The New Straits Times By Yam Cher Seng
If you have a hard time getting up when the alarm goes off or are unable to focus on work after lunch or find yourself falling asleep in front of the TV after dinner, check your energy level.
Energy is required for the body's basic functions: breathing, functioning of vital organs such as the heart, liver, kidneys and digestive system, and for the production of new cells.
Insufficient sleep, a poor diet or not getting enough exercise are the main causes of slumped energy levels in most people.
Diets that are high in refined sugar, processed food and containing highly saturated fat are depleted of essential nutrients required for the conversion of food sources into energy.
Excess refined sugar interferes with your weight, lowers your immunity and actually accelerates the ageing process.
Several studies presented by the American Diabetes Association (June, 2002) confirm that sugars and refined starchy food such as pasta, potatoes and bread cause an inflammatory response that speed up the ageing process and contribute to heart disease, arthritis, some forms of cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
Stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine and nicotine are short-term energy boosters which only leave you feeling more exhausted after a time. Saturated fats are known to contribute to heart diseases but not many are aware that heavy coffee drinkers also face similar risks.
A study on coffee drinkers at Duke University in the United States found that four cups consumed on a daily basis raised blood pressure throughout the day, which also leads to a higher heartbeat.
Persistent fatigue should be checked out by your doctor as certain medical conditions such as a dysfunctional thyroid, anaemia, sleep apnea or poor liver function could be the underlying cause.
The problem of low energy levels could be due to a lack of certain nutrients, which are necessary for energy production or for the process of energy utilisation. Sometimes, due to the deficiency of these nutrients, the fuel stores in our body are not mobilised.
Vitamins, minerals and enzymes play key roles in generating and maintaining energy. B-vitamins are known as energy vitamins for very good reasons. They do not provide energy but are required as co- factors in converting protein and carbohydrates into energy, as well as in the metabolism of fatty acids.
Vitamins B1, B2, B3 are important co-factors for the conversion of glucose into energy that feeds the insatiable nervous system. Vitamin B6 helps carry oxygen in the blood to cells and tissues and increases the efficiency of the body's energy cycle. Vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid are required for protein metabolism to generate energy important for tissue repair and growth.
Fats are the richest source of energy and must be transported into cells mitochondria (power houses) to be burned before energy production can result. Immobilised and unutilised fat stored in the body leads to many health conditions such as obesity, heart diseases, liver disease and poor physical performance.
The nutrient L-carnitine found in muscle cells plays an important role in galvanising fat by ushering them into mitochondria for efficient energy production and oxygen utilisation in cells. Because of its role in fat metabolism, it is a very useful dietary supplement for weight management programmes and to enhance vitality, stamina and performance in sports.
Studies show that a deficiency in L-carnitine in the muscle causes symptoms of generalised fatigue, muscle pain, muscle weakness and muscle cramps following physical exertion. The supplementation with L-carnitine results in improved energy levels, exercise intensity, endurance and lowered blood lactic acid in the muscle. This accumulation of lactic acid is most commonly associated with intense burning pain and soreness felt in the muscles after great exertion.
Getting enough sleep, eating a varied and healthy diet, supplementing with energy-boosting nutrients and regular exercise can add vitality and provide sustaining energy to protect you against disease and the pressures of daily living.
* Yam Cher Seng, a pharmacist, heads the Bio-Life Health Advisory Panel that organises health talks and the dissemination of natural healthcare and holistic therapies.
(C) 2003 The New Straits Times. (via Life Extension)