How to Get More Energy and Look Better

In "YOU: Being Beautiful," Drs. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen write about improving the outward signs of beauty by caring for your skin, hair and body.

Being healthy and energetic play a huge role in your appearance, so the doctors focus on how to power up your energy levels in order to look and feel your best.

Read excerpts from "YOU: Being Beautiful: The Owner's Manual to Inner and Outer Beauty" below.

YOU Test: Zapped

When's the first time you feel tired during the day?

a. When I awaken, even after sleeping a full eight hours every day for a week.

VIDEO: Drs. Mehemet Oz and Michael Roizen on GMA.Play

b. Morning, or at the latest midafternoon.
c. Whenever I move.
d. Whenever I have to deal with my boss.
e. Not until after a day of working 12 hours or more.

Results: If you answered anything other than E, it could be a sign that the energy systems in your body are either slightly or completely out of whack— causing you to tire even at times when you should feel vital and energized.

So what starts the process that steals your energy? What sets up the dominos, and what causes your first domino to fall? We don't know all the answers for sure, but we do know a few things that make your cellular energy plants—those mitochondria—inefficient.

Insulin Resistance: We become inefficient in getting the sugar to our production plants and distribute it into fat storage rather than into cells that need to use it to produce energy, such as muscle cells.

Viruses and Other Infections: Acute infections as well as chronic, low-grade infections can eventually cause the fuse to blow. We often see the buggers invade and fray the wires from your fuse box, reducing the amount of energy that can be supplied. Or the lines get frayed from lack of nutrients to keep them repaired (for example, lack of the healthy fat DHA).

That starts the "out of energy" cascade after a pregnancy or after an injury, when your immune system is vulnerable. Viral particles have been identified in the nuclei and mitochrondria of many cells of folks with serious energy deficits like fibromyalgia. Once one area feels less energetic, you put more demand on another area, furthering that cascade, so a little wire fraying by viruses can make you feel exhausted much of the time.

Sleep Problems: Many people always have trouble falling asleep. Additionally, many of us (yes, we are guilty here at times) develop less than optimal habits that worsen our ability to sleep or obtain full sleep time and then we have to fight a vicious cycle. And when your immune system needs all the energy it can get—such as when it's fighting an infection for you—not resting your energy supply adequately acts to overheat those wires and worsen your energy problem. That weakens the energy your immune system can borrow from other parts of your energy stores. So you feel more tired.

When your body gets too little sleep or poor-quality sleep (not deep enough or not enough dreaming), you tend to have more pain (the lack of sleep doesn't allow you to refresh fully the neurotransmitters you have that normally suppress pain). And that extra pain drains the line of energy, too—so you feel wiped out very near the start of the day. Sleep is important to feeling beautiful.

Hormonal Imbalances: Your hormones are like the dimmers on your headlights—when you need bright lights, you turn on certain hormones to increase the energy sent to that area (for example, your immune system) and to decrease usage elsewhere. This fine-tuning starts in your hypothalamus and pituitary. Thus, there's a strong association between hormonal issues and energy issues.

We see these changes primarily with slow-functioning adrenal and thyroid glands, but small, important changes happen minute to minute. Stress causes increases in cortisol, which increases sugar in the bloodstream and insulin resistance—and that wastes energy in distributing sugar into fat instead of where it is needed to produce ATP.

The tough part here is that it's not always clear what the best ways are to deal with hormonal issues. Case in point: We physicians aren't sure whether to treat the numbers or to treat the symptoms patients have. We often try to "normalize the numbers from blood tests" even if we're not eradicating the symptoms.

The so-called normal range of blood levels for many hormonal levels is defined as the middle 95 (95!) percent of people with those levels; the top 2.5 percent are considered high and the bottom 2.5 percent are considered low. Unfortunately, that's just not good math for the individual. It's like saying that if the number that is normal is size 6 to 11 in shoes, then a 6 shoe will be okay for you, even if you have a size 4 foot. Not a good fit, but you'd be wearing a "normal"-size shoe.

Instead, we docs can choose to treat the symptoms as long as the treatment doesn't cause levels that are very abnormal on blood tests. Here's one example of why treating the symptoms (it's what docs learn to do—most important, listen to the patient) and not just getting a number on your blood test in the 95 percent range is important.

If a T3 (free thyroid hormone) level up to 1.4 is normal but we have to get up to 1.5 to eradicate your symptoms, we think we should listen to you and do that, periodically backing off to see if you can be symptom free with less thyroid hormone. Because when hormones aren't regulated to levels that are right for you, you've got a dimmer that keeps flipping from producing power full-time to producing power half-time. So that lack of thyroid hormone means your energy factories can't use the food you've eaten to produce those ATPs efficiently. That makes you feel tired.

YOU Test: Thyroid Tester

The thyroid gland is your body's gas pedal, so it controls how much get-up-and-go you have. Since blood tests for thyroid function are not always reliable, how do you know to ask your doc if you need a trial of natural prescription thyroid? Just take this test:

1. Are you tired even after a low-key weekend?
2. Have you gained more than ten pounds since your fatigue began?
3. Do you often have a body temperature under 98 degrees?
4. Are you achy more than one hour a day?
5. Do you have high LDL cholesterol or low HDL cholesterol?
6. Do you like the house warmer than your spouse does?
7. Do you have dry skin?
8. Do you have thin hair?
9. Do you have heavy periods?

If you have chronic fatigue or pain and have at least three of the above symptoms, you should ask your doc to consider testing your blood for thyroid dysfunction. If it's positive, she might give you a trial of Armour Thyroid by prescription. This form has the active thyroid hormone (called T3) in it, and many experts in this field find that it works better than the more commonly used Synthroid. No data prove this difference, but some patients swear it made the difference to them.

Scoop Up, Power Up

Some ill-advised folks might say that the greatest nutritional discovery of the last decade has been the Baconator (at a whopping 830 calories, we don't think so). The real nutritional heroes: DHA and ribose.

DHA: The active form of omega-3 helps constitute nerve membranes and keeps the nerves to your muscles firing, as well as helps encase muscles. You can get this in fish oils or from the algae that fish eat. Try 600 mg of DHA a day (equivalent to 2 grams of fish oil if you like that taste better).

Ribose: This special sugar is made in your body and doesn't come from food; it helps build the energy blocks of your body. Of all the things you can do to combat the effects of knee-dragging fatigue, taking a daily ribose supplement is the one that seems to really turbo-charge some people who have diseases associated with low energy. (The only side effect is that some people feel too much energy, if that's possible.)

The data aren't good enough to recommend ribose for all of us. But if you want to give it a try, start with 500 mg three times a day for a week or so until you get used to the taste (or find a smoothie, coffee, or tea to put it in). Then go to 5 grams three times a day for three weeks to get a sense of the effect. Then you can scale back to 5 grams twice a day.

By the way, since we know you're wondering: Each 5-gram scoop contains only 20 calories, since ribose isn't metabolized as a sugar. Taking it won't increase your chances of becoming mistaken for a Sea World attraction. In fact, since it is a bit sweet, you might think of it as a sugar substitute.

As an aside, ribose has been shown to relieve fatigue, soreness, and stiffness after exercise, and some professional athletes have reported muscular benefits after taking ribose (again, the data are too weak to say it does or doesn't work well, since the studies just haven't been done).

Find Your Chia

Say the word chia, and most of us immediately think of little green pets. But we want you to think of chia for another reason: A whole grain used by the Aztecs as their main energy source, chia can help restore energy levels and decrease inflammation because of its omega-3 fatty acids.

Similar to cornstarch, chia can be used as a thickening agent and as a substitute for whole grains in your diet. Whole grains, of course, are especially important because they help stabilize blood sugar levels, as opposed to causing the spikes and falls that can occur when you eat sugars and refined carbohydrates. Here's one way to use chia.

Chia Muffins

1 tablespoon chia seeds, ground (use a coffee or spice grinder)
11/2 cups whole wheat or whole grain flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt or salt and pepper to taste
16-ounce can organic pumpkin (make sure there is only pumpkin listed in the ingredients list)
2 egg whites
1/4 cup high-quality canola oil
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix all wet ingredients.

Fold the wet ingredients and nuts into the dry ingredients, stirring only until dry ingredients are moistened (don't overmix).

Spoon into paper-lined or greased (with canola oil) muffin tins. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Store completely cooled muffins in resealable plastic bags in the freezer. Makes about a dozen.

Get Rid of Infections

While most of us want to treat infections because of their acute symptoms, we can't ignore that they can have chronic implications as well. Since inflammation and infection can be two of the dominos in the cascade of low-energy symptoms, one of your goals could be to monitor your body so that infections don't linger.

That means regular flossing to decrease the risk of gum inflammation, regular use of a neti pot to reduce sinusitis, and probiotics for treating such infections as prostatitis, bowel infections, and vaginitis. Many infections are viral, in which case good sleep, frequent hand washing, and food choices that avoid all simple sugars and saturated fats can help.

From YOU: BEING BEAUTIFUL by Michael F. Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. Copyright © 2008 by Michael F. Roizen, M.D., and Oz Works, LLC. Reprinted by permission of Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc, NY.