We all want and need all the energy we can get to complete what we need to do each day. Problem is that there are days when we wake and it seems our bodies didn’t get the memo. We feel sluggish, foggy-brained, achy and just don’t have the energy we need to face the day. Occasionally this is no concern, but more and more of us are feeling this way not only we wake, but also as we drive thru traffic, around noon after we eat lunch, and continuing on as the end of the workday nears. Our “to-do” pile seems as large and never-ending as ever as we get home and just can’t muster the energy we need to cook, clean or even socialize. This has become the new “norm” for so many of our friends and co-workers that we started researching to see what we/they could do to increase and maintain our energy levels and improve our moods.
How do we get this energy???
This was our first question and one we needed to understand to get down to where we needed to direct our research. We found evidence that there are definite ways to improve energy levels, but more importantly we learned the “why” behind how they work and what exactly they do for our bodies and health.
Mitochondria + Energy Production
It all comes down to how well we are taking care of our mitochondria. These little friendly bacteria live in every one of our cells in vast numbers. They are the little batteries that power our cells and give us the energy to conduct all the living processes in our bodies: eating, moving, breathing to digesting, assimilating, ridding.
We eat healthy foods and take our antioxidants, vitamins, trace minerals and co-factors to get more energy…guess what these nutrients feed? You got it! Our mitochondria.
The stronger your mitochondria = the more ATP (energy) they produce = the more energy you have to move, think and function in your day.
Different Foods = Different Fuels
Mitochondria are fueled by the foods and nutrients we eat. Different foods create different levels of nutrition for these power sources. But, more importantly, they also create different forms of fuel: fast burning but quick rusting and clean burning and longer fueling.
Glucose = Quick but Dirty Fuel
Glucose (sugar, sauces, honey, agave, dried fruit, breads, pastas, cereals, grains, etc.) creates quick burning fuel for your mitochondria. These are good if you have a job where you need quick bursts of energy followed by long rest times – sprinters? basketball players? young children?
But not so good if your a regular-life-style-type-of-person. Herein is where the problem lies with relying on glucose for energy production. Cells get the energy out of the sugar molecule (glucose) thru cellular respiration. This happens within the mitochondria where they use oxygen to break the sugar molecule and release the energy. This energy is then transferred to an ATP (adenosine triphosphate) molecule. ATP is the fuel that cells need for energy.
Sounds good…but there’s a catch. What does oxygen do to metal that is left outside? It rusts it. Similar thing happens in the body – waste is left in the cell that eventually slows down the production of energy and leaves waste products in our cells. Along with this there’s another downside to relying on glucose for energy – your energy surge won’t last very long. Each molecule of glucose produces 36 to 38 molecules of ATP (compared to 130 molecules on average for fats…this fuel won’t give you the day-long energy you crave)
Fats = Long Burning Clean Fuel
Fats (healthy oils – olive, avocado, grass fed butter, sesame, palm oil, etc.) take longer to break down into fuel, but they also burn cleaner and longer in the body. That’s why a ketogenic diet reduces your hunger cravings and gives you amazing levels of sustained energy. Mitochondria must first break down fat into fatty acid and glycerol (lipolysis). Each part follows a separate pathway to ultimately become available as energy. Because fats create 100 – 150 molecules of APT they have the ability to fuel you for a much longer part of your day and at the same time create healthier mitochondria in your cells.
Why can’t we just eat both?
Problem is that our bodies will automatically burn the glucose in our foods first as energy sources. If we eat both glucose and fats (bread with butter? cookies or pastries? peanut butter and jelly sandwich? etc.) our bodies will utilize the energy they need for the activities we do from the glucose…and then store the remaining sugars and fat as FAT on our bodies. Keep reading for what to eat to create more fuel/ energy…
Why Do We Need Healthy Mitochondria?
We want high energy levels throughout our days
We want to be able to fight off illness, disease and cancer
We want to have a smart, clear-thought, learning mind
We want a slim, healthy, toxin free body
Mitochondria have three roles: fission (they reproduce), fusion (they join together), apoptosis (damaged/old ones die off). Mitochondria continually change shape. Here’s a brief explanation from Science magazine:
Mitochondrial fission and fusion play critical roles in maintaining functional mitochondria when cells experience metabolic or environmental stresses. Fusion helps mitigate stress by mixing the contents of partially damaged mitochondria as a form of complementation. Fission is needed to create new mitochondria, but it also contributes to quality control by enabling the removal of damaged mitochondria and can facilitate apoptosis during high levels of cellular stress. Disruptions in these processes affect normal development, and they have been implicated in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s.
This is important to know because unhealthy changes in your lifestyle, diet, and stress levels all affect the health of your mitochondria – thus they affect the amount of energy you have available to use each day.
They also affect your health and level of disease. If your mitochondria get destroyed or you feed them too much glucose and the waste builds up – Cancer, Alzheimer, Parkinson’s, Diabetes and a host of other diseases are able to develop and grow.
5 Steps To Creating Healthy Mitochondria
- Short term fasting (12 hours minimum…think 7pm – 7 am:) allows your mitochondria to do some house-cleaning and burn the fats in your body for fuel. In that our toxins are stored in these fats, the mitochondria are helping to get the toxins out of your fat cells and into your excretory systems. Added benefit is you will shrink the fat stores on your body, burn better fuel so your less hungry, and have more energy available to use.
- Get regular sleep times (go to bed and wake at reasonably the same times each day to help regulate your bodies restorative systems). Why? well our bodies regenerate and rebuild at night. They also fight diseases and illnesses and create stores of energy that we get to use the next day. Sleep is like charging your battery – the better and longer you rest you get…the better and longer energy you get.
- Get sunlight daily. Vitamin D is activated and deactivated by inner mitochondrial membranes. It is used to produce energy and we don’t get much of this nutrient in the foods we eat. But we get a ton in only 10 minutes out in the sunshine! Think of Vitamin D as your energy vitamin – it gives you an amazing amount of free energy every time you are outside in it. No sunscreen – no hat – no sunglasses – make the most of this powerful energy source. If you’re in an office – get as n ear the windows as you can, too.
- Eat as close to a ketogenic diet as you can. Healthy fats give you long, clean burning energy sources that feed your mitochondria and cells. Organic vegetables and grass-fed meats give you nutrients that feed your mitochondria and keep them functioning at optimal levels. Take supplements to ensure your mitochondria are receiving all the nutrients they need (testing your blood for levels once or more a year is best) Glucose is not entirely excluded but should be from a quality source (think fruits versus cakes) and be eaten primarily later in the day.
- Use cold therapy, infrared sauna and exercise as often as you can (daily is best) to stimulate oxygen transfer, increase waste removal and improve DNA signaling. All of these assist mitochondria in their energy production and waste removal processes. Better they work – the better you feel!
Watch this part one and two of Dr. Ted Achacoso for an “easier to understand” interview on mitochondria and their role in our energy levels and health.