Does Vitamin B12 Really Give You Energy? The Science Made Simple

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    Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that helps our bodies process food into energy. But will taking some extra B12 really make you feel more energetic?

    Vitamin B12 is one of the many vitamins our bodies require to function properly.

    B12 is known for being a great source of energy metabolism; many people who start taking a B vitamin supplement report a positive change in their moods and energy levels. Vitamin B12 is not made in the human body and must be ingested through outside means. People who have digestive troubles may struggle to ingest enough to prevent deficiency. Age is another major factor that has been linked with low B12. People who follow plant-based diets may be at higher risk for B12 deficiency since there are few vegan and vegetarian foods that are natural sources of B12.

    So, how exactly is B12 tied to energy levels? Let’s review the science behind these mechanisms.

    Vitamin B12 is necessary for healthy mitochondrial function, which is why methylmalonic acid (MMA) is sometimes used as a marker of cellular B12 accessibility. Mitochondria need B12 and other nutrients to generate ATP, the energy currency of the cells.

    B12 is also fundamental for DNA synthesis, which stimulates the stem cells responsible for producing red blood cells. Red blood cells are necessary for transporting oxygen throughout the body, which our cells rely on for producing energy. A deficiency in B12 can compromise hemoglobin levels, a protein essential for these red blood cells. Reduced B12 levels mean fewer red blood cells, which can lead to fatigue.

    Vitamin B12 also works closely with other vitamins, like riboflavin, B6, and folate, for optimal DNA health and iron absorption. A deficiency in iron is directly linked to feelings of fatigue, and even if you consume sufficient iron, a B12 shortage can lead to reduced energy due to its relationship with iron and red blood cell production.

    Furthermore, the importance of B12 extends beyond just energy support. It is also needed for the normal functioning of our central nervous system, supporting cellular and nerve communication. A low intake of B12 or a deficiency can potentially impact neurological symptoms.

    It’s important to note that if you already have enough B12, taking more will not lead to more energy. Conversely, if you are deficient, beginning a B12 supplement will likely lead to a burst of energy, although that will fade once B12 levels in the body balance back out.

    Following a healthy lifestyle, alongside sufficient B12, can support a healthy mood, energy levels, and mental outlook.

    The recommended daily allowance of B12 for adults is 2.4 micrograms per day. Your primary care physician may recommend a higher dosage if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you are experiencing a vitamin B12 deficiency. As always, consult your doctor before changing your vitamin regimen.

    Vitamin B12 Boosting Methods

    The best way to be sure you’re boosting your B12 intake is through supplementation. Supplements can ensure that you know exactly how much you’re taking and will keep you at regular levels of B12, if not giving you a little extra. Additionally, consuming foods rich in B12 will increase the amount in your body, too. Beef, tuna, trout, salmon, milk, and other dairy products are excellent sources of B12. For plant-based options, nutritional yeast and fortified plant-based milks, as well as many cereals, contain B12. Read the labels to see how much B12 has been added to vegetarian products if you’re trying to increase your B12 intake. Adding more of these foods to your diet will help support many aspects of your health.

    Vitamin B12 Supplementation

    If supplementation is the route you choose, make sure you know what to look for. Care/of’s B12 supplement includes all three naturally occurring forms of Vitamin B12. The active forms of B12 (methylcobalamin, hydroxylcobalamin, and adenosylcobalamin) are “coenzyme” forms of B12, which means they are better utilized by B12-dependent enzymes and reactions within the body.

    In addition to the three active forms of B12, Care/of’s B12 supplement uses a natural soluble fiber and prebiotic, known as acacia. Acacia is a natural and nutrient-rich processing aid. We formulated our B12 with no unnecessary additives or fillers to keep it as clean and natural as possible. It is also vegan, gluten-free, and non-GMO.

    Vitamin B12 Energy Drinks

    Energy drinks are already popular, with many people nowadays swapping out coffee for a canned energy drink. Energy drinks that contain B12 tend to contain an inactive form of B12 called cyanocobalamin, which is less beneficial to our bodies than the active form.

    If you are looking for an energy drink or other beverage, you’ll want to look for forms of B12 called methylcobalamin, adenosylcobalamin, or hydroxocobalamin – these are active forms of B12 and will be far more effective. Additionally, these drinks tend to have either a high sugar content or a significant amount of artificial sweeteners for taste. This is something to be conscious of, as sugar and artificial sweeteners can come with their own negative health effects.

    Vitamin B12 Injections

    B12 injections are an option most recommended for people experiencing a vitamin B12 deficiency, especially if they have other health issues that may make it more difficult for their bodies to absorb B12. They may be injected directly into muscle tissue (IM, or intramuscular injections) or subcutaneously (between the skin and muscle tissue). B12 injections usually contain either methylcobalamin or cyanocobalamin. The dosage may vary, but as these are prescribed, your doctor will provide a recommendation as to the frequency of the shots and the appropriate dose.

    Vitamin B12 Juice Shots

    B12 juice shots typically come in a pack of tiny bottles. Drinking one every day can be an effective way to increase your B12 intake. Some may contain liquid B12; others contain seaweed or algae, which both produce B12 as well. They may also contain B12 derived from chlorella or spirulina. Like energy drinks, it is important to be mindful of the sugar or artificial sweetener content; these drinks tend to rely on sweeteners to make them taste good, which can pose its own risks. They may also contain inactive forms of B12 as opposed to active forms.

    Food sources of Vitamin B12

    Vitamin B12 can be ingested through food. It is predominantly found in animal products such as eggs, meat, fish, and dairy. While plant-based sources are generally limited in B12, fortified foods — such as plant-based milks, breakfast cereals, and certain meat substitutes — have been enhanced with the vitamin.

    For people who need more B12, or for vegetarians and vegans who do not consume animal products, there are many supplement options. Liquid B12 capsules, tablets, and B12 beverages are all options that can be explored.

    Health Risks, Potential Side Effects, And Contraindications

    B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, which means that any unused B12 in the body will be filtered out and eliminated by the urinary system. Studies have found that doses of up to 1,000 micrograms per day are safe, as the water-soluble nature of B12 keeps any possibility of toxicity low. The Institute of Medicine has even stated that “no adverse effects have been associated with excess vitamin B12 intake from food and supplements in healthy individuals.” As always, though, check in with your doctor before taking a high-dose supplement.

    Pregnancy does not cause B12 deficiency, but the consequences of B12 deficiency in pregnancy can be serious, so it’s important to be aware of the health risk of not consuming enough during preconception and pregnancy.

    The Bottom Line

    B12 is a vitamin that is vital to our health and the functionality of our bodies. Taking a B12 supplement will help support energy levels, as well as support our neurological, bone, and blood health. B12 supplements are generally safe to use, as the vitamin is water-soluble, and excess amounts will be filtered out by the body.

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    Laurel Ash, ND
    Laurel Ash, ND: Medical Content Reviewer
    Laurel Ash, ND is a board-certified Naturopathic Physician. She holds additional credentials with a master’s in integrative mental health. Dr. Ash graduated from the National University of Natural Medicine in 2019. Dr. Ash practices in Oregon and Washington where ND’s scope of practice includes primary care. Using the best tools of allopathic/conventional medicine with the holistic tenants of naturopathic medicine has created a powerful force of healing for the patients in her practice. Dr. Ash focuses on combining integrative/functional health modalities with evidence-based medicine. She has experience as a medical reviewer in the holistic medicine field and partners with companies and practitioners to produce science-backed content for readers and consumers interested in holistic medicine. She is passionate about blending the strengths of allopathic and integrative medicine to transform the healthcare industry, empowering people with an understanding of all their options on their wellness journey.
    Jordana Tobelem, RD
    Freelance Contributor
    Jordana Tobelem is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys helping others become the best versions of themselves through proper nutrition education. Jordana is passionate about promoting lifestyle changes through nutrition, physical activity, and behavior to create a superior quality of life. She uses her experience in the clinical field of dietetics to provide consulting services to an array of healthcare brands and companies. Jordana loves finding the most current research in nutrition to create meaningful content to share with her clients. Jordana has been a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics since 2018 and also holds certifications in both Personal Training and Health Coaching.