Modern man has gone from a naked ape to a knackered ape. A recent survey of people in Britain gave the single most common health problem as tiredness. The result showed 81% had a low energy level. The older the participant the more energy levels were an issue and this appears to be culturally accepted as the norm. So what’s gone wrong and what should you expect and how do you fix it?
The ability of our body to respond to everyday life is down to two factors- what we put in and how we use it. The fuel we use to deliver the energy requirements all comes from the food we eat & the liquid we drink. Not surprisingly therefore the changes in the quality of food and our consumption habits will directly dictate how we perform. The body uses stored resources in the muscles for short sprint activities (ATP & creatine phosphate) and for longer activities, glucose which is derived from the breakdown of digested carbohydrates. For high intensity activities such as marathon running the body will use protein for about 5 to 10% of the energy production.
For the most part few factors are more important for our health and how we feel than your blood sugar levels.
The interesting thing is as a norm, we have approximately 2 teaspoons of glucose in our 8 pints of blood and the body is normally well equipped to maintain the correct level for energy balances. However we have a tendency to give the process a bit of a challenge. For example a single Mars bar contains 15 teaspoons of glucose. Talk about a sugar rush. Nothing has a greater effect on our glucose levels than the stuff we eat, with some “fast-releasing” carbohydrates and others “slow-releasing”.
The body controls high levels of blood sugar by secreting insulin which sends the sugar to cells or stores it as fat- thus lowering the blood sugar level. Conversely, a fall in blood sugar prompts the release of the hormone glucagon which promotes the breakdown of glycogen in the liver and fat stores to make glucose for energy. The right balance is essential to maintain optimum energy levels and is easily disrupted by the food we eat- but is easily corrected in a healthy person.
The energy load for each individual is clearly dependent upon their demands. An Olympic 800m runner will have much the same demands as you but in a different form and for a different time profile. Their dietary management techniques will deliver optimum results much the same as you and I can achieve both done through careful use of food and supplements.
There are a few other factors which indirectly relate to how tired we feel.
A lack of sleep contributes to over 20% of problems. Try and get into a pre-sleep preparation mode – avoiding caffeine and alcohol late on, not eating late, listen to music (not Led Zeppelin) or read something soothing – all designed to induce a sleep pattern.
Personal circumstances can be an issue e.g. being pregnant can be quite a strain on energy levels and special care should be taken to nourish both mum and baby.
GI & GL
If you ask any nutritionist what is the biggest influences in our diet and how we feel the answer would be :- caffeinated drinks, followed by sugar and then refined foods. All these elements will produce a spike on the glucose load in the blood after absorption and ultimately give us the yo-yo of highs and lows of “get up and go” or “can’t be bothered to get up”. The measure of a food’s fast or slow release effect is measured on a scale called the Glycaemic Index (or GI). The higher the number, the quicker the release. e.g. glucose would be 100 on the scale. Of course the volume of food is also relevant and as such an alternative measure is the Glycaemic Load (or GL). ( GI related to volume).
What makes a food fast or slow release depends on the type of sugar in the food (e.g. fructose – fruit sugar- GI is only 20), in addition to the presence of fibre and protein – slows the release. That’s why it is better to eat brown rice, wholegrain breads and whole-wheat pasta than white- it’s a slower release pattern and less intrusive to the body control systems.
As a further twist to eating right, some grains are better than others for release of glucose and how they are processed makes a difference. Wheat in pasta has a lower GI than when turned into bread, cakes and pastry. The best bread is whole grain rye and of the grains oats is quite unique in that no matter what you do to it, it maintains it’s GI at a low level.
Most fruits contain slow release fructose; however banana, grape, pineapple and watermelon contain varying amounts of fast release glucose as well as fructose and will have a quicker effect on the energy release in the body.
Beyond the Basics
Almost invariably, if you cut out or drastically reduce refined sugar and caffeine and supplement with optimum levels of Vitamins B&C from a good quality multivitamin( which should also include zinc, iron and other minerals) you will be on the way to addressing energy shortfall.
Iron is well known as essential to deliver a good energy profile. The body doesn’t naturally produce iron, so we get it from the diet (spinach and broccoli are packed with iron) and supplements. Iron enables red blood cells to transport oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. Oxygen allows tissue cells to use the energy generated from the food. Since red blood cells don’t reproduce themselves, iron is vital for their regeneration, whilst ensuring the proper function of the heart, liver, gastro-intestinal system and skeletal muscle.
Energy is produced in the cells by converting the calories in sugars and fats to the fuel we run on called ATP. It does this by using something called Co-Q-10. Coenzyme Q10 ( Co-Q-10) plays a fundamental role at biochemical level in an area of every cells of the body called the mitochondria. Co-Q-10 is essential for a healthy system that delivers energy. Without it you will be drained physically and mentally. To promote optimum energy try supplementing with Co-Q-10.
Several herbs are known to support and supplement energy levels. These include:-
Ginseng Improves alertness, concentration and learning capacity. Non caffeine invigorator.
Rhodiola Replenishes energy reserves and increase body’s resistance
Guarana Stimulates basis cell metabolism and activates the metabolic processes. Increases strength and staying power. Recovery from illness & travel e.g. jet lag.
Pure Royal Jelly Helps the whole revitalising process especially the aged and after illness. Stimulate appetite and provides a defence against infection.
Ginkgo Acts on the supply of oxygen to the cells particularly the brain to improve alertness and memory. Helps with chronic fatigue syndrome (M.E.)
If you want to thrive in the 21st century, you really do need to live by optimum nutrition principles. Eat slow-releasing carbohydrates that release their fuel slowly
Ensure you have optimum intake of all essential nutrients and
Avoid stimulants and depressants.
The result — it adds life to your years and years to your life.