Men’s Health Week: 5 Nutrients to Supercharge Your Energy
Ditch the fancy elixirs and miracle superfoods for boosting your energy, and instead head to your local farmers market or supermarket. The key to enhancing mental stamina, energy, vitality, and overall health lies in everyday foods readily available to you.
Check out this list of staple foods that every man should add to his shopping list for maintaining optimal energy levels.
Iron, known for its health benefits since ancient times, plays a vital role in our well-being. It is a crucial component of blood haemoglobin, responsible for efficiently transporting oxygen from the lungs throughout the body. Iron also contributes to the synthesis of tyrosine and tryptophan, which are precursors to the "feel-good" hormones dopamine and serotonin. So, if you're feeling low on energy and irritable, iron could be the missing piece!
Iron deficiency is a prevalent micronutrient deficiency globally. Insufficient oxygen supply due to low iron levels impairs brain function, muscular energy, and endurance, resulting in symptoms of fatigue. Certain individuals, such as vegetarians, vegans, intense exercisers, regular blood donors, and those consuming dairy and egg proteins that inhibit iron absorption, may be at higher risk.
Where to find it: Great sources include meat, beans, nuts, dried fruit, whole grains, and dark-green leafy vegetables.
Okay, sure Ashwagandha isn't quite a nutrient, but we couldn't not include it on our list! That's because promising research has shown that Ashwagandha can help increase stamina, improve stress resilience, enhance immune function, and may even contribute to combating fatigue or low energy levels.
Ashwagandha has also been linked to improved memory, cognition, reaction times, and increased muscle mass. So, if you're looking for energy-boosting vitamins to enhance both your physical and mental performance, Ashwagandha could be a valuable addition.
Where to find it: While Ashwagandha isn't typically found in standard salad mixes, you can find it in the form of supplements.
B vitamins are essential for extracting energy from food, with all B vitamins (except folate) involved in energy production within cells. Any shortfall in these vital vitamins can limit energy generation. B vitamins play a key role in producing haemoglobin and healthy red blood cells, crucial for transporting oxygen throughout the body, thereby impacting physical performance. They are also involved in the production of dopamine and serotonin, essential for mood regulation.
It's worth mentioning that we humans can't synthesise B vitamins internally, making them a pretty essential part of our diet. While most people can obtain adequate B vitamins through a healthy diet, strict vegans, vegetarians, and individuals with reduced gastric acid production (common with ageing) may be at risk of deficiency.
Where to find it: Good sources include whole grains, dairy, eggs, rice, meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables.
Coenzyme Q10, also known as vitamin Q10 or CoQ10, is a natural antioxidant produced by your body. It plays a fundamental role in your body's energy production cycle. CoQ10 acts as a cofactor in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the molecule that captures chemical energy from food. This process is crucial for the overall health of your tissues and organs. Additionally, CoQ10 supports immune function, as immune cells rely heavily on energy.
Most interestingly, research has discovered a connection between low levels of CoQ10 and fatigue. As you age, the levels of CoQ10 naturally decrease in your body. Individuals with chronic illnesses associated with ageing, such as heart disease and Parkinson's, tend to have lower CoQ10 levels. This has led to the hypothesis that CoQ10 supplements could alleviate ageing symptoms and slow the onset of these diseases. Considering that fatigue tends to increase with age, CoQ10 can be beneficial as an energy-boosting vitamin.
Where to find it: Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is found naturally in various foods, although the amounts may be relatively small. Foods include meat, fish, nuts, and certain oils including canola and olive oil.
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bone growth, as it aids in the regulation of calcium in the body. Low levels of vitamin D can lead to skeletal demineralisation, muscle weakness, and fatigue. In addition to poor bone health, low levels of vitamin D are associated with pulmonary disorders, type 2 diabetes, various cancers, depression, and cognitive decline. Some research even suggests a link between vitamin D deficiency and general mortality, highlighting the importance of monitoring your intake.
Interestingly, more than 50% of people worldwide are deficient in vitamin D. While sunlight triggers its production in the skin, countries with limited sunlight, especially in northern regions, may not provide enough exposure throughout the year. People with darker skin produce less vitamin D due to melanin blocking the UVB rays necessary for its formation.
Moreover, using sunscreen prevents vitamin D synthesis, although going without sunscreen poses a known risk for skin cancer. In light of this, vitamin D supplements are a safe option for combating fatigue and boosting energy levels.
Where to find it: Good dietary sources include oily fish, red meat, and egg yolks. Even spending 10-15 minutes in bright sunshine can help stimulate vitamin D production!
Riya Lakhani ANutr is a registered nutritionist and health writer with a special interest in plant-based nutrition. She has completed a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Human Nutrition, and has developed a passion for writing about all things plant-based.