Medically Reviewed

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

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, and many people who start taking a B vitamin supplement report an upswing in their moods and energy levels. Vitamin B12 is not made in the human body, so it must be ingested through outside means. People who have absorption issues and those who consume plant based diet exclusively may struggle to ingest enough to prevent deficiency. Age and pregnancy are other factors that can increase the risk of deficiency.

The Link Between Vitamin B12 And Energy Levels

Vitamin B12 plays a vital role in how our body metabolizes energy. It’s also integral to proper neurological function and the creation of red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is needed to produce hemoglobin, a protein essential for transporting oxygen in our blood. Hemoglobin is tied to our overall energy levels; it’s the vehicle that ensures our tissues receive the oxygen they need to function properly! Low hemoglobin can have a dramatic impact on oxygen delivery and energy processes.

One of B12’s other contributions to energy production is its stimulation of erythroid progenitor cells, the stem cells responsible for producing red blood cells (RBCs). A B12 deficiency can severely affect RBC count, which is clinically associated with symptoms including fatigue and lack of energy.

While iron remains a critical component for hemoglobin synthesis and function, it doesn't operate in isolation. Even with optimal iron levels, a deficiency in B12 – as well as B6 and folate – can lead to diminished energy output and hindered oxygen transport.

As B12 is part of multiple energy-related cycles in the body, a clinical deficiency can leave us feeling exhausted. Beginning a B12 supplement when clinically deficient will likely lead to a burst of energy, although that may fade a little once B12 levels in the body balance back out.

Sources Of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 can be ingested through a wide variety of foods. It’s found in many animal products, as well as some fortified foods. For people who need more B12, or for vegetarians and vegans who do not use animal products, there are many supplement options available.

Animal-based sources of B12

Vitamin B12 is naturally found in a variety of animal products. Here’s a list of the top animal-based sources:

  • Beef liver
  • Clams
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Beef
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Egg

Fortified foods with B12

For those who don’t consume animal products or are looking for additional sources, certain foods are fortified with B12. The most commonly available fortified foods are nutritional yeast, dairy-free milk alternatives, and breakfast cereals. However, it’s important to read labels carefully, because many organic cereals are not fortified.

Daily Recommended Vitamin B12 Intake

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) 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 your regular levels of B12, if not giving you a little extra. Consuming foods rich in B12 will increase the amount in your body, too.

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 in mind to keep it as clean and natural as possible. Care/of’s B12 supplement is also completely vegan.

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 a form 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 high sugar intake and artificial sweeteners can come with their own negative effects on health.

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 would provide a recommendation of 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. As with energy drinks, it’s 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 their own potential risks. They may also contain inactive forms of B12 as opposed to active forms. Be sure to read the label and ingredients.

Consuming Foods Rich in B12

Eating foods that are abundant in B12 is a great way to naturally increase your B12 levels. However, once these foods are ingested, the body has to go through a number of processes to actually be able to absorb the B12 from those foods. Vitamin B12 has to undergo metabolism and then be bound by transport proteins such as haptocorrin, intrinsic factor, and transcobalamin II.

The intrinsic factor plays a pivotal role in this journey. Not only is it critical for the binding and absorption of B12, but the intrinsic factor is also a necessary component for the production of stomach acid. A healthy level of stomach acid is crucial for the proper absorption of B12. But, when someone has a deficiency of intrinsic factor, which can be caused by genetic or immune-related issues, it can hinder the body’s ability to produce stomach acid, thereby diminishing the body’s ability to utilize B12 efficiently. Furthermore, aging and genetics can also impact how much B12 is digested and absorbed.

For vegans, boosting B12 intake can be slightly more challenging given the absence of animal foods in their diet. To counter this, incorporating fortified foods like nutritional yeast and breakfast cereals, as well as taking vitamin B12 supplements, is recommended.

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 any supplement.

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 us feel more energetic, and it can also support our neurological, bone, and blood health. Vitamin B12 supplements are generally safe to use, as the vitamin is water-soluble, and excess amounts will be filtered out by the body. Beyond supplements, B12 is abundant in numerous animal-based foods, as well as fortified breakfast cereals.

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