Natural energy-support ingredients: What do the latest studies say?

Nutritional OutlookNutritional Outlook Vol. 26 No. 5
Volume 26
Issue 5

New research on how natural ingredients provide an energy boost.

© Denys Rudyi /

© Denys Rudyi /

Energy-support ingredients are undergoing a research revolution as more consumers look for a boost without the caffeine crash. In both the sports market and the general consumer market, interest in natural energy ingredients is growing, driven by consumers’ demanding and stressful lifestyles. Shoppers are increasingly looking for ways to power through the day, and they’re no longer relying solely on coffee for that purpose.

As the energy market grows, there will be further opportunities for research-backed nutritional ingredients. Here are some of the ways these ingredients are demonstrating efficacy in the energy market.

Caffeine Metabolite Improves Cognitive Function

As it turns out, caffeine may benefit energy levels in more ways than one. A 2021 clinical trial on the caffeine metabolite paraxanthine (PXN) examined the effects of 200 mg of PXN on cognitive function, reaction time, and memory. Paraxanthine is one of the ingredients in the branded supplement MuscleTech by Iovate Health Sciences.

After taking PXN, the subjects exhibited superior performance in a variety of cognitive tests such as the Psychomotor Vigilance Task test, the Sternberg Task test, and the Berg-Wisconsin Card-Sorting Correct Responses test. The study authors concluded that PXN may have nootropic properties at even low doses.6

Botanicals Reduce Fatigue and Promote Sleep

A variety of botanical ingredients are demonstrating efficacy for energy support—and they’re doing so in surprising ways. Rather than simply masking fatigue or creating a stimulant effect, emerging energy-support botanicals are also enabling deeper sleep—which, in turn, provides a more natural and sustainable energy boost.

One January 2023 clinical trial examined the effects of Enovate Biolife’s (Wilmington, DE) branded Oxyjun ingredient, a Terminalia arjuna extract, on physical fatigue and cardiac output in 72 male and female subjects aged 30 to 70 years old. The subjects were randomly assigned to receive either 400 mg of Oxyjun per day, or a placebo, for 56 days. After 56 days, the Oxyjun group saw a 6% increase in cardiac output as well as a 22% reduction in perceived fatigue.1 The study results were shared by Innophos (Cranbury, NJ), the exclusive licensed distributor of Oxyjun in North America.

Another botanical, Alpinia galanga, is also demonstrating energy-boosting effects in trials. One recent study examined the effects of OmniActive Health Technologies’ (Bridgewater, NJ) branded A. galanga supplement, called enXtra, on mental alertness and fatigue in 62 subjects.2 In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial, the subjects were randomly assigned to receive either a single dose of 300 mg of enXtra, or a placebo, before engaging in tests of mental alertness, fatigue, attention, and focus. The study found that enXtra administration resulted in a rapid improvement in mental alertness that was sustained for a five-hour period. Attention and focus benefits were measured as early as 30 minutes post-administration.

This study also found that enXtra supplementation improved correct response rate, resulted in fewer errors, improved reaction time, and reduced feelings of fatigue, the company says. Deshanie Rai, PhD, FACN, vice president of global science and regulatory for OmniActive, says that the company’s collective clinical data show that enXtra helps to support attention, focus, and alertness, with a same-day effect.

While most energy ingredients focus on supporting physical stamina and mental alertness, one interesting ingredient is supporting energy by helping consumers get a better night’s sleep. DailyZz, a branded botanical ingredient by Kemin (Des Moines, IA), is a polyphenol blend designed to improve daytime functioning by promoting better-quality sleep.

One 2021 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial examined the effects of DailyZz on sleep quality, insomnia, and daytime functioning in 89 subjects with subclinical sleep disturbances. The subjects were randomly assigned to receive either 485 mg of DailyZz, or a placebo, 30 minutes before bed for 30 days. Subjects kept sleep diaries to track total sleep time, sleep-onset latency, and morning drowsiness. The subjects also completed the Perceived Stress Scale, the Profile of Mood States rating scale, the Insomnia Severity Index, the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, and a variety of cognitive and attention tests on days 0, 7, and 30. The study found that DailyZz increased sleep quality, improved reaction time, reduced insomnia symptoms, and promoted better neurocognitive functioning.3

Chris Sadewasser, global product manager at Kemin Human Nutrition and Health, says that when it comes to boosting energy, consumers should address why they feel tired or have little energy first. “One way to increase energy is to ensure you’re getting a good night’s sleep,” Sadewasser says. “A good night’s sleep is more than just getting to sleep and staying asleep but also includes getting good-quality sleep. Kemin’s DailyZz has been shown to promote sleep quality and improve next-day daytime functioning.”

L-Theanine Eases Caffeine Jitters

While many consumers still prefer caffeine for their energy fix, emerging research shows there may be benefits to consuming products that leverage caffeine from green tea.

“Green tea offers up L-theanine and natural sources of caffeine,” says Jenna Callahan, category manager at ingredient supplier FFP (Lake Mary, FL). “When paired together, caffeine and L-theanine can offer increased energy without the jitters.”

Ribose Blend Supports Cellular Energy

Emerging data is showing that ribose is a particularly potent energy-support ingredient. One 2022 randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover pilot trial examined the effects of Bioenergy Life Science’s (Andover, MN) patented RiaGev, a ribose and nicotinamide blend, on NAD, ATP, and glutathione production as well as sleep, energy, and insulin sensitivity in 18 healthy men and women between the ages of 35 and 65.

Twice per day for eight days, all subjects received either 1) a placebo, or 2) a 1280-mg dose of D-ribose, plus 240 mg of nicotinamide and 480 mg of palm oil, before crossing over to the opposite condition after a seven-day washout period. Subjects were assessed for blood NAD+ concentration, blood glucose, insulin concentration, glutathione, salivary cortisol, and ATP at baseline and on days 3, 5, and 8. Subjects also completed the Checklist Individual Strength questionnaire, a measure of physical fatigue and mental concentration, on days 1, 3, 5, and 8.

After five days, the subjects in the RiaGev group experienced a 10% increase in NAD+, while the control group’s NAD+ levels did not change. The RiaGev group also experienced a dramatic increase in NADP+ levels. After seven days, the RiaGev group exhibited improved insulin sensitivity and increased glutathione. RiaGev also consistently increased ATP and reduced cortisol across all time periods. The study authors concluded that RiaGev increases mental concentration and reduces fatigue.4

Adaptogens Boost Physical and Mental Energy

In addition to their effects on various other dimensions of health, adaptogens are now demonstrating efficacy as energy-boosting supplements. One randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial examined the effects of Gencor’s (Irvine, CA) branded Gynostemma pentaphyllum extract, ActivAMP, on motor system performance and cognitive energy in 100 Korean adults.

Subjects were randomly assigned to receive 450 mg of ActivAMP, or a placebo, once per day for 12 weeks. The subjects were assessed at baseline and on study conclusion for cardiorespiratory response, blood pressure, metabolic equivalent of task, and maximal heart rate. The subjects also took a Visual Analog Scale to assess fatigue.

The trial found that the ActivAMP group exhibited significantly higher endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) levels during recovery relative to the placebo group. The placebo group also scored significantly higher on the multidimensional fatigue scale after treatment than at baseline, while the ActivAMP group did not. The study authors concluded that ActivAMP administration improves physical and mental performance during exercise.5

Energy Ingredients Move Beyond Caffeine

The energy market is a ripe field of innovation with a variety of botanical, adaptogenic, and carbohydrate-based ingredients demonstrating clinical efficacy in improving both physical and mental energy levels. As this market expands and more consumers look for energy-boosting solutions, expect more opportunities for clinically proven caffeine alternatives.


  1. Srivastava, S.; Girandola, R.N.; Abedon, B. Effect of E-OJ-01 on Left Ventricular Ejection Fraction and Myocardial Oxygen Consumption: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. J Multidiscip Healthc. Published online November 2, 2022. DOI: 10.2147/JMDH.S381028
  2. Eriah M.M.; Kundapur, M.; Joshua, L.; Thomas, J.V. Acute Effects of Alpinia galanga Extract on Mental Alertness, Accuracy and Fatigue in Human Subjects: A Randomized, DoubleBlind, Placebo-Controlled, Cross-Over Study. ACAM. 2023. 7 (4). DOI: 10.31031/ACAM.2023.07.000669
  3. Tubbs, A.S.; Kennedy, K.E.R.; Alfonso-Miller, P.; Willis, C.C.A.; Grandner, M.A. A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial of a Polyphenol Botanical Blend on Sleep and Daytime Functioning. Int J Environ Res Public Health.2021, 18 (6), 3044. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph18063044
  4. Xue, Y.; Shamp, T.; Gowda, G.A.N.; Crabtree, M.; Bagchi, D.; Raftery, D. A Combination of Nicotinamide and D-Ribose (RiaGev) Is Safe and Effective to Increase NAD+ Metabolome in Healthy Middle-Aged Adults: A Randomized, Triple-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Cross-Over Pilot Clinical Trial. Nutrients.2022,14 (11), 2219.DOI: 10.3390/nu14112219
  5. Ahn, Y.; Lee, H.S.; Lee, S.H.; et al. Effects of Gypenoside L-Containing Gynostemma pentaphyllum Extract on Fatigue and Physical Performance: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Randomized Trial. Phytother Res. Published online March 6, 2023.DOI: 10.1002/ptr.7801
  6. Xing, D.; Yoo, C.; Gonzalez, D.; et al. “Dose-Response of Paraxanthine on Cognitive Function: A Double Blind, Placebo Controlled, Crossover Trial. Nutrients.2021,13 (12), 4478.DOI: 10.3390/nu13124478
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