A love letter to energy

The VITL Nutrition Team / 27 Jun 2022

Our in-house nutritionists give tips on why we might be lacking in energy and which vitamins could help.


Share:

Why might we be lacking in energy?

  • Low iron - Iron is a key nutrient when it comes to energy, as it attaches to oxygen in our red blood cells and carries it throughout the body. 
  • Deficient in crucial B vitamins - If you follow a strict diet (e.g. vegan/vegetarian, coeliac, gluten) you may be lacking in certain B vitamins such as vitamin B12 found only in animal products. B vitamins are fundamental for energy metabolism. When eating food, B vitamins help to ‘unpack’ the energy found within those foods into energy our bodies can use. 
  • Getting inadequate sleep - Quite an obvious one, but poor sleep really impacts our energy levels. Studies have shown that not getting enough sleep is similar to being drunk. Our brains process things much slower; decisions and reactions are affected. 
  • Chronic stress - High cortisol levels wreak havoc on the body and can cause fatigue. 
  • Under-active thyroid 
  • Depression/Anxiety - This often means our bodies are constantly on high alert, similar to chronic stress. 
  • Skipping meals 
  • Eating too much sugar - This leads to fluctuations of our glucose levels, giving us sharp energy highs and subsequent drops.

Which vitamins can help with energy?

Okay, so you told us you:

  • are frequently feeling tired,
  • experience mid-morning energy dip,
  • experience post lunch slump,
  • have trouble getting out of bed

And we know know that: 

  • lack of sleep,
  • chronic stress, 
  • an under-active thyroid,
  • skipping meals,
  • eating too much sugar/caffeine, and
  • deficiencies in nutrients like iron and B vitamins

are all potential reasons for not feeling 100% all the time. 


Nutrients involved in energy

  • B vitamins are essential in many physiological and neurological processes that interplay with optimal energy levels; from the production of neurotransmitters that regulate mood and transmit messages through the brain, to normal psychological function and carbohydrate metabolism - our brain’s main fuel.
  • Iron is also a key nutrient when it comes to energy, as it helps the production of a substance (haemoglobin) in red blood cells that enables them to carry oxygen throughout the body.
  • Vitamin C is most well known for its fundamental role in supporting immunity, but we also need vitamin C to produce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol which increase our body’s heart rate, blood pressure and enhance our brain’s use of glucose.
  • Iodine is a mineral that plays a key role in thyroid hormones that are needed for many body processes including growth, metabolism and for the development of a baby’s brain during pregnancy and early life. Fatigue and weakness are common symptoms of iodine deficiency. It is necessary for energy production too which is why we deem it an essential nutrient for energy. 
  • Magnesium is another essential mineral. It is used in over 300 metabolic processes in the body. Magnesium is required for the production and stability of something called the ATP molecule, which provides basic energy for bodily processes. 
  • CoQ10 which stands for Co-enzyme Q10 is a molecule that’s found in almost every cell in our bodies. It simulates the cell’s powerhouse (mitochondria) to produce more energy. 

How can my Personalised Pack/ Essential One help? 

Your Personalised Pack / Essential One contains high levels of vitamin B12 and folic acid (aka vitamin B9). These two B vitamins are crucial for normal energy release from food and play a key role in maintaining optimal energy levels throughout the day. Deficiency in these nutrients is often linked to feelings of tiredness, fatigue and muscle weakness.

The great thing about B vitamins is that they are water soluble which means that the body won’t store excess B vitamins for later use (unlike vitamins E, K, A & D which are fat soluble). Taking too much of these vitamins won’t cause any harmful effects as the body will excrete it in urine. 

We ensure that your intake of vitamins is always below the safe upper limit set by the European food safety authority (EFSA). However, you will notice that the quantity tends to be above the recommended daily allowance or nutrient reference value (NRV). This is because we strive for ‘optimal’ health. The daily amount set by the UK and EU authorities is the intake needed of each micronutrient to prevent a deficiency disease, rather than the amount needed for the best possible health. Note: this is subjective and is dependent on the individual! 


General nutrition tips

Mind the sugar

Ever had a sugar high?! We know that having that ‘high’ also means we experience a dip after the sugar has been taken into our cells and stored as energy for later. Try to prioritise Low Glycaemic Index (LGI) carbohydrate foods over highly sugary foods that you might turn to for a quick energy fix. LGI foods such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables and lentils provide you with a slow release of energy throughout the day, while processed snacks and sugar-sweetened beverages lead to energy peaks and then crashes.

Eat your greens

High net-gain foods are foods which are nutrient-dense, plant-based foods such as kale, swiss chard, mustard greens, and spinach. They are easy to digest and absorb, resulting in less work for our body. They contain high levels of B vitamins and iron which, as we know, are important for energy. The kind of foods we eat can impact our physical health and also our mood. Fruit and vegetables contain an abundance of different vitamins and phytochemicals which are all fundamental for good health and specifically for keeping our energy levels topped up, so don’t skimp on the veggies! 

Smart snacking

The kind of foods we eat and the time we eat them may impact our energy levels, as this has a direct impact on our blood sugar levels. Eating food that provides sustained energy for getting us through the busy day is the key. It's important that we fill up on foods such as wholegrains for a fibre boost, healthy fats to keep our brains ticking over and veggies to deliver the micronutrient bunch that helps us stay healthy. Having snacks planned and portioned saves a lot of time. Eating different combinations of foods can be satisfying and helps to curb hunger. 


Lifestyle tips to improve our energy levels

Manage the stress

Stress can truly sap our energy as our body exerts a lot of energy when we are in a constant state of fight or flight. The reason for this is that it costs energy to produce the stress hormones and whilst the body is in this state it is heightened and optimised for dealing with (perceived) danger. Finding ways to deal with stress is important, whether it’s meditation, spending time outdoors, reading or making music; whatever it is, it will impact our energy levels as we make time to unwind. 

Get those ZZZ’s 

Don’t underestimate the impact poor sleep can have on our energy levels the next day. If you experience difficulty falling asleep or maintaining an undisturbed rest throughout the night, try to reduce blue light exposure from screens in the evening, sleep and wake at consistent times (try to keep that during the weekends too!), avoid eating late at night and make sure that your last caffeinated drink was taken at least 6-8 hours before bed. On the topic of caffeine, this also impacts our sleep. If you struggle with getting enough shut eye, we recommend cutting down on caffeine and even going a few days without it. 

How to get a good night's sleep?

Move our body

Exercise works as a natural anxiolytic (anxiety reliever) as it increases the secretion of endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, hormones that make us feel euphoric in a natural way. Try to incorporate in your everyday routine mild to moderate exercise, such as walking, running, cycling, swimming or resistance and strength training. If sports aren’t your thing, fear not! Tasks such as vacuuming and gardening are also an effective form to get the same benefits from exercise. 

Chronic stress

We are living in an epidemic of stress. As humans we are hard-wired to react to our environment, stress can be defined as the body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. Stressors or events such as being chased by a bear (not very relevant anymore!) or running late for an appointment will instigate the hormonal release of adrenaline (the ‘alarm’ hormone) and cortisol (the stress hormone). This reaction is often triggered when we experience something new or unexpected or that threatens our sense of self, or when we feel we have little control over a situation. Reacting to our environment isn’t a bad thing as it helps us align and stay on top of all commitments, however, too much can have serious consequences. 

Long term stress can have negative effects, especially if the body is in a prolonged state of stress which is referred to as ‘chronic stress’. It can leave us in a permanent state of ‘flight or fight’ (triggering the release of hormones mentioned above and activating our immune system). 


What tests can I take?

Blood test

Feelings of exhaustion or fatigue can be a symptom of iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency. Check your levels with a blood test now. 

DNA test

Did you know that you may be genetically predisposed to require higher levels of iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid? Check what your genes have to say on how you metabolise those nutrients and see what diet and lifestyle changes you can make to improve your energy levels!



Healthy snacks for that energy kick

Focus on pairing macronutrients, eg. protein, with slow-release carbohydrates. 

  • A piece of fruit (shocker!)
  • A handful of mixed dried fruit and nuts
  • Banana, peanut butter, chia seeds and almond milk smoothie
  • Sliced apple, topped with cinnamon
  • Goat's cheese and spinach toastie
  • Greek or plant based yoghurt with sliced strawberries and almond butter
  • Sliced raw veggies with hummus dip (e.g. baby carrots, sliced celery and cucumber)
  • Roasted chickpeas with cumin
  • Kale and carrot chips
  • Homemade popcorn with spices 
  • 2x hard-boiled eggs with spinach

We hope that taking on this advice will help you get that spring in your step and the tips will help you feel super energised!





You might also be interested in:

Rise and Energise formula: what's inside?
A love letter to vitamin C
A love letter to our gut