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It’s normal to feel tired once in a while, but exhaustion shouldn’t be a part of your everyday routine. If you’re in a constant state of low energy where even the simplest of tasks seem like a challenge, there could be more going on under the surface.
There are a number of factors that contribute to low energy. Some are more serious, like chronic health conditions including diabetes, hypothyroidism or congestive heart failure. Others are more lifestyle related, such as deficiencies, diet, stress, or poor quality sleep.
When it comes to nutrient deficiencies, B12 and iron are the common culprits linked to low energy.
Iron plays an important role in forming red blood cells that carry oxygen from your lungs to the cells throughout your body. Without enough iron, your body struggles to get enough oxygen to your brain, tissues, and muscles leaving you feeling exhausted. Low iron or iron-deficiency anemia is most common in women.
Vitamin B12 deficiencies can also cause low energy plus poor concentration and tingling in the hands and feet. B12 is found primarily in animal products including dairy, eggs and meats, so generally vegetarians and vegans are at a higher risk of deficiency. Stomach acid plays a major role in the absorption of vitamin B12, so older adults and those taking medications that affect stomach acid production can also be at higher risk of being low in B12.
The foods you eat can have a massive impact on your energy levels. Take sugar for example, if you’re eating sugary foods, you blood sugar spikes, and you feel alert and energetic. Eventually, your blood sugar will drop again, and when that happens your energy levels drop with it. Maintaining balanced blood sugar levels is key to steady energy throughout the day. That means ditching sugary foods, and refined and processed foods that digest quickly, for slower digesting whole foods. Try adding high fiber fruits and vegetables, beans, complex carbohydrates and good quality fats and proteins.
When you experience stress your adrenal glands produce cortisol (your main stress hormone) to send you into fight or flight mode. This is a good thing in cases where there’s a threat that you need to escape from, or protect yourself from. But in reality, a lot of our day to day stressors don’t fall into that category. Fight or flight response sends blood to your extremities, so you can run faster or fight harder. What you can’t do however, is digest your food effectively, or sleep soundly when you’re in this state. Constant exposure to stress can lend to adrenal exhaustion, resulting in a higher cortisol release to lower levels of stress that otherwise wouldn’t trigger such a response. Too much cortisol in your body can affect your ability to sleep and leave you feeling mentally and physically exhausted.
Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, yet don’t even come close to that on a regular basis. A lack of sleep leaves you feeling irritable, moody and definitely low in energy. But sleeps not just a numbers game, the quality of your rest matter too. Getting uninterrupted sleep is ideal, but at minimum spending time in more restorative deep sleep cycles can help your body to feel more rested. Sleeping in complete darkness, cooler temperatures and a comfortable space with zero distractions can help to improve your sleep environment for better quality rest.
If any of those causes sound like they could be contributing to your low energy, there’s good news. You can eat healthier, manage your stress and improve your sleep. The bad news however, is that sometimes making those healthy changes takes energy. So, it can all seem a little bit impossible when you’re already lacking energy right now.
But that’s where superfoods really shine.
Superfoods are nutrient dense foods that can help your body find balance. In cases of low energy maca root is a really great option. It comes from Peru, and was historically used to give energy to the Incans before battle. Today you can find it in powder form ready to throw into smoothies, soups or sauces.
Maca root is an adaptogenic herb, which means it can help your body to adapt to stress. It’s rich in nutrients, like B vitamins and vitamin C (both of which your adrenals need for dealing with stress) and minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron (an important mineral for energy). Maca is also a rich source of antioxidants and phytonutrients, and even plant based protein.
When you’re using maca, a gelatinized variety is more digestible. The more digestible the product, the easier it is for your body to absorb the nutrients and benefits of the root.
Aside from its nutritional profile, maca helps to relieve anxiety and depression to support energy and mood balance. It also supports the endocrine system to help balance both female and male hormones improving fertility and boosting sexual libido.
Using maca is a simple and healthy way to start feeling more energetic, so you can start making the changes you need to make for better long lasting energy every day.