Unfortunate but true: Feeling fatigued is nothing new for most Americans. In one 2017 National Safety Council survey, 76 percent of Americans reported they were tired at work, suggesting that exhaustion has become a common (and socially normalized) part of the human experience.
“We live in a society that has instilled this belief that the more productive and ‘busy’ we are, the better our lives will be,” notes naturopathic doctor Erica Arcuri, N.D., founder of Well BYND Wellness Clinic. “To top that off, in this past year, we saw a huge increase in burnout and other mental health issues as people transitioned into working, homeschooling, and even exercising from home.”
Though symptoms can be broad, generalized fatigue and burnout are often hallmarked by sleepiness, brain fog, poor concentration, mood changes, headaches, appetite changes, muscle weakness, and low motivation, Arcuri says.
Though the causes of fatigue are also many, they often include:
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Thyroid irregularities
- Inadequate sleep
- Dietary issues
- Physical or mental stress
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Hormone imbalances
- Immune system issues
In many cases, the exhaustion is the result of adrenal fatigue, which occurs when your adrenal glands (which produce hormones that regulate everything from your metabolism and immune system to your blood pressure and response to stress) are overwhelmed by chronic stress and can’t maintain balance, says Arizona-based naturopathic physician Dr. Tricia Pingel, N.M.D.
Ultimately, though, how you should best deal with your fatigue depends on its root cause. “Nutrient deficiencies might be more easily treated with food and temporary supplementation, whereas fatigue occurring due to adrenal fatigue might require a more robust and integrated treatment protocol,” Arcuri explains.
That’s why it’s important to talk to your medical practitioner or a registered dietitian about your symptoms; they can consider any testing and identify the factors contributing to your burnout.
That said, there are a handful of supplements that naturopathic doctors and registered dietitians often recommend for those feeling completely zonked. Here are seven supplements for fatigue worth considering.
1. B Complex
In case you didn’t know, there are actually eight different B vitamins: B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin), B12 and folic acid.
“It’s through B vitamins that we actually get energy from our food,” says registered dietitian Alana Kessler, R.D., founder of Be Well by AK. So, by supplementing with a B complex, we support our body’s ability to produce ATP (chemical energy) from the food we eat.
And while you probably get all of the B vitamins you need if you eat a reasonably balanced diet, there are certain people who fall short—namely plant-based eaters and women on the birth control pill, Arcuri says. Plus, “B vitamins may become depleted with stress, inflammation, and unhealthy eating patterns,” adds Brittany Michels, R.D.N., L.D.N., a nutritionist for The Vitamin Shoppe.
In all of these cases, a B complex supplement comes in handy. Just take it at the right time of day, recommends Rebekah Blakely, R.D.N., another nutritionist for The Vitamin Shoppe. “Take your B vitamins in the morning or early afternoon,” she says. “Taking them too late in the day can negatively affect sleep for some people.”
Also important to note: If you know you have the MTHFR gene mutation, choose a B-complex formulated with methylfolate (MTHF) for greater bioavailability.
Products to try:
- Vthrive The Vitamin Shoppe brand BioActive B-Complex
- The Vitamin Shoppe brand B-Complex 100
- plnt brand Whole Food B-Complex
2. Vitamin D
According to one 2020 study, approximately 50 to 90 percent of our vitamin D is absorbed through our skin when exposed to sunlight—so it’s no wonder many people fall short, especially in the winter.
“Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D functions as a hormone, meaning that it serves as a messenger, controlling and coordinating activities throughout the body,” says Arcuri. “Its benefits range from promoting healthy bones to boosting immune health to regulating mood.” Vitamin D also supports the mitochondria, our cells’ energy producers, in powering the body—so you can feel fatigued if you’re low.
“Low levels of vitamin D negatively impact this energy pathway,” says Michels. “Research shows that supplementing with vitamin D when low significantly decreases fatigue.”
Read More: 7 Signs You Have A Vitamin D Deficiency
For that reason, Blakely recommends supplementing with between 1,000 to 4,000 IU daily to support healthy energy levels. “If you’re deficient, you may want to do up to 5,000 IU daily for a few months,” she adds. Your doctor can run a simple blood test to determine your unique needs.
That said, “if you get a lot of sun exposure in the summer, you can decrease your supplementation during those months,” Blakely says. “Then, boost it back up in the winter when you’re mostly inside.”
Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin (meaning that it does not dissolve in water and is absorbed best in your bloodstream when paired with fat), the experts recommend popping your supplement alongside a meal that contains some healthy fats. (Think avocado, eggs, or olive oil.)
Products to try:
- The Vitamin Shoppe brand Vitamin D3 and K2
- The Vitamin Shoppe brand Vitamin D3 2000 IU (50mcg)
- The Vitamin Shoppe brand Vitamin D3 5000 IU (125mcg)
Ashwagandha is a popular herb that falls into a category known as adaptogens, which are known to help the body ‘adapt’ to stress.
“Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb, which means it has the ability to help stabilize the output of our stress hormone, cortisol, and help to normalize the ‘fight or flight’ response we experience during extremely stressful situations,” explains Arcuri.
If unmanaged stress is the culprit behind your fatigue, then ashwagandha might be a great supplement to add to your routine, Blakely suggests. She recommends starting with 300 to 500 milligrams of ashwagandha root extract once daily. From there, you can increase it to two or even three times per day, as needed.
Products to try:
- plnt brand Ashwagandha
- The Vitamin Shoppe brand Ashwagandha Extract
- Goli Nutrition Ashwagandha Gummies
Never heard of L-theanine? This supplement is part of a category called nootropics, which are referred to as “cognitive enhancers.”
“L-theanine is an amino acid that promotes relaxation without drowsiness,” says Kessler. How, though? The unique amino helps the body manage excessive spikes in the stress hormone cortisol, Pingel explains.
Because of its relaxing quality, Kessler recommends l-theanine for people that drink caffeine for energy but often deal with side effects like irritability and mental crashes. Sound like you? Take an l-theanine supplement alongside your cup of Joe, she suggests.
Even if you don’t do caffeine, though, you can still benefit from l-theanine. Pingel suggests supplementing with it in the evening to help prime the body for quality rest.
Products to try:
Magnesium is a critical mineral for overall health because it supports everything from nerves and sleep to digestion and muscle health. “Magnesium is a co-factor in over 300 cellular processes in our body, including energy production, protein synthesis, and muscle and nerve function,” says Arcuri. It’s especially well-known for its ability to help muscles relax and promote healthy sleep.
“Those with unmanaged stress, unhealthy eating patterns, and/or poor sleep might need more magnesium,” Michels says.
To supplement, Blakely recommends starting with 200 to 400 milligrams of an absorbable form of magnesium, like magnesium citrate or glycinate. “If you’re taking it to improve sleep quality, supplement in the evening. Otherwise, take magnesium at least two hours apart from your multivitamin so as not to impair your absorption of other smaller minerals,” she suggests.
Products to try:
- The Vitamin Shoppe brand Magnesium Citrate
- The Vitamin Shoppe brand Raspberries and Cream Magnesium Soft Chews
- Vitamin Shoppe brand Raspberry Lemonade Calm Zone Magnesium Powder
Cordyceps mushrooms may be a new trend, but they have long been used in Chinese medicine to support immune health.
“Cordyceps is a type of mushroom full of antioxidants, vitamins, and enzymes that boost the body’s ability to make energy,” says Michels. “Like ashwagandha, these mushrooms have adaptogenic effects, making them another supportive option when you’re dealing with burnout.
Cordyceps are particularly helpful for those dealing with unmanaged stress or who are either participating in intense training or experiencing overtraining, Michels notes. She recommends taking one serving two or three times a day.
Products to try:
- The Vitamin Shoppe brand Cordyceps
- Four Sigmatic Mushroom Elixir Mix with Cordyceps
- Om Cordyceps Mushroom Powder
According to the National Institutes of Health, Americans have been taking multivitamins since the 1940s—and for good reason. “A multivitamin provides baseline nutrients required for proper body function,” says Michels.
Though you may not associate skipping your multi with fatigue, feeling blah can indicate that you’re falling short on your basic nutritional needs. After all, a multivitamin usually includes a number of nutrients important for energy, such as:
- B vitamins
- Iodine, selenium, chromium, and zinc, which all promote metabolism and hormone production and balance.
- Iron, which helps transport oxygen (a must for energy production) to the cells
- Vitamin D
Products to try:
- Vthrive The Vitamin Shoppe brand Bioactive Women’s Once-Daily Multi
- Vthrive The Vitamin Shoppe brand Bioactive Men’s Once-Daily Multi
- The Vitamin Shoppe brand Women’s Multi Gummies
- The Vitamin Shoppe brand Men’s Multi Gummies