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What B vitamins are good for energy?
In this day and age, we are busier than ever. We are constantly on the go and so it is unsurprising that more of us are trying to find ways to gain more energy. You may have heard of B12 supplements and even B12 injections for energy – but does it help with energy production? And is B12 the only vitamin we need to be thinking about – or is there in fact, other B vitamins we should be thinking about?
So what B vitamins?
Whilst B12 and B6 are the main B vitamins that get the most mainstream attention, there are actually eight B vitamins.
1. B1 - Thiamin
2. B2 - Riboflavin
3. B3 - Niacin
4. B4 – Pantothenic acid
5. B6 – Pyridoxine
6. B7 - Biotin
7. B9 – Folate (folic acid)
8. B12 – Cobalamin
Together these B group vitamins play a vital role in our body – from providing energy to breaking down amino acids, to transporting oxygen and nutrients around the body. All eight are important, but how much you need of each very much depends on your body type and general wellbeing. For example, some people with health conditions may need more of certain B vitamins and when you’re pregnant, it’s vital to ensure you are taking enough folic acid.
Why are vitamins important for energy and where do I get B vitamins?
Before we break down which vitamin Bs are best for energy, let’s take a look at where we can actually get vitamin B from and what each vitamin does in the body.
Why you need it: Thiamin is essential for glucose metabolism and therefore helping the body to turn carbohydrates into energy. It also plays an essential role in nerve, muscle and heart function. It’s also involved in the flow of electrolytes into and out of muscle and nerve cells.
Where you find it: Cereals, yeast, beef, pork, nuts, whole grains and pulses. It can also be found in cauliflower, orange, asparagus, eggs and potatoes.
Why you need it: Riboflavin is a water-soluble vitamin (like all B vitamins) and also plays a role in energy production. It also helps the body break down essential carbohydrates, proteins and fats to create energy and also assists our bodies in using oxygen. Some say it is also good for eye health, as well as healthy skin.
Where you find it: Fortified cereals, rice, eggs, green vegetables, kidneys, liver, lean meats and low fat milk.
Why you need it: Niacin is thought to play a key role in lowering cholesterol, as well as boosting brain function. Niacin also benefits your overall wellbeing by playing a key role in many essential body functions – including the digestive system, skin and nervous system. Scientists have also conducted studies looking at how it could benefit various serious health conditions.
Where you find it: Liver is one of the best places to find niacin. If that doesn’t float your boat, you can also find it in chicken, tuna, turkey, salmon, anchovies, pork and ground beef. Vegetarian places to find it include peanuts, avocado, brown rice and whole wheat.
Pantothenic acid (B4)
Why you need it: The main role of pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B4, is for making blood cells and also converting the food you eat into energy (that golden E word again!) It also contributes to a healthy digestive system, healthy skin, hair and eyes and making sex and stress hormones in the adrenal glands.
Where you find it: You’ll see a similar theme occurring – B4 is also found in organ meats like liver and kidneys. You can also find it in beef, eggs, seafood, poultry, whole grains, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas and sunflower seeds.
Why you need it: Significant for protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism (and therefore, energy) and also for the creation of red blood cells and neurotransmitters. Lots of research has been done on this vitamin – with some studies showing it could boost brain function, be helpful for nausea during pregnancy and may assist with heart health.
Where you find it: Cereals, beans, meat, eggs and liver.
Why you need it: Biotin, also known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H, is another important one for supporting body functions. There are extensive claims that biotin promotes hair growth and healthy nails and skin – however there isn’t enough extensive research to confirm this is in fact the case.
Where you find it: Egg yolk, organ meats, nuts, nut butters, soybeans, whole grains, cauliflower, bananas and mushrooms.
Folate (folic acid – B9)
Why you need it: You will have most likely heard of folic acid – perhaps you didn’t know it was even part of the B vitamin family! Folate is absolutely essential for making DNA, repairing DNA and producing red blood cells. That is why it is essential for pregnant women to take folic acid as a supplement – to allow sufficient cell replication in mother and baby.
Where you find it: Spinach, kale, brussel sprouts, beans, legumes, yeast, beef extract, poultry, shellfish, liver, orange and whole grain foods.
Why you need it: Possibly the most ‘famous’ B vitamin of them all, B12 indeed has a few very important jobs within the body. B12 is vital for generating red blood cells and for nerve tissue health. Along with folate, it plays a key role in making DNA. Low levels of B12 can cause something called anaemia – which causes severe fatigue.
Where you find it: Beef, liver, chicken, fish, shellfish, low fat milk, cheese and yogurt. Also eggs and fortified breakfast cereals.
Which are the best B Vitamins for energy?
Is there one B vitamin that is best for energy and stress? The answer is they are all important – and eating a balanced diet with some of the vitamin B rich foods listed above is recommended for everyone. However, these three vitamins do give us that little extra boost.
Used by nearly every cell in the body and essential for metabolising your food uses thiamin. Most people get enough with a balanced diet, but if you have particular health concerns, it may be worth discussing with a health professional as to whether a supplement is needed.
B6 is needed for converted stored energy, glycogen, into blood sugar, glucose, and therefore energy. Always speak to a professional before thinking about taking a vitamin supplement.
B12 produces DNA, red blood cells, supports nervous system health and other vital regeneration of cells and tissue in the body. One of the early signs of B12 deficiency is fatigue – and many with longstanding health issues are at more risk of B12 deficiency. If you are concerned about your energy and are eating a balanced diet full of foods rich with B vitamins, speak to a doctor about supplement options.
All B vitamins are essential for energy production and our overall wellbeing.
Check out our other nutrient profiles – including protein and vitamin D.
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