But what may often go overlooked is the impact that nutrient status has on energy levels.
However, when this becomes chronic and interferes with your daily life, it's time to investigate what might be going on under the surface.
Though it can be tempting to reach for stimulants like caffeine or energy drinks to overcome low energy, this tactic is unfortunately only a short term solution.
What's more, it's common practice for healthy habits to fly out the window and for diet to be neglected when you're feeling fatigued. However, nutrition is even more important during these times when the body requires extra support.
Nutrition is what fuels our bodies, and more specifically, our cells which make energy. But it's important to pay attention to what kind of fuel you put into your body, which encompasses the food and drinks you choose on a daily basis.
Let's talk about why nutrition is so essential and which nutrients are particularly associated with energy or the lack of it.
Nutrient deficiencies that can cause fatigue
The body requires both macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to function optimally. A balanced diet should include a variety of these nutrients on a macro and micro level. This is because the body utilizes calories and nutrients to perform both mental and physical activities.
It goes without saying that both types of nutrition are needed though today we will be focusing on the specific micronutrients that are vital for energy production in the body.
This mineral is often recommended for fatigue, especially among women, because it plays such an influential role in energy production. Iron is required to make ATP, the energy currency of the body, as well as hemoglobin which is necessary for the transportation of oxygen in the blood.
Signs of low iron may include fatigue, weakness, and difficulty concentrating. This is more common among women of reproductive age but also vegans and vegetarians. The best way to verify your status is to get your blood tested and more specifically your hemoglobin, hematocrit, and ferritin levels.
The highest sources of iron in animal foods include organ meats, red meat, turkey, and sea food.
Lack of vitamin B12 can lead to fatigue and even anemia. Though vitamin B12 won't necessarily boost your energy if you have sufficient levels, it can make a big difference if you are low in this vitamin. Regular testing is recommended especially if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet because vitamin B12 is found naturally only in animal foods. Vitamin B12 supplementation can help to correct or reduce the risk of deficiency while maintaining healthy levels.
This powerful antioxidant vitamin is also essential, which means your body can't produce it on its own and you must obtain it from your diet or supplementation. Because it is a water soluble vitamin it is used up and excreted fairly quickly by the body thus regular consumption is important.
Vitamin C is also needed for specific enzymes that are involved in the synthesis of carnitine, an essential cofactor that plays an important role in the production of energy (4).
You can obtain vitamin C from plant foods such as acerola cherry, kiwi, citrus fruit, bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, kale, and brussels sprouts or from supplementation.
The "sunshine vitamin" is well known for its mood enhancing effects, especially during those grey winter months, but can it also combat fatigue? It turns out, it can.
Studies show that inadequate vitamin D levels can contribute to unexplained daytime fatigue and that supplementation with vitamin D can significantly improve the severity of fatigue symptoms among those with deficiencies (7)(8).
Though vitamin D can be found in a few foods such as wild fatty fish, beef liver, egg yolks, and mushrooms, dietary intake is not usually sufficient. Supplementation of vitamin D is especially important for many during the winter months when vitamin D can't be obtained from sunshine exposure.
Studies suggest that vitamin D3 is the most effective form of vitamin D to raise blood levels.
As with other vitamins and minerals, vitamin D can help to increase energy if you are deficient. Supplementation is not always advised due to potential toxicity levels.
Magnesium is often recommended for sleep, but it can also help to fight fatigue!
Magnesium is involved in over 600 processes in the body, including energy metabolism such as converting food into usable energy (9). This means that magnesium creates more energy on a cellular level.
Unlike stimulants like caffeine, magnesium contributes to optimal energy production in the body without stimulating the nervous system while also supporting sleep.
Without sufficient magnesium, energy production declines, energy levels fall and you are more likely to feel fatigued.
Unfortunately it is becoming increasingly difficult to receive enough magnesium from food alone due to issues such as depletion of our soil, pesticide use, compromised digestion, and more.
Magnesium is also easily depleted by stress, medications, sugar, alcohol, and more. For the majority of us, supplementation is necessary to maintain adequate magnesium status and even more so during times of added stress.
If you are feeling a little tapped out and can't seem to feel rested, magnesium might be just the thing you need!
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