Maximize Your Energy, Naturally
Sam Rose, CN MS
Be honest with yourself. Is
your overall energy everything you want it to be? If you’re like most folks, it
isn’t. Energy, or more accurately the lack of it, is the #1 reason people
consult with me at my nutritional counseling center. For some, the issue may be
nothing more than a slight energetic dip (and an accompanying craving for
something sweet or caffeinated) every afternoon. For others, the energy deficit
can be so severe that leading a normal life is virtually impossible. Regardless
of your current position on the energy continuum, getting the most out of life
and making the most of your life is dependent on maximizing your physical and
mental energy. Put another way, to be your best you have to feel your best. Now
that might sound a bit obvious and even trite. But what isn’t obvious to most
folks is just how one goes about building that kind of energy - healthfully,
naturally and safely.
Your first step is to
recognize and then eliminate everything in your daily routine that depletes
your energy. For most of us, overwork, excess stress, a lack of sleep,
insufficient exercise and, most notably, a poor diet are the usual suspects.
Take a look at the overall pattern of your life and see if any of them are a
problem for you. Counterbalancing work with play and getting enough rest and
exercise are real challenges for many that are driven to succeed. But keep in
mind, they are prerequisites for building the kind of energy you’ll need to
successfully compete, regardless of your line of work.
If you’re overweight take the
weight off. Carrying around an extra 10-15 lbs. is equivalent to wearing a
sack of potatoes on your shoulders. It also makes it harder for your body
to generate and access energy. If you smoke, quit and avoid those who do.
Carbon monoxide in cigarettes goes straight to the bloodstream and occupies
the receptor sites on red blood cells that would otherwise be carrying oxygen.
Fifty minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times a week will not only
burn off any excess weight it will ensure delivery of the oxygen your cells
need to keep you energized.
Coffee and sugar are used by
the vast majority of adult Americans as a morning jumpstart or to prop
themselves up every afternoon as their energy flags. Although these stimulants
provide a temporary lift, they put a tremendous strain on your body’s energy
production system and in the long run just make you more tired. If coffee and
sugar are a regular part of your diet, chances are you’ve become addicted to
them. Kicking the stimulant habit cold turkey is not recommended. Instead,
consume less and less over the course of a few weeks until you can eliminate
them completely without suffering symptoms of withdrawal.
Many of us consider sleep
a nuisance and have a hard time getting to bed at a decent hour. Far from
a waste of your time, sleep is one of the most important keys to building
optimum energy. For most of us that means 7-8 hours, and some people need
even more. Feeling energetic during the day is dependent on getting enough
down time at night to recharge. Regeneration and repair of tissues, the production
of hormones, waste removal at the cellular level and the neutralization of
energy - stealing free radicals are all accomplished at night while we sleep.
If you can’t get up without an alarm, you’re not sleeping enough. To find
the amount that’s right for you, try getting to bed 15 minutes earlier each
night until you are able to wake before the alarm.
The human body is a high tech
biochemical machine capable of generating all the energy you need, if you put
in the right fuel. What kind of fuel are you putting into yours? Canned,
processed and refined foods that are the staple of the average American’s diet
have a fraction of the nutrients required for optimum performance. It’s ironic
that the fast food habits we’ve developed for efficiency’s sake have all but
made it impossible for us to thrive in today’s high-speed society. If you get
most of your meals out of boxes, cans or drive-through restaurant windows it’s
time for a change. Stop eating fast food and you’ll be eliminating refined,
processed, fatty, fried and sugary non-foods that have no nutrient value or
energy to give you.
Your body was engineered to
run on a mix of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. The right
amount of each can vary from person to person. In general 60-65% of your diet
should come from complex carbohydrates (vegetables, grains and beans), 5-10%
from simple carbohydrates (fresh fruit), 20-25% from animal or vegetable
proteins (chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, raw nuts, seeds, sprouts, peas, beans,
soy, tofu, avocado, etc.) and 10-15% from healthy fats (olive, canola,
Circadian rhythms define the
ebb and flow of energy through the various organs and systems of your body
during the day. Eating according to these rhythms is one of the best ways to
conserve and generate energy. Digestion takes up to 10 times more energy than
any other internal process. By reconfiguring your pattern of eating you can
take a tremendous load off of your digestion system and free up a significant
amount of energy that becomes available for other internal and external activities.
In the morning your body is
more interested in eliminating metabolic debris than it is in digestion. For
maximum energy, breakfast should satisfy three criteria. It should be easily
digested, promote cleansing and be stabilizing to your blood sugar. A protein
shake does all these things. You can buy egg white, whey or soy protein powders
at the health food store. Blend your choice with 8 oz of soy, rice or almond
milk for a breakfast that gets you started on the right track.
If, after making all the
adjustments above, fatigue continues to be a problem there’s a good chance
you’ve developed an intolerance, sensitivity or allergy to some of the foods
you eat all the time. These reactions to food are among the most common causes
of fatigue as well as the most overlooked. A relatively expensive blood test
called the IgG Elisa can be valuable here but it’s not the only way to trouble
shoot this problem. Any foods you eat every day, especially those you crave,
are the prime suspects. Keep a food diary for a few days. Note the ones that
show up every day. Then remove all of these for two weeks. If your energy
improves, one or more are a problem for you. Once your fatigue has disappeared
try reintroducing the foods you have removed, one at a time every two days, to
find the culprit(s) and continue to avoid them.
Sam Rose, CN MS is a licensed and certified nutritionist
and owner of Rose Nutrition Center in West Los Angeles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310-473-8835.