When you buy “natural” energy drinks, they all come with advertisements about how they contain a wide range of B vitamins to boost your energy. Instead of using caffeine, taurine, or other (good or bad) stimulants, they boast about their high Vitamin B content.
But is Vitamin B really all that good? Will B vitamins do anything for your energy levels, or are you just consuming more vitamins that your body can’t really process?
What Do B Vitamins Do?
All of the B vitamins play a role in your overall health. Vitamin B1 is needed to produce new cells, while Vitamin B2 helps to fight off free radicals. Vitamin B3 is great for controlling your cholesterol, while Vitamin B5 makes it easier for your body to break down carbs to use as energy. Vitamin B6 helps your body to produce healthy levels of serotonin, melatonin, and other hormones. Vitamin B7 is needed for healthy nails, skin, and hair, while Vitamin B9 can help to fight off depression and keep your memory sharp. Finally, there is Vitamin B12, which produced red blood cells, working with iron to prevent a red blood cell deficiency.
But did you notice how none of those vitamins had anything to do with energy production? If none of the B vitamins help your body to produce more energy, why are B Vitamins included in all the energy drinks?
The reason is simple: a lack of B vitamins can lead to low energy levels, so manufacturers reason that adding more B vitamins will give you an energy boost. Energy drinks can contain as much as 8,000% of the total Vitamin B12 you need in a single day, or 2,000% of your DV of Vitamin B6. All these B vitamins, simply because a lack of certain vitamins can lead to fatigue.
Just because a LACK of the vitamins can cause fatigue, that doesn’t mean an excess of the vitamins will lead to an increase in energy production. Once you get your daily dose of B vitamins–and perhaps a little more to counteract the chronically low levels of vitamins you may be dealing with–there are no benefits of excessive levels of B vitamins. You’re just filling your body with more nutrients that it cannot process, and thus increasing the strain on your liver and kidneys.
The truth is that it’s fairly easy to get all the B vitamins you need on a daily basis. If you eat whole grains, dairy products, leafy greens, eggs, and meat, you’ll have more than enough B vitamins to keep you healthy and your energy levels high. That fatigue you’re feeling very likely has nothing to do with your lack of B Vitamins, but it has everything to do with your high stress levels or your lack of sleep.
There are a specific subset of people who may suffer from low Vitamin B levels: vegetarians/vegans. Those who follow a plant-only diet may not get all the B Vitamins, particularly Vitamin B12, which is found primarily in red meat. Adding more B vitamins can be a good way for vegans and vegetarians to get all the nutrients they need.
But even if you do eat more Vitamin B, the effects aren’t instantaneous. It can take weeks or months to counteract the effects of chronically low levels of B vitamins, and just drinking an energy drink won’t do anything! Don’t be fooled by the marketing hype of the “natural” energy boost. Just because there are B vitamins in your energy drink, it doesn’t mean that it is a healthy choice!