Fatigue, Exhaustion and Muscle Weakness

Check out the YouTube that sums up this post!

imagesDid you every notice or begin to pay attention to the people around you and what they say? Well I have:) My experience is that most people look tired and exhausted, always express how tired and exhausted they are and when asked “how you doing,” most people respond with, “Tired, is it Friday yet?!”

From our point of view, this is a problem! The human body is a spectacular piece of machinery and when properly fine-tuned with food and lifestyle principles, should have tons of energy and everyday should feel like Friday! So why is everyone so tired all the time?!?

Now at this point hopefully you are realizing that our blog posts are not some superficial mumbo-jumbo and explain to you on a deeper cellular and physiological level why things are going on. So keeping with that theme, we are going to explore on a cellular level why so many people are so tired all the time. Sure…it could be from over training, working too much, not sleeping enough, not eating enough, eating too much, kids, etc. however, a stress is a stress is a stress!  What you determine a stress in your mind may be completely what your body experiences as a stress. This is not a consideration we see being made in consideration of health but one we really need to begin paying attention to.

When people are tired, what they are really expressing physically or verbally is their cells are in a low energy producing state. The energy producing part of the cell, the mitochondria, play THE role in producing energy so you can regulate metabolism, produce energy and have energy. A crucial enzyme in the mitochondria is called cytochrome oxidase. This enzyme plays a very large role in interacting with Oxygen (O2) and begins the process of cellular respiration.

“Learning how to preserve and promote the activity of this enzyme is an important issue for everything having to do with biological energy” Ray Peat PhD.

Lets take a quick and basic look at what is going on in the cell in order to produce energy. Carbons Dioxide (CO2), ATP and water are the end product of efficient glucose oxidation, which is termed oxidative metabolism. When there is optimal respiration and CO2 production from glucose oxidation, hemoglobin releases O2 to the cells. When CO2 is present from eating the right foods, ratios and frequencies, there is a continuous release of O2 from hemoglobin allowed for continued cellular respiration. This not only continues energy production, but also continues to sustain cellular respiration without cells, organs and tissues. ~The Metabolic Blueprint: Understanding Oxidative Metabolism

Now…there are many things that can affect how the cells “breathe” properly.

According to Ray Peat PhD they are: dioxins, unsaturated fats, heavy metals, halogens, radiation, estrogen, adrenaline, cortisol, serotonin and free fatty acids. These factors altering the energy-producing efficacy of our cell shifting energy production from glucose oxidation to lactic acid fermentation; the biological process by which glucose is converted into cellular energy and the metabolite lactate. The more lactic acid we produce, the more of a metabolic burden it becomes. CO2 and lactic acid are antagonistic. Refer to our last blog post to learn more about there antagonistic roles!

“Mitochondrial animals which are fed a diet lacking the “essential” unsaturated fatty acids are more resistant to oxidation than the mitochondria from animals fed a standard diet containing unsaturated oils, but they also have very different in vitro swelling behavior. ” Ray Peat PhD.

Thus we can conclude a diet lacking these “essential fatty acids (EFA)” are facilitative to oxidative metabolism. EFA’s inhibit the cytochrome oxidase enzyme.

“Kunkel and Williams found that the very high respiratory rate of animals fed a diet lacking polyunsaturated fats was caused primarily by a great increase in the activity of cytochrome oxidase, and that adding an “essential fatty acid” strongly inhibited this enzymes activity” Ray Peat PhD.

Cardiolipin, a phospholipid found in the mitochondria, is another important co-factor associated with the function and availability of cytochrome oxidase. According to Ray Peat PhD, “cytochrome oxidase is often damaged by stress and blue light, and activated or restored by red light, thyroid and progesterone.”

Cytochrome oxidase is most active in the cell when it is associated with cardiolipin, which is composed mostly of saturated fat (palmitic acid) molecules. Unsaturated fats have a high affinity for water, so under cell excitation, stress and edema, unsaturated fats permeate into the cell and substitute the palmitic acid, which lowers cardiolipin activity. When cardiolipin becomes more unsaturated vs. saturated, it begins to become less stable and is not supportive to the protective enzyme cytochrome oxidase. Once PUFA’s replace the palmitic acid, mitochondrial respiration and CO2 decline.  As quoted by Ray Peat, “Mitochondrial function in general is poisoned by unsaturated fats.”

Cytochrome oxidase contains copper, which is essential for the absorption of red light. Red light or sunlight is essential for optimal oxidative metabolism. Copper is found throughout the body, predominately in the brain, liver and muscles. Its functions include: working as a catalyst for the formation of hemoglobin, assisting in cellular respiration, converting inactive thyroid hormone to active thyroid hormone and is anti-inflammatory in its ability to down regulate histamine. ~The Metabolic Blueprint: Using food as your supplement.

We will investigate how we can use copper to our benefit but we must first take a look at the very things affecting the availability of copper in the body. As you have learned, iron is antagonistic to copper. Iron is interesting  in that it has no mechanism for leaving the body.  Iron supplementation, the use of iron pots and pans and exposure to heavy metals lower copper levels.

A protein called metallothionein, which is induced by cortisol or heavy metals, also binds copper, and might be one of the many ways in which stress and heavy metal poisoning can accelerate the process of aging and degeneration.

In addition and something all of you who follow us have heard repeatedly, how you consume energy, the bodies ability to assimilate nutrients and the overall capability of managing blood sugar all influence cellular respiration and energy production. Along the lines of dietary influence in copper reduction, according to Ray Peat, unsaturated compounds, especially unsaturated phospholipids, can form strong chelation complexes with copper. Just one more reason to lower the amount of unsaturated fats in your diet!

So what does facilitate oxidative metabolism. From the picture at the top of this blog, you can see O2, glucose and T3 are essential for cellular respiration. Well…we know a diet low in unsaturated fats will increase T3 production, concluding a diet high in unsaturated fats will lower T3 production and down regulate cellular respiration.  In the situation of decreases thyroid hormone glandular and/or thyroid medications are not always necessary. More often then not, optimizing nutrition and lowering the exposure to inhibitory unsaturated fats will indirectly up-regulate T3 production…thus up-regulating mitochondrial respiration.

“Thyroid produces increased activity of activity of cytochrome oxidase” Ray Peat PhD.

Another important feature of stabilizing the cell, is its use of cholesterol. Cholesterol is on of the largest anti-oxidants in the body and is produced under times of “stress” to feed cellular metabolism and the steroidal hormone pathways. It has been shown since the 1940’s by Broda Barnes MD that high cholesterol is actually marker for hypothyroidism. In the cell, cholesterol is used to produce pregnenolone, which has a stabilizing affect on the cell and inhibits the oxidation of unsaturated fats.

As we have mentioned above, red light is essential for optimal cellular mitochondrial respiration. B.L. Epel discusses the evidence showing that blue light inhibits respiration by inactivating cytochrome oxidase. Red light penetrates much deeper into our tissues than blue or ultraviolet light radiation. So it is our internal tissues, which mostly receive the benefits of red light.

“Winter sickness and stress of darkness that I have talked about so much are metabolic disturbances resulting from inefficient respiration, and involve fatigue, hypoglycemia with sugar cravings, and hormone imbalances which lead to nutritional problems, such as Vitamin A deficiency” Ray Peat PhD.

There are many protective things that you can do nutritionally and within your life to up-regulate the cytochrome oxidase enzyme and cellular respiration.

  1. The use of light therapy for healing. “Red light and coconut oil, instead of unsaturated oils will cause a great increase in energy consumption” Ray Peat PhD.
  2. The use of coconut oil in your diet. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which inhibits glycolysis, thus preventing hypoglycemia and the stress reaction.
  3. Increase your intake of shellfish, as they contain high amounts of copper.
  4. Increase your intake of ripe tropical fruits. Ripe tropical fruits not only have a higher ratio of saturated fat to unsaturated fat, but are also high in sucrose. Sucrose not only feeds oxidative metabolism, but thyroid and thymic cells are dependent on “sugar” for optimal energy production.
  5. Increase your intake of foods that contain Vitamin E, such as dairy, crab and squashes. Vitamin E is anti-estrogenic, pro-progesterone and a major anti-oxidant. Vitamin E improves oxygenation of your cells and tissues, protects against lipid peroxidation, protects against iron and calcification and spares Vitamin A (which is essential for the production of progesterone and oxidative metabolism).
  6. Decrease your intake of unsaturated oils from vegetable oils, nut/seeds and their oils, fatty fish and above ground veggies. Unsaturated fats not only waste Vitamin E, but also chelate copper and inhibit glucose oxidation.
  7. Increase your intake of dairy and shrimp. “Milk and shrimp can contribute to mitochondrial respiratory efficiency, since milk has a low iron content, and shrimp are very rich in copper” Ray Peat PhD.
  8. When the diagnosis of anemia comes up, first ask which kind: intrinsic, B12/folate, copper, thiamine, Vitamin C or the least common, iron. “When anemia is caused by something other than iron deficiency (and it usually is), it is important to find the actual cause. Thyroid deficiency, estrogen excess, various vitamin deficiency’s, protein deficiency, and various mineral deficiencies should be considered” Ray Peat PhD.

This is not another “DIE-t” but a guide (FREE download) in helping you define exactly what you need to support yourself nutritionally, increase energy and live the life you desire!


Peat, Ray PhD. Townsend Newsletter: Chronic Fatigue. July 1994

Other resources:

Optimizing Respiration: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

Joshua and Jeanne Rubin

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  1. […] our last blog Fatigue, Exhaustion and Muscle Weakness, we talked about a special enzyme in your mitochondria that relies on light for energy production, […]

    November 13, 2015 • 2:23 pm •