I haven’t been one to promote vitamins in the way they are generally promoted. Instead, I strongly believe in obtaining the vitamins we require through the foods we eat. This means, eating a diet that houses a variety of fruits, vegetables, and carefully selected whole grains. One reason for this suggestion is that the body is limited in the amount of vitamins it can store and use. Fat soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K. They are classified as “fat-soluble” vitamins because they can be stored in fatty tissue within the body. Water-soluble vitamins include the B-vitamins and vitamin C. Keep in mind that there is a difference between vitamins, minerals, and other types of supplements. Calcium, for example, is a mineral, not a vitamin. Any water-soluble vitamin which is taken in excess, will be excreted rather quickly. Vitamin B12 is the only stored vitamin which is also water-soluble. Please don’t feel too hung-up by this banter because the real point I’d like to make is coming …
Lately I’ve been feeling fatigued, tired, exhausted, and as I like to say “spent.” I wake up after a full nights rest still feeling exhausted. I move throughout the day with spurts of energy followed by bouts of exhaustion. There have been moments in my day where I feel as if I must have the flu, except the only symptom I feel is fatigue. It’s that sense of, “not wanting to move your bones you’re so tired,” feeling. I’ve pushed and pushed through it, and it just wasn’t helping. So the first thing I did was consider what my diet had been like …
“Pretty regular,” I thought …
“Maybe I could use more protein since I eat a mostly vegan diet?, could be,” I considered …
“Could I be anemic?, probably not since I’m eating fish and other seafood and keep a good eye on it” …
“Vitamin B12 perhaps? No, that wouldn’t be depleted this quickly,” I figured, since I stopped eating organic meat not too long ago …
“Vitamin D!, eah, I doubt it,” was my final thought.
I finally realized that I have simply been doing too much. At this moment, my body requires optimal nutrition and care in order to complete the day-to-day tasks I’m expected to. When I think about it, I realize that I’m very busy, just like so many people. I am finishing my masters degree, training for a race, traveling daily between 3 part-time jobs, and recently have been under additional stress over a friend who is in the hospital. That’s when I also began to realize that it isn’t just me who is going through these things.
Many people I speak with are coming to me exclaiming how packed their day is, and how “burnt-out” they too are feeling. I’ve realized a trend in all of us at different points of the year.
We expend an unusual amount of mental energy when we consciously use our brains. Whether it be on thesis writing, work-related tasks, or other projects that require serious mental focus. We expend approximately 2 calories per minute during study time. (Calculate your calorie expenditure by clicking this link). That does not mean you must be studying for an exam, it can be any kind of intense mental focus. In one hour, I personally spend about 100 calories on studying. I speculate that the calories spent add up even more quickly when we have to shift gears frequently throughout the day, from the different roles we play in life. Roles may include being a mom, dad, wife, husband, parent, sister, brother, student, employee, employer, athlete, friend, partner, acquaintance, and more. Just think of the different people you must be to the many people you encounter during the course of the day. Each role shift requires a mental energy shift as well, and a new focus of attention. This is just one way energy is drained. It isn’t a bad thing to carry many different roles, but it is important to reinstate the energy expended through our diet (and exercise).
I realized the roles I was taking on included the following, student, sister, daughter, yoga instructor, Reiki practitioner, nutritionist, babysitter, paralegal, spouse, friend, runner, athlete trainer to myself, meditator, group member, roommate, “girl at Starbucks doing work”, and probably more. That’s a lot! And, I am positive you can all generate a list quite similar. Try it out, and then give yourself a little more credit the next time you feel like you need to rest.
So apart from the physical work I preform through running, training, teaching yoga, playing with kids, and driving, my mental energy is easily depleted too. Lately, I felt that I was taking in enough calories, but perhaps it was the facilitating components I needed more of. The facilitating components would be things like vitamins, minerals or supplements. Vitamins in particular do not give us energy, but they facilitate (or allow) the food we eat to be broken down into usable energy. That’s when I considered getting a good B-complex vitamins (a B-complex is simply all of the B-vitamins including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, etc., found in one capsule). I personally aim for a brand that is as natural as possible (see the photo at the beginning of the post for the brand I have chosen). So far I am feeling slightly more vibrant. I understand that there is no quick fix to allowing the body to rest, but I certainly cant help to assist it by making sure I am getting enough energy facilitators (along with a complete and healthy diet, and physical activity). Here is a list of what B-vitamins enable us to do according to http://www.cancer.org…
Scientists know that B vitamins are part of many important bodily functions, according:
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin) and vitamin B2 (riboflavin) help the body produce energy and affect enzymes that influence the muscles, nerves, and heart.
- Vitamin B3 (niacin) has a role in energy production in cells and helps keep the skin, nervous system, and digestive system healthy.
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) influences normal growth and development.
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) helps the body break down protein and helps maintain the health of red blood cells, the nervous system, and parts of the immune system.
- Vitamin B7 (biotin) helps break down protein and carbohydrates and helps the body make hormones.
- Vitamin B9 (folic acid) helps the cells in the body make and maintain DNA and is important in the production of red blood cells.
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) plays a role in the body’s growth and development. It also has a part in producing blood cells, nervous system function, and how the body uses folic acid and carbohydrates.
And here are food sources of B vitamins:
- B1 and B2 are found in cereals and whole grains. B1 is also found in potatoes, pork, seafood, liver, and kidney beans. B2 is found in enriched bread, dairy products, liver, and green leafy vegetables.
- B3 is found in liver, fish, chicken, lean red meat, nuts, whole grains, and dried beans.
- B5 is found in almost all foods.
- B6 is found in fish, liver, pork, chicken, potatoes, wheat germ, bananas, and dried beans.
- B7 is made by intestinal bacteria and is also in peanuts, liver, egg yolks, bananas, mushrooms, watermelon, and grapefruit.
- B9 is in green leafy vegetables, liver, citrus fruits, mushrooms, nuts, peas, dried beans, and wheat bread.
- B12 is found in eggs, meat, poultry, shellfish, milk, and milk products.
Since I am mostly vegan it is important for me to ensure I am taking in enough of the vitamins which are predominately found in meat sources, and a supplement (in this case a vitamin) is a wise decision. I will report back to see how I am feeling in the next week or so.
This post is meant to enable you to begin thinking about your health and possible fatigue from angles other than lack of sleep, and physically working too much. Mental work is still work! Through healthy diet, yoga, exercise, meditation, and taking time for your self you can bring your body back into balance when it feels off kilter.
Sometimes a supplement of some kind (be it a vitamin, mineral, herb or spice) can help you towards a more balanced state. We should not have to depend on these kinds of outside sources though. Use the outside help for the duration necessary and then try to facilitate the same balance on your own. Food and it’s nutrition is medicine, and you’ve got to treat it like-so ….use not abuse!