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Tired all the time?

‘Feeling tired all the time’ has sadly become a hallmark of fast-paced 21st century living. And if this resonates with you it’s probably time for a lifestyle check-in to figure out how to do less and switch off more. It’s also a sign that you probably need to pay more attention to your diet. Just like a car needs fuel, so do your body’s energy-making processes.

Where does energy come from?

Despite the best marketing efforts of a huge drinks company, energy is not something you can buy in a can. Energy is actually something your body makes. You supply the raw ingredients (aka food) and your body does the incredible job of turning this into energy via a very complicated process.

Why do you need energy?

Once energy is made, your body uses it for many different jobs. And most of these happen automatically without you even thinking about them (yep, thinking requires energy too!). Your body can even store energy for later if it’s not needed right away.

You’re using energy to read this!

It’s easy to associate energy with physical stuff like exercise, but you need it for so much more than that. Literally anything that happens in your body, from digesting food and making hormones to breathing and your heart beat require energy. We even need energy to think and feel things. In fact, the brain is particularly energy-hungry and uses about 20% of your total energy.1

How is energy made?

Your body can make energy from different foods – carbohydrates (eg. wholegrains, fruits & vegetables), proteins (eg. meat, dairy, beans & lentils) and fats (eg. nuts, seeds, oils & butter). The only sticking point is that it also needs tiny compounds called ‘micronutrients’ to help the process. Unfortunately, without these little helpers, energy production grinds to a halt.

Which foods are best for energy?

The good news is that these tiny energy helpers are found in your food too. And a balanced diet from natural wholefoods should, in theory, supply all the micronutrients you need. Sadly, a typical Western diet of processed foods may be seriously lacking in these energy nutrients. If you regularly find yourself feeling tired and want to understand how to optimise your diet for energy, here’s a great first step. Familiarise yourself with 5 important energy vitamins and which foods you’ll find them in.

Top 5 vitamins for energy

So what are the best vitamins for tiredness and lack of energy? And which foods are the richest sources? Read on to find out:

1. Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)

Vitamin B1 is REALLY important. That’s why it’s No. 1 in our energy vitamin list! You simply can’t get energy from food without it. And it’s particularly crucial for turning carbs into energy. Anyone exercising regularly (and relying on carbs for fuel) will need more. Alcohol depletes B1 so frequent drinking increases need too. And it’s only stored in the body for a short time so you need to consume it regularly.2

Best food sources

Pork, fish, nuts & seeds (especially sunflower seeds & flaxseeds), navy beans, green peas, asparagus, brown rice and mussels.3.

Best supplement form

Thiamin HCl or Thiamin Mononitrate.

2. Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Vitamin B2 is another tiny helper needed for the body to convert food into energy. It’s particularly important for energy production in the heart and muscles and has important jobs as an antioxidant.4 This means vitamin B2 not only helps your body to make energy, it protects these highly fragile processes against damage too. Alcohol and exercise both increase requirements for vitamin B2.

Best food sources

Eggs, meat (esp organ meats such as kidney & liver), fish, natural yoghurt, milk, spinach, almonds, avocado and mushrooms.5 .

Best supplement form


Learn More

• ADVICE: 5 Ways to Boost Energy
• SUPPLEMENTS:  Energy Supplements
• PRACTITIONER RESOURCE:  Low Energy & Anxiety Case Study

3. Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

This ‘energy’ vitamin joins the line-up for helping to transform your food into energy. It’s also involved in antioxidant and detox, and is needed to make hormones such as thyroid hormones too.6,7 Tiredness is a common symptom that can arise when thyroid hormones are low. If there’s not enough B3 in your diet, you may start to feel tired.

Best food sources

Tuna, chicken, turkey, salmon, beef, pork, sardines, Portobello mushrooms, peanuts, avocado, green peas, sweet potatoes and brown rice.8 .

Best supplement form

Niacinamide (non-flushing form) or nicotinic acid (flushing form).

4. Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)

Vitamin B5 is essential for the conversion of food into energy. And like vitamin B3, it’s also involved in making hormones including ones that help you respond to stress.9 Ongoing stress can be a real drain on all nutrients, especially the B vitamins, and it’s important to prioritise B5 during these times. It’s naturally present in many different foods but often lost during food processing. Many people eating a typical Western diet may not be getting enough.

Best food sources

Mushrooms (especially Shiitake), salmon, avocado, chicken, beef, sunflower seeds, whole milk, sweet potato and lentils.10

Best supplement form

Calcium pantothenate.

5. Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

And last but certainly not least is vitamin B6 – another vital nutrient that’s intricately involved in the complex process of turning your food into energy. Vitamin B6 also helps the body to access and use stored energy which means athletes or anyone exercising regularly are likely to need more.11

Best food sources

Banana, sunflower seeds, potato, sweet potato, spinach, salmon, chicken, beef, turkey, tuna and pistachio nuts.12.

Best supplement form

Pyridoxine HCl or pyridoxal-5-phosphate.

Optimise your diet with key energy nutrients

Energy production is a complex process. Thankfully your body can do all the complicated bits - all you need to do is provide raw fuel (food) and plenty of tiny energy helpers (micronutrients). Knowledge is power when it comes to supporting your energy levels, and there are many diet and lifestyle steps you can put in place to ensure this whole process runs smoothly. Optimising key energy nutrients in your diet is a great place to start, and hopefully much easier now you know where to find them!


1. Watts ME, Pocock R, et al. Brain energy and oxygen metabolism: emerging role in normal function and disease. Front Mol Neurosci. 22 June 2018. Sec. Molecular Signalling and Pathways. Volume 11-2018.
2. Martel JL, Kerndt CC, et al. Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) StatPearls (Internet). August 27 2022
3. https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/thiamin-b1-foods.php
4. Mahabadi N, Bhusai A, et al. Riboflavin Deficiency StatPearls (Internet) July 18 2022
5. https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/foods-high-in-riboflavin-vitamin-B2.php
6. Agledal L, Niere M, et al. The phosphate makes a difference: cellular functions of NADP. Redox Rep. 2010; 15(1): 2-10
7. Kirkland JB & Meyer-Ficca ML. Niacin. Adv Food Nutr Res. 2018, 83: 83-149
8. https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/foods-high-in-niacin-vitamin-B3.php
9. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/PantothenicAcid-HealthProfessional/
10. https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/foods-high-in-pantothenic-acid-vitamin-B5.php
11. Stach K, Stach W, et al. Vitamin B6 in health and disease. Nutrients. 2021 Sep; 13(9): 3229
12. https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/foods-high-in-vitamin-B6.php

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