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Improve Your Energy for 2021

Dear Dr.Kim

I am finding my energy to be a little low lately and I have not been waking refreshed. I am wondering what you think about intermittent fasting and if you can offer some suggestions to help improve my energy for the New Year?

C.H. Victoria

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Dear C.H.

Wow. Wasn’t that a year? I am welcoming the New Year with enthusiasm and hope –and it sounds like you are looking to have a reset too. Start by considering three main pillars in helping to determine the key to improving your energy: nutrition, lifestyle habits and stress.

Good nutrition is paramount to maintaining vitality and fueling good energy. While good nutrition habits support energy, poor nutrition can be a real drag. I hope that I don’t lose any friends when I share my thoughts on intermittent fasting. I think it has its place, but in general, I much prefer focusing on nourishing. As you may know, intermittent fasting can take many forms –and is an approach to nutrition that places goal posts around the hours of eating and the time of fasting. Two examples would be 16/8 and 12/12 –the former being eating for 8 hours of the day and fasting for the remaining 16 while the latter splits the 24-hour clock between eating and fasting. My worry for some, with a 16/8 approach is that the 8 hours of eating are not adequate in volume and/or quality so then the consequence is being undernourished. For some, a go-go-go life –with some burdens –and then a 16/8 eating schedule results, the result nutrition that is mismatched to the demands (undernourished) and as a consequence, energy systems begin to down regulate. If I were going to suggest intermittent fasting, in practice, it would be matched to the individual’s health needs and lifestyle –and is never a one size fits all. More often than not, my approach is about nourishing and being mindful.

Here are some nutrition suggestions that focus on nourishing:

Make sure that you are drinking enough water and eating your vegetables –at least 2-cups of veggies a day and 40mls/kg of fluids. The minerals in your vegetables will help you hydrate and adequate hydration is required for energy production. Make sure each meal and snack is anchored by protein paired with vegetables, fruit and/or whole grain. Protein helps balance blood sugar supporting your metabolism and sustained energy. Review your daily nutrition and move towards limiting sugar and foods made from flour. While sugar might make you feel good in the moment it leads to an eventual fall in blood sugar and consequent drop in energy. Sometimes a drop in energy can signal a food sensitivity or delayed-type allergy. Your Naturopath can help test for these or develop an elimination plan aimed at identifying intolerances. Reacting to foods that you are intolerant to can create an energy drain that I compare to an electrical short in a car. Talk to your Naturopath or Medical Doctor to determine if it is worth testing your blood for deficiencies such as iron, B12, or thyroid hormone. Deficiencies in these areas can compromise energy.

Assess your lifestyle habits and reflect on routines you have that may burden your energy. Certainly the last year has been very different for most –and I also believe that it is important to not be hard on yourself and have flexibility with yourself in your approach. It is just that if you want to feel differently then likely some changes are in order. Some drains on health and energy include smoking, alcohol, poor quality sleep, short duration of sleep, lack of exercise, or exercise that is paired with poor nutrition habits. Once you can identify if there are habits inhibiting your good energy then devise a plan to make change. You are heading into a new year and it is a prime time to pivot with a focus on thriving.

If you have found yourself burdened by the stressful times (and other aspects of life) then consider taking a B-complex and adrenal support to prop you up. Several forms of adrenal support –such as licorice root, ashwagandha and maca –are classified as adaptogens and their forte is to aid the body in functioning under stress.

I hope these suggestions help restore the skip in your step.

“Health from the inside out.”

Dr. Kimberly McQueen BSc, ND is a Naturopathic Physician in Victoria, BC. She has an active practice at Arbutus Physiotherapy and Health Centre: www.arbutusphysiotherapy.ca. In addition to her clinic work she works with Rowing Canada, providing Sport Performance Nutrition support. Kim McQueen is one of the Co-founders of the nourishing Supershake, Rumble. For more information about Kim go to www.kimmcqueen.com