by Natasha Turner
In general, most of us recognize our stress levels exceed what is widely considered to be healthy. And yet, although we understand the importance of healthy behaviors like managing stress levels, eating right, and getting enough sleep and exercise, challenges practicing these healthy behaviors are far too common.
More often than not we are overwhelmed, too busy, or simply lack of motivation, energy, and time as the chief reasons for not being more physically active. This leaves us searching for a quick fix, which is why energy drinks are so popular. Caffeine is the major ingredient in most energy drinks—a 24-oz energy drink may contain as much as 500 mg of caffeine (similar to that in four or five cups of coffee), and it can leave you feeling jittery only later to be followed by a crash.
There are other beneficial ways to naturally boost your energy – fast! Being tired is never normal! There is always a cause for fatigue, the secret is to find it!
1.) There are blood tests that anyone with fatigue should have completed.
a. Cortisol – this is a stimulating hormone, it allows us to get up out of bed and adapt to stressors. Studies have shown that people with low cortisol have more depression and fatigue
b. Storage form of iron (ferritin) – optimal levels should be 70 – 84 for most women, low iron is a common cause of fatigue
c. Vitamin B12 – essential for mood, circadian rhythm, red blood cell production, and memory, optimal B12 is between 600 – 1200 in the blood
d. CBC – complete blood count, rules out anemia a common cause of fatigue.
e. Thyroid markers – TSH, free F3 and Free T4 – as the hormone that controls the metabolism of every cell in the body, optimal levels are essential for energy, mood, focus, metabolism, and digestive function. TSH should be less than two and T4 and T3 should be in the middle upper range of normal on the labs reference range.
f. RBC Magnesium and zinc – These are two essential minerals, involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions, low magnesium is linked to chronic fatigue and low zinc is related to weight gain and hormone imbalance.
g. Vitamin D3 – optimal levels should be 125 – 200 In the blood. Vitamin D3 is essential for blood sugar and insulin balance, bone health, immunity, and weight management.
h. Fasting blood sugar and fasting blood insulin – when an imbalance of these is present it can cause fatigue related to “carb-coma”, blood sugar fluctuations lead to fogginess, cravings, and lethargy after meals. Fasting blood sugar is optimal when less than 5.2 and insulin should be less than 36.
2.) Orthostatic BP test: A simple in-office means of screening for adrenal fatigue and burnout. When you lay down your blood pressure should go down, when you stand up it should go up by 10 points. If it falls, it indicates adrenal fatigue and burnout – a major cause of fatigue.
3.) Medical grade bio-impedance machine to assess muscle mass and fat mass. The more muscle you have the better your energy – as it is metabolic tissue. If you are muscle deficient, strength training and protein consumption are essential for increasing muscle and boosting energy. For an at-home assessment, check out Renpho scale available on Amazon.
4. My Supplement Rx For Energy:
• Give Your Brain a Dose of Dopamine: Tyrosine is a building block of dopamine, norepinephrine (catecholamine’s) and thyroid hormones in the body. A study looking at the effects of tyrosine on cognitive task performance found that under psychosocial and physical stress, supplementation could combat the effects that stress and fatigue have on concentration levels.
According to research published in Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behaviour (June 2015), increasing tyrosine uptake may positively influence psychological functioning, behavior, and cognition. The researchers reviewed fifteen and found that tyrosine loading acutely counteracts decrements in working memory and information processing that are induced by demanding situational conditions such as extreme weather or cognitive load. The buffering effects of tyrosine on cognition may be explained by tyrosine’s ability to neutralize depleted brain catecholamine levels. These findings suggest that tyrosine may help us when we are exposed to demanding situations. .Take 500 to 1500 mg a day of L-tyrosine, upon rising (avoid if you have an overactive thyroid). Start your day with a breakfast that contains at least 30 g of protein to ignite your metabolism (especially your thyroid hormone) for the day. Avoid starchy carbohydrates at breakfast to improve your mental function and focus as this simple trick sets your dopamine, which is essential for focus, motivation, drive, and appetite control. A sample meal choice would be an omelet with two or three eggs and goat cheese served with a side of mixed greens. Sprinkle ground flax or chia on the meal to increase the fiber content. You can enjoy 1 cup of organic coffee—with cream and cinnamon—for a dopamine boost.
• Adaptogenic herbs, like rhodiola can increase vitality – especially if the cause of your fatigue is a result of stress. In one Swedish study rhodiola significantly reduced symptoms of fatigue and improved attention after four weeks of repeated administration. While another trial published in Phytotherapy Research (Dec 2015) evaluated the impact of a rhodiola extract on anxiety, stress, cognition, and other mood symptoms. After taking 400mg per day for 14 days, the experimental group demonstrated a significant reduction in self-reported, anxiety, stress, anger, confusion and depression at 14 days and significant improvements in total mood.
• Did you know creatine is one of the only supplements proven to increase energy, muscle growth/recovery, and brain power? Yes, it’s true – it is not just for muscle-bound bodybuilders anymore because almost everyone can take it for mental function, energy, and muscle mass. The suggestive dose is 5 grams a day which is about 1 teaspoon.
Studies have shown that creatine has been recognized as a product that delivers on its promise of improved strength. Signs of poor recovery include fatigue, poor workouts, prolonged muscle soreness, lack of increased strength, and lack of increased muscle mass.
Our body uses up about two grams of creatine per day, so replenishing your daily supply makes great sense for these 12 reasons:
• Improves recovery after exercise and reduces soreness
• One of the only supplements proven to increase energy
• Aids hydration and muscle contraction
• Aids fat metabolism and muscle growth
• Balances cortisol after exercise
• Increases energy and repair after exercise and surgery
• Enhances brain health and can be used to treat concussion
• Increases muscle volume
• Improves bone health healing
• Improves glucose tolerance
• Creatine reduces age-related muscle loss
• Increases muscle performance & muscle mass in vegetarians
5. Work in a workout. It’s counterintuitive, but a quick workout can actually boost your energy levels rather than deplete them. The body is a complicated system of give-and-take, and when you move around, it rises to the challenge, giving you the energy you need. In a study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, researchers had sedentary, healthy adults do just 20 minutes of low-to-moderate-impact strength-based exercise three days a week. They found it put a large dose of extra pep in their step: Participants reported a 20 percent increase in energy levels and also felt 65 percent less fatigue. And of course, it will also help to relieve some stress and burn off any extra calories that you may be taking in this week. Metabolic training – those that build muscle are the best for an energy boost – maybe something like this:
6. Go to bed earlier and mellow out at night with Melatonin: If you are staying at your in-laws this week without the comfort of your own bed you may find it challenging to get a good night’s sleep. In that case, bring with you some melatonin and magnesium. Melatonin is a hormone released from the pineal gland that plays a role in the regulation of circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles. In one clinical trial, forty-three subjects with difficulty sleeping received a combination of melatonin, magnesium, and zinc. The group receiving these three supplements showed significant improvement in ease of getting to sleep, quality of sleep, hangover on awakening from sleep, alertness the following morning, total sleep time and restorative quality of sleep. Melatonin decreases as we age, as well as during times of stress and depression. Take 0.5 to 3 mg at bedtime. Try opening up capsules and pouring them under your tongue. You can also purchase melatonin in sublingual form for ready absorption, like Clear zzz’s 3 mg lozenges.
And – when you sleep matters! Our body recuperates the most from stress when we are sleeping between the hours of 10 and 2am. So if you need more energy, start prepping for bed around 9 – 9:30pm to be asleep by 10pm.