Does Vitamin C Give You Energy?


Feeling fatigued is a normal part of life. Maybe you didn’t sleep well, have been extra stressed lately, haven’t been exercising as much, or your normal eating habits are slightly off.

But that doesn’t mean you have to take it lying down––staying aware of changes in your mood and your physical health is key to identifying stressors and making changes (especially those targeting stress and sleep) that can improve your health.

Supplements certainly aren’t a quick fix, but there is mounting evidence that certain vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C, can help boost our energy levels.

In this article, we’ll give you all the information you need––if it works, how it works, and the results you can expect––to decide whether or not you should add vitamin C to your supplement lineup to boost your energy levels.

Vitamin C’s Energy Boosting Potential

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a potent vitamin essential for many internal functions, particularly our immune system.

However, per epidemiological studies, it is the fourth leading nutrient deficiency in the United States, with at least 41.8% not getting enough vitamin C in their diets.

It’s estimated that number is even higher with the rise in food insecurity after the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is rare to have a severe vitamin C deficiency––also known as scurvy––but even with a moderate deficiency, you can experience irritability, muscle pain, and…wait for it… fatigue.

So, the short answer to the question, “Does vitamin C give you energy?” is yes.

If you don’t know you have a vitamin C deficiency and you start intentionally eating more of it or taking supplements, it could definitely appear that you are getting an energy boost when, in fact, you were possibly just below the baseline to begin with.

However, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t still see some benefits from supplementing with vitamin C if you are already consuming enough of it––the results just may not be as dramatic as someone low in it.

The current studies on the effects of vitamin C on energy levels have not yet reached any concrete conclusions.

This is partly due to the limited number of studies and their scope––the number of participants, duration, dosages, and types of administration.

However, the results of these existing studies are typically positive and show healthy populations benefitting from supplementing with vitamin C in various forms.

Here are a few ways vitamin C can impact your energy levels and fatigue.

A graphic entitled "Vitamin C's Energy Boosting Potential" showing several potential benefits of vitamin C with accompanying images, including "may improve mental vitality" and "may improve sleep quality"

Could Improve Mental Vitality

In this study, young adult participants given 1,000mg of vitamin C daily for four weeks had improved concentration and cognitive performance compared to their peers taking a placebo.

With this in mind, studies like this have also examined how vitamin C might play a role in modulating anxiety.

After supplementing with 500mg of vitamin C per day for just 14 days, participants reported a decrease in anxiety, and there was even a difference in the mean heart rate between the vitamin C and placebo group.

May Improve Physical Fatigue

Vitamin C contributes to the proper functioning of our energy metabolism by synthesizing carnitine, which helps transport long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria and produce the energy our bodies need to function.

When we’re not producing enough carnitine––which can happen with a deficiency in vitamin C–– we can experience fatigue, weakness, and even muscle aches.

As such, supplementing with vitamin C could help reduce fatigue due to a deficiency.

However, we found a few studies that reported improved physical performance, perception of physical exertion, and fatigue by supplementing with vitamin C.

(Note that the dosages administered in the following studies are well above the current recommended 2,000mg daily limit of supplemented vitamin C. While vitamin C is generally safe and non-toxic, high doses can interfere with certain medications.)

This study administered 6,000mg of oral vitamin C to 44 workers daily for two weeks. Not only did they report a decrease in perceived fatigue, but their cortisol levels decreased, too.

In another study, 141 office workers received either 10,000mg of vitamin C or a placebo intravenously. 

The participants reported a decrease in fatigue levels in just 2 hours after administration of the vitamin C. The reduced fatigue lasted for a full day afterward.

One more study looked at the effects of vitamin C on physical exertion in 20 obese adults in a calorie deficit. 

Participants received 500mg of vitamin C or a placebo daily over the course of two weeks.

Neither group lost more weight than the other over the course of the study; however, the group receiving vitamin C did have a reduced rating of perceived exertion, lower heart rates, and generally lower rates of fatigue.

Could Improve Sleep Quality

Getting good sleep is essential for feeling energized, having good physical performance, and for mental clarity and motivation to work and participate in our hobbies.

However, it’s not just about getting enough hours of sleep. You also need to get good quality sleep, too. 

While having proper sleep hygiene and establishing a sleep routine will go a long way toward improving sleep quality, our diet also plays a part in getting good sleep.

This study found that higher levels of vitamin C intake through a varied diet of fruits and vegetables strongly correlated with longer sleep duration (between 7 to 8 hours). 

As you might expect, sleepers in this study who reported lower sleep duration (less than 7 hours) had a lower dietary vitamin C intake.

Another national study of over 4,500 participants found that reduced vitamin C intake can also impact sleep quality, leading to non-restorative sleep.

Finally, supplementation with vitamin C has shown very promising results for cancer patients with terminal diagnoses in improving their quality of life, including sleep quality. 

After administration of a high dose of vitamin C (both intravenous and oral), participants reported significantly improved physical, emotional, and cognitive function along with lower rates of fatigue, nausea and vomiting, pain, and appetite loss.

How Vitamin C Helps Boost Energy Production

The mechanism for how vitamin C helps boost our energy production is complex, but it essentially works like this: vitamin C helps transport long-chain fatty acids into our cells, which are responsible for generating metabolic energy.

This gives us the energy our bodies need to function at the cellular level and beyond.

Vitamin C also plays a role in the health of our mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell), which can contribute to an uptake in energy.

Immune cells like leukocytes and T-cells are also energized by vitamin C. This would not necessarily result in an energy boost, but it does make our immune system react more quickly to incoming pathogens, resulting in shorter and less severe illnesses.

As for how vitamin C impacts our mental vitality, a potential explanation is that vitamin C affects neurotransmitters and hormones in the brain that impact emotional arousal related to motivation and self-control and executive functions such as attention and cognitive ability.

Diets packed with powerful antioxidants like vitamin C could also reduce cognitive problems as we age since oxidative stress can reduce cognitive function and brain integrity over time.

How Much Vitamin C Should You Take?

Low vitamin C levels could be a potential culprit for your fatigue. So, simply getting adequate levels of vitamin C (at least 75 to 90mg per day) can be a great first step to improving your energy levels.

However, as reported in the above-mentioned studies, supplementing with a higher dose of vitamin C could help further improve mental clarity, reduce fatigue, improve physical performance, and induce better sleep quality and duration.

That said, you can begin seeing additional benefits from vitamin C with just 100 to 200mg daily for improved immune function.

While it is rare to experience serious side effects from taking vitamin C, doses above 2,000mg per day are not recommended.

Taking high doses of vitamin C can interfere with certain medications and cause some side effects, such as upset stomach, diarrhea, and, rarely, kidney stones.

Other Health Benefits of Vitamin C

Getting enough vitamin C is vital for the healthy function of our immune systems and prevents illnesses like scurvy, but supplementing with it can also provide a host of benefits.

These benefits likely won’t be life-changing for most people, but they can slightly optimize our health and well-being in the long run.

  • Promotes healthy skin: Topical vitamin C improves skin texture, reduces wrinkles, and reduces hyperpigmentation.
  • Boosts immune function: Supplementing with vitamin C may reduce the severity and duration of illnesses such as the common cold by energizing white blood cells.
  • Improves iron absorption: Vitamin C can be used in combination with iron to treat iron deficiency anemia (which can damage red blood cells) and enhance iron absorption from non-heme (plant-based) sources of iron.
  • Powerful antioxidant properties: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that effectively scavenges free radicals that damage our cells and cause oxidative stress that can lead to chronic health issues.

Vitamin C FAQs

Is vitamin C good for fatigue?

If you are experiencing fatigue from lack of good sleep, stress, or other factors, it might be worth looking at your diet to see where you might be missing out on certain vitamins and minerals. Adding a vitamin C supplement to your daily supplement routine or simply being more mindful about eating more fresh fruits and vegetables can be an excellent way to boost your energy levels since vitamin C is shown to help with energy production at the cellular level.

Why do I feel so good after taking vitamin C?

Imagine your body is a high-performance sports car, and you need to fill it with premium gas, but you keep putting in regular. Your vehicle will likely run perfectly fine but not at peak performance, right? However, once you start using premium gas, you will absolutely notice a difference. That’s what it’s like not only to begin getting enough vitamin C but other nutrients, too. You will feel great because you’re finally filling up with the right gas (food or supplements) to fuel your body properly.

What is the best source of vitamin C?

The best source of vitamin C comes from a varied and balanced diet of fresh fruits and vegetables like citrus fruits, red and green bell peppers, and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage). Not only that, but eating a diet packed with these foods has many health benefits besides just getting enough vitamin C.

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