Falling asleep at your desk as you read this? You may be deficient in one of these energy-boosting nutrients.
First, let’s be clear: true vitamin and mineral deficiency is rare in the United States, as we tend to eat a huge variety of different foods and many are fortified.
However, that still doesn’t mean everyone gets enough of what they need every day, and some nutrients are harder to incorporate into your diet (and absorb) than others. And the nutrients that aid in energy are pretty important. If you’re chronically sleepy, after all, you’re less likely to hit the gym and may make poor food choices that perpetuate the problem.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to calculate every vitamin and mineral present in each of your meals and get blood work constantly. The easiest first step is to eat a wide variety of whole, real foods, which will naturally contain a variety of nutrients. The person who eats exactly the same things every day is way more prone to deficiencies.
If you’re still feeling unnaturally tired (despite getting plenty of sleep each night), keep these three energy-boosting nutrients in mind. You may need to up your intake of foods that contain them, or possibly even supplement, if that’s just not doing the trick.
3 Energy-Boosting Nutrients
Lack of energy is the most common symptom of iron deficiency. Iron is an important part of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen all around the body. When you’re iron deficient, levels of oxygen in the blood are low, and you can become anemic. This might make you feel tired and weak, since oxygen is not being delivered to cells. (If your cells are sluggish, you will be too.)
Pregnant women and women of childbearing age are at an increased risk of deficiency. Vegetarians and vegans also may get less iron in their diets naturally.
Best sources: Meats, fish and poultry contain the most iron per serving. Whole grain enriched and fortified breads and cereals can deliver a significant amount too. Good vegetarian sources of iron include soybeans and tofu, legumes, nuts, seeds dried fruit, and vegetables like dark, leafy greens. To maximize iron absorption, pair these foods with sources of vitamin C.
B12 is a common nutrient deficiency, and the reason it makes you tired is actually tied to iron. When the body doesn’t get enough B12, there are less red and white blood cells being produced. Since, those red blood cells are responsible for moving iron around your body, that could lead to lack of energy.
Vegans and vegetarians who don’t eat eggs are at the highest risk for a deficiency, since it’s a hard nutrient to get from plant-based foods.
Best sources: Red meat and organ meats, fish, eggs, and dairy. For vegans, sea vegetables and nutritional yeast. If you’re supplementing, you want to make sure you’re getting the best active form of B12, which includes those that are made of adenosylcobalamin, methylcobalalmin, or hydroxycobalamin. This will put B12 right into your bloodstream, ensuring absorption.
Magnesium is a mineral that plays an important role in how enzymes regulate bodily functions, including energy production. Not getting enough can lead to fatigue paired with loss of appetite and nausea. Plus, while not totally research-proven, magnesium may help you sleep, since it is involved in muscle relaxation and binds to a neurotransmitter that reduces anxiety, in turn reducing insomnia. And there’s no better energy boost than better sleep.
Some surveys show that magnesium intake is lower than the recommended amount, but there’s good news: deficiency is uncommon because the kidneys limit the amount excreted. Deficiencies are usually due to health conditions, such as chronic alcoholism or the use of certain medications.
Best sources: Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are excellent sources of magnesium. Tap, mineral, and bottled waters also contain magnesium, but the amount varies by source and brand.