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How to Fix a Lack of Energy: Natural Energy Boosters

Updated on September 21, 2015
I try to limit my intake of processed foods, Kashi and Silk make products that contain very few processed ingredients.
I try to limit my intake of processed foods, Kashi and Silk make products that contain very few processed ingredients. | Source

The Chronic Fatigue Plague

Our society is plagued by a common complaint: fatigue. Everyone feels tired at one time or another, but too many of us are complaining of chronic fatigue and lethargy.

Even if we get enough sleep, we awake in the morning feeling tired and complaining of an inability to think clearly. We’ve all complained of the daily 3:00pm fatigue. How many times have you heard “I wish I could take a nap right now” at about 2:30pm in the afternoon? Probably too many to count!

Over the years our eating habits have changed drastically. In the early 20th Century, the American population ate approximately 120 pounds of meat and poultry a year. In 2007, meat consumption increased to 222 pounds a year.

But, it’s not just our meat intake that has changed. Our dairy and processed sugar consumption has increased dramatically as well. For example, in 1913, the population consumed about 40 pounds of processed sugar a year. In 1999, that number was over three times that, 147 pounds of processed sugar a year. In 1909, dairy consumption was at about 249 pounds per year, in 2006, it was 605 pounds. Almost unbelievable isn’t it?

You Are What You Eat

But what does this have to do with our chronic fatigue? Part of our lack of energy comes from the enormous amount of energy it takes to digest animal products. Meat and dairy products stay in our digestive track for up to 72 hours.

Think about this for a minute.

Digestion is basically the process of liquefying food so the nutrients can be absorbed easily into the blood stream. Freshly squeezed fruit juice, being a liquid, takes very little energy to digest and is absorbed into the blood stream almost immediately.

But a steak takes an enormous amount of energy to digest. If you eat meat every day, your body is using massive amounts of energy just for digestion! Even when you go to bed, your body is still trying to digest that steak you ate for dinner last night. No wonder we’re so tired! Our bodies are digesting instead of sleeping!

Whole grains should be a large portion of the diet and unprocessed as well.
Whole grains should be a large portion of the diet and unprocessed as well. | Source

Another reason we’re so tired is digestive leukocytosis. The immune system sees cooked food as a foreign invader and attacks it. So, the food you’re eating that is supposed to nourish your body is causing a chronic state of immune hyperactivity.

When our immune system is on high alert constantly, not only do we use up vitamins and nutrients faster than we can eat them, but the nutrients we do eat are being attacked creating a vicious cycle.

On a similar note, eating animal protein causes a chronic condition called metabolic acidosis in which the pH of the body becomes more acidic. When this happens, the body uses its most readily available acid buffer: calcium, which is stripped from the bones to neutralize the acidic pH level. This inevitably causes the bones to become weakened, leading to osteoarthritis.

Omnivores vs Herbivores

Recently, there has been some debate over whether or not humans are actually omnivores. Scientific evidence, while inconclusive, does support the idea that humans were designed to be herbivores.

For example, because they don’t have to digest cellulose, a carnivore’s intestinal tract is much shorter than ours, allowing meat to pass quickly through their system. However, their stomach is much larger to accommodate the large amounts of meat eaten in a single meal.

The hydrochloric acid in their stomachs has a pH of about 1-2, whereas in humans the pH in the stomach is about 4-5. Humans also have much smaller stomachs and much longer intestinal tracts for digesting and absorbing phytochemicals and other nutrients prior to excretion.

Milton Mills, M.D. conducted research on the anatomical differences of carnivores and omnivores versus herbivores and humans. He found that humans were anatomically engineered for a plant-based diet rather that for a diet rich in animal protein and he published these findings in a paper entitled The Comparative Anatomy of Eating (see table). In his paper, in regard to omnivores (he uses bears as an example), he states:

An animal which captures, kills and eats prey must have the physical equipment which makes predation practical and efficient. Since bears include significant amounts of meat in their diet, they must retain the anatomical features that permit them to capture and kill prey animals. Hence, bears have a jaw structure, musculature and dentition which enable them to develop and apply the forces necessary to kill and dismember prey even though the majority of their diet is comprised of plant foods. Although an herbivore-style jaw joint (above the plane of the teeth) is a far more efficient joint for crushing and grinding vegetation and would potentially allow bears to exploit a wider range of plant foods in their diet, it is a much weaker joint than the hinge-style carnivore joint. The herbivore-style jaw joint is relatively easily dislocated and would not hold up well under the stresses of subduing struggling prey and/or crushing bones (nor would it allow the wide gape carnivores need).

—Milton Mills, M.D in his article The "Comparative Anatomy of Eating"


Table of Milton Mills' Findings

 
Carnivores
Omnivores
Herbivores
Humans
Facial muscles
Reduced to allow wide mouth gape
Reduced
Well-developed
Well-developed
Jaw type
Angle not expanded
Angle not expanded
Expanded angle
Expanded angle
Jaw joint location
On same plane as molar teeth
On same plane as molar teeth
Above the plane of the molars
Above the plane of the molars
Jaw motion
Shearing; minimal side-to-side motion
Shearing; minimal side-to-side motion
No shear; good side-to-side, front-to-back
No shear; good side-to-side, front-to-back
Major jaw muscles
Temporalis
Temporalis
Masseter and ptergoids
Masseter and pterygoids
Mouth opening vs. head size
Large
Large
Small
Small
Teeth: Incisors
Short and pointed
Short and pointed
Broad, flattened and spade-shaped
Broad, flattened and spade-shaped
Teeth: Canines
Long, sharp, and curved
Long, sharp and curved
Dull and short or long (for defense) or none
Short and blunted
Teeth: Molars
Sharp, jagged and blade-shaped
Sharp blades and/or flattened
Flattened with cusps vs. complex surface
Flattened with nodular cusps
Chewing
None; swallows food whole
Swallows food whole and/or simple crushing
Extensive chewing necessary
Extensive chewing necessary
Saliva
No digestive enzymes
No digestive enzymes
Carbohydrate digesting enzymes
Carbohydrate digesting enzymes
Stomach type
Simple
Simple
Simple or multiple chambers
Simple
Stomach acidity with food in stomach
less than or equal to pH 1
less than or equal to pH 1
pH 4-5
pH 4-5
Length of small intestine
3-6 times body length
4-6 times body length
10-12+ times body length
10-11 times body length
Colon
Simple, short, and smooth
Simple, short, and smooth
Long, complex; may be sacculated
Long, sacculated
Liver
Can detoxify vitamin A
Can detoxify vitamin A
Cannot detoxify vitamin A
Cannot detoxify vitamin A
Kidney
Extremely concentrated urine
Extremely concentrated urine
Moderately concentrated urine
Moderately concentrated urine
A simplified table detailing the findings in Milton Mills, M.D. paper The Comparative Anatomy of Eating.

Effects of Dietary Changes

When I went vegetarian, I noticed a dramatic increase in my energy levels within about three days. The same thing happened when I went completely vegan. There are other reasons for my high energy levels in my opinion, however. There are a number of things I do daily that (I believe) boost my energy levels. (Please keep in mind, everyone’s physiology is different and what works for me, may not work for you.)

The Most Important Meal of the Day

My daily breakfast is cereal with almond milk, fresh juice and black tea.
My daily breakfast is cereal with almond milk, fresh juice and black tea. | Source
Almonds make wonderful, filling snacks.
Almonds make wonderful, filling snacks. | Source

Ingredients for My Hemp Smoothie

Chocolate almond milk is the "secret ingredient" in my smoothies that really makes them oh so yummy!
Chocolate almond milk is the "secret ingredient" in my smoothies that really makes them oh so yummy! | Source

Daily Rituals

The very first thing I do after I get up is eat breakfast. I never used to eat first thing in the morning, but it has become my favorite meal of the day. Eating within an hour of rising breaks the eight to twelve hour fast caused by sleep, essentially jump starting the metabolism. It also prevents you from overeating later in the day. I also have a glass of freshly made juice and a cup of hot black tea.

Lunch usually consists of a rather large salad and more juice. Dinner is pretty random, but is typically a combination of whole grains, vegetables and yes, more fresh juice. For snacks, I make fresh juice instead of grabbing a typical snack food. On occasion, when I really have a sweet tooth, I’ll have a granola bar or dark chocolate covered almonds, but, as a vegan, I try to stay away from all processed sugars and packaged foods, as well as animal products.

The Hemp Smoothie

One major thing I do every day that I believe has a huge impact on my energy levels is my protein smoothie. I DO NOT use whey or soy protein powder. I don’t use whey because it contains the animal protein casein and I don’t use soy because most soy beans are genetically modified.

It’s easier to abstain from soy that it is to decipher whether or not the soybean used was from GMO (genetically modified organism) crops. Instead, I use hemp protein powder. I, honestly, believe most of my energy comes from the hemp protein. It is a superfood and contains all the essential amino acids (amino acids our bodies can’t produce on its own) the body needs, but it also contains branched-chain amino acids.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) are compounds that most people don’t even know exist. There are three BCAA’s getting quite a bit of attention lately, and they are Valine, Leucine and Isoleucine.

All three of these BCAA’s have very specialized functions, but since this isn’t a lecture on biochemistry, we’ll keep it simple. Valine, Leucine and Isoleucine help regulate blood sugar levels, help to burn visceral fat (the fat stored in the innermost layers of the body, like stomach fat) and provide extra glucose to the muscles during strenuous exercise which prevents the body from breaking down these muscles for extra energy.

Hemp protein powder is a natural source of these BCAA’s and since it is a powder the body expends minimal amounts of energy on its digestion allowing it to permeate cells almost immediately, increasing its energetic effects. Since I started the hemp protein smoothies, I have noticed yet another dramatic increase in my energy levels. I’ve also noticed a dramatic decrease in the amount of fat in my stomach area.

Vitamins and Supplements

Of course, I also take vitamin supplements, even with all the veggies and fruits I consume. I take vitamins simply because we don’t know exactly how old the food we buy the grocery store actually is. Most of the time, the produce has traveled across the country to get to the store in which we purchase it. How much nutrition is there really in a five day old apple?

We make juice from fresh fruits every day.
We make juice from fresh fruits every day. | Source

I take quite a few vitamins including a B complex vitamin that also contains vitamin C and rose hips, along with black cohosh, vitamin E, zinc, calcium, and a multivitamin enriched with an omega 3-6-9 complex. I average a dosage that is well over the recommended daily allowance (RDA).

The idea that vitamins can cause health problems is plain nonsense. In the past 20 years, there have been only 10 deaths alleged to be caused by vitamins. It has not been proven that these deaths were caused by the vitamins.

Vitamin C does not cause kidney stones. In fact, vitamin C helps metabolize cholesterol into bile acids which helps prevent gall bladder stones and high cholesterol levels. It also helps prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).

Overdose of Vitamin C is extremely rare because as the amount of vitamin C consumed goes up, the absorption rate by the body goes down and any excess is excreted as waste.

Exercise

On top of all of my dietary changes, I also exercise at least four to five times a week. I make sure I get in a good cardio workout by playing UFC Personal Trainer on my Kinect along with weight training with the first Your Shape Fitness Evolved game.

When I first started working out, I was actually more tired during the day and exhausted when I went to bed. But after about two weeks, I had a kick in my step and felt wonderful. I’m still working out and I still feel fantastic.

Changing my diet and adding exercise has made a huge impact on my quality of life. I’m healthier than I have ever been, and I have more energy now than when I was a teenager!

© Copyright 2012 - 2015 by Melissa "Daughter of Maat" Flagg ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg 4 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      @Manatita44 Thank you! The hemp protein is made by Nutiva, you can visit their website, or get it on amazon. I may add an amazon link into this hub, I never actually thought about it! lol

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 4 years ago from london

      Daughter of MaatExtremely informative article. Would look for the hemp protein.

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg 4 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      @donnah75 Thank you and Congrats on your journey to health!! I've found the vegan diet to be perfect for myself and my family. It definitely helps with the weight loss and lowers cholesterol and blood pressure. It has made such a HUGE difference in my life, which is why I've become such an advocate for it! You may want to read my hub on vitamin C as well. It has also had a huge impact on my energy and overall health. Taking vitamin C completely "cured" (for lack of a better term) my strep throat in about four hours.

      Again congrats on your new healthy way of life! That's absolutely fantastic!!

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      I have just started a vegetarian diet, which I think may become a vegetarian way of life. In fact, right now, I am eating a vegan diet, as I want to shed some weight. I feel so much better already. This might be the "cure" I have been looking for to feel great again. Knowing that others are out there and having success and feeling better is a great support. Thank you! Voted up and sharing.

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image
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      Melissa Flagg 4 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      Not chronic fatigue syndrome no, although that hub is in the works.The chronic fatigue caused by chronic pain, and stress was really the intent of this hub. But I have noticed great improvement in my pain as well with this diet. Exercise does help patients with arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, but graded exercise therapy, a form of physical therapy has been shown to help CFS and ME.

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