Energy – everyone wants it but no one seems to know how to get it without a sugar-filled snack or a cup of coffee.
While there’s no magic pill for infinite energy, there are so many aspects of our lives that contribute to how much we have. From getting proper sleep, to a healthy immune system, to proper digestion, to healthy hormones and self care. It can truly feel impossible to have everything in check. But, if you are doing your best and are still not being able to get through the day without a nap (or a fifth coffee) it may be time to look at some specific nutrient deficiencies. I want you to have the ultimate energy to do all of your badass work so let’s take a look at the key nutrients involved.
The Top 5
- One of the major signs of moderate vitamin D deficiency is fatigue. It’s a key player in almost every system of our body – our thyroid, melatonin secretion, inflammation, and our hormones. If you are supplementing with vitamin D it is important to know that it is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that in order for it to be absorbed you need to eat it with some form of fat (i.e. salad with olive oil dressing, avocado, eggs). Blood levels of Vitamin D should also be checked because 1000IU of Vitamin D is often not enough!
- Food sources: tuna, cod liver oil, and organ meat
- Anemia, meaning you have low iron levels, is a common cause of fatigue that many of you reading this article have probably experienced. Hemoglobin is a protein that carries oxygen to bring to our cells. Iron is an integral component of hemoglobin. Iron also plays a key role in many cellular processes, especially in our mitochondria that make energy. If we are unable to make energy at a cellular level then we can expect to feel the effects in the form of fatigue. If you are prioritizing iron consumption, it’s helpful to ensure that you’re eating it with some form if vitamin C to help absorb it.
- Food sources: red meat, oysters, spinach, and organ meat
- B12 deficiency, also known as pernicious anemia, causes fatigue in the same way as an iron deficiency. Our body needs enough B12 to make red blood cells, and if our body doesn’t make enough red blood cells it will cause you to feel weak and tired. If you are deficient, there are three ways to increase your B12 levels: through food, oral supplementation, or an intramuscular injection.
- Food sources: mussels, mackerel, and organ meat
- Vitamin B6 is a key player in the formation of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, are chemical messengers that relay information throughout the body. Serotonin and norepinephrine are known for regulating mood and cyclic processes in our bodies. If we are deficient in vitamin B6, we won’t be as efficient at making serotonin and norepinephrine, which will lead mental emotional changes and a lack of ‘get up and go’ motivation and energy.
- Food sources: chickpeas, tuna, and salmon
- Antioxidants are one of my favourite groups of nutrients. Now they don’t give you energy directly, but they will save energy. The main function of antioxidants is what the name implies – ‘anti’ ‘oxidants’. Oxidants from our environment damage our cells, so it is essential that we have antioxidants from our foods to combat that damage. Antioxidants also save energy by reducing inflammation, which is an energy-using process. Together, these actions act to save us energy in the long run. (PS: antioxidants also help to support a strong metabolism and help with weight loss!- More on that in my book Finally Lose It)
- Food sources: colourful fruits and vegetables
When was the last time you had blood work done? We can use that to check the status of most of the nutrients in my top 5. From there, we’ll know if any of them are deficient and how much we need to supplement with if necessary. As always, I try to help my patients get all their nutrients from food, so a few simple adjustments may be all you need!