By Frank Lipman, MD.
Energy allows you to enjoy the pleasures of life whether it's children and grandchildren, travel, sports, or personal hobbies. Without it, life can be a spectator sport.
Lasting energy comes from a healthy, active, well-nourished body. No matter what your age, you play a major role in creating your own health destiny. Your habits—the way you eat, move, and relate to yourself and others—help determine what level of health you’ll enjoy, and how much energy you’ll have.
The Body’s Primary Fuel Source
Real food is engineered by nature to be the perfect fuel that drives every body function, from immune support to energy production. Yet in today’s fast-paced world, real foods have been upstaged by foods of convenience, which have become the culprits of disease and fatigue. The difference between fake and real foods is like the difference between a paper fire and a wood-burning fire. Paper or fake foods ignite and burn in a flash; wood or real foods burn for hours, providing long-lasting warmth and energy.
Diets loaded with high-sugar snacks, trans fatty acids, preservatives, additives, and convenience foods are a recipe for low-energy because there is no real food for fuel. The body is designed to run on a combination of proteins, complex carbohydrates, and fats that together contain enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. It is this kind of diet that gives your body lasting energy.
Straight from Nature’s Kitchen
The foods that nature offers are key to combating fatigue, and are important to a well-balanced diet.
- Consume complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Also add roots and fermented foods to your diet.
- Consume high-quality proteins including lean meat, seafood, and legumes. Buy the organic meat, poultry, and dairy products. Beef is naturally lean and much healthier for you if it’s grass-fed and hormone-free. You may want to eat more dark meat since it’s more metabolically active, and more likely to enhance energy levels than white meat.
- Cold-water, wild fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fats, which improve energy by helping boost metabolism.
- Avocados, nuts such as walnuts, seeds such as pumpkin and flax, and olives are sources of fuel and energy-boosting essential fatty acids. If dieting, eat these foods accordingly.
Supplements can play a big role in building your natural energy supply and supporting your overall health.
- Always take a good quality daily multivitamin/mineral and antioxidant.
- Have your hormone levels tested if you’re over 40—they might answer some of your energy questions.
- Start with protein, Siberian ginseng, and acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC), and add to them as desired after a month.
A protein shake of whey, milk, egg, or soy proteins, is a great way to start your morning. Protein reduces fluctuations in blood glucose levels and provides a steady fuel supply to the body. A morning favorite of mine is an organic protein smoothie.
Eleuthero root (a.k.a. Siberian ginseng) keeps you calm, cool, and raring to go. It increases the oxygenation of cells, normalizes blood sugar levels, supports the endocrine system, fortifies the adrenal glands, and enhances intellectual performance. Unlike true ginsengs, Eleuthero can be taken daily for long periods of time. To boost energy, I recommend 200–400 mg per day.
ALC improves energy, alertness, and mood within an hour or two of ingestion. It plays an important role in energy metabolism in the cell mitochondria—the body’s biochemical power generators. I recommend
250 mg one or three times a day.
- Carnitine fumarate is also good for total body energy production. I recommend 200–500 mg one or three times a day.
- Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is an excellent free-radical scavenger and also stimulates the production of glutathione, which helps to support energy, and is the body’s most important and abundant antioxidant. I recommend supplementing with 100 mg per day.
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an enzyme essential to cellular energy production. CoQ10 helps improve the body’s use of oxygen and prevents free-radical damage. I recommend 10–30 mg two to three times per day.
- Supplements that support the adrenal function can help you better withstand the effects of stress, recover your internal energy balance, and allow you to create energy reserves. I’m fond of products such as Enzymatic Therapy’s Adrenal Cortex Complex or Adrenal Glandular Plus by Ethical Nutrients for optimum energy production. They are available in health food stores.
- As the body ages, production of thyroid hormones diminishes, causing fatigue, weight gain, low libido, and a host of other conditions. Supplementing with thyroid hormones can help restore peak functioning. Life Enhancement makes a good product called Thyroplex, available in health food stores. Take on an empty stomach.
Relief from Stress
Although poor diet and lack of proper supplementation are often the biggest drains on your natural energy supply, conflict and stress play a debilitating role as well. Even perceived stress can affect your body, depleting your energy, and compromising your overall health.
Stress triggers production of the hormone cortisol which compromises your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections and fatigue. The good news is there are several ways you can learn to control energy-zapping stress hormones.
- Make time for yourself. Each day set aside 15 to 20 minutes just for you. Nourish, protect, and cherish yourself and your time.
- Meditate. Daily meditation provides time to quiet your mind and identify things that might be bothering you. A daily "time out" for inward focus may help to ferret out those worries before they become energy busters.
- Learn to breathe deeper. Nothing beats deep-belly breathing for increased energy. Practice the natural way to breathe—deep into your body through your nose, with your belly moving in and out.
- Visualize harmony. You can control which emotion dominates your thoughts by simply visualizing a more serene environment.
Play, Move, and Laugh
- Enjoy the energizing benefits of movement without killing yourself at the gym by doing one simple thing: Find an activity you love that involves movement. It should be fun. People who stick to an exercise routine have one factor in common: enjoyment. Every day, find a way to play, to move, to laugh—and feel the energy surge back into your veins.
- Get quality sleep, it can change your waking hours in amazing ways. The body uses long rest periods to repair the damage done during the day. When you cheat sleep, your body is unable to complete its repairs.
Settle down to rest in a completely dark, quiet room. A comfortable mattress is key. Try to eliminate any other distractions that might interfere with restful sleep. Keep a bottle of water by your bed to minimize your need to get out of bed if you get thirsty. If you do have to get up during the night, try not don't turn on any bright lights.
Author Frank Lipman is board certified in internal medicine, having served as Chief Medical Resident at Lincoln Hospital in New York City. Dr. Lipman has also studied acupuncture, Chinese medicine, nutrition, biofeedback, meditation, yoga, and functional medicine.
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