I’m all about improving my energy levels this month!
As I mentioned earlier in the week having started reading The Happiness Project I’m taking a few leaves out of the book and first up for the month of February is to improve my energy while at the same time making the most of my time.
It’s not that I feel particularly overwhelmed or lethargic but I do occasionally succumb to a mid week slump, the incomplete to do list and the feeling that I’m running around trying to catch my tail more times than I’d deem preferable!
I also hit up the gym six days out of seven and aside from using Sunwarrior Vanilla Protein I haven’t been supplementing my body (aside from extra calories) with any additional energy boosting foods or alternatives over the past 3 – 4 months. Previously I had been utilising BSN Branch Chain Aminos pre or post workout which at the time I felt made a huge difference in terms of muscle fatigue and recovery. So why did I stop? I wanted to go the purely wholefood route! My attention has been drawn back to increasing my energy via food, rest and play as a result of having started reading The Happiness Project and completely by chance Energy Bits sent me a sample of their 100% spirulina Energy Bits to try out last week which got me to thinking….and experimenting a little!
I’ll get back to them in a few minutes but first I want to look at food and energy, the natural energy boosters and vital nutrients for optimum energy conversion and utilisation.
The Vital Nutrients
There are a whole host of nutrients necessary for energy conversion and utilisation in the body. People seeking an energy boost have a tendency to look to the short term solution, depending on stimulants and other quick fixes in supplement form. By ensuring you have a balanced healthy diet rich in vitamins, minerals, essential fats and slow releasing carbohydrates you can achieve peak energy over the long term!
The B Vitamins namely B6, B3, B5 and B12 as well as Vitamin C, Iron, Magnesium, Copper all play a vital roll in energy synthesis within the body.
Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are required to produce adrenalin hormones and insulin among other things.
The adrenalin hormone regulates the regulates how the body converts fats, proteins and carbohydrates to energy; insulin is the key that unlocks your body cells so that glucose (blood sugar) can get inside and be used for energy.
Green vegetables particularly green leafy vegetables are a great source of long lasting energy owing to them being high in fibre as well as a key and abundant source of vitamins and minerals.Particularly for women green vegetables should be key component to the diet as they are more prone to iron deficiency which contributes significantly to low energy levels.
I eat a monumental amount of kale on a pretty much daily basis as well as spinach, and broccoli!
Fatty acids (essential fats which you can find out more about here in a previous post) are broken down in the liver in to free fatty acids and monoglycerides; the oxidation that occurs during the process causes energy to be released. In fact, fatty acids actually provide twice as much energy as carbohydrates or proteins.
Essential fatty acids are used when the body has used up it’s stores of glucose for energy; and there is no new food source to break down.
Wholegrains are broken down more slowly in the body owing to their high fibre content. They provide you with a steady release of energy helping to keep blood sugar levels on an even keel as opposed to you having to deal with steep inclines and subsequent declines throughout the day. Good choices include quinoa, oats, brown rice, buckwheat, and amaranth.
Packed full of antioxidants these powerful little berries are hailed a superfood for good reason! They have cited to improve energy levels and overall general sense of well being as well as enhanced calm and improved sleep! I buy them occasionally but don’t make enough use of them.
Notably rich in Vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene) as well as Vitamin C. I can’t personally vouch for their energising ability but I will definitely be testing out the theory
One of the most nutritionally rich seeds, they contain significant amounts of zinc which is vital for the digestion and utilisation of protein in the body (along with B6). It is vital for creating insulin which controls the metabolism of carbohydrate and fat in the body (and subsequently energy levels and how they are maintained or fluctuate).
They’re also one of the top sources of magnesium which plays a vital role in the conversion of glucose within the cells to energy as well as the end result of turning fuel into energy – nerve and muscle transmission.
I’m a big fan and love adding them to oats, sprinkling them on top of yoghurt bowls, pasta, salads or just grabbing a handful!
Seen as 66% of the body is made up of water is no wonder that being hydrated can leave you feeling a bit lethargic! When you don’t consume enough water your likely to feel light headed, suffer from constipation and may even experience confusion as well as feeling a false sense of hunger.
Muscles are actually 75% water and therefore need to be refuelled! Eating plenty of carbohydrates (stored as glycogen) prior to exercise will also help build up a store of water in the body which will inevitably be lost as sweat during exertion. This is because each glycogen is bound to nine units of water! As the glycogen is released so too is the water.
I know myself I feel like I loose bucket loads when I do any form of cardio and so make sure to top up during and after. It’s thought that for every pound of body weight is it thought that you need to refuel with 1 pint of water (near on 500ml or half a litre).
Spirulina (& Energy Bits)
This fresh water blue green algae has been cited as natures energy drink. I bought a bag of spirulina powder a good month ago which remains unopened; I planned on adding it to smoothies but it hasn’t been smoothie making weather of late and so it remains sitting on the shelf for a warmer day!
It’s energy providing capabilities I would suggest are down to it’s high iron content primarily as well as it being a good source of B Vitamins.
The algae is also over 60% protein providing a rich source of energy to the body when it’s feeling fatigued. The protein in spirulina is already in amino acid form meaning your body doesn’t need to work to break it down.
A couple of weeks back I was sent a sample of Spirulina tablets from Energy Bits in the U.S which are 100% spirulina – you can find out more about them here. So far I haven’t gotten further than to take 12 before a spin class. I made the amateur mistake of going for the chewing option on my first one….not a good option. Taking the following 11 was that bit harder due to the intense algae taste in my mouth.
The Energy Bits are definitely a great alternative to the powder, handy to carry around and quick to consume without the spirulina having to taint your food. I need to give them more of a shot; I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!
Stressors and Stimulants – Energy Consumers
Stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol as well as any stress we put on the body robs us of the energy we need. The false energy surge tends not to last that long and leaves us along with our energy reserves. The energy is diverted from it’s normal repair and maintenance jobs when you’re under stress and also when you’re digesting food. Our glands are put under pressure to produce and release hormones in order to control blood sugar that you don’t need.
The result is dip or what’s commonly known as the blood sugar blues which leads to the vicious cycle of people turning to more stimulants in order to regain control. Living like this consistently will lead to true adrenal exhaustion as well as leaving you feeling decidedly up and down in terms of your energy levels, becoming more prone to falling ill as well as creating and exacerbating far reaching serious health problems.
- Reduce and strictly limit your caffeine intake
- Avoid alcohol
- Avoid white flour and related products (these also wreak havoc with blood sugar) – processed foods that made predominantly of white flour and/or contain large amounts of pure sugar!
On a final note don’t discount the importance of a good nights sleep! I’m like a demon these days if I don’t get my eight hours!