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You’ve got billions of mitochondria running through your cells. They might be small. But they’re mighty – the microscopic little engines that could. Sure, mitochondria power your cells, but that’s an oversimplified way of thinking about them because in terms of what they do, pure energy just scratches the surface.
Mitochondria largely determine how you feel right now, how you’ll perform at work, your focus, and how intense your morning workout was. Their impact on your day is almost imperceptible unless you really think about it – then it becomes critical.
But as you age, your mitochondria begin to break down. In fact, this process is one of the main causes for the tell-tale signs of aging. Therefore, finding new ways to get your cells making more mitochondria isn’t just good for you now, it can help you live a healthy life. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to keep your cells producing healthy mitochondria.
What are mitochondria, anyway?
Great question. Mitochondria are different from the other cellular components in your body. That’s because scientists believe that mitochondria, at one point, were their own independent organisms. They were once bacteria that, somewhere along the way, decided to work together. Because mitochondria evolved doing their own thing, they have their own DNA, and that means they can produce their own proteins and enzymes. Amazing, right?
When your mitochondria are functioning in tip-top shape, they form the foundation for a healthy life, affecting your mood, energy and focus levels, and much, much more. The important takeaway here is that healthy mitochondria provide your body with the steady flow of energy it needs to perform its best in a variety of functions. It’s not just the quantity of mitochondria that makes the biggest difference either, it’s the quality as well.
Because different parts of your body burn massive amounts of energy, when mitochondria production starts to slow, or the quality of your mitochondria starts to weaken, the body enters what we call mitochondrial dysfunction. This could be caused by poor diet, exposure to environmental toxins, bad sleep habits, and more. When free radicals start to attack your cells (and mitochondria by extension), we begin to experience the common symptoms of aging and oxidative stress, which can take a toll on your body.
Like we mentioned earlier, mitochondrial dysfunction is a normal cellular process, but it isn’t something you have to simply accept. Here are a few things you can do to help keep your mitochondria running at full power.
Better sleep leads to better mitochondrial function. Why? Well, consider the time you spend sleeping as your brain and body’s daily upkeep. It’s a lot like a cleaning process. During the day, your cells produce a lot of waste. At night, mitochondria kick in and provide your cells with the energy they need to remove that waste. Looking at sleep this way makes the hours you spend in bed simply a good hygiene decision. So if you want to practice good sleep hygiene, consider winding down about an hour before bedtime. That means no phones (gasp!) and no Netflix (double gasp!).
Treat your body right.
One of the keys to keeping your mitochondria in tip-top shape is reducing your toxic load. The reason is simple. Toxic load causes a normal inflammatory response in the cells, which in turn leads to the normal breakdown of mitochondria. To reduce your toxic load and support healthy mitochondria function, eat more omega 3 than omega 6 fatty acids. Swap the processed, packaged food you eat for whole alternatives. Eating cleaner can make a world of difference.
Mitochondria are energy junkies. The more energy your body demands, the more these little powerhouses kick into gear. Exercising, especially high intensity interval training (HIIT) that alternates high-intensity bursts of activity, is particularly beneficial. Walking and running is fine, but if you really want to boost your mitochondrial function, look for exercising that dials up the intensity.
Improve your diet.
Along with eliminating processed foods from your diet, switching from high-carbs to high fat gives your mitochondria the type of fuel they thrive on. This fuel is called ketones — the basis for the Keto Diet. Additionally, intermittent fasting has also been shown to improve mitochondria function.
Don’t take your mitochondria for granted.
You might not be able to see them, but your mitochondria are playing a powerful, pivotal role behind the scenes with many of the daily functions you might be taking for granted. Taking care of your mitochondria won’t just improve your day-to-day life — it will pay big dividends tomorrow.