Why are we more tired with advancing age?

Why are we more tired with advancing age?


This lack of energy, even chronic fatigue that sets in as we age, is aggravated by our poor eating habits, overwork, physical inactivity and environmental pollution. All this acts at the cellular level, in our mitochondria.

Everything then works less well in our body. Fatigue (also called asthenia) is felt: you don’t have enough energy to do what you want. Then, a predisposition to diseases related to aging sets in (Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, atherosclerosis, etc.), and also other conditions such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, sarcopenia, “chronic fatigue syndrome”, fibromyalgia, etc.

Fortunately, we know better and better the work of the mitochondria and the means of preserving and restore their energy production. This is precisely what makes it possible to fight against fatigue, as we will see.

Our mitochondria produce our energy: ATP

These little “boilers” are organs of our cells. They burn sugars or fats to makeATP, the fuel of our cells. Our body produces 40 to 50 kilos of ATP per day, or even more! (ref. PNAS) Our muscles use most of it. To be fit, we therefore need a lot of ATP.

Mitochondria in a cell (9) (wikipedia)

The 2 ways of energy production

There are mainly 2 pathways of energy production in the cells of our body:

The “anaerobic” pathway uses sugar stored in our muscles and liver (glycogen) but does not need oxygen. Useful at the start of an effort, it is not very efficient in terms of energy production but can go very quickly.

The “aerobic” way uses the oxygen brought by our breathing to “burn” sugars or fats. The production of energy is done according to the famous ” Krebs cycle“, much more efficient in ATP production but slower and more dependent on other conditions, such as the presence of certain micronutrients or enzymes.

These are 8 successive chemical reactions, which run in a loop. For each step to go well, certain nutrients are essential (minerals, coenzymes, enzymes, vitamins, etc.). If they are missing, it will disrupt energy production. In particular, the magnesium (well known against fatigue) is very involved, as well as group B vitamins, coenzymes (especially coenzyme Q10 and NAD+)…

You understood it, here, the 2nd way is more “profitable” (although slower than the first). To optimize it, it will be necessary to ensure good levels of nutrients and coenzymes and of course, tooxygen in our blood (i.e., normal respiratory function).

Our energy reserves

Our muscles store ATP that can be used instantly but this only allows us to run 60 meters for example. Then, our body must renew this ATP and therefore produce it.

We have already seen the glycogen stored in our muscles and in our liver. It will be used to produce energy at the start of exercise (or in the event of an emergency or sudden stress), because the aerobic pathway which uses oxygen takes longer to be effective (25 to 30 minutes).

The burning of fatty acids is also done, in general, from this lapse of time. This is when energy production is at its maximum and our figure improves. It should therefore be encouraged. However, it has been shown that in certain situations (in particular stress induced by a intense muscular effort), the mitochondria of our muscle cells can quickly burn fatty acids drawn from our fat stores.

When the mitochondria are tired

The causes of weakness

After 35 years, our mitochondria are less efficient. At 70, they could have lost nearly 50% of their performance (Professor Conley’s study in 2000, from the University of Washington Medical Center).

Professor Bruce Ames, from Berkeley California, specialist in oxidative stress and mitochondria, showed how aging is related to oxidation of mitochondria and the damage accumulated thereon.

Here are the main causes:

  • The accumulated toxic products (heavy metals, chemicals, drugs, etc.)
  • Poor blood circulation and/or poor breathing leading to poor blood oxygenation.
  • the stress (which consumes magnesium and B vitamins) and pollution electromagnetic (radiation and waves of all kinds).
  • From hormonal problems like the slowing down of the glands thyroid Where adrenals or excess production ofinsulin favored by the consumption of so-called “fast” sugars (with a high glycemic index).
  • Too much oxidation and poorly managed by our defenses (oxidative stress) will cause damage to mitochondrial DNA.
  • An advanced stage of imbalance of the intestinal flora: with excessive production of hydrogen sulfide (H²S with the smell of rotten eggs) preventing mitochondrial respiration and blocking energy production.

The Effects of Decreased ATP Production

man with great fatigueWhen energy production no longer works well, you feel a drop in vitality, fatigue sets in (even when you wake up), pain, a failing memory… and aging accelerates.

If aerobic production (with oxygen) is poor, then the anaerobic pathway is overused. She ends up producingLactic acid to waste, which can lead to pain and/or muscle cramps.

Are your mitochondria working well?

The laboratory examinations concerned

There is no common test to measure the activity of our mitochondria. However, certain analyzes make it possible to measure various degrees of oxidation in our body and to have an idea on the damage undergone by our mitochondria. It should be noted that these assays are delicate because of the difficulty in preserving the samples. They are carried out by specialized laboratories for the most part. Nevertheless, those written in bold are quite reliable:

  • DNA oxidation: urinary 8-hydroxy-deoxyguanosine (8ohDG)),
  • Lipid oxidation (malonyl-dialdehyde (MDA)F2-isoprostanes,…),
    proteins (oxidized LDL and anti-oxidized LDL antibodiescarbonyl proteins, etc.)

It is also possible to measure magnesium, zinc and B vitamins (and again: thyroid and adrenal hormones) to know if their levels are correct.

Eliminate other causes of fatigue

Of course, fatigue can also be caused by health problems. It is therefore necessary, above all, to ensure that it is not the consequence of diseases such as:

  • hormonal problems, especially thyroid or adrenal.
  • sleep apnea (or other sleep problems)
  • poor breathing (asthma, emphysema, etc.)
  • Chronic infections (throat and sinuses, gynecological, urinary or digestive…)
  • serious illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, heart failure, etc.
  • anemia
  • nervous breakdown, anxiety, etc.

or an unhealthy lifestyle:

  • from deficiencies nutritional (lack of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc.)
  • alcoholism
  • excessive smoking, poisoning by toxic products…

Once these causes are eliminated, we can tackle the fatigue that gradually sets in with age, by reinvigorating our mitochondria.

So what to do?

Read more: How to fight against the fatigue that sets in with age?

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