In her new book, nutritionist Karina Antram explores how using the right supplements can help fix your fatigue.

The Lifechanging Benefits of Supplements: why, what and when

If BIG nutrition, gut health, sleep and exercise are the first steps to fixing long-term fatigue, then the next step is to look at additional ways we can help our body – and our mitochondria – to start producing enough energy again. Although they will never replace good nutrition, sleep and movement, there are many times when supplements will be the answer to giving your body the boost it needs.


  • you have been ill, g., with a virus
  • you’ve felt very tired for a long time despite changing your diet
  • you are vegan or vegetarian
  • you have an illness, such as anaemia
  • you are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • you suffer with gastrointestinal issues
  • you are over 60

You could also consider supplementation if you experience any of the following symptoms alongside your fatigue, as they might be a sign of a specific vitamin or mineral deficiency:

  • eyelid twitching, which is a sign of magnesium deficiency
  • restless legs
  • pins and needles
  • cracks in the sides of the mouth (stomatitis)
  • mouth ulcers
  • brittle hair and nails
  • scaly patches or dandruff
  • red or white bumps on the skin, such as behind the arms (keratosis pilaris)

Even if you’re not experiencing any of these symptoms, there still could be a place for supplements in your diet and not least because our soil’s microbiome is not as diverse as it once was. It’s not as rich in vitamins and minerals as it used to be, due to pesticides and intensive farming. This means that the nutrient status of plant foods is less than it was a few decades ago. Add in modern processing methods, storage and transportation, and the result is that a lot of the nutrients in our food are lost.

As a result, even if we think we are eating a healthy diet and including as many different micronutrients as we can, we will often still struggle to get enough nutrients from the food we eat. And in some cases, we would need to consume more than is physically possible just to reach the RDA. This is where supplements come in.

Finding the supplement that you need

Supplements are a great way to boost your micronutrient levels at particular times. However, there are times when supplements can do more harm than good. Many products are poor quality and contain ingredients we shouldn’t be consuming, such as fillers and binders, known as excipients.

Here are a few ingredients to watch out for when choosing supplements:

  • magnesium silicate can cause health issues when digested
  • magnesium stearate a binder that might be unsafe for humans to consume
  • titanium dioxide a colourant linked to some cancers
  • carrageenan – a thickening agent that can inflame the digestive tract
  • potassium sorbate a preservative that can cause allergies


Always buy from a reputable healthcare source. Many supplements can be counterfeit or low quality from large online retailers.

Make sure you know why you are taking it. Do you have a deficiency or particular need? If not, don’t take supplements just for the sake of it.

Have some blood tests first. If you have any questions, ask to speak to the supplements clinical team from the company that you buy the supplement from and make sure you are selecting the right product for your needs.

Register with the supplement companies’ websites and take advantage of their promotions and bulk buy to save money.

What to take and when

If you find the world of supplements confusing and expensive, you’re not alone. How are you supposed to know what to take, why, and when? And how much? First things first, if you are currently taking any medication, it’s important that you check with your doctor or nutrition practitioner before you start any supplements, as many of the most commonly prescribed medications negatively interact with supplements and herbs.

The dosage really does depend on how severe the issue is and whether you are working with a qualified practitioner. If you are, they may suggest taking a UL dose – the tolerable upper intake level – which is the maximum you can take without any serious side effects. However, if you aren’t working with a nutritionist, it is best to stick to the dose suggested on the bottle.

Next, you need to understand which supplements to take for the symptoms you’re experiencing. Of course, all vitamins and minerals are important within the body. However, some are more important than others when it comes to energy production and reducing fatigue.


Sometimes when we have low energy, it could be because, even though we are eating a seemingly nutritious diet and taking supplements, we have an issue with absorption. Antibiotics, lactose intolerance, damage to the intestine where absorption takes place from infection or inflammation, low stomach acid, reduced digestive enzymes so our food cannot be broken down properly or just the simple fact that we’re not taking the supplements correctly can all affect absorption.

Two ways of improving absorption are to combine certain vitamins and minerals and take them at the right time of the day and chew more mindfully. Many of these micronutrients work synergistically together and one without the other will have a hard time getting to where it needs to within your body.