Ok. Let’s get to the heart of the matter! What can you do to optimize your energy levels and essentially improve your mood, sex drive, capacity for exercise, and decrease your overall risk for age related disease? (Yes, they’re all tied in together!)
1) Frequent Exercise. This one’s a gimme! Frequent exercise serves as a signal to our bodies that it needs more energy and will lead to a net overall increase in production of the energy rich molecule, ATP. In the short term, beginning an exercise routine may actually lead to some fatigue and an increased need for sleep. However, after several weeks a noticeable increase in energy and mood occurs. In addition, most people notice they are sleeping more deeply than before they began exercising. More energy, better sleep, and improved mood! That makes it worth the while without even considering its benefits to appearance and general health.
2) Eat frequent small meals throughout the day. Your body can literally sense if you are in what’s called starvation mode. If an individual doesn’t eat but one or two large meals a day, metabolism can slow over time (even worse if the largest meal is at the end of the day!). One very effective way to increase your metabolism is to eat frequent small nutrient rich meals. The frequency should be about every three to four hours and include lean meats, veggies, and fruits, with some nuts/beans. Over time, your body will respond to the frequent source of nutrients by speeding up your metabolism leading to improved energy, mood, weight loss, etc…
3) Eat only nutrient rich foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, & beans. Cellular nutrition is at the heart of energy/ATP production. The many complex chemical processes that take breakdown products of food and turn them into chemicals for energy production which lead to ATP production are dependent on the many minerals and vitamins present in healthy foods. (Wow. that was a mouthful…and a run on sentence to boot!…Oh well.) The American diet has become so high in processed carbohydrates, sugars, and synthetic fats it’s no wonder we lead the world in incidence of obesity and heart disease despite spending more than anyone on health care! Ok I’m off the proverbial soap box for now…
4) Minimize stress. Chronic and/or frequent elevation of stress hormones such as Cortisol normally meant for a fight or flight situation( i.e. running the opposite direction from a donut shop!) can have deleterious effects on our bodies over time. In fact, individuals with a more extreme form of Cortisol elevation, called Cushing’s disease, have thin fragile skin, weak bones, increased chest and abdominal fat, muscle wasting, and a significantly elevated risk for heart disease. Not exactly a picture of health! Others can suffer from what’s called Adrenal fatigue, where our adrenal glands (where Cortisol and other hormones are produced) simply stop functioning properly leading to periods of extreme fatigue.
5) De-stress at least twice a week. We all are going to have seasons in our lives where we have more stress. Obviously, this is not be entirely preventable. So it is important to de-stress on a weekly basis to reset our Cortisol levels to a baseline. We can do this in variety of ways. For example, twice a week Yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi classes should do the trick. Exercise in and of itself can help as well. Even taking 10 minutes out of your busy day to meditate in a quiet, dark environment will do wonders to de-stress on regular basis.
6) Detoxify. Our system is constantly bombarded with pollutants found in our environment. The process of removing these chemicals uses energy normally reserved for cellular processes such as Protein Synthesis, DNA replication and Repair, and Oxidative Phosphorylation (all uniquely essential for a little known activity called breathing!). We can help these repair processes along by eating fresh organic fruits and vegetables, minimizing consumption of processed foods (generally anything that comes in a box or wrapper, is pre-made, or frozen), taking supplements that serve as antioxidants, and getting good quality sleep.
7) Sleep! Getting good sleep is essential for long term health and will impact how you feel on a day to day basis. Seven to eight hours of deep sleep is essential. This is when many of the repair mechanisms occur that help our body regenerate, heal, and reboot. Inhibitors of deep sleep include but are not limited to stress, anxiety, caffeine, other stimulants, late TV watching or internet surfing, late night eating, alcohol, and certain medications. Another cause of sleep disturbance, sleep apnea, is more common than any of us realize and in most cases is directly related to being overweight.
8) Lose weight. Find out what your body fat percentage is and if it is not closer to 20% than 30% or even 40%, find a way to get there (i.e. see me!). The less excess weight you are carrying around the more energy you will have… plain and simple!
9) Avoid Alcohol. Not that I’m opposed to a glass of wine with dinner on occasion. The antioxidant benefits of wine are well documented. However, alcohol is a mitochondrial poison (remember mitochondria are the manufacturers of ATP!). The main point here is if you are consuming alcohol on a regular basis, this can decrease the overall amount of ATP produced. In addition, alcohol interferes with normal sleep patterns leading to less time in deep REM sleep, the most important stage of sleep (this is where natural production of hormones like testosterone and growth hormone occurs).
10) Ensure that you are not deficient in or have an imbalance of your hormones. There is little doubt that as our hormones decline with age this has a net effect of muscle and bone density loss, increased fat(specifically around our chest and abdomen), declining capacity for exercise, loss of sex drive and pleasure, and an overall declining quality of life. These declines in health and quality of life parallel declines in overall energy production. In fact, optimizing certain hormones known for their age related decline or deficiency in conjunction with specific lifestyle changes plays an important role in reversing many of the signs and symptoms of aging, including energy loss. Any one of these changes will help improve overall energy levels. Although, I do believe there exists a synergy when all are enacted simultaneously that leads to a more expeditious return to optimum health.
Again, I always appreciate your feedback, comments, and questions!