If you don’t have energy, you literally will not be able to get anything done… and who has the time to spend all-day lying in bed? Luckily, there are a wide variety of vitamins and minerals out there that may help boost energy. Here’s why you might like to try them.
What is energy and where does it come from?
Simply put, energy is our body’s ability to do work.
The body requires energy for everything that it does, powering our muscles, heart, brain, organs, etc. That energy comes directly from the food that we eat, which is why making quality food choices is essential to the way that our body functions.
To turn that food into energy, the body has to first digest it. To do that, the food enters the stomach, where it is mixed with acids and enzymes. As the stomach digests the food, the carbohydrates (basically, sugars and starches) are broken down to turn into a different type of sugar called glucose.
The glucose then travels into the small intestine where it is absorbed further before being released into the bloodstream. As soon as the glucose enters the bloodstream, it is immediately available for use as energy for the body. It can also be stored in the body for later use, if not needed right away. In order to either use or store glucose-based energy, the body also needs a hormone known as insulin.
Why you may notice a lack of energy
If you’ve noticed that your energy has started to wane, you’re likely curious why that happens.
Unfortunately, there is no one specific reason it happens. There are a variety of different health issues that can cause fatigue and low energy, as well as nutritional deficiencies and even mental health concerns.
If you’ve noticed a sudden drop in your energy levels, it’s always best to see a medical health professional to see if there are any physical reasons behind it.
Here is just a short list of some of the many reasons for low energy levels. This list is nowhere near comprehensive, so if your low energy levels are really starting to take a toll, you may want to just consult your doctor for an opinion.
Sleep problems - While it may be obvious that your sleep can affect your energy level, this actually works in a few different ways. Too much sleep can cause lower energy levels just as much as too little sleep can. Sleep disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia also change the way that the brain is able to achieve REM deep sleep, which is necessary to feel well rested.
Medication side effects - Many medications have fatigue as a side effect, but those side effects aren’t well discussed when people start on them. Certain blood pressure meds, antidepressants, antihistamines, benzodiazepines, and even antibiotics can cause drowsiness as a natural side effect of their method of action.
Mental health issues - While not a physical cause, depression and other mental health concerns can lead to low motivation and energy levels. Some of that may be related to side effects from the medication that may be needed to manage it. It may also be related to a lack of certain hormones in the body that are needed to experience excitement, like serotonin and dopamine. Regardless of the biological cause, depression and fatigue often go hand in hand.
Nutritional deficiencies - One final possible cause of low energy that we’d like to highlight today, and which we’ll go into more comprehensive detail about below, are nutritional deficiencies. There are a variety of different vitamins, minerals, and other antioxidants whose deficiencies may cause fatigue. Supplementing these nutrients if needed, as well as focusing on eating a healthy diet, may help.
At the basis of how our energy is metabolized is mitochondria, which are the tiny organelles responsible for actually generating our energy from the air we breathe and the food we eat. Essential to the mitochondria’s health is an antioxidant our body produces called Coenzyme Q10, often shortened to CoQ10, which is responsible for helping to protect the mitochondria from free radicals while also supporting the mitochondria in energy production.
As we grow older, our body may naturally begin to produce less and less CoQ10, meaning the mitochondria producing our energy loses a vital aspect of its support system, which may lead to increased tiredness as we grow older.
This is why taking a CoQ10 supplement may be able to help improve your overall energy levels. MitoQ has a slightly modified version of CoQ10, designed to better penetrate mitochondrial membranes to help optimize energy production and defend against free radicals.
Vitamin B12 is one of the vitamins most regularly linked to the body’s source of energy. B12 is needed to help the body produce more healthy red blood cells. Low vitamin B12 levels are especially common in vegans and vegetarians, as natural sources of vitamin B12 are only found in animal products like meat and dairy.
Older people, as well as those with gastrointestinal disorders, may also have additional problems processing B12. Adults generally need 2.4 micrograms daily, which will usually need to be supplemented.
Our bodies use iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body, and myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen to muscles. These functions are essential for good energy levels so low energy levels can sometimes mean low iron levels, which can be detected by a blood test. Foods rich in iron, like red meat, can help as can an iron supplement daily. Adults normally need to get at least 15 to 20 milligrams a day, at least.
Researchers are only just discovering all of the amazing potential of vitamin D. One of its major functions is its ability to aid in the absorption of calcium, essential for healthy bones. It is also known for making our muscles work efficiently and boosting energy levels. Direct sunlight on our skin produces vitamin D in the body, but it can also be supplemented. Between 600 and 800 international units (IU) of supplementation is recommended daily to help keep the body’s energy level high and the bones strong.
Magnesium is an essential nutrient needed to help every single cell in the body function. It also helps regulate the nervous system and create protein. Fatigue is one of the first signs of magnesium deficiency. Adults need to get at least 400 milligrams of magnesium daily, which is found in abundance in avocados and black beans.
Other natural ways to support energy levels
While supplementation is available for all of the potential nutrients that may be leading to feeling a lowered energy level, there are other, natural ways to help boost energy in addition to supplementing your nutrition.
Monitoring and changing your diet to include less processed foods and more whole foods may really change many things in your life. Processed foods, which are included in so many standard American diets, may cause large blood glucose spikes in the bloodstream and may lead to large crashes after it is gone, causing fatigue.
Whole foods are naturally broken down and are more likely to lead to consistent blood glucose levels, plus provide so many of the vitamins and minerals that people need for optimal health. Focusing on eating more fruits and vegetables specifically may really help.
Adding exercise into your lifestyle is also important to help increase energy levels. The more exercise we get, the healthier our body is and the easier it is to go about the normal activities of life. Exercise also releases endorphins that just make us feel better overall, even after just five minutes.
Energy levels can impact every possible area of your life: work, school, relationships, and more. Being able to identify potential causes of fatigue, both physical and mental, can help you learn how to address your low energy so that you can get back to living your normal life without having to worry about having the energy to do it.
Appropriate diagnoses, supplementation, and lifestyle changes may help you better manage your life, and give you back a sense of control.
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