Between keeping up with our busy workdays, maintaining our personal responsibilities, and trying to have some semblance of a social life, many of us are running on fumes by the end of the day. And while the common choice to help get a little extra pep in our step include leaning on caffeinated drinks, including certain nutrients in your diet can help support energy levels in a natural way, and including these nutrients in your diet shouldn’t be underestimated.
Among the sea of micronutrients that play a role in energy support in the body, vitamin B12 is the shining star of the lot. Ahead, learn why you must include vitamin B12 in your diet if you want to keep your energy levels healthy, as well as the ins and outs of this important vitamin.
What is Vitamin B12
We all know that we need to eat micronutrients (like certain vitamins and minerals) in order to help the body perform essential functions, like creating cholesterol, combating oxidative stress, and forming red blood cells. Of the vitamins that we humans need, there is a group of water-soluble vitamins categorized as “B vitamins” that play roles in many factors, including helping the body break down macronutrients and make red blood cells.
Vitamin B12 is one water-soluble b-vitamin that we all need to get from the food we eat and the drinks we drink, as our bodies can’t make this vitamin on its own. This vitamin plays a role in making DNA, creating red blood cells, and perhaps most famously, supporting energy levels.
How B12 Affects Energy
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that, when not consumed in adequate amounts, may take a toll on your energy levels.
Along with the many important functions this nutrient has on the body, perhaps one of the most important is that it helps convert fat and protein to energy. So, if your body doesn’t have enough vitamin B12, it will be challenged when it needs to convert certain macros into usable fuel. And so, if you can’t break down these macros for fuel, you will feel sluggish as a result.
Signs of a B12 Deficiency
A vitamin B12 deficiency can affect people of all ages, but certain populations are more at-risk than others. While the best way to learn whether you have a vitamin B12 deficiency is to ask your health care provider to run a test to check your levels, there are some tell-tale signs that may suggest that you need more vitamin B12 in your life, including:
- Tingling feeling in hands and feet
- Decreased appetite
- Smooth and tender tongue
Who’s at Risk of a B12 Deficiency?
Although anybody can develop a Vitamin B12 deficiency, certain populations are more susceptible to experiencing this than others, including:
- People who follow a vegan lifestyle
- People who underwent gastric bypass surgery
- Having Type 1 Diabetes
- Having Crohn’s Disease
- Being elderly
- Being HIV positive
The Best Vitamin B12-Rich Foods
It is entirely possible to consume enough vitamin B12 simply by eating a balanced diet and focusing on the right foods. Generally speaking, animal products are fantastic sources of this important vitamin. But, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, don’t fret — there are some plant-based sources as well.
Some of the best animal-based vitamin B12 sources include:
- Lean beef
- Dairy foods
And for the plant- base crowd, the following foods are also sources of vitamin B12:
- Nutritional yeast
- B12 Fortified plant-based milk
- B12 Fortified cereal
And if you simply can’t include any vitamin B12 foods in your diet on a consistent basis, supplementation is also an option to help you maintain a healthy level.
Vitamin B12 For Energy Support
Starting to feel that 3 PM slump or having a hard time keeping your eyes open mid-day? Before you reach for that fourth cup of coffee, make sure you are eating and absorbing enough vitamin B12 foods! If you’re deficient in Vitamin B12, making it through the day without lots of yawns can be challenging — thanks to the body’s lack of ability to break down certain macronutrients. So, if this sounds like you, check in with your body!
If you are experiencing any symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency (like chronic fatigue), ask your health care provider to check your vitamin B12 levels — all it takes is a simple blood test. If you, in fact, have a lower-than-desired level, including vitamin B12 foods in your diet can help you keep your levels in check and hopefully help you feel a little more energized too!