From time to time, everyone suffers from temporary tiredness and fatigue. Insufficient sleep, heavier-than-usual workloads, or long journeys can all put a dent in your energy levels. This usually resolves with proper rest and adequate nutrition. In some cases, the problem doesn’t improve by itself and it can become chronic so choosing the right supplements for fatigue is a great idea.
There are many causes of unexplained and persistent fatigue, and it should always be investigated by a medical professional. Sometimes, though, a medical evaluation will find no particular reason for constant tiredness, and thus, no obvious treatment, which can be deeply frustrating for the patient.
Help may be at hand, however, in the form of certain food supplements. While they might not work in every case, these inexpensive supplements may be just what you need to regain your former vigor. Besides helping to normalize energy levels, some of them may also improve your mood and concentration, support muscle development, or help you adapt to stressful or physically demanding situations.
Acetyl L-carnitine Supplements
Acetyl L-carnitine, also known as ALCAR or ALC, is taken to enhance mood and concentration. It’s also regarded as a useful supplement for those wishing to improve their energy levels.
L-carnitine is an amino acid that is found naturally in the body. It’s important for cellular metabolism, facilitating the production of energy from fatty acids. Unfortunately, L-carnitine is not very easily absorbed when taken as a supplement. Acetyl L-carnitine is a different form of the same amino acid which is more bioavailable than its parent compound. As well as being more easily absorbed than L-carnitine, ALC is better able to reach the cells in the brain. Being a particularly energy-hungry organ, it’s important for the brain to receive sufficient glucose. If it doesn’t get enough of the right fuel, “brain fog” and fatigue can be the result. By helping to provide additional glucose to the brain’s cells, it’s thought that ALC can improve cognition and help resolve mental fatigue.
Choline is generally classed as a B vitamin. For human beings (and many animals) it’s an essential nutrient. We need choline for proper brain function and muscle control, so it’s also heavily implicated in the sleep cycle
Studies suggest that many, if not most, populations don’t get enough choline in their diets. Even in regions where food is plentiful and diets are otherwise nutritionally sufficient, obtaining optimal amounts of choline from diet alone can be tricky. Eating foods rich in choline (such as cauliflower, eggs and liver) can help, but some people may benefit from supplements.
While choline is unlikely to have a direct effect on physical fatigue, it may help with mental fatigue and improve concentration. Because it is known to be necessary for a healthy sleep cycle, choline may well have an indirect effect on physical tiredness by ensuring adequate rest and REM sleep. Choline is regarded as being especially effective when taken alongside acetyl L-carnitine.
Low levels of B12 can cause anemia — a prime suspect in cases of fatigue. Even if your red blood cell count is high enough to put you outside of the anemic bracket, you still might not have sufficient red blood cells to keep you functioning at your peak. If iron and other common remedies don’t help, a deficiency in vitamin B12 may be the culprit. This is especially true for seniors, as people become less able to process this vitamin with age. Inflammatory conditions affecting the gut can also reduce absorption, causing a deficiency in B12 which in turn results in a reduction in the number of red blood cells your body produces.
B12 is available in various forms: conventional oral tablets, sublingual tablets, patches, and nasal and sublingual sprays. It’s also available as an injection, which usually needs to be prescribed by a doctor. For some people, conventional B12 tablets don’t work very well as their GI tracts aren’t able to absorb the vitamin. In this situation, sprays, patches or sublingual tablets may be the answer. They allow B12 to be absorbed directly through the skin or mucus membranes, bypassing the digestive system. In cases of fatigue caused by anemia related to a B12 deficiency, some people describe experiencing relief within minutes of taking sublingual B12.
Sulbutiamine is a novel compound derived from vitamin B1 (thiamine). Unlike thiamine, sulbutiamine is fat-soluble, improving its bioavailability. It can also cross the blood-brain barrier more effectively than thiamine, and is significantly more effective than thiamine supplements in helping to improve energy levels.
Sulbutiamine can be particularly useful for people suffering from long-term or chronic fatigue. It can also help with concentration and boost memory retention. Some users report improved mood and motivation when taking sulbutiamine. Because it’s fat-soluble instead of water-soluble, sulbutiamine needs to be taken with food in order to be absorbed properly.
The research on sulbutiamine as a treatment for fatigue is incomplete but promising. Sulbutiamine has been proven to increase the number of dopamine receptors in the brain (dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in mood and behaviour regulation), and patients with chronic fatigue have shown improvement while taking this supplement. It’s also been shown to benefit people with severe depressive disorders. It has no true antidepressant effect but does help address symptoms such as lethargy and psychomotor impairment.
Being a vitamin derivative, sulbutiamine is generally well-tolerated and has few side-effects when taken at the recommended dose (under 600mg). That said, a few people have noted that they had sleep disturbances or mild agitation while using this supplement. In a handful of cases, people taking have reported a minor skin rash.
While supplements for fatigue can help, it’s important to treat them as part of an overall plan to improve your general health. As well as taking supplements, you can often improve fatigue by adopting some simple self-care tactics: eating a balanced diet, getting sufficient rest, avoiding alcohol, and taking moderate physical exercise, which can all help boost your energy levels. Before beginning a course of supplements, check with your primary healthcare provider. If your fatigue still doesn’t improve even after supplementation and lifestyle changes, more investigation may be required to ensure that there is no underlying medical cause.