“3 Foods That Drain Your Energy
By Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN
If you’re like most people, you’re intimately familiar with the midafternoon energy slump. While it’s tempting to turn to caffeine or sugar in hope of a quick energy burst, there are better ways to stay awake and productive.
But before we get to those, let’s look at 3 foods that drain your energy. And, in order to understand how these 3 foods rob your energy, you need to remember the following cardinal rules of energy:
Because digestion is such an energy-dependent process, any food or process that compromises your digestion will drain your energy.
Since your blood carries oxygen to your cells for energy production, any food or process that thickens” your blood or ruins the health of your oxygen-carrying red blood cells will rob your energy.
Your adrenal glands help you deal with stress. Any food or process that weakens your adrenal glands will impair your ability to cope with stress and lower your energy.
With those rules in mind, do your body a favour and limit your intake of the following 3 energy-sucking foods.
Energy Draining Food #1:
Wheat and Gluten
For the purposes of this article, we’ll consider gluten and wheat one in the same.
However, the distinction is that gluten is a protein found in many grains like wheat, barley, and rye. And it has now been linked to more than 190 auto-immune diseases…
…most notably celiac disease – a condition where the immune system attacks your small intestines.
Although only about 1% of the population is diagnosed with celiac, the reality is that the human body has NOT evolved to digest wheat/gluten properly.
This poses a big threat to your energy levels because any food that compromises your digestive and intestinal (where most of your nutrients are absorbed) is bound to suck your energy
Continued irritation of the small intestines (by eating grains, for example) can lead to “leaky gut” – a condition in which large food particles are able to pass into the bloodstream via ever-widening pores in the intestinal wall.
When this happens, your body identifies the undigested proteins in these food particles as a threat and mounts an immune response to neutralize them. This is how food sensitivities develop and how your immune system becomes overworked.
You see, grains were only introduced into the human diet during the agricultural revolution about 10,000 years ago. However, considering that we’d been on the planet for roughly 3.5 millions years WITHOUT them, grain consumption only represents 0.004% of our evolutionary timeline.
This tiny fragment of time hasn’t given the human body enough time to evolve to digest grains efficiently. That’s just one reason that so many of us have issues digesting wheat and other gluten-containing grains.
The second reason that wheat is hard to digest is that it is – by definition – a seed. And the biological role of a seed is to propagate the species. That’s how plants continue to flourish. They spread their seeds, which eventually end up in the soil where they germinate into full-grown plants or trees, which in turn bear more fruits and seeds. And the cycle continues.
In order to survive in harsh environments (like the human digestive tract), seeds contain built-in protective mechanisms. Wheat contains gluten, which attacks the human intestinal tract – making us less able to digest it.
Theoretically, this would allow the seed to pass through our body, into our stool, and back into the earth…allowing the wheat “species” to carry on.
We’ve now seen 2 substantial reasons why wheat/gluten is not fit for human consumption. In spite of all the claims by wheat-pushing lobbyists that we need its fiber for cardiovascular and intestinal health, I’ve never met a single person whose energy and health has not dramatically improved upon going wheat/gluten-free.
NOTE: if you want more fiber, there’s plenty to be had by eating more fruits, vegetables, and nuts. In fact, Paleolithic never ate grains and his reported fiber intake was between 100-150 grams per day by eating those aforementioned foods. Our current average intake 15 grams of fiber per day pales in comparison – even with all those grains in our food supply.
Wheat robs your energy for a number of reasons, most notably because of its deleterious impact on human digestion and our eventual (and unwanted) immune reaction to it.
Oh… I didn’t even mention how grains (especially refined ones) wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels, which is a surefire way to drain your energy. But let’s discuss that in more detail as we cover the next energy-draining food…
Energy Draining Food #2 & #3:
Sugar (and Caffeine)
As you can see, I’ve coupled sugar and caffeine here – because they have almost identical effects on your energy levels – but we’ll still consider them energy-draining foods #2 and #3.
Let me explain…
The adrenal glands are your “fight or flight” organs – releasing cortisol and adrenaline during periods of stress.
Interestingly, these same hormones are secreted when STIMULANTS (like caffeine and sugar) enter your bloodstream.
When you become stressed (or ingest stimulants – sugar and/or caffeine), your adrenals start ramping up their activity. They release adrenaline and cortisol – two “catabolic” hormones, which break down your energy reserves for immediate use.
Remember, your body thinks it’s in a state where it needs to FIGHT or FLEE – so it needs that readily available energy.
Cortisol, when chronically present in your bloodstream, is a detrimental hormone leading to quick glycogen (stored carbohydrates) depletion, a rise in blood sugar, and eventually weight gain.
Adrenaline has similar energy-depleting effects. Initially, however, it gives you that feeling we often term the “rush”, as a result of an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and carbohydrate breakdown into blood sugar.
But that quick surge in energy is soon followed by a debilitating crash in which your body does its best to recover from the “stressful” situation, whether it be your morning coffee or a near fender-bender on your way to work.
Having these 2 hormones chronically circulating in your blood is not a desirable situation.
The other problem with having high levels of both cortisol and adrenaline is that since they breakdown your stored carbohydrates for energy, releasing glucose (sugar) into the blood for immediate use, your pancreas is then called into action and eventually into overproduction.
Your pancreas produces and secretes the hormone INSULIN to remove glucose out of the blood to be stored in your muscle, liver, and fat cells.
As blood sugar rises, so do your insulin levels. Over time, your body’s cells can become desensitized to too much insulin, leading to a condition you may have heard of called Type 2 Diabetes (insulin resistance).
But before that dreaded day, something more immediate happens that absolutely shatters your energy levels.
Since insulin removes excess sugar from your blood, high blood sugar levels lead to high levels of removal (via insulin), leading to low blood sugar (or hypoglycemia).
When your blood sugar crashes, all “normal” decision making is thrown out the window as all you can think about is “I need sugar. I need sugar.” This is when you start feeling jittery, anxious, and in desperate need of a quick sugar or caffeine fix.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, chronically high and low blood sugar levels also drain your adrenal glands – setting you up for all-day fatigue in the future.
Elevated blood sugar doesn’t just arise from adrenal stimulation either. Eating sugar (in its basic form) or refined carbohydrates (white bread, pastries, etc…) are TWO catalysts that skyrocket your blood sugar (and adrenal stress) almost immediately upon entering your mouth.
Chronic stimulation (ie. stress, sugar, coffee) of your adrenals wears them down and can eventually lead to adrenal fatigue. That’s one of the reasons many people feel “drained” almost instantly when dealing with stress. Their adrenals simply can’t handle it anymore.
Interestingly, sugar and salt cravings become more pronounced with adrenal fatigue as mineral deficiencies and “out of balance” hormones cause unwanted changes in your body.
As this happens, the health of your blood cells begins to weaken. Your oxygen-carrying red blood cells lose their integrity and begin to stick together instead of freely floating through your blood stream.
The result – you feel more lethargic. Heck, if your blood is sluggish, you will be too.
It’s amazing when you think about it…
Eating sugary foods and drinking caffeinated beverages – the very foods that you’ve been led to believe give you energy – on a daily basis are crippling you from the inside-out.
They are ROBBING YOU of energy because they are slowly and surely wearing away at your blood sugar levels, pancreas, adrenal glands, and most other systems in your body.
When the cells, organs, and sytems inside your body become sick and lethargic…
SO DO YOU.”