Natural ways to boost your energy (Continued!)

With summer just around the corner you want to have all the energy you can to enjoy the longer days. If your energy levels aren’t as high as they should be, don’t reach for caffeine or chocolates or other stimulants to give you a boost. Try these natural energy boosters instead. Last month we looked at how simple lifestyle changes, such as adjusting the temperature of your morning shower and getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, can make a significant difference to your energy levels. This month we’ll take a look at some of the most effective energy-boosting supplements, beginning with that healthy-eating-and-living essential: the multi vitamin and mineral.

Get your multivitamin and mineral boost:

A healthy diet is always the basis for healthy energy levels, but because it isn’t always easy to get all the nutrients you need for optimum health in your diet, taking supplements may be extremely beneficial. Even if you eat all the ‘right foods’, modern agricultural and production processes remove much of the nutritional value. For example, almost 80 per cent of zinc, a vital mineral for energy production, is removed from wheat during the milling process to ensure that bread has a longer shelf life.

The term ‘supplement’ covers a broad range of vitamins, minerals and plant extracts that should be taken to complement – not replace – a healthy, balanced diet. The most popular supplement is the multivitamin and mineral that most nutritionists regard as a good insurance policy, which can be taken over the long term.

To maximise your energy potential you can’t afford to be deficient in any of the essential vitamins and minerals, so on top of a healthy diet you should consider taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement every day.

If you combine supplements with other energy-boosting strategies – such as healthy eating, stress management and eating a balance of fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, legumes, oily fish and nuts and seeds – you may be able to leave fatigue behind.

A number of vitamins and minerals help us to turn food into energy and you need them in varying amounts to feel your best during the day. So you need to make sure that your multivitamin and mineral combination contains at least vitamins A, C and the B complex, as well as calcium, chromium, manganese, magnesium, selenium and zinc. You also get what you pay for in terms of quality with supplements, so it’s better to have half a quality tablet a day than the full dose of a mediocre one. (Have a look at to see the different supplement companies that I use in the clinics).


B complex, high strength:

When it comes to energy-boosting, studies have shown that the B complex vitamins – thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), B6, B12, folic acid, pantothenic acid (B5)and biotin – are most often linked to optimum mental and physical performance.

B vitamins help turn carbohydrates into the glucose energy that fuels your cells, muscles and brain. Each of them works in a slightly different way. For example – vitamin B3, found in eggs, brewer’s yeast, nuts, sunflower seeds, whole grains and fish, helps release the energy from protein, carbohydrates and fats. It is needed to metabolise toxins and to form red blood cells and hormones. It also promotes a healthy digestive system, central nervous system and skin. Vitamin B5, found in eggs, nuts and whole grains, is needed for the conversion of carbohydrates to energy. Vitamin B6, found in avocados, bananas, fish, meat, nuts, seeds and whole grains, helps form neurotransmitters – the nerve chemicals that send messages to the brain. Vitamin B12, found in cheese, eggs, fish and yogurt, makes red blood cells that contain iron-rich haemoglobin and deliver energising oxygen to your cells. Folate or folic acid, found in leafy green vegetables, soya and whole grains, works with vitamin B12 and makes amino acids – the building blocks of life-sustaining protein.

If you aren’t getting enough B vitamins in your diet it will increase your risk of fatigue. As you get older you also need more Bs because over the years our bodies absorb less vitamin B12, even if we eat foods rich in it. Vegetarians can also often be at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. Symptoms of B12 deficiency include headaches and fatigue.

The B vitamins work together like a team, so to supplement it is best to take a high-strength vitamin B complex supplement every day containing the whole range of B vitamins.


The energy vitamin:

The energy-boosting benefits of vitamin C go far beyond its immune system potency. Along with a host of other benefits, vitamin C makes a chemical in your body called carnitine, which is needed by your muscles to burn energy. Vitamin C is essential if you want to turn the clock back. As an antioxidant, it protects your skin from environmental damage, prevents age spots and speeds up cell renewal for a more youthful glow. It also boosts collagen production, which means fewer wrinkles. Vitamin C can also help you cope better with stress, and boost your mood and libido. When you are low in vitamin C this will show up in lethargy and fatigue.

Major sources of vitamin C are fruits (such as oranges) and vegetables (such as broccoli), but most of us simply don’t get enough vitamin C a day. As most multivitamins and minerals don’t contain enough vitamin C, supplementing separately may be one way to get your zing back. Most nutritionists recommend supplementing with 500mg twice daily.


The magic of antioxidants:

Antioxidants are substances found in vitamins and minerals that are crucial for your body to create energy from the food you eat. In addition to vitamin C (see above), vitamin E, manganese, selenium and beta-carotene (which should all be included in a quality multivitamin and mineral supplement) vital energy-boosting antioxidants that you may also want to supplement with include:

·         Alpha lipoic acid: This incredible antioxidant helps metabolise carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and keeps other energy-providing antioxidants, such as vitamin C, in your body for longer. You can get lipoic acid from foods like broccoli, but even if you eat lots of green leafy vegetables you are unlikely to get your recommended daily amount.

·         CoQ10. Co-enzyme Q10, a vitamin-like molecule present in all human tissue, is a vital catalyst for energy production because it boosts production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the molecule that fuels all your body’s cells. Deficiency in this molecule can leave you feeling tired. Food sources include fish, broccoli and the germ portion of whole grains. Studies have shown that people can increase their stamina with a dose of 50–120 mg per day. To be effective, this supplement must be taken with food because it needs fat to be absorbed efficiently, or the Q10 supplement should contain oil for maximum absorption.

·         Zinc: Like vitamin C, zinc is a powerful immune-boosting vitamin that can also boost digestion and metabolism, and help balance your blood sugar. It is also crucial for mental alertness and a healthy libido. Low levels of zinc can leave you feeling tired and apathetic. To boost your intake eat more whole grains and make sure your multivitamin and mineral supplement contains zinc. If you don’t think you are getting enough zinc you may want to take a daily 15 mg supplement.


Power up with Carnitine:

Carnitine is a substance that can power your cells’ inner engines – the mitochondria – by carrying fatty acids across cell membranes so they can be burned as energy. Foods rich in carnitine include avocados and dairy products; the body also makes its own supply, although this does decline with age. Studies show that 1000 mg of carnitine daily can boost stamina and reduce fatigue.


Essential energy:

The essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6, are crucial for healthy hormone function and blood sugar balance, and are needed by every cell in your body. They work to keep your skin smooth and soft and your mood upbeat (remember that the human brain consists of more than 50 per cent fat cells). Given that fatty acids play such a vital role in health, many researchers believe that a deficiency in essential fats, especially omega-3, is a leading cause of fatigue and poor health.

To ensure you are getting your essential fats take a supplement of Omega 3 fats containing at least 700mg EPA and 500mg DHA per day. If you are a vegetarian and don’t want to take fish oil supplements, you can take 1000mg linseed (flaxseed) oil per day. (For a good Omega 3 supplement see Omega 3 Plus on the Resources Page).

 (Next month: Boosting energy naturally with herbs)

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