Energy Building Blocks
Ribose is a special sugar made in your body. It doesn't come from food; it helps build the energy blocks of your body. Of all the things you can do to combat the effects of knee-dragging fatigue, taking a daily ribose supplement is the one that seems to really turbo-charge some people who have diseases associated with low energy. The only side effect is that some people feel too much energy, if that's possible.
The data aren't good enough to recommend ribose for all of us. But if you want to give it a try, start with 500 mg three times a day for a week or so until you get used to the taste (or find a smoothie, coffee or tea to put it in). Then go to 5 grams three times a day for three weeks to get a sense of the effect. Then you can scale back to 5 grams twice a day.
By the way, since we know you're wondering: Each 5-gram scoop contains only 20 calories, since ribose isn't metabolized as a sugar. In fact, since it is a bit sweet, you might think of it as a sugar substitute.
As an aside, ribose has been shown to relieve fatigue, soreness and stiffness after exercise, and some professional athletes have reported muscular benefits after taking ribose. But again, the data are too weak to say it does or doesn't work well, since the studies just haven't been done.
Move More to Move More
One of the best ways to increase your energy is to jump-start it with some physical activity such as walking. Doing that brings in more nutrients since nitric oxide is released from the linings of arteries to allow blood vessels to move blood more freely.
One of the greatest things about your body is that it responds to what you're doing through mechanisms called feedback loops. You tell your body that you want to watch reruns all night, and it responds by downshifting energy production. But tell your body that you need to walk around the neighborhood or swim a few laps or do an early-morning stretch-to-the-ceiling routine, and it responds by giving you the energy you need.
Take advantage of these feedback loops by integrating more exercise into your routine. And start early in the day, when you have the energy to exercise. Ideally, aim for 45 minutes a day of physical activity with at least 20 minutes a day involving the sore muscles.
Start by doing gentle exercise such as walking or warm-water stretching. The trick is to do only the amount or intensity that makes you feel "good tired," not "bad tired" or in pain afterward. Tell your body which way to go, and it's going to follow.
Blame it on the invention of electricity, more demanding jobs or great late-night TV, but we sleep a whole lot less nowadays than we used to. On average, Americans awake at 5:47 a.m. and do not hit the bed (not when we actually sleep) until after 10:15 p.m. That, simply, is not enough.
Why not? Sleep has the ultimate restorative powers and you need it for your hormonal balance and for increasing the rejuvenating human growth hormone, which is needed to choreograph the looking and feeling beautiful dance in your body. Growth hormone is secreted primarily when we sleep and is dependent on your sleep.
We're just not doing enough of it. Eight high-quality hours a day will help you restore energy, decrease pain and lose weight. If you have trouble falling asleep, you may need to include some sleep tactics in your bag of bedroom tricks.
- Do nothing in your bedroom but sleep and have sex. If you work, watch TV or work out to fitness DVDs in the room, you're basically training your body to be alert in the bedroom space. Your bedroom should be a sanctuary from the normal hustle and bustle of life.
- Practice good sleep hygiene. That means you should make a sleep schedule. Before that eight-hour period starts, give yourself 10 minutes to do the quick chores absolutely needed for the next day (such as making lunch), another 10 minutes for hygiene (flossing and brushing your teeth) and 10 minutes for meditation. Some people even dim the lights in their bedroom an hour before sleep to transition from artificial light to darkness.
- Make sure your room is cool. The ideal sleep temp seems to be around 67 degrees.
- Add in a power nap…just make sure to keep it under 30 minutes. Any longer than that, and you'll slip into a stage of deeper sleep so close to the dreamy REM phase that when awakened from it, you'll feel hung over and drowsy. That feeling, by the way, is called sleep inertia and is associated with making bad financial judgments and getting into auto accidents. An under-30-minute nap enables your body and brain to reboot and is commonly practiced in societies that boast great energy and longevity.
- The data on sleep supplements aren't good enough to be definitive, but some of the favorites of patients include valerian root (though it has an energizing effect in 10 percent of people), passion flower, theanine, hops and melatonin. Calcium (1,200 mg, divided between two doses) and magnesium (400 mg) are also helpful. These can help you get to sleep and wake up refreshed with no hangover.
Check Your Plate
When it comes to increasing energy, food is still nature's best medicine. Try these dietary tactics:
- One hidden cause of fatigue is a little bit of dehydration. It's something that many people can't quite identify, so if you're feeling a little low, a glass of water may be the jolt you really need. Drink as much water as it takes to keep your mouth and lips moist throughout the day, so that your urine is clear enough to read through. If you have chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia and have low blood pressure, you can increase your salt intake—especially sea salt, for minerals—when your body craves it.
- Avoid simple sugars. These end in "-ose" like glucose, sucrose, maltose or dextrose—but not ribose. You should also avoid syrups, any grain that isn't "100-percent whole grain" and saturated and trans fats.
- Aim to consume a diet of high-quality protein from nuts and fish, and cut down on carbs. And include lots of fruits, vegetables and 100-percent whole grains.
Find Your Chia
Say the word "chia," and most of us immediately think of those commercials little green pets that pop up around the holidays.
But we want you to think of chia for another reason: A whole grain used by the Aztecs as their main energy source, chia can help restore energy levels and decrease inflammation because of its omega-3 fatty acids.
Similar to cornstarch, chia can be used as a thickening agent and as a substitute for whole grains in your diet. Whole grains, of course, are especially important because they help stabilize blood sugar levels, as opposed to causing the spikes and falls that can occur when you eat sugars and refined carbohydrates. Get this Dr. Oz-approved recipe for Pumpkin-Chia Seed Muffins
Go Peruvian in the Morning
In the heights of the mountains, Peruvian tribesmen get energy by sucking on maca (Lepidium meyenii) plants. This turnip-or radish-shaped vegetable from the mustard family has been used as food and medicine, to promote endurance and improve energy, vitality, sexual virility and even fertility.
The data on its increased energy effects seem strong, but the reported side effect is insomnia. It can be obtained in a powder at many stores (Whole Foods, etc.) or from reputable dealers on the Internet.
A single teaspoon (that's the dose in the studies) can be added to blender drinks, pancakes and other food products. The teaspoon keeps you going all day long. Or take 1/2 gram of the extract in pill form twice a day.
Go Russian in the Evening
Hunted in Siberia and extracted from chips, Rhodiola rosea anecdotally promotes energy, tamina and sexual function and libido. What do you do with it? Try stuffing some Rhodiola chips into a pint container and fill it with vodka. Then try a tablespoon a night. If the mixture is beet-red, it will have 200 to 600 mg of Rhodiola in it.
How good are the data on Rhodiola? Not solid enough to recommend to everyone, but it probably won't hurt. We know a little alcohol every night—even if it's not red wine—keeps your cardiovascular system younger.
Get Rid of Infections
While most of us want to treat infections because of their acute symptoms, we can't ignore that they can have chronic implications as well. Since inflammation and infection can be two of the dominoes in the cascade of low-energy symptoms, one of your goals could be to monitor your body so that infections don't linger.
- Regular flossing to decrease the risk of gum inflammation.
- Regular use of a neti pot to reduce sinusitis.
- Probiotics to treat such infections as prostatitis, bowel infections and vaginitis.
Many infections are viral. This means good sleep, frequent hand washing and good food choices that avoid all simple sugars and saturated fats can help.
You need B vitamins for your mitochondria to produce energy from glucose. Most of us absorb the B vitamins well in either liquid or pill form, but 99 percent of us don't get enough from our diets.
Take a multivitamin in the morning and evening (twice a day to keep stable levels, since we pee the water-soluble ones out) to keep you energized. If you're having symptoms, check your vitamin B12 and D levels.
Get your vitamin B and D levels checked yearly. You may be the rare person who doesn't absorb them well from your stomach and intestine and needs a B12 vitamin injection yearly.
Much of the world is short of vitamin D—and you need it to help fight cancer, to keep arteries young and to aid brain function. So make sure you get it measured and take what is needed to keep its level normal.
Green tea has been shown to have the highest content of polyphenols, which are chemicals with potent antioxidant properties believed to be greater than even vitamin C's. They give tea its bitter flavor. Because green tea leaves are young and have not been oxidized, green tea has up to 40 percent polyphenols, while black tea contains only about 10 percent.
Another interesting note: Green tea has one-third the caffeine of black tea. Even better, it's been shown to yield the same level of energy and attentiveness, but in more even levels than the ups and downs associated with other caffeinated drinks. Just don't drink milk with it; the casein in milk has been shown to inhibit the beneficial effects of tea.
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