Last time around, 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 — including 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.
On the other hand, nutrient-deficient foods 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, processed fruit 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, 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 three to 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, which provides your body with more time to digest the foods you eat and can result in increased 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), which 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 to three minutes and then walk as fast as you can for 30 to 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 require 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 with ACL, prevents this from happening.
Posts by Michael Galitzer, M.D. and Larry Trivieri Jr.
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