Last time we introduced you to your mitochondria. What follow are three essential ways you can improve and maintain the ability of these cellular energy factories to provide you with abundant energy throughout the day.
Diet: When it comes to keeping your mitochondria functioning properly, there are two dietary rules you need to obey: Eat well and eat less.
The foods you eat are processed by mitochondria into energy. In a very real sense, this means mitochondria act as engines for energy production. As with any engine, the more work mitochondria have to do, the faster they are likely to wear out. Therefore, be sure to eat foods that are nutrient-rich and not nutrient-deficient.
Nutrient-rich foods, which include fresh fruits and vegetables (preferably organic), nuts, seeds, lean meats and poultry (free-range, if possible) and wild-caught fish, provide mitochondria with a plentiful supply of raw material from which they can produce energy. Nutrient-deficient foods, on the other hand, such as junk and processed foods and simple (white) carbohydrates, cause mitochondria to work just as hard, yet supply little that can be used to produce energy.
In addition, drink plenty of pure, filtered water throughout the day, along with green tea, and fresh-squeezed vegetable juices if possible, while limiting your intake of unhealthy beverages such as soda, commercial juices and teas, and alcohol.
Along with eating well you should also do all you can not to overeat. That’s because research has shown that caloric restriction not only protects mitochondria (again, the more calories you take in, the harder mitochondria have to work), but can actually stimulate the production of new mitochondria. One simple way you can accomplish caloric restriction without feeling hungry is to chew your food thoroughly (at least 20 times per biteful) before swallowing. Doing so not only makes it easier for your body, and thus your mitochondria, to digest the food you eat, but can also help you feel full without the need for larger meals.
Other ways to help prevent overeating include having your last meal of the day at least three-four hours before bedtime, and skipping meals on occasion. More recently, a growing body of scientific research has pointed to the benefits of intermittent fasting. This means eating all of your meals within an eight hour period each day. This provides your body with more time to digest the foods you eat and can result in increased levels of energy.
Exercise: Regular exercise is also important for keeping your mitochondria healthy. This is particularly true of short-burst aerobic exercises, also known as high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT is easier to achieve than you may think. One of the easiest methods of effective HIIT exercise is to alternate the pace of a daily walk. Start out by walking at your normal pace for two-three minutes and then walk as fast as you can for 30-45 seconds. Then return to your normal walking pace for another two minutes, then accelerate for another 30-45 seconds, and continue walking in this manner for a total of ten minutes or so. (Note: If you aren’t used to physical activity or have a pre-existing health condition, consult with your doctor before beginning any type of exercise program.)
Nutritional Supplementation: Just as your car engine needs to be properly fueled and lubricated in order for it to perform and prevent unnecessary wear and tear, your mitochondria also requires the correct fuel and lubrication. Two nutrients taken together have been shown to provide such benefits for mitochondria.
The first nutrient is Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ACL), an amino acid that has been shown to boost energy production in the cells, thereby reducing mitochondria’s workload. However, ACL taken alone can increase the risk of free radical damage within mitochondria. Researchers have found that another nutrient, alpha lipoic acid, when taken along with ACL, prevents this from happening. That’s because alpha lipoic acid is one of the most potent antioxidant nutrients ever discovered. It’s so powerful, in fact, that it is often referred to as the “universal antioxidant” because of its ability to protect all parts of the body from free radical damage. Continuing our analogy of an engine, ACL helps rev the mitochondrial engine, while alpha lipoic acid acts as the “oil” that keeps that engine lubricated. You can find both of these nutrients at your local health food store.
Another very useful nutrient for helping to maintain mitochondrial health is coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). And recent research suggests that the benefits of CoQ10 can be significantly boosted by another nutrient known as pyrroloquinoline quinine, or PQQ. What is most exciting about PQQ is the fact that it has now been shown to create new mitochondria in the cells. (HIIT exercises and caloric restriction can have also been shown to create new mitochondria.) Clinical studies have demonstrated that taking PQQ in combination with CoQ10 protects mitochondrial DNA from damage, and can therefore help the conditions associated with mitochondrial decline and impairment. PQQ is found in certain foods, such as egg yolks, meat, green peppers, papaya, and citrus fruit, as well as in organic green tea. In my opinion, however, the best way for most people to get PQQ is in a supplement. A typical dosage range is 10 mg of PQQ taken with 50-100 mg of CoQ10 once a day with meals.
But perhaps the most important nutrient for your mitochondria, and therefore your body’s production of energy, is magnesium, a mineral nutrient that nearly everyone in the US is deficient in. Without enough magnesium, your body simply cannot meet all of its energy needs. Mitochondria are responsible for producing ATP, your body’s primary source of chemical energy. This fact is well known.
What is not so well known is that before ATP can be used by the cells it must first be activated by magnesium, its primary cofactor. This task is accomplished when magnesium ions bind to ATP molecules. When this occurs, the shape and electrical charge of ATP changes, forming a new compound called Mg-ATP (Mg denotes magnesium). Simply put, by activating it, magnesium brings ATP to life. Without magnesium, your cells, and therefore your body, would lack the energy needed to keep you alive and healthy.
Unfortunately, your body’s supply of magnesium can be rapidly depleted due to a variety of factors, especially stress and poor diet. In addition, commercial farming methods have seriously depleted our cropland’s supply of magnesium and other minerals, meaning that the amount of magnesium found in even magnesium containing foods is not enough for most people to obtain their daily needs.
Magnesium supplements come in various forms. For most people, the most useful forms are magnesium citrate, magnesium malate, magnesium glycinate, and magnesium taurate, all of which are better absorbed by the body compared to other types of magnesium. You can also obtain magnesium by soaking in a hot, soothing bath with Epsom salts, or by using magnesium lotion, which delivers magnesium directly to your cells through the skin.
We encourage you to incorporate each of the above measures into your life starting today. Doing so can go a long way to boosting your energy. To learn more, read our book Outstanding Health: The 6 Essential Keys To Maximize Your Energy and Well Being.
Copyright (C) 2015 by Michael Galitzer MD and Larry Trivieri Jr. All rights reserved.