Natural Tips for More Energy
Trisha Sugarek MacDonald, BS, MS, a supplement educator who specializes in research and development, tells which natural remedies are best for boosting energy levels, including nutrient deficiencies associated with fatigue.
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Why are so many of us going through life feeling tired all the time?
Fatigue is actually a complicated and diverse set of symptoms with many possible causes, including poor sleep, nutrient deficiencies, excessive alcohol consumption, and most importantly, stress. Identifying the underlying reasons for feeling sluggish is the key to choosing which vitamins and supplements will help you feel more energized and motivated to achieve your health goals.
Are there certain nutrient deficiencies that are to blame for chronic fatigue?
A high percentage of adults in the U.S. eat less than the minimum daily allowance of many essential vitamins and minerals. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2011, for example, found that even when including vitamin intake from supplements and fortified foods, 97 percent of Americans don’t get enough potassium, 65 percent don’t get enough vitamin K, 60 percent don’t get enough vitamin E, 70 percent don’t get enough vitamin D, and around 30 percent don’t get enough vitamins A and C.
Nutrient deficiencies are among the causes of low energy and fatigue because they slow energy production inside cells. This can result in excessive tiredness and lack of energy as well as many other symptoms. Here are three of the most important nutrients related to fatigue:
- B vitamins are necessary for converting food into energy, and deficiencies in these nutrients can impact your ability to synthesize adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body’s energy currency. Without ample ATP, you may feel tired, burned out, and sluggish.
- Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in more than 300 metabolic processes in the body, including energy production. Magnesium is required to form and store the energy molecule ATP. Magnesium deficiency impairs the energy production pathway required by mitochondria to generate ATP.
- Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, selenium, and CoQ10, are chemical compounds that neutralize free radicals by preventing oxygen from reacting with other compounds. Like the B vitamins, antioxidants are involved in the process of mitochondrial energy production.
- CoQ10 in its reduced, active form Ubiquinol is actually responsible for 95 percent of the body’s energy production, making it an amazing energy booster. In fact, most people who take Ubiquinol report a long-term boost in energy levels. Plus, unlike caffeine or sugar, which act on your brain, Ubiquinol acts within your cells to naturally increase energy levels. Caffeine and other stimulants provide temporary solutions to a lack of energy, and when the stimulant is processed out of your system, you often go back to feeling tired.
“CoQ10 in its reduced, active form Ubiquinol is actually responsible for 95 percent of the body’s energy production, making it an amazing energy booster.”
What are the best natural energy aids out there?
Here are my favorites:
1. Amino Acids
Arginine, taurine, and tyrosine can be produced by the body, but you also might need to obtain them from diet under certain conditions (e.g., during strenuous exercise). Arginine aids in the production of nitric oxide, which helps to relax the blood vessels to increase blood flow throughout the body, allowing more oxygen to reach the heart, brain, and muscles. Tyrosine is the precursor of several neurotransmitters, including L-dopa, dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, which help to regulate mood, increase energy levels, and sharpen mental acuity. When taurine is combined with caffeine, it has been shown to reduce sleepiness and improve reaction time in people who are sleep-deprived.
Lysine must be acquired in the diet and has been shown to normalize hormonal stress response in humans. This improves anxiety levels by increasing serotonin and/or lessening plasma cortisol in response to physical or chronic mental stress. Lysine is important for the synthesis of carnitine, which is required for converting fatty acids into energy.
Beta-alanine, citrulline, and theanine are naturally produced in the body but can still be beneficial when supplemented. Beta-alanine aids in the production of carnosine, a compound that plays a role in endurance and stamina. Citrulline is converted to arginine, which, as mentioned above, aids in the production of nitric oxide. It has also been shown to help reduce fatigue and improve endurance for both aerobic and anaerobic prolonged exercise. Theanine transmits nerve impulses in the brain, producing alpha waves that support a calming response in the body.
Learn more about amino acids with our Amino Acid Primer.
Electrolytes play many essential roles in the body. Regarding energy, it is important to maintain adequate levels of electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, because a lack of these minerals can cause the body to feel rundown and sluggish.
Some herbs, such as green tea, cocoa bean, green coffee bean, and yerba mate, serve as natural sources of caffeine to help fight fatigue and improve mental alertness. Research suggests that drinking caffeinated beverages throughout the day keeps the mind attentive—as long as they contain responsible levels of caffeine. Consuming caffeinated beverages has also been shown to increase physical strength and endurance, and to delay exhaustion. Caffeine is thought to stimulate the central nervous system, heart, and muscles by increasing the release of certain chemical messengers in the brain called neurotransmitters, as well as increasing circulation and blood flow. It is one of the most studied ergogenic ingredients in the world for reducing fatigue.
Lastly, what do you suggest for afternoon energy slumps?
I personally have found the key to staying energized throughout the day, and it is so simple, you will kick yourself for not thinking of it first—water.
I’ve started drinking 1 gallon of water a day for the past 35 days—that’s 128 oz. daily and, yes, it keeps you in tip-top condition. This is because staying hydrated is incredibly important for maintaining energy levels and beating the afternoon slump. Dehydration causes fatigue and has a direct impact on the function of your brain. Even being just 1 percent dehydrated results in a 5 percent decrease in brain function according to some studies.
All cellular activity relies on water to work efficiently, so drinking enough will benefit your whole body. Drink at least 8 glasses per day, and consider opting for alkalized water for maximum impact. Plus, I guarantee, you will also lose 5–10 lbs. in about 2 weeks.
Do You Need Extra Iron?
Iron is an essential mineral that helps oxygen circulate throughout the body. It is also necessary for the body’s cells to function and develop properly. Iron deficiency is the primary cause of anemia, which can impair cognitive abilities, decrease immunity, negatively impact work performance—and leave you feeling tired.
Meat and seafood are excellent sources of dietary iron. If you’re vegetarian, then nuts, beans, lentils, spinach, and fortified grain products are some go-to foods for iron. If necessary, iron supplements will help maintain proper levels of the essential mineral, but be mindful that iron supplements can cause severe side effects when taken in excess. Make sure to consult with your doctor before supplementing with iron.
Iron is especially important for women who experience heavy menstrual cycles, or for pregnant women because of iron’s importance for fetal development. For a gentle, nonconstipating form of iron, try chelated iron.