Here’s something I’ve learned; our ability to access our passion is tied directly to our ability to care for ourselves. This year, I’ve made it a focus to try to take better care of myself, in every way. More loving, compassionate thoughts, more exercise, better nutrition. A direct result of these efforts has been a remarkable increase in energy, something that any passionate parent is desperate for. The effects of better eating are so extreme that I notice an almost immediate difference when I slip back into my old ways. I get irritable, exhausted, and unmotivated. Today, I’ve enlisted the help of one of my expert Club Members, holistic nutritionist extraordinaire Jackie McCaffrey. Read our Q&A below and learn how you can boost your energy naturally.
Can you explain, in simple terms, how our metabolism affects our energy levels?
Metabolism is how your body converts the food and water you eat into energy to be used immediately or to be stored for later. This energy is needed for all the things we do; exercise, walk, do the laundry and of course we require energy to digest our food. When we have a faster metabolism, we have an easier time sustaining energy, feeling alert and sustaining a constant weight. A slower metabolism can often leave us feeling tired, lethargic and cold.
What are the best vitamins for boosting energy?
The vitamins that help boost energy are B vitamins, Vitamin C, iron, mg and Vitamin and there are also supplements that can also help such as adaptogens like Rhodiola and Gingko Bilboa as well as CoQ10 and oxaloacetate.
Is there a particular time of day that works best to take vitamins?
When to take your supplements depends on the supplement. With water soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and B vitamins you end up expelling a lot through the day through urine and so you want to spread out when you take those so you always have the nutrients in your system. Fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A, D and E are absorbed in the body’s tissues and remain there so you don’t need to spread out when you take them. You do need to be more cautious of the dose you take with fat soluble vitamins however as there is a risk of toxicity if taken too often.
For the most part, studies are conflicting as to whether you need to take supplements with food or on an empty stomach. There is some evidence that eating fat-soluble vitamins with a meal containing healthy fats may help increase absorption. B vitamins also have a tendency to make some people feel a bit queasy if taken on an empty stomach so taking that particular supplement with food is a good idea.
Which foods help increase energy?
Most whole foods when eaten as part of a healthful lifestyle will provide energy however there are some that can give even more of a boost:
*both aphrodisiacs as well!
Which foods are the worst for creating lethargy/low energy/energy crashes?
Processed foods, high glycemic index carbohydrates, refined sugar, common allergens/sensitivities, fried foods are all notorious energy zappers.
What is intermittent fasting, and how does it affect our metabolism and energy levels?
Intermittent fasting is a form of meal timing. With IF, you schedule when you eat so that you end up with long fasting periods. For example, only eating between 12-6pm so you end up fasting in the evening while you sleep and in the morning. This is not for everyone as some people can feel dizzy and lose energy later in the day.
The benefits of IF are that it affects our metabolism by adapting the body to burn stored fat for energy instead of glycogen (storage form of glucose). When the body uses glucose, it is expending more energy in breaking down the nutrients for use than when it uses fat which is why many people report an increase in overall energy on this type of plan.
Do certain foods affect us differently at certain times of the day? For example, if you are going to eat carbohydrate rich foods, I’ve read that it’s better to eat them as late in the day as possible to help improve sleep quality. I’ve also read that this is ideal after a day of fasting, so a carb up meal is basically the only solid meal of the day, and it’s a huge one.
This is a complicated question because every body and every routine is different. Someone who wakes up and works out will require a different kind of food than someone who does not.
As a rule high glycemic index carbohydrates should be eaten right before or after exercise to pump glucose into the cells for energy and low glycemic index carbs should be eaten away from exercise. Low glycemic index carbohydrates are good for later in the evening as they help keep blood sugar regulated through the night whereas a high GI snack will spike your blood sugar causing it to crash in the middle of the night which will cause many people to wake up.
As for eating carbs after intermittent fasting, that would make sense assuming it is whole grains or plant based foods. Our body needs glucose to function so to replenish the supply following a fast would be important to do.
There’s a sad truth we can no longer ignore; winter is coming. Are there foods and vitamins to combat seasonal effective issues?
Since SAD manifests in many ways like depression and anxiety, supplements and foods to support these issues will work. The most important nutrients are B vitamins and Vitamin D.
Good sources of B vitamins are whole grains, spinach, organic eggs, wild salmon and organic chicken.
The best source of vitamin D is sunlight. In North America, we don’t get enough direct sunlight especially given we slather on sunscreen to keep the fear of skin cancer at bay. As such, almost all of us need to supplement vitamin D, especially those with SAD or depression.
There are some great essential oils that can help including lavender which has long been used to treat anxiety and depression as well as basil oil which helps to work against fatigue as well.
What do you think about the benefits of Bulletproof coffee or the use of MCT oils?
I haven’t tried it myself but the concept behind it is all very sound. Bulletproof coffee has gone through a rigorous process to make it very clean and mold free. The brain octane oil is putting ketones and glucose in the body to provide a natural jolt of energy and the grass fed butter is a good fat. The fermentation process removes milk protein from butter making it more tolerable for those with dairy intolerance.
There is mounting evidence that high quality coffee (in moderation) does have health benefits as long as it is consumed without the sugar, milk, cream, etc. So as it is looking more like organic coffee as a whole food may be therapeutic, caffeine in isolation can still be quite toxic. The natural blend of polyphenol antioxidants (including chlorogenic acids), bioflavonoids, vitamins and minerals in coffee beans all work together to help neutralize the harsher effects of the caffeine. It is now thought that coffee helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, which in turn helps us sustain energy versus the ups and downs we tend to get especially in the afternoon. Coffee has also been shown to increase your metabolism by up to 20 percent
For those who want to try adding brain octane oil or any MCT oil to their diet, they need to start slowly (1/2-1tsp to start) as it can cause digestive irritation. The source of the oil is also very important as they want a high quality source. The MCT oil converts quickly to ketones in the body, which is like getting a shortcut to energy versus getting it from carbohydrates which provide glucose as energy. When ketone levels rise, it changes your brain reactions by feeding it differently and changes the hunger and satiety hormones.
Short- and medium-chain fats overall, require far less processing by the body and are available as energy relatively quickly. Because they are so easily used for energy, your body will use them readily. Consuming significant amounts of short- and medium-chain fats will encourage your body to build up fat-burning metabolic pathways.
What is ketosis?
Ketosis is the term for when the body is breaking down fat as energy source instead of glucose from carb consumption. The body only uses fat for an energy source unless there is no other fuel source, or if on a very low carb diet. People report having more mental energy and clarity when in ketosis. Good quality MCT helps to kick body into ketosis more quickly.
Do you have anything else to add that isn’t covered here?
The importance of sleep can’t be stressed enough. We need 8-9 hours of undisturbed sleep to fully allow our body to recuperate. It’s not always possible but there are some things that can be done to help.
1. Put blinds and curtains on windows to make the room as dark as possible
2. Start winding down for bed about 30-45 minutes before sleeping by turning off all devices, tv and anything that transmits that type of light. The light goes into our brain and releases serotonin which makes our body stay awake.