Thursday, 8 March 2018

Top tips for optimal energy levels - by Maxine Sheils BSc DipCNM

This Sunday's blog post has been written by Maxine from Igennus. This week she shares a few suggested tweaks to help you boost your energy through this chilly period...

Maintaining energy and motivation in the colder months can be tough at the best of times but when you are also actively fighting cancer, going through treatment or in recovery, the extra strain you are under can make this time of year seem exhausting. Whilst it’s important to give your body the rest it needs when you’re unwell, there are other ways of helping combat low energy. Many people may be tempted to turn to quick ‘pick me ups’ such as caffeine, cakes or a nap to help get them through the day but when used in excess they could exacerbate the problem. It can be hard to tell the difference between wanting and needing to rest so by looking at other areas of your diet and lifestyle that may be adding to feelings tiredness, you may be able to identify a few simple tweaks to help boost your energy, and support your health, this winter.

Diet: balancing your macronutrients to support energy stabilisation

The diet is paramount to energy levels as we eat to fuel the body in order to function optimally, therefore you need to ensure your diet is supporting your body as much as possible. A simple way of increasing your energy is to eat regularly, i.e. every 3-4 hours; ensure you are eating 3 meals per day and add 1-2 snacks in between, especially for any prolonged periods between meals, or if you are unable to eat much in one go due to nausea or low appetite.

Look at your body as a fire, requiring fuel (from food) to keep the energy of the fire going. Carbohydrates work as the paper to your fire, they’re great for a quick boost but they’re  quickly burnt up; protein is the wood to the fire, providing more longevity; fat is the coal to your fire and will keep you going for much longer. When it comes to carbohydrates, it is important to distinguish between simple carbohydrates, consisting of one or two sugar molecules (found in cakes, biscuits, sweets, white bread and pasta, fruit juices and fizzy drinks) and complex carbohydrates, consisting of many sugar molecules joined together, found in starchy vegetables such as sweet potato, legumes and whole grains. Simple carbohydrates are burnt quickly by the body providing instant energy but leave you craving more to boost your energy again. This is what we call ‘the blood-sugar rollercoaster’ and when you’re on it, it’s extremely difficult to get off. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are burnt up slower than simple carbohydrates, providing a steady release of energy, and with a few food swaps, you should be able to even out the highs and lows to eventually maintain a healthy supply of energy to the body.

Starting the day with wholegrain toast (complex carbohydrates) topped with a poached egg for protein, and some avocado for fat; white pasta for lentil pasta or courgetti (spiralised courgette); white rice for brown rice, quinoa or cauliflower rice; biscuits for a protein smoothie, and cakes for homemade granola bars is a great way to optimise the nutrition in your foods without the need to eat huge amounts more.

Try to ensure you consume a source of protein with each meal/snack, as well as include healthy fats from oily fish, nuts and seeds, olive oil, olives and avocados in your diet, to help to maintain a steady flow of energy throughout the day.

Looking at your caffeine intake is another important factor, as many rely on this to provide them with an energy shot. Whilst one or two cups of coffee can carry many health benefits, some people are slow metabolisers of caffeine (thanks to inherited genes), meaning it takes much longer for the liver to detoxify caffeine from the body. If you drink caffeinated drinks and struggle to fall asleep, you could well be a slow metaboliser, with a lack of good quality, restorative, sleep driving low energy levels. Try minimising your intake to just one caffeinated drink before midday to see if this has a positive effect on your energy. Make sure to drink adequate water, ideally purified or mineral water, as dehydration can also be a factor in low energy. For those who don’t enjoy drinking water, try infusing it with lemons which will further increase hydration levels and help support the immune system.

Using simple lifestyle techniques to increase energy levels

Exercise is a great way to boost energy levels as it gets the blood pumping around the body, carrying nutrients to cells to produce more energy, and increases levels of feel-good and energy-promoting neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin. Whilst the thought of exercise might seem off-putting or impossible, it does not need to be a chore. Just start with what you can, be it a short walk to the local shops, five minutes around the block on your lunch break, or a weekend walk in the park is all you need to start with. Use this time to listen to your favourite artist, an audio book, or take part in a guided meditation and you’ll soon increase the length of time you spend walking. Over time, as as energy and other symptoms permit, you may want to try increasing your pace, some gentle stretch or signing up to a local gym to try out a fun exercise class, but the important thing is to take it in your own stride and enjoy being active.

With everything, life is about balance so it’s also important to notice when you need some down time and to ensure it’s productive. It is all too common today to be stressed, with stimulation from mobiles, laptops, televisions, the radio, from the moment we wake up to the moment the lights are turned off. Listen to your body and notice when you are in need of ‘switching off’. When we are stressed, the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated, putting us in ‘fight or flight’ mode. Taking a moment to have a few deep breaths, or a short mindfulness exercise can relax the body and switch the nervous system from ‘fight or flight’ to ‘rest and digest’ mode, vital for restorative rest and recovery. 

Nutrients that will provide additional support for energy production

Omega-3: EPA & DHA

Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are required to aid the function and structure of every cell in the body, allowing nutrients to flow into the cells and toxins to flow out. If cells are lacking such vital nutrients, it is easy to see why a general feeling of fatigue and low energy may follow; your cells simply aren’t able to function optimally. Consuming two portions of oily fish such as mackerel, anchovies, salmon and herring will aid with increasing EPA and DHA levels, however a typical western diet consists of high levels of omega-6 arachidonic acid (AA) from foods such as grains, and animal produce fed a diet rich in grains. An imbalance of omega-3 to omega-6 within the body, in favour of omega-6, can lead to silent inflammation, which can in turn affect energy balance, as well as affect immune function and cellular health. Supplementing with high dose omega-3 fish oil will help to restore the balance of omega-3 to omega-6 to a healthy ratio, and maintain optimal levels to keep inflammation in check.

Our recommendations: Pharmepa Restore & Pharmepa Maintain and Opti-O-3 blood spot test.


The body naturally produces an enzyme called Coenzyme-Q10 (CoQ10) which aids in the production of energy in the body. As we age, the body’s ability to produce CoQ10 decreases, peaking in our 20s and declining after this point. Low levels of CoQ10 are also associated with many health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, muscular dystrophies, CFS and ME; so it may be worth considering supplementation with CoQ10 to support the body with energy production.

Our recommendation: VESIsorb Ubiquinol-QH

B vitamins

B vitamins are important for energy production: vitamin B1 is required to turn carbohydrates from your diet into energy; vitamins B2, B3 and B5 aid with energy production from carbohydrates, protein and fats consumed; B6 helps break down stored energy from muscles and the liver; B12 is critical for producing cellular energy in the body. A complex containing the full spectrum of B vitamins will ensure optimal wellbeing and assist in energy production.

Our recommendation: Super B-Complex

Personalising your nutritional requirements

We hope that the above arms you with lots of information to start tackling your energy levels. We hope you start to see the benefits over the coming months by putting some simple practices into place. Igennus have witnessed confirmation over the years that the path to individual health is unique and you cannot generalise a plan as a ‘one size fits all’. We are aware that many factors could be at play and effectively preventing you from progressing with certain areas of your health. MyOnlineCLINIC has been developed from years of experience of working with customers, and provides a platform for everyone to gain access online to an experienced clinical nutritionist who can look at your personal circumstances, health and needs, and guide you towards feeling revitalised, refreshed and ready to take control of your health.

Use the code YESTOLIFE for 15% off all Igennus products bought at their online shop:

Maxine is a Nutritional Therapy graduate of the College of Naturopathic Medicine in Manchester who has recently joined Igennus as a Customer Support Nutritionist and is based here in Cambridge. Her interest in nutrition was sparked after working as an Au Pair in Australia to a family who were living on a raw food diet where coincidentally, she started to endure severe digestive problems. She joined CNM as a student to further her new found passion and was able to support her own body in regaining health. Maxine is passionate about nutrition and her ability to help others achieve their optimal health. She specializes in female hormonal problems such as endometriosis, thyroid problems, stress, autoimmunity and digestive disorders. Her degree in Psychology provides her with a strong ability to understand and motivate others to achieve their health goals.

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