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Energy Nutrients

As we get older, the energy supply of body and mind becomes a most precious commodity. Even when we rule out frank disease states and chronic illnesses, there remain many factors that can increase or decrease our energy, including attitude, posture and breathing, diet, good hydration, exercise, relationship, sound sleep, and proper attire - nothing like a new Armani suit (or a new pair of Clarks boots) to put a lift in one's step!

Even without a Willie Brown sartorial attitude, anyone can increase their available energy with a little bit of nutritional help. Substances such as amino acids, green foods, vitamins and minerals, herbs, and accessory nutrients can profoundly affect energy, mood, and mentality. Read on for specific information about some of the best ways to boost energy.

Amino Acids

Carnitine is known for it's ability to increase the utilization of stored body-fat, helping people to slim down and increase lean muscle mass. Most often they also notice a significant increase in energy, partly due to feeling better about their new size and partly due to the energy derived from the better burning of fat. Carnitine is also considered protective of heart function, both because the heart uses lipids as the source of most of it's energy, and because it helps to reduce blood levels of fat and triglycerides.

L-glutamine has many functions in the body. Recently it has been used to help heal leaky-gut syndrome and chronic immune problems, because of it's importance as a fuel in the mitochondria of both the gut lining and other cells in the body. Body-builders use it because it is a primary nutrient for muscle growth. Recovering alcoholics have used L-glutamine for many years as part of a program to help control sugar cravings and for mental clarity. And many healthy people find that L-glutamine gives them similar results.

L-phenylalanine and a related amino acid, L-tyrosine, are precursors on the dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine pathway. As such, they have been found to be helpful for depression and similar low-energy states. Although defining "depression" apart from "low-energy" can be useful for analytical purposes, it remains true that for all practical purposes depression and low-energy go together and are often affected by the same body-mind disciplines. For instance, Andrew Weil says that the most consistently successful "natural" remedy for depression is taking a walk every single day! Many people have benefited their energy levels and mental clarity by supplementing with L-phenylalanine, L-tyrosine, or both.

Inosine, an amino acid metabolite, has a unique ability to increase ATP production. It is so closely related to ATP structurally that no oxygen is required for this conversion and is the quickest pathway for the cell to get its ATP. It works best when taken on an empty stomach with an electrolyte mixture, such as Alacer's Emergen-C and with Coenzyme-Q10 before exercise. This enhances oxygen transport throughout the system, improving workload efficiency, and prevents any increase in uric acid synthesis. (top)


B complex vitamins are important for the production of energy in many different ways. Vitamin B-1 helps both in the detoxification of toxic metabolic by-products such as acetaldehyde and with enzymes that produce energy.  A vitamin B-12 deficiency, when corrected, can yield a sudden and dramatic increase in energy. The co-enzyme form of B-12, dibencozide, sometimes works better than just the regular form. Vitamin B-6 is very important in enzyme transactions that metabolize carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Here again, pyridoxal-5-phosphate, or P-5-P, the co-enzyme form, often gives better results. Pantothenic acid is important for helping the adrenals respond to stress, and is probably the main reason B-vitamins are considered "stress" nutrients.

When experimenting with these and other B-vitamins, it is still considered good form to make sure to take a B-complex as well, to prevent creating an artificial deficiency by taking one in the absence of some other one.  (top)

Green and other Foods

The green algae foods Spirulina and Chlorella contain so much good, balanced nutrition, that they can hardly help from being energizing. These simple, one-celled plants are the oldest known makers of food on the planet, and they form the basis of the food chain. Using light, warmth, water and minerals, algae devote almost all their energy toward producing protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, amino acids, and other nutrients vital to life. The protein in both spirulina and chlorella is balanced, containing all the essential amino acids and most of the "non-essential".

Spirulina grows in inland waters, so it can be farmed just like any other crop. Spirulina contains vital unsaturated fatty acids, including gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), it has many important minerals including potassium, calcium, zinc, magnesium, selenium, iron, and phosphorus, vitamins including B-12 and others of the B-complex, E, and beta carotene, digestive enzymes, chlorophyll, and pigments that help liver function. Ounce for ounce, it provides more complete protein than meat. This 65% easily-digested protein can in itself give a boost, especially given the prevalence of high-carbohydrate diets. Since the protein in spirulina is high in phenylalanine, it has also been used as an aid to appetite suppression and weight-loss.

Chlorella has an impressive nutritional profile. Vitamins A (beta-carotene), B-l, B-2, B-3, B-6, C, E, pantothenic acid, folic acid, biotin, PABA and inositol are found in chlorella. Minerals include calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, iodine and phosphorus. Chlorella is the highest known source of chlorophyll, about 2 percent by weight, ten times the amount found in alfalfa. It helps detoxify the liver and bloodstream, cleansing the bowel and feeding the friendly bowel flora. Chlorella runs about 50% protein, far higher than even beef, which contains about 22-25% protein.

In the 1950's, Dr. Fujimaki of the people's Scientific Research Center in Tokyo separated a substance from chlorella by electrophoresis which was later named Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF). This extract was found to be rich in nucleic factors. Dr. Benjamin Frank, a researcher on the aging process, believes that the loss of energy and the physical deterioration associated with aging are due to the increasing breakdown of nucleic factors (DNA, RNA) that are needed for healthy cell functioning. When he put his patients on a diet rich in DNA and RNA foods, he expected to see improvements in energy levels and well-being as the nucleic components were made available for repair and replacement of cellular nucleic acids. (DNA and RNA in all living things are made up of the same basic chemical building blocks.) To his surprise, Dr. Frank found that not only did his patients begin to gain back more youthful energy and appearance, but health problems such as arthritis, emphysema, heart disease, deteriorating vision, memory loss and depression simply disappeared in many of them.

Dr. Frank recommended using high RNA foods such as canned or fresh sardines, salmon, other seafood, legumes, wheat germ and green, leafy vegetables, but the latest research by Dr. Minchinori of Japan has reported that chlorella is 17 times higher in RNA than canned sardines, previously thought to be the richest food-source for RNA! So the same long-life factors we find in certain foods are highest in chlorella.

An excellent in-depth discussion and comparison of spirulina and chlorella can be found in Paul Pritchard's Healing with Whole Foods.

BarleyGreen is made from week-old barley "leaves". It's luminous green color testifies to it's high chlorophyll content, and it's loaded with other nutrients including trace minerals, enzymes, beta-carotene, and others. Many people add it to their morning protein drink for an extra lift; others report that it helps to regulate their bowel function, probably due to it's fiber content and the presence of chlorophyll. Another reported use involves taking a packet of BarleyGreen with a packet of Alacer Emergen-C every 2 hours, when flying. It provides antioxidant support, helping to significantly decrease the symptoms of jet-lag.

BeePollen has been eaten by birds for countless centuries, and just look at the energy those lil' guys have! Many of us have found bee pollen to have a nourishing and energizing effect on humans, as well, though nobody we know has sprouted wings and taken to the sky... yet. One proponent of the "apiary life-style", Royden Brown, claims in his book, Bee Hive Product Bible, to have rejuvenated his body by consuming large amounts of bee pollen and other bee products, such as royal jelly (see below) and propolis (see the Immune Topic for a discussion of propolis).

Royal Jelly has been reputed for centuries to have rejuvenating properties. Scientists have identified high levels of pantothenic acid and other B-vitamins, as well as a substance called biopterin. Our customers report a general anti-stress effect from royal jelly, when used over time. One person, a rock musician on the road for extended periods, ate a small glob of pure royal jelly every morning, and he claimed that it kept him looking and feeling refreshed and vitalized, in comparison to his fellow musicians, who began to look old and wasted.

Liver has been used by athletes for strength and endurance for a long time. Bodybuilder Vince Cironda became famous for his advocacy of liver supplements for bodybuilding, citing a study where rats whose diet was supplemented with liver for two weeks survived a swimming test in ice-cold water far longer than the control group. This indicates an increase in stamina, heat, and just plain 'ol strength. Many customers report similar results from taking liver (though nobody we know has timed their survival rate swimming in the S.F. Bay!) We have desiccated liver tablets, as well as Enzymatic Therapy Liquid Liver and Twinlab Predigested Liver Aminos.  (top)


Ginseng, Siberian, Eleutherococcus senticosus, became famous in the late 1970's because it was reportedly used by Russian Olympic team members and Soviet cosmonauts as part of their daily training regimen. A Soviet scientist, Dr. I.I. Brekhman, did the early research on Siberian ginseng, and it is his work that popularized the term "adaptogen", indicating a substance that tends to restore normal physiological function, whether it is deficient or excessive, and that allows the body as a whole to respond to a non-specific stress (such as over-exercise). Siberian ginseng belongs to the same Araliaceae family as the other ginsengs, but genus Eleutherococcus instead of Panax. It is the premier substance for enhancing physical stamina and endurance.

Ginseng, Asian, or Panax ginseng, is the herb of ancient Chinese lore and folk medicine. The Latin name Panax derives from the Greek word panakos meaning "cure-all" or panacea, a testimony to the wondrous reputation this herb had in the mid-1700's when the famous Swedish botanist Linnaeus named the plant.The wild root is virtually extinct in Asia today, with a few kilos of the roots still being found in the wild. These roots command prices of up to $10,000 each on the Hong Kong market. Most Panax ginseng is commercially cultivated in China and Korea, in both red and white forms. White (actually beige or cream colored) is the natural, dried root material, while the "red" is basically the white roots which have been steam-treated. This process engages a preservation process, besides the natural color change. In South Korea, the red is considered higher quality by the Korean government's Office of Monopoly, which controls all processing and export of Red Korean Ginseng.

Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) consider the Asian ginseng to be an energy tonic, stimulating and heat producing, increasing yang energies. It is employed in a number of degenerative and "wasting" diseases where chi or vital energy is deficient. It is contraindicated in conditions such as colds and flu. The red variety is considered by traditional herbalists to be more potent and stimulating than white. Some scientific tests appear to confirm this notion.

In recent years, many companies have come out with ginsengs that have standardized the amount of ginsenosides, the known active ingredients. Because of this development, an impressive array of research on Asian ginseng has been conducted in Europe, and the results of this research has validated some of the traditional "tonic" reputation of Asian ginseng root. These studies confirm the stress-reducing properties, heightened endurance levels, cardiovascular and other activities of Asian ginseng.

Ginseng, American, is considered a threatened species. In 1989, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated ginseng exports from the US had a total worth over $73 million! From a traditional herbalist's point of view, American ginseng is "cooling" compared to the "hotter" energies of its Asian cousin Panax ginseng, probably due to its slightly different range of ginsenosides. Some American herbalists use American ginseng as a stress reducing tonic, whereas the more stimulating Asian variety is employed as an energy tonic. Over 90% of the harvest is exported to the Far East, where it is preferred by Chinese in summer months and is often used for women. The few remaining Americans who already have too much energy and need stress relief also prefer it.

Guarana owes much of it's energizing effect to the presence of caffeine in it. Probably best used for an occasional boost of energy, when used in this way it can be a useful additional to the arsenal of herbs which help keep us going.

Muira-Puama is a prime example of a wonderful and uniquely energizing herb. Found in South America, it has been used there it treat both frigidity and impotence. Known also as a nervine, many people recognize this property when they report that the energy from Muira-Puama usually comes along with a calm, centered, and almost steely quality. We carry an extract of Muira-Puama from Gaia Herbs, and it is also found in some combination formulas.

Suma, also known as "Brazilian ginseng", is a powerful energizing and immune-stimulating herb. In Brazil and other parts of South American, it is considered a near panacea, and scientists have discovered that one class of it's active ingredients, called pfaffosides, are strong inhibitors of certain tumors. Another active constituent of Suma is the trace mineral germanium. The energizing effects of Suma are somewhat similar to Siberian ginseng; in terms of Traditional Chinese Medicine, it has been called a "chi tonic".

Yohimbe stimulates and energizes; it's also considered an aphrodisiac. Body-builders have reported a definite strengthening effect from taking it, in the short-term, which allowed them it increase the intensity of their work-outs. The major active ingredient is the isomeric alkaloid, yohimbine(top)


Chromium helps the cell to handle sugar in the system. It does this by binding the hormone insulin to the cell wall to perform its functions. Insulin is also necessary for normal brain function, wound healing and immune response. Customers have reported benefits including increased alertness, energy and concentration, as well as mood elevation.
Additionally, the Western Journal of Medicine (Jan.'9O ) reported "Supplemental chromium is associated with improvements of risk factors associated with maturity-onset diabetes and cardiovascular diseases." Some symptoms of chromium deficiency are impaired glucose tolerance, impaired growth, decreased fertility and sperm count, and nerve damage.

Germanium was discovered by Japanese scientist Dr. Kazuhiko Asai, who stated that Germanium was "a health-giving substance - it restores health to those afflicted with disease and sustains health in those who are healthy.... Where body cells lack oxygen, indispensable to life, a gradual decline in function is inevitable and the fire of life will reduce until it is extinguished". Although Germanium has been studied and noted for it's remarkable iummune-boosting, analgesic, anti-tumor, and liver-restoring powers, many of our customers report it's energizing effects as well. This is because it acts at a fundamental level of life function. Dr. Asai suggested that it can, at least partially, substitute for or supplement oxygenation in tissue, because its unique chemical structure strongly attracts and absorbs ("delocalizes") electrons. This facilitates energy generation from high-energy electrons, analogous to the well-understood role of oxygen as an "electron sink" essential for energy-yielding electron transfer processes.

Magnesium is involved with so many functions in the body that it is almost ridiculous to just call it an "energizing" nutrient. It activates enzymes necessary for the metabolism of carbs and protein, it helps muscles to release contraction (or relax), it helps regulate the acid-alkaline balance in the body and gut, and it provides protection by preventing formation of clots in the brain and heart and calcium deposits in the urinary tract. Magnesium also helps control electrical charges that induce the passage of nutrients in and out of cells. The increase in energy (and sometimes the decrease in depression) that often follows the intake of additional magnesium can be accounted for in so many ways that it behooves all of us to make sure we are getting adequate supplies of this vital nutrient.  (top)

Other specialized nutrients

Co-enzyme-Q10, or Co-Q10, helps the body to utilize oxygen. Produced in every cell of the body, it is especially important for the heart. Much research has gone into this nutrient, especially in Japan, which of course also manufactures it for the world-wide market. Researchers estimate that about 30% of the adult population of Japan take Co-Q10 on a regular basis. Especially as we age, this nutrient can make a big difference in our energy levels.
The energy from Co-Q10 is not at all stimulatory. As oxygen utilization is increased, people simply find they can climb those four flights of stairs without getting winded, or they can keep going after a long day without a hitch; things of this nature. Co-Q10 is also being researched for its possible role in helping to heal cancer, chronic fatigue, and other illnesses, and has been shown to prevent recurrence of heart attack, because of its oxygenating effect on the heart.

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound produced mainly in the liver and involving the pancreas and kidneys. In human clinical studies it has proven to increase force production and muscle mass. Dr. Julian Whitaker recommends its use for "reversing the symptoms of age-related deterioration of muscle" (Health and Healing, March, 1994).
Creatine supplement converts into phosphocreatine within the muscle. Phosphocreatine is critical to the maintenance and continued production of energy by donating a phosphate group to ADP to make ATP, the substrata utilized for powering all body movements and biochemical reactions in the body. So creatine supplements can create more ATP without needing carbohydrates, fats, or oxygen to recharge the ATP. This makes it a source of super fast energy because it does not need to undergo a complicated process to produce energy. It can also lead to the absorption of hydrogen ions released into muscles from lactic acid, which cuts-back the "burn" and reduces exercise fatigue.
Creatine is unique in that it increases the production of proteins and builds muscle (anabolic) and it also acts to decrease the breakdown of muscle protein (anticatabolic). These benefits could be used to retain muscle mass as a person ages. Absorption is best after some exercise. Jarrow produces an excellent combination product of 1000mg creatine combined with Co-Q10 60 mg.

DMG (n,n-Dimethylglycine) is the active nutrient behind what was called B-15, calcium pangamate, or pangamic acid. It is an intermediary metabolite that is useful in the production of neurotransmitters, hormones, DNA, choline, and methionine. It enhances the immune response system, normalizes blood glucose levels and reduces high blood pressure levels. It enhances oxygen utilization, reduces lactic acid formation, and aids detoxification- improving liver, pancreas, and adrenal function. In 1960 Russia reported DMG benefited people suffering from diabetes, alcoholism, mental disorders, and cardiovascular ailments. Also, DMG enhanced athletic performance, as demonstrated by the Olympics. I have found it to have excellent results for increasing my endurance when exercising, sharpening my vision, stopping allergy reactions, and even stopping headaches in the early stages.

Octacosanol was identified by Professor Thomas Cureton at the University of Illinois as the component of wheat-germ oil that improved strength, reaction time, and endurance. His studies were conducted over a 20-year period and involved weightlifters, swimmers, wrestlers, and track and field athletes. Octacosanol is a solid white alcohol, whose exact mechanism of action is still unknown, although some evidence suggests it works to improve the efficiency of transmission of nerve impulses. Many customers who run, bike, or engage in other endurance sports have reported a strengthening and steadying effect from octacosanol.



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