Are You a Vegetarian? Here’s What You Need to Know About Vitamin B12

Feeling run-down, ragged or exhausted lately? One of the latest health hacks (promoted by celebrities like Madonna, Justin Timberlake and Charlize Theron) is to visit your doctor or local wellness center and get a shot of Vitamin B12 – no, not the kind with a chaser. According to some research, a Vitamin B12 injection can be just the thing to boost you out of your slump and give you more energy, a faster metabolism and better sleep, especially if you’re part of a population that’s at risk for B12 deficiency.

With Charlize Theron’s metabolism and Justin Timberlake’s infectious energy at the forefront of my mind, I headed to Green Circle Wellness to talk with registered nurse and beloved CrossTown Fitness trainer Gina Caifano and learn more about how a B12 injection could perk my vegetarian self up.

vitamin b12

What is Vitamin B12?

Known as “the energy vitamin,” Vitamin B12 is one of the essential vitamins that your body needs but can’t produce itself. So, you have to get Vitamin B12 through your diet; it’s found in fish, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy. Some foods are fortified with Vitamin B12, like certain fortified cereals and grains.

Lots of animal products, right? Hold that thought – we’ll come back to it.

Vitamin B12 is responsible for a wide variety of functions within your body. It keeps nerve and blood cells healthy, it helps produce your DNA, and it helps your brain and immune system function. Plus, it supports your metabolism, which is important for weight maintenance and weight loss.

Who tends to be Vitamin B12 deficient?

Okay, time to go back to that paragraph up above and use your deductive reasoning skills. I’ll give you a second.

Yup, you guessed it! Vegetarians and vegans are at highest risk for Vitamin B12 deficiency, since they eat little to no animal products.

You may also be at risk for Vitamin B12 deficiency if you have a condition that affects your small intestine (like celiac or Crohn’s) or an autoimmune disorder like lupus. It can also become more difficult to absorb Vitamin B12 with age.

What are the benefits of a Vitamin B12 injection?

According to Gina Caifano, MSN/RN, of Green Circle Wellness, Vitamin B12 has tons of health-boosting benefits that directly address the frantic pace and general exhaustion we tend to take on in today’s busy world.

“Vitamin B12 increases your metabolism, gives you natural energy, helps you sleep better and allows all your body’s cells to metabolize more quickly. For example, if you were going to drink alcohol, it helps your liver detect alcohol and process it faster.”

Plus, getting a Vitamin B12 injection directly into your muscles removes any of the guesswork about whether your body is able to absorb the vitamin efficiently, if at all.

“Everyone’s body is different,” Gina emphasizes. “You might take a vitamin from the grocery store and digest it, but bad bacteria might not let you absorb it. Taking your vitamin with food is also a little bit of a toss-up if you don’t know yourself and your sensitivities or allergies exactly.”

She goes on to explain that depending on what you take the vitamin with, your body might have trouble absorbing it at all. For example, if you paired your Vitamin B12 source with something high in processed sugar, there’s a chance your body wouldn’t absorb the vitamin because the sugar could cause a bad gut microbe that prevents absorption. Injecting Vitamin B12 directly into your arm, on the other hand, ensures your body absorbs the vitamin right into your bloodstream.

(Want to learn more about your food sensitivities or allergens? Green Circle Wellness offers nutritional consultations and blood tests to give you a custom picture of your body’s nutritional needs.)

So, I tried it.

As a vegetarian who occasionally eats fish, I decided to try a Vitamin B12 injection and see if I noticed a boost in my energy. A recent move and job change had switched up my routine and often left me with poor sleep and frequent mid-afternoon slumps. Could a Vitamin B12 shot be just what I needed?

As she swabbed my arm with an alcohol pad, Gina educated me on what I could expect from the injection. I’d be in for a revved-up metabolism and the corresponding increase in appetite. Plus, I could expect to feel a boost in energy for the next week, a big reason trainers in Chicago have come to Green Circle to get a natural lift before their workouts.

Even with the increase in energy, Gina said that I wouldn’t experience a crash like I would with multiple cups of coffee or sugary items. I’d also have more restful sleep, without needing hours and hours dedicated to being in my bed.

Here’s what happened.

During my week post-B12 injection, I kept a little diary in a section of my planner to track how I felt every day. I noticed a few things:

  • On most days, I didn’t notice an increase in my appetite. I felt pretty satiated after every meal and never got to a “I AM STARVING FEED ME IMMEDIATELY” place. Maybe that’s because I’m an expert snacker, or because I have a pretty good idea of how much food it takes to fill me up, but it was worth noting.
  • On all days but one, I slept GREAT. My FitBit confirmed this: I spent more time in REM sleep than usual, with less restless activity.
  • As for the energy, I always felt like I had sustained energy to get through the day, and I was never tempted by an afternoon cup of coffee. The day after I got the injection, I took on a 90-minute Barry’s Bootcamp class (I know), and while I worked hard, I left the Red Room feeling like if I absolutely had to, I could have taken on another round.

Will I go back for another Vitamin B12 shot? Probably not without getting blood work done first to determine whether I’m actually deficient in B12. But, since Vitamin B12 is water soluble, your body eliminates whatever it doesn’t need. Translation? You might not need it, but it definitely doesn’t hurt.

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About Kristen Geil

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Kristen moved to Chicago in 2011 and received her MA in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul while trying to maintain her southern accent. Kristen grew up playing sports, and since moving to Chicago, she’s fallen in love with the lakefront running path and the lively group fitness scene. Now, as a currently retired marathoner and sweat junkie, you can usually find her trying new workouts around the city and meticulously crafting Instagram-friendly smoothie bowls. Kristen came on to A Sweat Life full-time in 2018 as Editor-in-Chief, and she spends her days managing writers, building content strategy, and fighting for the Oxford comma.