Feeling energetic requires optimizing the mind and body for action—but common daily stressors can leave you feeling drained. Typical “energy vampires” include psychological stress, physical stress, and poor sleep habits—all of which contribute to low motivation, diminished energy, and the infamous “brain fog” many people experience.
Today, most supplement companies attempt to override states of low energy by loading up their “energy boosting” formulations with stimulants aimed at promoting focus, intensity, strength, and power. Although we agree that pick-me-ups, like caffeine, are excellent performance enhancers, research suggests that optimizing energy levels requires more than simply “jacking” yourself up on stimulants. As such, we have outlined the top supplements, in three unique categories, aimed at promoting a holistic mind-body approach to energy optimization.
An adaptogen is a supplement (generally herbal) that supports the body’s capacity to handle stress and fatigue by maintaining hormonal balance. Busy schedules, heavy training, performing in extreme environments, and dieting, are just a few examples of daily stressors that can rob us of energy. This class of supplements have been noted to increase strength, energy, stamina, endurance, and improve mental clarity.
Ashwagandha (or Indian ginseng) is a perennial flowering shrub that is commonly used in Ayurveda, the traditional system of medicine in India. In Sanskrit, Ashwagandha means “the smell of a horse”, as it is believed to produce vigor and strength in those who take it. Backed by several randomized, double blind, placebo controlled human clinical trials, Ashwagandha has been shown to promote a healthy response to every day stress, support normal levels of mental clarity and focus, and enhance exercise and sports performance.
A recent study investigated the effects of taking an Ashwagandha root extract supplement on muscle mass and strength in healthy young men undergoing an 8-week weight-training program. In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study, the researchers reported that those who took Ashwagandha root extract had a 433% increase in testosterone levels and remarkably greater increases in upper and lower body strength, upper body muscle size, and fat loss compared to placebo . Another study showed that taking Ashwagandha root extract led to a 32.74% reduction in perceived stress during weight loss, a 22.2% decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, and a significant reduction in uncontrolled and emotional eating behavior compared to the placebo group .
As with most herbal supplements, choose extracts that have been standardized to their active component and list this on the label. In the case of Ashwagandha, products should be standardized to % withanolides. Based on the research, we recommend taking 300 mg of Patented KSM-66 Ashwagandha extract, standardized to 5% withanolides (15 mg of withanolides) upon waking and before bed.
- Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial Wankhede, S., Langade, D., Joshi, K., Sinha, S. R., & Bhattacharyya, S. (2015). Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 43.
- A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of Ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Chandrasekhar, K., Kapoor, J., & Anishetty, S. (2012). Indian journal of psychological medicine, 34(3), 255.
Rhodiola Rosea Extract
Extract from the roots of Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogen that acts to increase the body’s resistance to stress, exhaustion and fatigue. In clinical studies, mental work capacity, attention, task performance and overall mood improved with Rhodiola rosea supplementation.
In a randomized double-blind and placebo controlled study, participants with chronic fatigue syndrome received either Rhodiola rosea or placebo for four weeks. Those who received Rhodiola rosea had significant improvements in symptoms of fatigue and in tests of attention. As well, waking cortisol responses were significantly blunted in those who received Rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo. It was concluded that anti-fatigue effect of Rhodiola rosea extract increases mental performance, particularly the ability to concentrate and decreases cortisol response to awakening stress in burnout patients with fatigue syndrome .
The average dose should be between 150 mg and 500 mg per day of a product that is standardized to contain active rosavins and salidrosides in at least a 2:1 ratio.
- Anghelescu IG, Edwards D, Seifritz E, Kasper S. Stress management and the role of Rhodiola rosea: a review Int J Psychiatry Clin Pract. 2018 Jan 11:1-11. [Epub ahead of print].