How often do you find yourself working out, only for your low energy to cause you to back out before you even break a sweat? There are a ton of reasons for someone to feel too tired to hit the gym or exercise at home. Lack of sleep is the most obvious cause, of course. A new study published in the medical journal Circulation has uncovered another culprit: our food. We aren’t just talking about stuffing yourself like a Thanksgiving turkey and feeling the food coma afterward. It’s not about the volume of food, but the common preservative found within much of what we buy at the grocery store.
Researchers behind the study claim that inorganic phosphates added to food for flavor and longer shelf life could be to blame for slowing us down. “Our data demonstrate a detrimental effect of dietary [inorganic phosphate] excess on skeletal muscle fatty acid metabolism and exercise capacity,” according to the paper. In essence, that jargon simply means that highly processed food with large amounts of the inorganic phosphate has been shown to reduce someone’s ability to exercise for longer periods of time. The study observed participants from the Dallas Heart Study who wore physical activity monitors. The oxygen uptake during exercise for those with high-phosphate diets showed less ability to move and an inability to produce the fatty acids needed for muscles. The study calls this "exercise intolerance."
It’s important to know there is a difference between organic and inorganic phosphates. Those that show up naturally in food are good for us. The problem comes when you consume large amounts of processed food, including soft drinks and frozen meals. Apart from making you feel fatigued, this can also be especially detrimental for those who have kidney problems as that’s where our bodies regulate the phosphate.
If you’re worried about the food you buy, stock up on plenty of fresh, non-packaged food and check the ingredients of prepared food for anything mentioning “phos.” There is currently no regulations on how much of this preservative food companies can legally add to their products, but a keen eye can help lessen the amount you and your family consume. You should also check with your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet, but there’s a good chance they won’t mind you adding more fresh food to your meals.