Energy production starts in our cells. When the glucose makes it across the cell membrane and into your cell’s energy-producing furnace (the mitochondria) it has a big job to do. It spins the fuel into ATP (pure energy) using a coordinated system of chemical reactions called the Krebs Cycle.
As I spoke about on The Marilyn Denis Show this week, the Krebs Cycle is where all the action is. If you are missing any key vitamin or mineral, your body cannot make this cycle spin. Think of it as a manual pocket watch; remove one of the gears and the whole machine stops working. That is why we must take a closer look at what we may be nutritionally deficient in, and ask ourselves this question: what am I missing in the energy equation?
Worker “B’ to the rescue.
The body requires vitamin C and B-complex from an ample supply of fruit and vegetables to make one of our main energy supplies called carnitine. If you’re not eating enough fruit and veggies, it is important that you supplement a minimum of 500 mg of Vitamin C and 50 mg of Vitamin B-complex to ensure good energy production. Even short-term deficits of B vitamins, especially thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3) and cobalamin (B12) can hamper aerobic endurance.
Great Vitamin B food sources include anything green such as avocado, spirulina (single-cell algae), moringa (a new superfood powder) and dark leafy greens. Remember that vitamin C is more than just citrus. You can find good amounts broccoli, cabbage and red peppers!
Iron Clad Your ‘Spark Plugs’
Iron is critical for the electron transport system to function and carries the oxygen in our blood. Low iron can cause fatigue, poor immune function, cold intolerance, decreased thyroid function and poor memory. Food sources include liver, seafood, black beans and to many people’s surprise, chocolate has 20% of your RDA of iron per once! Just make sure to reach for dark bars that are sugar-free!
A bonus of having iron-rich foods is they often contain a critical enzyme for energy called CoQ10!
CoQ10 can help exercise performance by decreasing oxidative stress in the cells and improving mitochondrial function (1). Supplementing with CoQ10 can help increase power during exercise and reduce fatigue, both of which can improve exercise performance (2, 3, 4).
The following foods contain CoQ10:
If you want to take it as a supplement, be sure to use the most active form called Ubiquinol.
Bring on the Electricity
Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electrical charge in your body. There are seven major electrolytes: sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphate, and bicarbonate. We need all of them to function properly, and athletes especially need them as they are constantly sweating them out and using them up. To replenish them in a healthy way, athletes should look for food sources of these electrolytes.
Many people might immediately think of sports drinks to replace electrolytes, but many of those drinks are loaded with sugars and dyes that are just not good for the body. And food might be a better option! A study published in 2012 found that bananas actually fueled athletes and reduced inflammation just as much or more than sports drinks—making them a way better natural alternative for athletic performance enhancement to replace electrolytes.
Beet The Crowd When Shopping
Beets, in particular, have proven to increase athletic performance by improving nitric oxide. Athletes on a keto diet can’t handle the glucose that beets have, but they can include beet greens, which are low in carbs but provide a lot of dietary nitrates. Nitrate converts to nitric oxide, dilate blood vessels, and converts to oxygen which means athletes can fire their muscles faster and improve their performance instantly!
More and more endurance athletes have been including beet juice before exercising. Why? It seems the high level of nitrates (which the body converts to nitrites and then to nitric oxide) in beet juice allows the body to burn energy while using less oxygen, reducing the overall oxygen cost of exercise. It can increase your performance by 2.7%. Beet supplements supplying nitrates have been shown to improve exercise performance in cyclists, runners, swimmers and even kayakers (5, 6, 7).
In other words, drinking beet juice before exercise can potentially make your body more efficient and allow you to go that extra mile or run, bike, or swim a little harder. Interestingly, scientists found that beet juice was beneficial for both low-intensity exercise and high-intensity exercise. Don’t want all that carbohydrate? Enjoy beet greens for similar benefits.