Energy is currency to do the things we love to do each day. Yet, like money, it can sometimes feel like we never have enough. Food and supplement companies create products to help us optimize energy, sleep and processes that may help improve energy.
But what is energy? Nutritionally speaking and what people think of as energy is not the same.
Biologically, energy is a substance that is produced from food for our body to use in maintaining its systems. Optimizing the intake, type, and amount based on your need is what sports nutritionists strive to help people do with during-activity fueling and daily eating.
For many, however, energy is a feeling associated with being able to take on physical and mental performance. When you have the energy you feel as though you have what it takes – perhaps stamina, vitality, well-being – to run the race, chase your kids, or deliver stellar presentations. When we don’t have that feeling of energy, there is the perceived lack of energy or feeling low which may or may not have anything to do with how much energy you consumed from your food….or it might. Energy, vitality, and fatigue are tightly woven together.
Fatigue can be the result of several things. When it comes to nutrition it could be an inadequate intake of food coupled with low availability of vitamins and minerals to help metabolize food into energy. It can also be a lack of oxygen to the muscles and the brain. A nutritional reason for the disruption to oxygen availability can be from lack of vitamins folate, B6, B12, and the mineral, iron. Nutritional reasons for disruption in energy production itself could also be low availability of vitamins B6, B12, pantothenic acid, niacin, riboflavin, or low carbohydrate intake.
All B-vitamins are involved at some level in energy production, except folate which along with B6 and B12, are involved in the body’s ability to transport oxygen to the muscles and brain to facilitate energy production.
Then, of course, there are sleep patterns, hydration status, and hormonal fluctuations that impact feelings of fatigue as well.
How is your energy these days? While there are many food and supplement products available to help you “optimize energy” before you spend money on them first identify what is in your individual body that needs optimizing.
For example, if you are deficient in one of the vitamins and minerals mentioned above, it would be important to know which one needs to be elevated through a blood test and/or assessment of symptoms and diet by a dietitian, focus on food first, and determine if you have a genetic predisposition to being deficient in the nutrient. This way you can make sure you address the right component of the energy chain!
For help determining how to eat and drink to optimize energy for daily activities, workouts, and races, set up a free call by clicking here to work with local performance nutrition expert, Tara DelloIacono Thies, RDN. Tara has worked with many athletes from age groupers to overall winners to help them feel their best on the trail.