Energizing Supplements to Get You Moving Again!

Energizing Supplements to Get You Moving Again!

By: Stetson T. Thacker, PhD • Posted on December 03, 2014

Too Tired to Exercise?

Do you always feel in a slump? Are you tired? Do you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning? Do you struggle with getting motivated to go exercise? If so, you should see your physician for an evaluation for the following:

  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Sleep disorders
  • Hormone problems
  • Other medical ailments

If all checks out and you still lack the energy to exercise there are a number of supplements that may provide the energetic support that you need.

Ergogenic supplements can provide significant physiological benefits, but their benefits are marginal in comparison to the ergogenic benefits of:

  • A healthy diet
  • Consistent exercise
  • Adequate sleep

Nothing can replace these essentials, so be sure to get them as they may be enough to resolve your fatigue. However, sometimes you need something more to get through the day or a workout. Below is a list of four ergogenic supplements with mechanism of action, dosing, and side effect information that I have identified as the safest and most effective.

Ergogenic Aids

4 Safe and Effective Supplements for Energy-Boosting Benefits

1. B-Complex Vitamins

B-vitamins, of which there are 8, can be taken together in supplements, which work to support metabolism to boost energy. B-vitamins are cofactors, essential small molecules, for many metabolic enzymes and those enzymes will function more effectively when provided with the proper amount of B-vitamins. Folic acid (or vitamin B9) works to support red blood cell production, which will enhance oxygen and nutrient delivery in the body. B-vitamin use can result in the following symptoms:

  • upset stomach
  • diarrhea
  • flushing

Toxicity can result from extremely high doses so stick to one B50 balanced-complex supplement a day because those supplements typically contain more than the recommended daily values. Any extra B complex is cleared through the kidneys and you may note a darker, yellow colored urine.

2. Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine is a non-essential beta amino acid that is the rate-limiting precursor for the production of carnosine, which is an important dipeptide component of skeletal muscle. Increases in muscle carnosine levels from beta-alanine supplementation correlate strongly with an increased muscular capacity and delayed fatigue during exercise. The exact molecular basis for the ergogenic effect of beta-alanine is not entirely known. However, carnosine is known to be a buffer and keep intracellular and plasma pH levels closer to homeostatic levels. Intense exercise usually induces a drop in intracellular and plasma pH because of lactate production and export. Delaying metabolic acidosis from exercise may help delay muscle fatigue. Moreover, carnosine may increase muscle sensitivity to calcium, which mediates muscle contraction, and it may act as an anti-oxidant. Beta-alanine should be ingested in 2 to 3.2 grams doses per day. Beta-alanine use comes with few side effects besides tingling and flushing.

3. Caffeine

One of the most widely used ergogenic supplements, the stimulant caffeine is a well-known central nervous system (CNS) activator with the ability to increase physiological arousal and delay the perception of fatigue. Furthermore, caffeine can improve neuromuscular control by facilitating neuromuscular impulse transmission, which it accomplishes by increasing neurotransmitter release between neurons. There is also evidence that caffeine may increase lipolysis, the breakdown of fat, and accomplish something called glycogen sparing in the body, which switches the body's preferred substrate for energy from glucose to free fatty acids (FFAs). Utilizing FFAs for energy over glucose in the muscles is likely to delay fatigue. Despite the benefits of caffeine, it can cause side effects, such as:

  • Increased, irregular heart rate
  • Stomach problems
  • Tremor
  • Restlessness

In order to avoid these side effect stick to a dose between 150 mg or 250 mg per day, especially if you are a naïve user. The body quickly habituates to caffeine use and thus the benefits are attenuated. Instead of taking more caffeine to bypass habituation, you should simply withdraw from caffeine use for four days or more after a week of use or so in order to reset your sensitivity. Caffeine is also a diuretic, so drink plenty of water when taking caffeine.

4. Creatine Monohydrate

Although creatine has been dogged by controversy, it happens to offer significant ergogenic benefit with little health risk when used correctly. Creatine participates in the creatine kinase (CK)/phosphocreatine (PCr) system, which regulate intracellular ATP, the energy currency of cells, levels by serving as a pool of high energy phosphates, which can be rapidly transferred to make more ATP in tissues with high energy demand, such as skeletal muscle.

For women, a dose of 2 grams of creatine per day in the form of creatine will help you feel stronger and more energized. With every gram of creatine ingested, you HAVE TO drink at least 100 mL of water. Creatine is an osmotically active substance, which means it will work to draw water into the muscles. There have been rare cases of interstitial nephritis of the kidneys on this supplement and therefore you have to stay hydrated and you should check with your physician before starting this supplement.

Because creatine draws water into your muscle, this means that you will gain some water weight when supplementing with creatine, but this weight is water weight and the water supports the cellular function of your muscles; remember to stay hydrated! Research suggests that imbibing creatine with a drink with glucose-simple sugar in it may enhance its absorption by the body. My favorite combination is taking creatine with some flavored water before exercise. I would also suggest that you NOT take creatine if you are NOT going to be exercising regularly. Some bloating can result from creatine use and there is also a risk of damaging the kidneys if you do not stay well hydrated.

Supplement Safety

Although many of these ergogenic aids can be purchased separately, there are some products that combine them and offer convenient systems of delivery to the body, such as pre-workout drinks. There is a variety of pre-workout supplements on the market and some can be dangerous so choose carefully. Be sure to check with your physician and exercise trainer regarding any recommendations they may have for you regarding pre-workouts for women. Remember that as with anything that you ingest, there are certain risks associated with supplementation which are generally not regulated by the FDA. Remember before starting a new diet, exercise, or supplementation regimen to consult your physician.

Be Strong, Be Healthy, Be in Charge!

-Stetson T. Thacker, PhD

Stetson Thacker holds a PhD in Molecular Medicine from Case Western Reserve University. He studies PTEN mutation as an inherited risk factor for autism spectrum disorders and cancer at the Lerner Research Institute. Stetson's research can be found at his ORCID page or his Google Scholar profile. You can follow Stetson on Twitter at @stetson_thacker.

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