What is Cellular Energy & Why Is It Important?

Jan 03, 2024 Energy 5 MIN

What is Cellular Energy & Why Is It Important?

Cellular energy is a collection of molecules produced when the body breaks down food; our cells use these molecules to power bodily functions, like contracting your muscles![1] Your body needs cellular energy to complete certain functions, so supporting your body's cellular energy‡ metabolism is essential!†

Understanding ATP: The Energy Currency of Cells

While the simple explanation of "what is cellular energy?" may be just "energy for cells," the full explanation has a little more detail and a lot longer words! Your body turns food molecules into cellular energy in the form of Adenosine Triphosphate, more commonly known as ATP, a complex molecule used to power vital body functions. The ATP molecule is especially useful because the energy stored in its molecular bonds is easily accessible to the body.

This energy source is why the ATP molecule is generally known as the cell's "energy currency," providing universal energy to many different cell functions.[2] The energy stored in ATP is used by your body to aid in making essential chemicals, contracting your muscles so you can move (or flex!), and helping to transport signals across your nerves to wherever they need to go!

Cellular Respiration: Energy Production in Cells

If you remember one thing from biology class, it's probably this: "The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell." While this catchy phrase is accurate, there's a little more to how cell respiration and energy production work! When food is broken down into smaller molecules in our intestines, these molecules are sent to the cells, where they begin transforming into cellular energy. For glucose, a common sugar, this stage is called glycolysis.

In glycolysis, a glucose molecule is broken down into even smaller molecules. These smaller molecules are sent to the cell's mitochondria. Think of the mitochondria as a power plant; it receives our food's "fuel" components and turns them into usable cellular energy for our bodies. These molecules undergo a process called the citric acid cycle in the mitochondria, where most of the ATP is generated.[1]

Put simply, our body processes the sugars in the food we eat through a series of cycles, breaking them down until they store their energy into a form readily usable by our cells.

Put even more simply, the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.

The Key Players: B-Vitamins and Cellular Energy

Did you know there's no such thing as Vitamin B? B Vitamins are actually a series of 8 different vitamins with different functions. However, every B Vitamin helps convert food into cellular energy. Different B vitamins have different roles in your body's metabolism. Here are a few of the B Vitamins and some of their roles in our complex energy metabolism!‡†

  • Vitamin B1 - Thiamin is a cofactor in the citric acid cycle, an essential step in producing ATP.[3] Thiamin can be found in lentils, whole grain, and pork!
  • Vitamin B2 - Riboflavin helps convert proteins and fats into glucose so that they can be easily broken down in the mitochondria and turned into usable cellular energy.[4] You can find Riboflavin in fortified cereals, milk, eggs, salmon, beef, spinach, and broccoli.
  • Vitamin B3 - Niacin is incorporated into a molecule that participates in a number of reactions, including glycolysis and the Krebs cycle.[5] Niacin can be found in beef, poultry and fish. Vegetarian sources include peanuts, lentils and bananas.
  • Vitamin B5 - Pantothenic Acid is needed to create Coenzyme A, a small molecule necessary for producing cellular energy in the citric acid[6] Liver, egg yolk and avocados are good sources of Pantothenic Acid, as well as brown rice, soy beans, and milk!
  • Vitamin B6 - Pyridoxine is essential to several processes, especially catabolism, which breaks down complex molecules into smaller, simpler ones, releasing energy.[7] Vitamin B6 can be found in meat, eggs, bananas and fortified cereals.
  • Vitamin B7 - Biotin is an essential catalyst in metabolizing glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids.[8] Biotin is found in strawberries, salmon, cheese and eggs.

Vitamin B12 also plays an essential role in turning the food we eat into cellular energy. Because it is found mainly in animal products, vegetarians and vegans may experience low energy or fatigue if they do not consume enough Vitamin B12 in their plant-based diet. Approximately 6% of older adults have deficient levels of Vitamin B12, and over 20% have low levels.[9] Vitamin B12 supplementation may help reduce fatigue associated with Vitamin B12 deficiency if you are in either of those sections of the population. Nature Made® Vitamin B12 1000 mcg Fast Dissolve Tablets helps reduce fatigue for those low in Vitamin B12.†

Nature Made®'s B Vitamin Supplements

Nature Made® offers many B Vitamin supplements, from B-Complex to specific vitamins like Vitamin B6 100 mg Tablets or Maximum Strength Biotin 5000 mcg Softgels. Nature Made® Super B Energy Complex Softgels provide a dose of all 8 B Vitamins to help convert food into cellular energy. Looking for a tasty way to support healthy hair, skin, and nails? Nature Made® Hair-Skin-Nails Biotin Gummies provide 2500 mcg of Biotin (Vitamin B7) in two daily gummies in an easy-to-take Mixed Berry, Cranberry, and Blueberry package!†

How Diet can Affect Cellular Energy

Getting adequate B Vitamins in your diet is vital for supporting your body's energy metabolism.‡ Thankfully, B Vitamins can be found in many foods! If you're looking for Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), the best sources are pork and whole grains or enriched grain products. But Thiamin can also be found in organ meats, red meats, yeast, nuts, sunflower seeds, peas, milk, cauliflower, spinach, and legumes! Vitamin B12 is commonly found in animal organs like livers and kidneys. It's also found in fermented foods like miso, produced by the fermenting bacteria!


‡Helps convert food into cellular energy.†

† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


  1. Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, et al. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 4th edition. New York: Garland Science; 2002. How Cells Obtain Energy from Food. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26882/
  2. Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, et al. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 4th edition. New York: Garland Science; 2002. How Cells Obtain Energy from Food. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26882/
  3. Thiamine Biochemistry. Cornell.edu. Published 2012. http://thiamine.dnr.cornell.edu/Thiamine_biochemistry.html
  4. Mahabadi N, Bhusal A, Banks SW. Riboflavin Deficiency. [Updated 2023 Jul 17]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470460/
  5. Meyer-Ficca M, Kirkland JB. Niacin. Adv Nutr. 2016;7(3):556-558. Published 2016 May 16. doi:10.3945/an.115.011239
  6. Pantothenic Acid. Linus Pauling Institute. Published March 6, 2019. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/pantothenic-acid
  7. Parra M, Stahl S, Hellmann H. Vitamin B₆ and Its Role in Cell Metabolism and Physiology. Cells. 2018;7(7):84. Published 2018 Jul 22. doi:10.3390/cells7070084
  8. Rodríguez Meléndez R. Importance of biotin metabolism. Rev Invest Clin. 2000;52(2):194-199.
  9. Allen LH. How common is vitamin B-12 deficiency? Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89(2):693S-6S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2008.26947A.


Graham Morris

NatureMade Copywriter

Graham has a degree in film with a focus on screenwriting from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He enjoys learning new things and finding the best, most engaging way to communicate them to a wide audience. Graham appreciates simplicity in life and nutrition, and wants to find the easiest, no-stress ways to stay healthy.

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Sandra Zagorin, MS, RD

Science and Health Educator

As a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team, Sandra educates healthcare professionals and consumers on nutrition, supplements, and related health concerns. Prior to joining Pharmavite, Sandra worked as a clinical dietitian at University of Chicago Medicine in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Sandra received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Science, with minors in Spanish and Chemistry from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. She earned her Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from RUSH University in Chicago, IL. As part of her Master’s program, Sandra performed research on physical activity participation and correlates in urban Hispanic women.

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