Instead of reaching for caffeine or sugar when you are feeling sluggish, you should reach for foods that have nutrients that will give you energy. When you are tired it is very tempting to grab a cup of coffee for quick pick me up. However, this is not the best thing you can do for your body. Caffeine is a stimulant, and it can be very draining to your adrenal glands. Over time, all that stimulation can prevent these glands from working properly, which can leave you feeling even more tired. To give yourself long lasting energy that won’t leave you drained, you need to make sure you are getting plenty of nutrients that will give you energy.
If you go to the doctor complaining of feeling tired and weak, one of the first things they will check is your iron levels. This is because iron is one of the nutrients that will give you energy. A deficiency in this important mineral will lead to anemia, which causes a decrease in red blood cells. When you are anemic you will feel very tired because you aren’t getting enough oxygen to your red blood cells. To prevent an iron deficiency and keep your energy level up, make sure you are getting 8 milligrams of iron a day if you are male and 18 milligrams of iron a day if you are female. Meat has the highest amount of iron, but you don’t have to eat meat to get all your needed iron. Spinach, beans, and molasses are all great sources of iron, and if you pair them with vitamin C rich foods you will be sure to absorb much more iron so you can feel your best.
Phosphorus is an incredibly important mineral for energy. It is the main component of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the main enzyme your body needs for energy. ATP carries chemical energy to all your cells, and when it is broken apart your cells receive a burst of energy. Because there are three phosphorus atoms in ATP, you would not have the ATP you need for energy without phosphorus. To keep your energy levels up, you need 1250 milligrams of phosphorus a day if you are an adult and 700 milligrams a day if you are a teen. It is not difficult to get all the phosphorus you need if you are eating phosphorus rich foods like nuts, legumes, rice, and potatoes.
Magnesium is another mineral that is critical for ATP. Your body needs magnesium to turn the carbohydrates and fat you eat into ATP. In addition to helping with ATP production, magnesium also assists with ATP storage. ATP is stored as magnesium ATP, because magnesium makes ATP stable so it will not break apart until it is needed for energy. Aside from being critical for ATP, magnesium is also needed for muscle relaxation and sleep. It helps you get restful sleep so you feel more energized the next day. To be sure you are getting enough magnesium, eat plenty of pumpkin seeds, spinach, chard, sesame seeds, and quinoa.
Low levels of potassium can make you feel very tired and weak. Potassium is very important for muscle function. It assists with muscle growth, and it assists with releasing energy when you use your muscles. Without potassium your muscles would fatigue very easily. Another way potassium keeps your energy high is by stabilizing blood sugar. If your potassium levels are low, your blood sugar drops, making you feel tired and weak. To get a lot of potassium in one sitting, eat a potato. Potatoes are the best source of potassium! Of course, you can also reach for a banana, but it will not give you near the amount of potassium as a potato.
A lack of B vitamins can cause you to feel very fatigued. All of the B vitamins, which include B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, pantothenic acid, biotin, and folate, are needed for energy. In addition to their many different functions, B vitamins help with the metabolism of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are crucial for energy, and if they are not properly metabolized you will feel very tired. In addition to metabolizing carbohydrates, the B vitamins also help convert nutrients into ATP, which you know is critical for feeling energized. Eating a diet that is rich in whole plant foods, whole grains, and a little meat will help you get all of your B vitamins. If you are a vegan, be sure to take a B12 supplement, because animal products are the only source of B12.
If you eat a diet that is high in processed foods and low in whole fruits and vegetables, you are probably not getting enough vitamin C. You know that a vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy, but did you also know that it can cause fatigue? The recommended amounts of vitamin C are 75 milligrams if you are a woman and 90 milligrams if you are a man. However, if you are experiencing physical or emotional stress, this would not be enough vitamin C. The body uses a lot of vitamin C when it is under stress. To get plenty of vitamin C, eat vitamin C rich foods like papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, and strawberries. These all have over 100 percent of your daily value for vitamin C in a single serving.
I mentioned early that carbohydrates are critical for energy. Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of energy for muscle contraction and other functions. Eating a low carbohydrate diet can make you feel very tired because your body has to turn to fat and protein for energy, which it doesn’t like doing. It really prefers to get energy from carbohydrates, which are broken down into glucose, fructose, and galactose. Fructose and galactose are then converted into glucose, which is shuttled to all of your cells for energy. If your body doesn’t need all of the glucose, it stores the rest as glycogen, which your muscles use for fuel. Because carbohydrates are so important for energy you will begin to feel weak, dizzy, and fatigued if you are not eating enough. The best sources of carbohydrates are whole grains and fruits.
If you have been feeling very tired lately, you may not be getting enough of these energy giving nutrients. Thankfully, it is very easy to get all the nutrients you need to give your body energy. You just need to eat a diet that is rich in whole foods. Do you think you would benefit from getting more of these energizing nutrients?
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