How to Improve Mitochondrial Function for Better Energy
Have you ever thought about what powers your body?
The easy answer is nutrients, of course. But your body turns those nutrients into energy, and it’s that energy that fuels your body’s cells. All types of cells have tiny generators called mitochondria that, in many ways, are their sources for life. Mitochondria are the singular part of the cell where our basic life requirements — air and food — are combined to make energy in a process known as the Krebs cycle.
As the source of your cellular energy, mitochondria are vital to nearly every biochemical reaction and cellular process in your body. Therefore, increasing mitochondrial function is one of the most effective ways to boost these processes and, as a result, increase your overall energy levels and potentially slow down the aging process.
Make Room for More Energy-Efficient Mitochondria
To work properly, mitochondria need ample oxygen and the right nutrients to burn. Naturally, increasing your intake of both is vital to making your mitochondria work more efficiently. Before you can fill up on the right things, though, you’ll have to make room for them by eliminating foods and habits that could inhibit mitochondrial function. Start with these three strategies:
1. Eat fewer calories.
When mitochondria use oxygen to generate energy, they release a number of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that can be harmful to cellular structures. An excess of calories leads to obesity and heightened inflammatory processes, which increase ROS production during mitochondria’s Krebs cycle. These heightened levels of ROS lead to cellular damage known as oxidative stress.
This damage can, in turn, trigger mitochondrial changes and dysfunctions that exacerbate the inflammatory processes associated with obesity. The self-sustaining cycle can continuously inhibit energy production in every cell in your body. However, you can interrupt it by reducing the calories you eat every day and removing sources of inflammation.
2. Throw away refined carbs.
Even if you aren’t obese and have already cut most empty calories, processed carbs can still increase damaging inflammation throughout your body. Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have also found that excess carbs can lead to significant changes in the shape and function of mitochondria, particularly in certain brain cells. The researchers suspect these changes might contribute to “the development of metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.” The changes might also contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, which some experts refer to type 3 diabetes.
Rampant inflammation resulting from excess carbs alters your hormone production and regulation, which is vital to optimizing your mitochondrial function. By throwing away all the processed carbs in your cabinets and fridge, you can reduce that inflammation, improve your hormone regulation, and increase mitochondrial function, all in one swoop.
3. Don’t spend your whole day on the couch.
Nutrients are only half of what’s required for mitochondria’s Krebs cycle. Oxygen is necessary, too. Physical exercise is the best way to increase your oxygen intake and train your body to utilize it as efficiently as possible. As your body uses up more energy, it will force itself to produce more mitochondria to keep up with the demand.
If you live a sedentary lifestyle, then exercise is especially important. Can’t go to the gym regularly? Get up and move for at least 30 minutes each day. Walk to lunch, clean the house, or take a stroll around the block after work when you can. If you aren’t expending energy or using up your oxygen, then your body and its mitochondria will grow complacent.
Eating for Improved Mitochondrial Function
Once you’ve done away with bad foods and sedentary habits, you can finally focus on consuming the foods that increase mitochondrial function. Some of these key nutrients include L-carnitine and creatine, which are both vital for supplying energy to various mitochondria. You can get plenty of both by adding grass-fed beef, bison, eggs, poultry, beans, nuts, and seeds to your diet.
Likewise, omega-3s and alpha-lipoic acid improve mitochondrial function by boosting respiratory enzymes. Omega-3 acids are found largely in wild-caught salmon, halibut, sardines, and anchovies, while alpha-lipoic acids can be obtained from spinach, broccoli, yams, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, beets, and rice bran.
The antioxidant plant molecule resveratrol is also known to improve mitochondrial function, making grapes, red wine, dark chocolate, and pistachios beneficial when you indulge in moderation.
Eliminating the foods and habits that drain your cells of energy will leave you with more options than you might realize to boost your mitochondria. If you’re unsure how to incorporate some of these nutrients into your diet, consider a meal delivery service that can provide them for you. Once you make these changes, you’ll be well on your way to getting your energy back.