In all my years working with people one on one or in a group, regardless of their current health situation, sex or age there is often one thing that people have in common goal-wise and it’s energy and their desire for more.
Who doesn’t want more energy?! I’ll have some if it’s going! When you ask someone how he or she is these days, the most common response I tend to hear is ‘tired, just SO tired’. This is where our reliance on caffeine and refined sugars or anything that gives us an energy pick me up kicks in, however this approach, however satisfying it is in the short term, will only be short lived and it will soon be followed by another dip or more likely a crash in energy. So how do you intrinsically produce more energy? What drives energy production and what interferes with or depletes our energy?
1. B Vitamins
Food is essential to not only nourish our bodies providing key nutrients and minerals to drive the hundreds of thousands of biochemical reactions in the body; it also supplies us with energy. Any food we eat is converted to energy, in the form of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) which is our body’s energy currency. I like to think of it as our battery and when we eat the right food, we’re being plugged into the mains and being recharged.
There are many nutrients involved in the body’s ability to produce ATP and without sufficient consumption of these, energy conversion can be slow, leaving us feeling tired and sluggish with even the smallest of tasks feeling like a total burden. The most important group of nutrients for the conversion of food into ATP is B vitamins. There are eight B vitamins in total (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12) and in their own unique way, they are all essential in the conversion of food to energy.
B vitamins can be found in abundance in our diet, if you’re aware of where to find them! Thiamine (B1) rich foods include lentils, nuts and seeds and pork. Riboflavin (B2) can be found in leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, almonds and eggs and Niacin (B2) rich foods include meat such as beef, chicken and fish. Some can also be found in quinoa, a gluten-free ‘grain’, which botanically is actually a seed.
This is why I LOVE smoothies in the morning as it starts your day off with an amazing level of B vitamins, especially if you add in spinach, kale and some kind of seed; I like ground flaxseeds, sunflower or chia best.
When vitamins are obtained through food they are easily absorbed and utilised because you are also consuming co-nutrients that assist with the uptake and absorption. You can also supplement with a good quality B-complex but make sure it’s made to pharmaceutical grade and offers competitive levles (no RDA levels on my watch).
So up all of the above if more energy is what you are after in life!
The old saying “you are what you eat” isn’t quite correct. The saying should read: “you are what you eat, absorb and assimilate”. There are so many factors that can affect the ability to digest and absorb the nutrients from food and the main ones include stress, caffeine and medications such as antibiotics. What and how you eat are also critical to your ability to absorb nutrients and obtain energy from food.
Fibre-rich containing foods such as fresh vegetables, oats and lentils help to slow the release of glucose into the blood – the result being your energy release is sustained. Real foods naturally contain more fibre, vitamins and minerals and thus provide better digestive system health as well as a slower release of energy.
Think of a piece of white bread when it’s cooked in a toaster, it burns readily – it does essentially the same in your body. I like to think of these processed foods as kindling – they light up quickly but they don’t give you much heat for long. You want slow, “coal” burning fuel – fat and protein are two slow burning fuels; complex carbohydrates such as oats and quinoa are also slow burning fuels.
Is feeling exhausted a constant for you? Iron deficiency isn’t uncommon and it can be such a simple correction to make with so many rewards just from a simple test from your GP! Without healthy red blood cells, your body can’t get enough oxygen round your body and to your extremities; the consequence of not having sufficient oxygen in the body is constant fatigue. This fatigue or exhaustion can affect everything from your ability to fight infections to your brain function.
Iron deficiency anaemia occurs frequently among women of childbearing age. It can be caused by not consuming enough iron rich foods, poor absorption of iron by the body, or loss of iron due to menstrual blood loss. I would 100% recommend getting your iron levels tested to determine your current status if you haven’t already, as it’s such an easy factor to rectify with correct supplementation!
4. Immune System
When your immune system is challenged and is fighting a virus or an infection, it zaps your body’s energy in an attempt to make your body safe again and rid itself of the virus/ infection. In order to do this, it pillages vital energy reserves from your energy bank which is energy that is unable to be spent on more positive things for your health like cellular regeneration which makes you feel sparkly, fresh and energised!
When you’re not feeling well, the tendency is to eat anything quick and easy but more often than not these foods will be bread, pasta or anything sugar-filled but unfortunately these contain little or no nourishment so don’t quicken the healing process, intact – they hinder it. So, if you’re feeling under the weather, remember that when your body is fighting an infection it is in extra need of nutritional support, in particularl vitamin C and zinc. Include as much fresh whole foods as possible to get these vital vitamins and minerals in, smoothies, stews and soups are such an amazing way of getting these in but it may also be beneficial to add a supplement.
5. Build muscle
This fifth point of muscle building and resistance training is particularly imporant for women as they age as from 30 onwards, unless we build muscle or resistance training into our exercise schedule, we lose precious muscle mass. The best types of exercise to strenghen and build precius muscle reserves involve using either your own body weight such as yoga and pilates or weight training using kettle bells or dumbbells (or lots of grocery shopping)! These types of exercises will actively support your posture, bone health and your ability to feel energised.
As well as the already mentioned benefits of strength training, resistance training also has beneficial effects on our hormones and increases levels of growth hormone and testosterone for both men and women. The more muscle you own, the more energy-producing mitochondria will be in your cells – and that means you’ll have a higher metabolic rate, which assists with the burning of body fat.
6. Open loops/tabs
When you have multiple tabs running on your smart phone or computer from your spreadsheets, documents, photo editing program, music and general updates, the battery on your device will deplete much quicker and it will function at an all round much slower pace. Our bodies function in the same way. The more open loops we have in our lives with emails we haven’t replied to or people we haven’t got back to, more valuable headspace it takes up and the bigger the drain on your mind power and energy.
Over the weeks, months and years, all these unresolved, semi-finished tasks and situations add up and it feels as if you’re walking around each day with so many tabs open that you never feel like you’ve got it all handled. How can you close your tabs? Having a mental detox can be so worthwhile, especially if you want to free up some headspace.
Top tip: Write a list of everything that you have to do and I mean everything from the laundry, tidying the house, having a house Spring clean, calling up your gran for a long overdue catch up, buying a new set of tights if your current pairs have holes in, flights that need booking for your next weekend away ….. write down everything so there’s not a single to do whirling around in your head. It is SO satisfying.
Which point did you resonate the most with from the above? Share your comment below….
All the healthy best,