Is your energy low? Don’t just chalk it up as “one of those weeks”—you might be deficient in certain nutrients! Fatigue is a common complaint for many individuals, and it becomes more common with age. Fortunately, there are plenty of simple ways to boost your energy levels, but you need to find out what’s going on inside of your body first. Here are five blood biomarkers associated with energy levels.
1. Iron (ferritin and hemoglobin)
Ferritin is a type of protein that binds to iron. In fact, most of the iron that is stored in the body is bound to ferritin, which makes it a good indicator for how much iron you have. Iron is an essential mineral that is a part of the protein hemoglobin that is found in all the body’s red blood cells. Hemoglobin transfers oxygen from the lung to the muscles, brain, and other organs, and also helps the body to convert carbohydrates and fat into energy.
How do these two biomarkers relate to your energy levels? If you’re deficient in iron (ferritin and/or hemoglobin), your blood carries less oxygen to your muscles and brain, negatively impact performance and overall wellbeing. Since red blood cells play a critical role in transporting oxygen to cells, tissues, and organs throughout your body, a lack of oxygen can make you feel lethargic and weak. Low levels of iron in the blood can decrease your body’s ability to use energy efficiently during exercise or normal physical activities. Symptoms of iron deficiency can include frequent injury, a weakened immune system, chronic fatigue, irritability, and a high exercise heart rate. People with borderline levels of ferritin may feel tired and weak, which can result in decreased levels of concentration.
Iron deficiency is very common in young females bellow the age of 50 (12%), even more common in active young females (35%), and active males (12%). Unfortunately, most of these individuals are not even aware of their iron deficiency!
If you need to increase your ferritin and hemoglobin levels, it is important to know about the two types of dietary iron: heme (high level of hemoglobin) and non-heme. Meat, especially red meat, is the best source of heme iron. When we eat meat, we consume high levels of hemoglobin that are contained in the body of the animal. In contrast, non-heme iron comes primarily from plants. Non-heme iron actually comprises the majority of the iron that we consume in our diets. Rice, wheat, oats, nuts, fruits, vegetables, beans, and fortified processed foods are typical sources of non-heme iron.
Heme iron is typically absorbed at a higher rate than non-heme iron, which means that the body more easily utilizes iron from animal products than iron derived from plant foods. If you’re a vegetarian, keep in mind that the absorption rate of the heme iron from animal-based sources ranges from 15-35 percent, compared to 2-20 percent absorption of non-heme iron. Therefore, vegetarians may need to consume up to seven times as much dietary iron as meat-eaters to absorb an adequate amount of iron each day. Alternatively, vegetarians should consume iron supplements.
Glucose plays a large role in determining energy levels and derives in part from the carbohydrates that we consume. After we eat foods that are high in carbohydrates, our digestive system breaks them down and turns them into glucose, which enters the bloodstream. From there, the glucose enters individual cells throughout the body and provides them with the energy that they need to function. Any glucose not immediately needed by the cells is stored in your liver and muscles for future use.
Carbohydrates are one of the best sources of energy due to the efficient way they use oxygen. They use less oxygen for every kilocalorie of energy produced than fats or proteins, which make them an important food choice for people who expend a lot of energy—whether you’re chasing your kids around the house or engaging in athletic activity. Here’s the science behind glucose-related fatigue: your muscles use glucose as a primary source of fuel, so the amount of glucose in your body affects how energized you feel after a long bout of physical activity. After about 90 minutes of exercise, your body’s supply of glycogen (the form of glucose that is stored in your liver and muscles) is completely depleted, which puts you at a risk for “hitting the wall,” or feeling lethargic. If your body doesn’t have enough glycogen to get you through a physical event or workout session, it will start to burn fat for energy. Fat burns much more slowly than carbohydrates, which can have the adverse effect of slowing you down or making you feel tired.
Testosterone is a steroid hormone that is present in the bodies of both men and women. While testosterone plays a key role in the development and maintenance of both muscle mass and strength, it also contributes to the body’s energy levels and endurance. One of the clearest signs of testosterone deficiency is fatigue or feelings of tiredness.
If your testosterone is low, there are natural ways to increase it. Allow ample time for sleep and recovery. The length of your recovery period depends on the intensity and duration of your workouts, so listen to your body and adjust your training regimen accordingly. Your body also needs enough good-quality sleep to repair the damage that can occur during training.
4. Creatine kinase
Creatine kinase (CK) is an enzyme that is produced in several tissues in the body, and especially in muscle. CK aids in the production of a molecule called phosphocreatine, which is used by your muscles for energy. Under typical conditions, there is a small amount of CK circulating in the blood (below 200 units per liter in men and women), but when muscle damage occurs, the amount of CK in the blood can rise substantially. Thus, CK levels can indicate the extent to which your muscles are over-exerted. It’s no surprise that the highest levels of CK are found after prolonged bouts of exercise. It is also not surprising that there’s a correlation between CK level and fatigue; for instance, if you have high levels of CK and continue to physically exert yourself, you will feel tired more quickly. If you’ve ever run a marathon or completed a strenuous physical activity and felt exhausted for a few days afterwards, high levels of CK are probably related to your fatigue.
If you have high levels of CK, your body needs adequate time to rest and recover. Give yourself a few days to rest before you start to exert yourself again and ensure that you stay hydrated. It’s also it’s very important to pay attention to your diet, especially your pre-workout meals and post-workout foods. Eating more protein diet can help rebuild your muscles. Nutrition plays a huge role in your physical performance, and eating a wide variety of healthy foods helps ensure that you have all the vitamins and minerals you need to optimize gains from exercise.
How can InsideTracker use this information to help boost my energy?
One of the best way to learn about what’s keeping you from having optimal energy levels is to sign up for InsideTracker plans. If you’ve been feeling chronically fatigued, one of your energy-related biomarkers may be too low or too high. The only way to find out exactly what is happening inside your body is to test your blood—which is where InsideTracker comes in! After getting your blood analyzed, you’ll learn about your unique biomarker levels and optimal zone. Best of all, you will receive personalized recommendations for lifestyle, exercise, and diet changes that will help you optimize your biomarker levels and consequently leave you feeling more energetic! Try Our Free Demo!