science

Medically Reviewed

Can Vitamins Boost Your Metabolism? What the Science Says

Your metabolism provides fuel for necessary health functions like breathing. Taking certain vitamins can help promote your metabolism’s health.

Your metabolism is linked with your overall well-being. When you want to support healthy metabolic responses, you’re actually looking to support how efficiently your cells communicate and generate energy. If you want to support a healthy metabolism, some supplements and lifestyle tweaks can help—but nothing replaces the need for a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and great sleep.

Still, if you’ve got your general wellness dialed in, you may be considering additional support. In this article, we’ll cover how vitamins and nutrients affect metabolism and cellular energy, including what the science says.

Can vitamins boost metabolism?

Your body needs micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to perform countless functions. This includes generating cellular energy, known as ATP, by breaking down the food you eat. While most of your micronutrients come from your diet, dietary supplements can also provide essential nutrients.

However your body gets them, micronutrients play a vital role in supporting healthy cellular function, energy processes, and overall metabolism. If you’re asking whether supplements alone can affect your metabolism, the answer is yes. But dietary supplements do not replace a healthy diet. In many cases, the way that supplements affect metabolism is not completely straightforward. If you are taking supplements to help correct or prevent a deficiency, they may have a more noticeable impact.

It’s important to remember that vitamin supplements can interact with medications, other supplements, and health conditions. Always check with your healthcare provider before starting to take them, and always follow the recommended serving sizes unless your medical provider says otherwise. With nutrients, more is not necessarily better, and in some cases, excess intakes can cause problems.

19 Supplements & Vitamins for Metabolism

1. Green tea extract

Green tea extract is made from the same Camellia sinensis plant used to make the green tea that you drink. The plant contains phytochemicals like caffeine and EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) that are thought to enhance how the body burns fat for energy. Studies have tested many parameters and outcomes, and the overall data is fairly mixed. Here’s what we know:

  • A meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials found that green tea extract could support balanced composition for body weight and body fat. While metabolism was not directly measured, healthy body composition is often considered to be reflective of overall metabolism, even though there are exceptions.
  • A systematic review and meta-analysis of 7 trials that looked at how green tea extract impacts the conversion of glucose for energy found no beneficial results.

More research is needed to understand the specific interactions that green tea extract has on metabolism. Ask your healthcare provider before starting this or any supplement—it could interact with other supplements, medicines, or conditions. Dietary supplements that contain green tea extract or EGCG can vary in their concentration, so it’s important to read labels and compare products to know what you’re getting. In rare cases, gastrointestinal issues and liver distress have occurred when supplementing with green tea extract.

2. B-complex

The B-complex family of vitamins work together for cellular energy metabolism throughout the body. They’re also essential for nervous system function, DNA replication, and tissue health. Certain B vitamins, like vitamins B6, folate, and B12, are needed to facilitate the absorption and use of other nutrients that generate energy, like iron.

B vitamins are found in many common foods, but if you follow a plant-based diet, odds are that you’re consuming less than the average person. Animal-origin foods are often abundant sources of B vitamins, and for B12, there are few plant-based sources outside of supplements. Since B vitamins are water-soluble, you need to consume them daily to give your body what it needs to function.

Alcohol intake, genetics, digestion issues, and many other factors can influence how well you absorb B vitamins from foods or supplements. The suite of B vitamins work together so well that they’re often paired together in a B-complex supplement. Because these nutrients are so essential to every aspect of health, not just metabolism, your healthcare provider may recommend B-complex in addition to other nutrients if you are on a plant-based diet or have known digestive challenges that make it harder to absorb B vitamins.

3. CoQ10

Coenzyme Q10, usually shortened to coQ10, is an antioxidant molecule made by the body. It works in the mitochondria, the energy-generating factories of cells, to help make energy. You can also get coQ10 from foods and supplements.

Coenzyme Q10 supports metabolic processes like balanced fat use and storage, which is necessary for all energy synthesis in the body. The mitochondria generate ATP, the body’s main energy currency, which is required in high volumes when storing and using fat for energy. Many things affect how a person’s body uses coQ10:

  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Health condition(s)
  • Diet and nutrient intake
  • Digestion processes

It’s not clear how dietary supplements directly affect metabolism, based on research. Supplements can lead to increases in blood levels, but researchers don’t know if this means that the body can use it in the same way as the coQ10 made by the body. Studies that have evaluated coQ10 supplements for athletic performance and metabolism have not found definite benefits.

Coenzyme Q10 supplements are generally safe, but they can interact with some medications, so always check with your doctor first.

4. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be made in the body from UVB sun exposure. It’s also found in a few food sources, although dietary intake isn’t the main way that people maintain healthy vitamin D status. Dietary supplements are typically needed in areas where sun exposure is limited year-round.

Vitamin D is needed for healthy bones, immune system function, hormone balance, thyroid health, reproductive wellness, and more. Your metabolism is impacted by hormones and thyroid wellness, in particular. Vitamin D is related to metabolic wellness even though there’s not a direct way that it affects burning fat for energy or body composition. Even though there are vitamin D receptors in cells throughout the body, many things influence how they interact with vitamin D, including your genetics, age, gut health, and more.

Taking vitamin D supplements can be beneficial when someone is deficient or has inadequate intake, though there’s little evidence for benefit if your levels are already in a healthy range. Your doctor can check your vitamin D levels with a simple blood test. Don’t take vitamin D supplements unless you speak to a healthcare provider. Your body stores vitamin D, and taking supplements when you don’t need them can cause nutrient imbalances and negative side effects.

5. Vitamin C

An antioxidant nutrient, vitamin C plays an essential role in many body functions. You need it to protect your cells from oxidative damage during normal metabolic processes. It also supports healthy immune responses, reproductive health, energy processes, and mitochondria. Metabolism is a complex mix of factors in the body, but healthy mitochondria are needed to help generate energy and burn fat for fuel. Vitamin C supports cell health during mitochondrial energy processes.

Many foods are rich sources of vitamin C, like bell peppers, citrus fruits, and berries. Vitamin C is also a common supplement, and it absorbs best when paired with bioflavonoids.

6. Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for more than 300 enzyme functions in the body, making it a nutrient of importance for energy generation and cellular health. Metabolism is fueled by how well your body can make energy from food. Diets that have more magnesium are linked with more efficient use of carbohydrates for energy use and storage.

Rich sources of magnesium include pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds, spinach, and cashews. You can also use a magnesium supplement, but check with your doctor first.

7. Iron

Iron is a mineral that is needed for oxygen transport in the body. Without enough oxygen, your cells won’t have enough energy. Iron metabolism is a complex process, dependent on many other nutrients (like B vitamins), digestive wellness, kidney health, and more. Iron is available in animal-sourced foods like red meat and chicken. It’s also found in spinach, pea protein, and other plant-based foods, though this form of iron doesn’t absorb as efficiently.

Iron supplements should not be taken by everyone. Before starting an iron supplement, work with your healthcare provider to make sure you need one. Iron overload causes many health issues. Menstruating people as well as those who are pregnant or recently gave birth are usually the most likely to require iron support. Vegan or vegetarian diets may also run short on iron intake. Since iron is needed for cell energy and metabolism, when you don’t get enough, you’re likely to feel tired. Your doctor can help to determine the best way to address iron deficiency.

8. Calcium

Calcium is needed for healthy bones, circulation, and fluid balance inside and outside of cells. These are all factors that impact metabolism and energy production in the body. You can easily get enough calcium from your diet if you consume dairy products. If you’re on a plant-based diet, it’s a little more challenging, but still possible. Vegan sources of calcium include fortified soy milk and tofu, soybeans, spinach, turnip greens, and kale. Calcium supplements can also help with nutrient intake.

9. Zinc

Zinc is a mineral that is needed for energy-generating enzymes, healthy digestive processes, immune function, and more. Laboratory research has found that zinc plays an important role in carbohydrate metabolism, fat-burning processes, and energy transport. In vitro research has shown that zinc also helps to balance energy metabolism in the midst of oxidative stress—which occurs in all cells during energy conversion. Human studies need to be done to more directly understand this link, but overall, we know that adequate zinc intake is important for health and energy.

Animal studies indicate that low zinc status can reduce how well the body digests and absorbs all nutrients, not just zinc. You can get zinc from foods like oysters, beef, pumpkin seeds, and fortified breakfast cereals.

10. Chromium

Chromium is an essential mineral. It’s still being studied for how it affects many aspects of health, but it’s thought to play a role in how the body converts food to energy because of how it interacts with insulin signaling. It’s also being investigated for antioxidant-like activity. In a study of 40 people who consumed brewer’s yeast with chromium versus brewer’s yeast without chromium, those who took the chromium had healthier responses to glucose and how the body utilized it for energy and metabolism processes.

You can get chromium from foods like ham, brewer’s yeast, orange juice, beef, lettuce, turkey, and apples. The Care/of chromium supplement pairs this mineral with apple extract, to support healthy energy use from food.

11. Iodine

Iodine is a mineral that is a necessary component of thyroid hormones (T3 and T4). The thyroid is a major endocrine gland associated with energy and metabolism. Iodine also helps to set the basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the baseline amount of energy your body expends each day just to function on a basic level. A higher BMR reflects a more active metabolism, but genetics and other factors affect this. Your BMR is largely outside of your control, although healthy activity levels can influence it.

Iodine deficiency is uncommon in developed countries, and iodine excess can cause as many or more issues than low levels. Too much iodine can overstimulate thyroid hormone production, and dietary supplements should only be taken if your healthcare provider suggests it. In most cases, you can get more than enough iodine from foods like sea vegetables, iodized table salt, fish, and dairy products. If you eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, you may be more likely to need iodine support, but only your healthcare provider can advise on this.

12. Selenium

Selenium is a mineral with antioxidant-like properties. It’s a necessary sidekick for thyroid hormone health, so it is linked with metabolism and energy balance. Your immune system also relies on selenium, along with the reproductive system and the health of all your DNA.

You can get selenium from foods like Brazil nuts, tuna, halibut, sardines, ham, and beef. It’s also commonly found in multivitamins, and can be taken as a standalone supplement.

13. Manganese

A trace mineral, manganese still plays an important role in cellular energy production. Manganese acts as a cofactor for enzymes that fuel fat-burning processes and the body’s antioxidant manufacturing system. Too much manganese can be problematic, and since the body only needs tiny amounts, it’s rare to take a standalone supplement. Most people get enough manganese from foods, like seafood, nuts, brown rice (and other whole grains), chickpeas, spinach, pineapple, soybeans, lentils, and potatoes.

14. Copper

Copper is a trace mineral that has a give and take relationship with zinc. The two minerals need to be in balance for optimal well-being. Copper is a foundational part of cuproenzymes that are needed for energy processes, iron metabolism, and neurotransmitter production. All of these factors are needed for healthy metabolism, so copper deficiency can foundationally impact the body’s baseline energy and metabolic balance. But copper excess is a bigger issue, so supplementation should be carefully done under the supervision of your doctor.

You can get enough copper from food. It’s found in beef liver, oysters, chocolate, potatoes, mushrooms, cashews, sunflower seeds, tofu, chickpeas, and millet. Small amounts may also be found in multivitamins or trace mineral supplements.

15. Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble nutrient that is important for healthy cells all throughout the body. It’s needed for healthy energy processes and supports overall function and health of the eyes, liver, immune system, heart, and lungs. Since metabolism relies on healthy system functions throughout the body, vitamin A is a foundational part of total health, including metabolic wellness and energy balance.

You have to get vitamin A from foods, since the body cannot make it. However, it comes from two sources: preformed vitamin A (found in animal-origin foods like cod liver oil, beef liver, and other coldwater fatty fish) and provitamin A (from beta-carotene in orange vegetables and fruits). Your body has to convert provitamin A to retinol, the bioavailable form of vitamin A. Genetics can affect how efficiently your body can do this. Vitamin A is absorbed and converted better when it’s consumed with dietary fat. If your body doesn’t digest fat well, or you consume a very low-fat diet, your doctor may suggest vitamin A supplements.

Because vitamin A is fat-soluble, it is stored in the body for long periods of time. This primarily happens in the liver. Taking too much vitamin A from supplements can lead to excess, which can cause negative side effects. Pregnant people should not take preformed vitamin A supplements, since these can have harmful effects on the fetus. Beta-carotene does not. Always ask your healthcare provider before starting a vitamin A supplement.

16. Vitamin E

Vitamin E has distinctive antioxidant activities that support overall cellular health. Cells undergo a hefty amount of work, and are exposed to a significant amount of oxidative stress, because of energy generation. Antioxidants like vitamin E help to keep cells protected from the damaging effects of the manufacturing energy processes. Vitamin E also helps the body remain efficient in using available antioxidants. You can get vitamin E from foods like sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, spinach, and broccoli.

17. Vitamin K

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that supports healthy bones and coagulation. It does not directly affect metabolism, but in order to be active, the body relies on a healthy structure. Vitamin K is also needed for healthy smooth muscle and cartilage, and adequate intake helps to support healthy calcification in the body. This means that it supports calcium being used for bones and helps transfer calcium away from areas where calcium should not be deposited.

Vitamin K is available as K1 and K2. Vitamin K1 is found in leafy greens whereas vitamin K2 is found in animal-origin foods like butter as well as fermented foods like nattokinase. Vitamin K deficiency is uncommon except in those who take anticoagulant medications. Always check with your medical provider before taking vitamin K supplements, since they can interact with other nutrients and medicines.

18. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential because your body can’t make them. They’re needed for healthy cell function, energy processes, immune system balance, heart health, nervous system function, and more.

Research that looks at omega-3 fats for metabolism is mixed. A study of 24 women between the ages of 60-76 looked at how fish oil supplements impacted metabolic rate, body composition, and energy use. Study participants took either 3 grams per day of omega-3 fish oil or a placebo for 12 weeks. The results found that omega-3s increased resting metabolic rate by 14% and energy use during exercise by 10%. The rate at which fat was burned increased, too, by 19% during rest and 27% during exercise. Fish oil supplements also supported body composition balance, with 4% increased lean mass. The placebo group did not experience any of these changes. Larger studies are needed to see if these results translate, as well as if they are relevant in other age or sex groups.

You can get omega-3 fats from foods like salmon and other coldwater fish. Walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds also contain precursors to EPA and DHA, but this conversion process is not efficient. Vegan omega-3 supplements, made from algae, can help support healthy fatty acid intake.

19. L-Carnitine

L-carnitine is a compound made from two amino acids (lysine and methionine). It comes from foods, mostly meat, and can be taken as a dietary supplement. L-carnitine helps get fatty acids to the mitochondria so that it can turn them into energy. People who eat plant-based diets consume less dietary carnitine, but other factors can affect how well the body makes its own carnitine. These include age, digestive health, and overall protein intake.

Research on carnitine supplements is promising, but more research needs to be done to confirm and more clearly understand how carnitine affects metabolism. A systematic review and meta-analysis of nine randomized controlled trials found that carnitine supplements supported healthy body composition and glucose utilization for energy.

While carnitine supplements are generally safe, they can still interact with health conditions or other medicines, so check with your doctor first.

Other natural ways to boost your metabolism

Your metabolism responds to many things, as do the overall energy generating processes. Consider the following, each of which can help your body effectively use and create energy, which support a healthy metabolism and body composition:

  • Regular physical activity supports healthy muscle synthesis, body composition, and energy generation.
  • High-quality sleep is required for cellular repair. If your cells are not working properly, your body’s ability to generate energy will be reduced.
  • Adequate hydration is needed for cells to function properly, and all energy processes in the body rely on cells.
  • Amino acids from protein are foundational for most cellular processes, so low protein intake can reduce the body’s pool of raw materials to generate energy for metabolism
  • Healthy digestive function is needed to break down proteins into amino acids, so even if your protein intake is great, your body still needs the right enzymes and conditions to break it down. Stress, not enough stomach acid, and poorly chewing food can all negatively affect digestive health.
  • Moderate caffeine intake may support metabolic and energy generating processes, although the mechanisms are not fully understood. For some people, caffeine may produce more negative effects than positive.

When to seek medical attention

Check in with your healthcare provider if you experience any sudden changes to your health, including energy and body composition. If you have questions about your metabolic wellness, your doctor can run some basic lab tests to determine if there are any imbalances.

The Bottom Line

Your overall health is closely linked with your metabolism and energy-generating processes. Many things you can control—like food, exercise, sleep, hydration, and stress management—play a role in your energy balance and metabolic health. Other things you can’t control, like your genetics or age, can also impact your metabolism.

If you want to support a healthy metabolism, there are many things you can do, like focus on a healthy nutrient intake and get regular physical activity. Before starting any dietary supplements, check in with your doctor.

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