Tired of Being Tired? Optimise Your Energy
On a daily basis I hear people complain about their lack of energy and how it can have a detrimental effect on their productivity and well-being. Having good energy is so important to being able to feel our best and accomplish what we want. As the days get shorter and colder we often find that we are lower in energy. In this blog I am going to highlight some areas you may want to consider when it comes to supporting optimal energy.
Our nutrient status is so important when it comes to energy. We need to ensure we are not only getting the nutrients we need from our diet but also absorbing them. For example, iron is essential in the creation of energy and is needed by our energy producing cells, the mitochondria. Iron is low in so many people due to many reasons, including an inability to absorb it from lack of stomach acid (which happens when we are perpetually stressed or from infection), heavy periods, or not eating enough iron rich foods. Iron is also required by our thyroid. If we don’t get enough iron it can negatively impact thyroid hormone production which has the effect of slowing bodily functions as we have a thyroid receptor on every single one of our cells. One of the first signs of hypothyroidism could be low energy, low mood or low motivation. If you are struggling with energy I would suggest having these markers tested (iron and thyroid) along with B12, Vitamin D and HbA1c.
The saying used to be “you are what you eat,’ however “you are what you absorb” is more accurate as you want to be eating a great diet whilst absorbing the nutrients from it too. In order to eat and absorb your food well, you need to be in the parasympathetic state, which is also known as rest and digest. If you are feeling stressed out, you are in a sympathetic state and your body prioritises sending blood to the skeletal muscle to allow for maximum effort to be exerted to help you run away from the perceived stressor. It cannot differentiate whether you are stressed from rushing, being stuck in traffic or actually running away from a tiger, so it will prioritise your life and shut off digestion and any non-essential tasks that may prevent you running for your life. Mindful Eating allows your body back to a parasympathetic state. It can be very powerful in supporting our digestive processes and helping our bodies to extract more nutrients from the food that we eat, helping support energy production. The act of mindful eating helps increase stomach acid to break down protein and increases digestive juices to break down carbohydrates for energy. Here are a few mindful eating tips you can try next time you sit down to a meal:
- Do not use electronics when you eat. Concentrate on your food.
- Take a couple of deep breaths with a longer exhale than inhale. This helps calm the nervous system and supports rest and digest. A popular method is the 4-7-8 breathing technique where you breathe in for 4, hold for 7 and breathe out for 8. Doing this just 3 times is very powerful in calming the nervous system.
- Look at your food and smell your food. This increases saliva. You have digestive enzymes in saliva that help you break down food better.
- Chew eat mouthful at least 15-25 times to help break down the food. Remember, your stomach doesn't have teeth.
To support energy we also want to support balanced blood sugar levels. Whenever we eat, as the food gets broken down, the sugars from the meal will get released into the bloodstream. Our hormone insulin will then be triggered to take this sugar and transport it to the cells to give us energy. The problem arises when the meals we eat are not balanced correctly with protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates but instead contain simple carbohydrates like: plain pasta, plain porridge, bread etc. When we eat a carbohydrate only meal our blood sugar levels will rise higher than we need and trigger high amounts of insulin to be released to lower sugar in the bloodstream. This has the effect of lowering blood sugar levels too low, initiating what is known as the blood sugar roller coaster. This can manifest as: energy crashes, hanger, irritability, nausea, dizziness, brain fog, exhaustion and difficulty concentrating, to name a few.
Thankfully there are many ways we can support healthy blood sugar levels, including:
1. Making sure each meal contains protein, fat and fibre and not just carbohydrates to slow down the release of sugar into the blood stream giving us sustained energy.
2. For those of you who drink coffee, try including it after a meal. I also like to add some True Collagen and True MCT Oil to my coffee to make it more blood sugar balanced. The collagen and MCT give it added protein and healthy fats.
3. Taking care of your adrenal glands is so important for good energy production and one simple way to support this is to ensure we are eating every 3.5-4 hours. If we don’t eat after 4 hours our adrenal glands will have to release cortisol which then triggers glucose to be released into the blood stream to maintain our blood sugar. This can put extra pressure on your adrenals and affect energy levels.
4. Eat your meals mindfully. This will allow you to produce more digestive enzymes and extract more nutrients from your food which can be used for better energy production.
5. Include fermented foods with your meals. Foods like yoghurt, kefir, kimchi and saurkraut. Fermented foods contain both probiotics and enzymes. Probiotic foods can help with energy and the digestive enzymes within these foods can help break down our meals better rendering nutrients more absorbable.
Many people focus on staying hydrated during the summer months when the days are warm. However, as the days get colder and the heating goes on this can be dehydrating for the body and in turn, make us feel more tired. Even being just slightly dehydrated can cause headaches and fatigue. Water also supports the natural detoxification processes within your blood, lymph, cells and digestion, allowing the metabolic waste products which can cause further fatigue to move through and out of your system. To support optimal hydration for increased energy monitor your fluid intake. Some people find it tough to drink plain water, especially when it's cold outside, so it's worth remembering that herbal teas also count towards your intake, use them regularly throughout the day and rotate the choice of tea as a great way to include additional 'plant points' and phytonutrients which also support your gut microbiome. I also love having True Hydration upon waking to rehydrate after a night's sleep.
Getting outside can be a powerful tool in helping support our energy. Oxygen is essential for energy production and is required by our energy producing cells, the mitochondria. Just a slight decrease in oxygen can negatively affect the brain and energy levels. Fresh air can help deter this. If you are unable to get outside, open the windows and make sure to ventilate your room. Being outdoors has also been shown to increase both heart rate and energy, whilst lowering stress and helping the brain to produce endorphins. Furthermore, light can help us regulate our circadian rhythms, and therefore trying to get morning and evening light can be so helpful in supporting our sleep wake cycle and have a positive impact on energy.