Conventional wisdom in human nutrition addresses maximizing & sustaining energy output via carbs, proteins and fats (energy dense, caloric foods). If you are the car, the grade of “gasoline” (carbs, proteins, and fats) you use impacts your energy performance. The engine that turns oxygen and gasoline (carbs, proteins, fats) into energy, in every cell in your body, is called the mitochondria. The mitochondria is the cellular power station that produces the energy molecule (ATP) which proliferates within the cell for energy. If you want more energy… you need to know how to grow and protect more mitochondria.
Tissues critical for physiological performance (brain, eyes, lungs, heart, muscles, etc.) have more mitochondria per cell. These tissues simply demand more energy and thus demand more mitochondria to produce and sustain energy output. For example, athletes train hard and grow mitochondrial density in red muscle cells. If your cell is the Ferrari, mitochondrial density simply equals more engines per cell. Do you want one engine or twenty engines in your Ferraris (cells)?
Mitochondrial density (more engines) maximizes and sustains energy output in eyes, heart, brain, lungs, muscles, etc. Here’s the Ferrari’s (cell) challenge. Its engine (mitochondria) is extraordinarily complex both biologically and biochemically. This complexity makes it very fragile to (engine) damage. The engine’s fragility comes from leakage in the “combustion” process known as oxidative stress.
The mitochondria are the front-line foot soldiers experiencing the brunt of free radical cross-fire from revving up the engine for higher combustion (i.e. oxidative stress). Oxidation is a normal metabolic process. Oxidative stress is chronic oxidation and damages physiology. The human performance conundrum is: how can you prevent the negative aspects of oxidative stress? As an example, oxidizing cellular proteins degrades tissue performance, as described in a previous blog post, Protecting Protein vs. Eating It.
What does the bad side of oxidative stress looks like regarding preserving mitochondrial density? Oxidative stress damages mitochondrial DNA, decays inner membrane permeability, declines ATP (energy) production, increases free radical production, declines enzyme activity (Complex I & IV) and accelerates cellular aging & death. In addition, oxidative stress induces inflammation and vice versa. The bottom line is oxidative stress causes mitochondrial dysfunction which equals lower energy output.
Preserving your physiology’s ability to produce energy output comes from consuming nutrient dense foods. This is the “oil” in your car (cells). You need both high grade gas and oil to perform. The most nutrient dense foods on the planet are fruits and vegetables. These superfoods preserve (protect) both mitochondrial integrity and density (energy output). Thus, if you are interested in physiological performance (brains, eyes, lungs, heart, lungs, muscles, etc.) and you are not consuming 9+ servings of fruits and vegetables, everyday, you have an execution gap.
Nutrition is only as good as your execution. If you have an execute gap (i.e. not eating 9+ servings of fruit and vegetables everyday), it has negative cellular effects and makes all the difference in finishing strong. If you can’t, don’t or won’t eat enough produce, everyday, you cannot solve this food execution gap with a multi-vitamin. People don’t have multi-vitamin deficiencies, they have whole food deficiencies. Thus, a new category of food support called “Food Concentrates” are a tried and proven way (both scientifically and real-world) to help bridge the produce consumption gap. In the end, a healthy active lifestyle promotes mitochondrial formation and preservation vs. destruction and degradation. The mitochondria is the little engine that can, provided you take care of it. Maximizing energy output in your cells will prolong your life, your vitality and your energy throughout the day.
MITOCHONDRIA ENERGY: Protection is performance
[Jeff Olson is the president and co-founder of the Health Food Agency WNW whose mission is to deliver a new standard in health, food, and enterprise. He is a two-time Olympian, three-time national champion and Pan American Gold Medalist. He lives in Denver Colorado. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org]