Power through your day with these four natural supplements that rev up energy and boost brainpower.
We all want our minds to be clear, alert, and optimally responsive, all day, every day. Unfortunately stress and anxiety can sap your energy, making you feel sluggish not just physically but also mentally. The good news is you don’t have to down endless amounts of java to get your spark back. There are a number of natural energy-boosting supplements that can help ease stress, boost your brain, and power up your body without leaving you shaky, hyper, or sleepless. Here, four of the best mind- and body-energizing supplements to help you snap out of your stupor and get back on track with your goals both inside and outside of the gym.
What it is: A derivative of vincamine, extracted from the seeds of the viny shrub periwinkle (Vinca minor L.).
How it boosts energy: Studies have shown that vinpocetine increases blood flow to the brain, enhancing glucose and oxygen uptake, and perking up adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production, an energy-bearing compound that fuels your body’s cells. Vinpocentine increases circulation to the brain by inhibiting the enzyme phosphodiesterase, which acts to constrict blood vessels and, therefore, halt blood flow. By boosting blood flow to your brain, your brain will be better oxygenated and nourished—which translates into better workouts. Taken prior to exercise, it will keep your mind and your body on the path to achieving your goals by enhancing memory and alertness, as well as improving focus and coordination.
Power up: Take 10-20mg three times daily, with meals, for a total of 30-60mg per day. On training days, take one dose an hour before working out.
What it is: Also known as Golden Root or Artic Root, this perennial plant grows at high altitude in the arctic regions of Europe and Asia.
How it boosts energy: This herb is a powerful adaptogen, meaning it helps the body adapt to physical and mental stress, and fatigue, while improving energy, endurance and stamina—without being a stimulant. Rhodiola enhances the body’s tolerance to stress by influencing key brain chemicals, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, and natural feel-good opioids such as beta-endorphins. When beta-endorphins and neurotransmitters fail to release, your energy and mood plummet.
Studies have also found rhodiola boosts your workouts by reducing lactic-acid levels (a byproduct of hard training that causes muscle soreness) and fatigue, allowing you to train harder for longer. One study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that subjects who supplemented with rhodiola one hour prior to exercise had slower heart rates and greater training endurance. What’s more, they were able to work harder without feeling the extra effort. Additional studies have shown rhodiola can increase workplace performance and decrease the effects that a lack of sleep and rest can have on your body.
Power up: Take between 200mg-400mg of rhodiola rosea (containing 3% rosavin and 1% salidroside) 30-60 minutes before exercise.
Caution: Because rhodiola inhibits certain enzymes, it may interact with some prescription drugs.
What it is: A naturally occurring amino acid that is the building block for important mood-regulating brain chemicals.
How it boosts energy: Tyrosine is a precursor to the catecholamines norepinephrine (noradrenaline), epinephrine (adrenaline), and dopamine, which are involved in regulating mood, energy and mental alertness. Stress, lack of sleep and exercise can all sap brain tyrosine levels, which will ultimately diminish norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine levels, and affect your mood, energy and ability to focus. Several studies have shown that supplementing with tyrosine can help perk up production of these important mood- and energy-influencing hormones.
One study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that subjects who supplement with tyrosine for a four-week period showed significant improvements in focus and alertness after exhaustive exercise, compared to the placebo. Another study conducted at Aberystwyth University examined the effects of tyrosine supplementation on prolonged exercise tolerance under extreme stress conditions. Researchers found that subjects who consumed a tyrosine-enriched drink one hour before exercise had better endurance while exercising in heat than those who drank the placebo.
Power up: Take 500 milligrams twice daily; one dose upon waking and the other 30 minutes prior to exercise.
GREEN TEA EXTRACT
What it is: Green tea is made from extracts of the naive leaves of the Camellia sinensis shrub.
How it boosts energy: Green tea is brimming with health benefits. It’s rich in powerful antioxidants called polyphenols and tea flavonoids known as catechins. These antioxidants help fight and neutralize free radicals, the destructive compounds that can damage DNA, alter and even kill cells in your body. The catechins, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), inhibit an enzyme that attacks and degrades catecholamines, the hormones that speed up metabolic processes in the body.
Green tea also contains a small amount of caffeine to help pep you up. Studies on athletes have shown that the catechins and caffeine contained in green tea help spare glycogen (glucose) stores, allowing you to exercise longer without fatiguing. What’s more, green tea also contains theanine—an amino acid that relaxes and calms the brain without causing drowsiness. When combined with the effects of catechins and caffeine, green tea ramps up energy and mental focus while soothing over stress.
Power up: Take 200–400 milligrams of standardized EGCG three times per day, on an empty stomach.