly used adaptogens.

Korean Ginseng (Panax Schinsen) : This ginseng increases the body’s natural resistance to stress.

Eleuthero Root (Siberian Ginseng) : Contains anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immune-boosting compounds. Helps reduce fatigue and stimulation of the adrenal cortex.

Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis): Enhances aerobic performance, strengthens the immune system and has anti-stress properties.

Panax Ginseng:  Is anti-inflammatory, regulates blood sugar, increases endurance, and may have anti-depressant properties.

has acetyl l carnitine benefits

Rhodiola Rosea (Golden Root, Roseroot, Aarons Rod): It’s effects are likely mediated by increases in serotonin and dopamine levels.

Energy and mood both improve.

Astragalus: This often-used herb benefits the heart, liver, immune system, and is great for adrenal support.

Consume with Caution the following supplements for energy

Green tea (also a source of caffeine)
Herbal sources of caffeine and related compounds like guarana, yerba mate, and kola nut
Asian ginseng
Bitter Orange (specifically, the ingredient synephrine)


If you’re feeling groggy mid-afternoon, I know you want a real stimulant to snap your eyes back open. Of all the exotic products sold as energy supplements, one of the most potent stimulants is good old caffeine. Notably, it is one of the most popular energy pills that work and DO give you a boost of energy. Caffeine in supplements, energy drinks,  and any product marketing energy enhancement is typically the ingredient you feel the most, improving mental focus, and snapping those eyes back open.

However- caution please! Long term use of any stimulants such as caffeine and the other products listed above can easily cause your adrenal glands to start pumping out excess cortisol and adrenaline. At some point the boost you got will turn into tiredness and then eventual fatigue and sleep disruption. And I’m not even including the awful things like phentermine, ritalin and some popular but unsafe nootropics here.

Some products are seen as natural alternatives to caffeine. However, many of them contain caffeine itself or similar chemical substances with similar effects. In detail, these include yerba mate, kola nut, and guarana. Green tea also provides a dose of caffeine and a related compound, theophylline. It contains the healthy antioxidant substance epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), and this can be obtained in decaf green tea supplements.

Asian ginseng

It is not a caffeine derivative, but it is definitely a mild stimulant. This is not to be confused with Korean (Panax) or Siberian ginseng. Will it help boost energy? Yes, and in short intermittent doses, you don’t really need to worry about this one.

Bitter orange

It is an extract from the rind of a different citrus species and is another energy supplement unrelated to caffeine. Its active ingredient, synephrine, is chemically similar to ephedrine, the active ingredient in ephedra. Recall ephyedra was pulled off the market in 2004 because of its life-threatening health risks. If you take this, be sure you have a safe bitter orange product such as our weight loss product called metabogen. Avoid this and everything on this last list if you are in adrenal fatigue, even caffeine.


We now know that many people suffer a decrease in energy due to mitochondrial dysfunction. This can occur due to disease or toxins. There are specific energy supplements to boost mitochondria which work via different mechanisms than those supplements discussed above. Please refer to the mitochondria supplements article if you have mitochondrial issues or think you might.

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