Fatigue and low energy … we all know the feeling a little too well these days. The struggle to get out of bed, get moving, get your work done, get to the gym, play with your kids, meet up with friends … it’s easy to blame yourself for feeling overwhelmed. And for some people, the struggle with crushing fatigue is constant.
The thing is, if you’re not properly supporting the body nutritionally, then you are going to suffer from low energy. It’s simple science! The body requires energy to produce energy. And this doesn’t mean that you should chug another energy drink. The body requires a very specific set of nutrients to thrive.
So, a lack of these nutrients can really make an impact on your “get-up-and-go.”
Perhaps it’s time to look at your vitamin and mineral intake. Because even if you think you’re eating well, you may still be “undernourished.”
A Malnourished Population?
According to a study by the Journal of Nutrition, Americans are critically low in many key vitamins. Researchers found that among 16,000 people 97 percent didn’t get enough potassium, 65 percent didn’t get enough vitamin K, 60 percent didn’t get enough vitamin E, 70 percent weren’t getting enough vitamin D, 45 percent didn’t get enough magnesium, and about 30 percent were deficient in vitamins A and C. Those are some extraordinary stats!1
The problem is that many vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) aren’t actually produced naturally in the body, so you MUST get them from your diet.2
How Do Nutrient Deficiencies Affect Energy Levels?
Well, micronutrients play a key role in helping the body to produce enzymes, hormones, and other substances that are essential for energy production, cell maintenance, immune function and recovery from illness. A lack of these micronutrients slows energy production within your cells, resulting in low energy 3
There are three nutrients, in particular, that you might want to assess if you are suffering from fatigue or low energy.
Let’s take a look at them:
Magnesium is an important mineral that’s easily found in food. Because magnesium is a key component in chlorophyll. And chlorophyll gives plants their green pigment. So you’ll find rich levels of magnesium in green, leafy veggies. Nuts are also a great source of magnesium, and you can also find this mineral (to a lesser extent) in green bananas and meat – especially wild-caught mackerel fish.4
Magnesium is involved in more than 300 metabolic reactions, with one of the big ones being energy production. When we metabolize our food, carbs and fats require magnesium-dependent chemical reactions to become energy. In fact, the molecule “ATP,” which transports energy within our cells, must be bound to a magnesium ion in order to be “biologically energetic.”5
So, your body needs that magnesium for energy.
How To Get More Magnesium:
Are you eating enough leafy green veggies? How about adding a handful of macadamias, walnuts, pistachios, or pecans to your day? The Gundry-approved seed, millet, is also a great source of magnesium.6
You may also be low in magnesium if you suffer from gastrointestinal or renal disorders, alcoholism, or if you are elderly. Talk to your doctor about an adequate supplement if this is the case.
2. B Vitamins
The B vitamin family includes the vitamins thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), vitamin B6, folate (B9), and vitamin B12.
B vitamins are found almost everywhere in our food sources, including in leafy green vegetables, nuts, fruits, meat, and dairy.
Collectively, these nutrients are very important for brain function and energy production. One or more of each B vitamin is involved in every aspect of generating energy within cells. And a deficiency in even one of these can have negative consequences for this energy process.7
How To Get More B Vitamins:
Folate (B9) is easily found in fruits and vegetables; vitamin B6 in pastured poultry, wild caught fish, and dark leafy greens; while vitamin B12 is found commonly in animal products, like wild-caught fish, pastured poultry, grass-fed meat, and omega-3 eggs.8 Thiamine (B1) exists in grass-fed beef, nuts, and omega-3 eggs.9
Milk and dairy are the richest sources of riboflavin (B2), but mushrooms, spinach, and meats also put in a good showing.10 Niacin (B3) can be found in mushrooms, asparagus, wild-caught tuna and salmon, and sea vegetables.11
While, pantothenic acid (B5) gets its name from the Greek “pantos”, meaning “everywhere,” because it’s literally everywhere you turn – mushrooms, nuts, green vegetables, egg yolks, liver, and salmon, for example.12
Polyphenols have become a bit of a health and wellness buzzword, and beyond the hype, they’re still impressive.
The body’s cells are under constant threat, whether from bacteria and viruses or from “free radicals.” Free radicals are a natural byproduct of chemical reactions in the body, including those that turn your food into energy. Yet they’re capable of damaging cells and causing disease. They can even change your DNA!13
But your body is a pretty smart machine. It makes plenty of molecules to fight free radicals, while also pulling more warriors from your food. These food molecules are what have been come to be known as antioxidants.
There are an incredible number of substances that can act as antioxidants, but some of these, like vitamin C, vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, polyphenols, and the mineral selenium, are specifically needed to help support energy production in cells.14
You need to get plenty of beneficial polyphenols from your food. They help fight cell-damaging free radicals, and they may also help your body fight fatigue.15,16
How To Get More Polyphenols (and other antioxidants):
Polyphenols are found in in-season fruits like avocado, and especially berries (blueberries, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries). Veggies high in polyphenols include olives, Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, red onions, spinach, and broccoli. Not to mention green tea and red wine.
Look for vitamin C in fruits like citrus, and strawberries (when in-season), as well as broccoli and kale. Vitamin E can be found in almonds, sweet potatoes, avocados, and olive oil.17 Selenium-rich foods include mushrooms, oysters, pasture-raised chicken, and omega-3 eggs, with Gundry-approved Brazil nuts providing the biggest punch.18
Finally, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is found in organ meats like the liver, kidney, and heart, as well as in grass-fed beef, wild-caught sardines, and mackerel. Non-meat eaters should indulge in spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower for a CoQ10 boost.19
Rev It Up
The double-edged sword is this: when you’re feeling fatigued, you’re probably so tired that you’re not eating properly. But when you don’t eat a well-balanced diet, you will only become more fatigued.
Day-to-day stress can also contribute to low energy, but likewise, you’re probably not likely to eat a well-balanced diet when you’re feeling stressed.
The bottom line is …
Nourish your body no matter how you’re feeling, because (good) food is fuel.
Finally, if you’re still concerned about persistent fatigue, visit your doctor, as your thyroid could be to blame. Your thyroid controls your metabolism – which is how your body converts food into energy.