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How to Fix a Lack of Energy: Natural Energy Boosters

With over two decades of experience in medicine, Melissa Flagg writes patient education articles, keeping you informed about your health.

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.

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.

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

 CarnivoresOmnivoresHerbivoresHumans

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

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.

Almonds make wonderful, filling snacks.

Almonds make wonderful, filling snacks.

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!

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.

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 gallbladder stones and high cholesterol levels. It also helps prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).

An 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 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!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2012 Melissa Flagg COA OSC

Comments

Melissa Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on September 03, 2012:

@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 from london on September 03, 2012:

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

Melissa Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on August 26, 2012:

@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!!

Donna Hilbrandt from Upstate New York on August 26, 2012:

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.

Melissa Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on July 21, 2012:

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.

Deidre Shelden from Texas, USA on July 21, 2012:

Very interesting information. I will look into the hemp protein, and have passed this on to another, too. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrom/ME and some of what you say here may help. What I've read about CFS and exercise though does not sound like the same response you experienced when you increased exercise. I'm thinking therefore that when you say "chronic fatigue" you are not referring to CFS/ME.

Melissa Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on April 16, 2012:

Thank you for your comment! I actually specifically left out B12, mainly because I wanted to focus to be on process of digestion and how it slows us down. However, I did briefly mention that I take a B complex vitamin and I may add that it contains B12, since many people may not know what a B complex vit is. Also,almond milk, most protein powders, as well as most breakfast cereals, are fortified with B12. I'm currently working on a hub that is part of my hubs on diet and exercise that specifically talks about the B vitamins and their effect on energy levels, but I may add a paragraph to this one about B vitamins as an intro to the new one.

As you said, our food system is very corrupt. This hub and my plant-strong hub are part of a series that I hope will let other people know that we are not being given all the information about our diet and that we need to take our nutrition and health into our own hands. We should be up in arms about the food industry, but I think we as Americans have allowed ourselves to become complacent and the food industry has taken that as an opportunity to do whatever they can to increase profits. Unfortunately, it all comes down to money. "Good health makes a lot of sense, but it doesn't make a lot of dollars." - Andrew Saul PhD

Thanks again for your thoughtful comment, and I'll be updating this hub shortly, so thank you for the extra inspiration!

ALL4JESUS from USA on April 16, 2012:

Daughter of Maat,

I really enjoyed this hub. Thank you. I have learned finally to love first class foods - foods that really feed me not the fast junk in bags and drive thrus.

I especially enjoyed your review of the protein. I find my exercise routine is much better with my protein.

I found this very comprehensive. The only item I did not see is B12 - it is a great way to add energy - don't do the pre-made energy drinks. The capsules from WalMart are just $5 for a whole bottle. If a day is especially stressful and you need a pick up in the afternoon, the added B12 is a great item - this is the stuff in red meat.

I am B12 deficient and have learned to watch my B12 closely but I have personal training clients who have found this helpful.

Unlike other personal trainers, I do not support supplements - I support first class foods and exercise with the exception of B12.

I have a client who is just now fighting cancer. The B12 is working to get her through that down hump of the day.

And yes, the food system is sadly corrupt - we are trained to eat what is "sold" to us and not what is really good for us. The chicken fingers and other processed foods are really gross.

The ammonia in US beef has lead me to purchase all my meat locally. I make a special trip and the meat is much better and I know it has no ammonia in the processing.

America should be up in arms about ammonia in food processing without any disclosure.

Great hub - so glad I found you here on HubPages.

Voted up!

Melissa Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on April 15, 2012:

Thanks Tina! I couldn't wait to share all this info, I was in shock when I found out how our bodies react to animal products and processed foods. Unfortunately, during my research I also found how corrupt our food system is, and how this information is hidden to benefit the meat and dairy industry. I'm finishing a hub on that now actually! lol

Thank you so much for your awesome comment!

Christina Lornemark from Sweden on April 15, 2012:

This hub is so informative and is a goldmine for everyone in need of extra energy. You are right in saying that the most common complaint in our society is fatigue! Everyone I know is constantly tired and we need to do what we can to change this!

Voted up useful and so informative! Thanks

Tina

Melissa Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on April 10, 2012:

I've actually been recently researching the blood type diet hypothesis. Unfortunately, the hypothesis has no merit really. Here is a great website that explains everything and picks the blood type theory apart.

http://www.vegsource.com/articles/blood_hype.htm

Judy Specht from California on April 10, 2012:

Terrific hub! Do you have A blood type? I really wish Mills would have looked at differences in blood type along with the anatomical difference. My "O" blood type would die on a vegetarian diet, but my "A" blood type husband thrives on it.

Kitty Fields from Summerland on March 21, 2012:

Exercise is so good to boost energy levels, that's for sure. Wonderful wonderful tips here, Daughter of Maat.

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on March 21, 2012:

Another good hub on nutrition. I never used to eat breakfast either. But after reading one of your other hubs, I decided to give it a try.

I've managed to stick to it for two weeks now and I have to admit it makes a big difference. I don't feel ravenous by the time lunch time rolls around, so I don't feel the need to eat as much. I feel full after a sandwich and a drink and I don't feel the need to snack between meals.

Next step, giving lunch an overhaul.

Melissa Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on March 20, 2012:

Wow! Thank you all so much! When I published this hub I wasn't really sure anyone would be interested, but clearly this was much needed information.

@rlaha Every little bit helps, even small changes like just adding extra vitamins can make a huge difference in your energy levels!

@Escobana Your diet sounds a lot like mine did! I drank soda all the time, Burger King was part of the 4 food groups along with sugar. I ate cookies and candy constantly! When I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with my daughter, I started researching diabetes and diet, and it took about 5 years for me to decide to go completely vegetarian, but only about 6 months to decide to go vegan! That's how much of a difference just switching to vegetarian made. Thank you for telling me about the tone of my hub, I was hoping it didn't come across as preachy because it's up to the individual to decide what is best for them. I only wanted to share my experience and knowledge and you validated that I did just that. Thank you so much!

@hecate-horus My daughter doesn't really like our vegan ways, it was difficult in the beginning to get her to eat all of her dinner. She's warmed up to salads now though, but it's still a struggle. I would imagine if your children are older than my daughter (she's 5) it would be much more difficult to change your diet that drastically. In a way, it's good that I've switched now, if Sam eats meat now, she'll get sick! So it's more likely to become a life long habit for her. (I hope!)

@Victoria Lynn I enjoyed answering your question immensely! I think it's a very important issue in our society today, and it's become a passion of mine because of the huge impact it has had on my quality of life. So, thank you for the question!

@lucybell21 my hubby had a hard time getting rid of dairy in his diet. Especialy things like cheese and brownies since their made with eggs. I tricked him one time, I made vegan brownies and he said they were the best he ever had. Then I told him what they were and he was sold! I, honestly, don't miss dairy products, but then I never really liked eggs or milk to begin with. Milk always tasted horrible to me when I was a kid! But even if you do eat meat, if it's only a small portion of your diet, you can still reap the benefits of fresh veggies and fruits. The body is just unable to absorb ALL of the nutrients, but that's not to say it doesn't absorb any of them!

Again, thank you all for your comments! I'm so glad this hub was helpful to so many people!

Bonny OBrien from Troy, N.Y. on March 20, 2012:

I do try to eat healthy also, and I don't really eat much meat.I like to eat alot of dairy products, fruit salad, brown rice and wheat germ. Great hub!

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on March 20, 2012:

Thanks for answering my question. This hub is very well-written and researched. Very informative. You present well another option for a healthy lifestyle. Thanks again! voted up!

hecate-horus from Rowland Woods on March 20, 2012:

Good and informative hub! Someday I'll try to go vegetation again, maybe when the kids are out of the house (they complained about it too much!).

Pamela Hutson from Moonlight Maine on March 20, 2012:

Awesome hub! I already eat a lot of these things. So much information packed in here, and it's so needed. Thanks!

Escobana from Valencia on March 20, 2012:

Absolutely a call from heaven! I recently started out with this new and healthy lifestyle, now stumbling on your great and very informative Hub!

To give you an idea of what I consumed before:-) Liters of Coca-Cola, sugared juices, coffee and Red Bull once in a while. Lots of cookies, chips and candies.

Fastfood from whatever restaurant you can name and I cooked rarely for the lack of...energy! On top of that I never drank water, I rarely drank milk and most surprising of all....I gained just 5 extra kilo's for living like this and working out once in a while.

By coincidence and because of a great friend, I started with a clean slade, 3 weeks ago. Your Hub is definitely a big help to understanding why I was so tired all the time and why I feel so much healthier already.

What I also like about your Hub is the fact that you wrote it to inform and not to turn your readers into a vegetarian or a vegan. You don't preach. You simply share your point of view on the lack of energy in this society and the relation it has to our diet.

Very good job!

Voted up, shared and away and I will certainly link your Hub to mine when I write my own story about newly found energy in life!

rlaha from Spartanburg, SC on March 20, 2012:

Very well written hub! It is so informative! I will have to look at some of these things as I did not know they could help with boosting energy levels. Thanks for sharing! Voted up, interesting, useful, awesome and shared with my followers.

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