by Dr. Sarah Brewer
A Nutritionist and Doctor
Lack of energy is a common modern complaint. Skipped meals, inadequate fluid intake, overwork, stress and lack of sleep are among the main culprits. If persistent, always seek medical advice to rule out anaemia, diabetes, thyroid problems, or other health conditions which sometimes present themselves as ‘tiredness all the time’. Assuming all is well, the following approaches may help.
Diet should always come first. Select wholefood products and ensure you get your 5-a-day fruit and veg. Follow a low glycaemic load diet by cutting back on sugary and refined foods that can cause energy-draining swings in blood glucose levels. Foods that can pep you up include:
- Wholegrain cereals
- Root vegetables
- Dark green leay vegetables
- Fresh and dried fruits
- Oily fish
- Nuts - especially walnuts - and seeds
If you know your diet is not as healthy as it should be, consider a multivitamin and mineral supplement to guard against deficiencies. Select a formula that is designed for your age group (under 50, 50+ or 70+) for maximum benefit.
Drink plenty of fluids, as even mild dehydration can affect your stamina.
Take regular exercise to boost energy production and storage in muscle cells. If you are working flat out, regain control of your life. Say ‘no’ and mean it, both at home and work, when unreasonable demands are made on your time. Take regular breaks during the day, and plenty of refreshing sleep - keeping a secure window slightly open at night allows oxygen to circulate, which also helps.
The following supplements are often taken as energy boosters, with many people finding them helpful:
B group vitamins are needed for energy production in cells, and lack can lead to long-term fatigue.
Alpha-lipoic acid acts as a co-enzyme with B group vitamins to speed energy production in cells. It is often combined with l-carnitine which escorts fats to the cells’ furnaces (mitochondria).
Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10 or ubiquinone) is also vital for energy production in cells, and has been shown to increase exercise tolerance and perceived levels of vigour in middle-aged males. It can also boost energy levels in people taking a statin drug, as statins lower CoQ10 production in the body along with cholesterol. The ‘body-ready’ form, ubiquinol, may be more suitable for those aged 50 plus.
Magnesium is needed for the metabolism of essential fatty acids and production of energy from glucose. Long-term fatigue has been linked with low blood levels of magnesium.
Korean ginseng contains unique substances (ginsenosides) that are stimulating and restorative, to improve physical and mental energy. A group of hospital nurses who took ginseng extracts were better able to stay awake and perform their night duties than those not taking it, for example. It is excellent if you are under stress. American ginseng and Siberian ginseng have similar actions but are less stimulating and therefore preferred by some people.