Dealing with low energy levels can be very frustrating. We struggle to get through the day and have difficulty keeping up with activities. We lose focus and productivity declines.
So how do you handle your energy crash? Do you instinctively reach for an energy bar or jug of caffeine?
The majority of people tend to cope with fatigue in the wrong ways. We look for immediate band-aid fixes to give us the jolt we need to keep going. Hey, anything to get through the day, right?
Stimulants don’t work
The problem is that relying on stimulants is not a long-term solution. Energy bars and caffeine are not sustainable forms of energy for the long-run.
In fact, these stimulants usually make us feel worse. Our systems crash within a few hours and we continually crave more, thus developing an addiction.
Fortunately, there’s hope for all of us. There are much better ways to beat fatigue and function at full-power. We really can boost energy naturally and for the long haul.
How can you become your most energetic self?
Wouldn’t it be great to always be refreshed and ready to tackle anything – and to do this naturally?
It is possible, although keeping a high energy supply is based on a complex system involving both the body and mind.
The first step is to make some simple lifestyle changes by focusing on the most important factors affecting your energy:
- Check for medical conditions
- Coping with stress
Keep reading for expert-recommended tips related to all of these areas. They really do work and you’ll super-charge your energy for the long-run.
Nutrition: Eating for energy
Our bodies derive energy from the foods we eat. So proper nutrition is key to living a vivacious life and avoiding fatigue every day.
How do you make your food choices? Do you choose the best-tasting or healthiest items?
It’s natural to make food choices based on the enjoyment that the food will bring, even though these are not typically the healthiest options. The problem is that the enjoyment is usually short-lived. And often followed by unpleasant consequences such as an energy crash and health concerns like high cholesterol, blood pressure and weight gain.
But what if we chose our food based on the best sources of energy? Try eating for energy instead and you’ll notice a huge difference. You’ll be able to easily stay awake and productive all day long.
Make sure to eat a balanced diet with servings from all of the food groups. Check out the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide recommendations on healthy food and beverage choices.
The Guidelines emphasize eating more healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits, low-fat dairy, wholegrains and seafood; and limiting unhealthy foods that contain saturated and trans fats, sugars, salt and refined grains.
Don’t skip meals
Studies show that when you skip meals, you end up feeling exhausted by the end of the day.
In particular, eating breakfast is the most important meal as it provides fuel and sets an energetic tone for your entire day. Select foods that are high in protein and fiber to keep you feeling full and stabilize your blood sugar levels. Good choices are eggs and multigrain toast, and oatmeal with fruit.
Eat less but more often
For high levels of sustained energy, try eating smaller, more frequent meals. The body needs food regularly to function and having small meals every 3-4 hours will boost your vitality. It will also help you avoid the fatigue that comes from over-eating. When we eat too much, the body’s energy is re-focused from our minds to the stomach and digestive process instead.
It’s all about protein
Protein is essential for the proper growth, development and function of the human body including the muscles, organs, and immune system. It’s also a huge factor affecting energy levels. So make sure to add protein-rich foods to every meal, such as lean meats, poultry, seafood, low-fat dairy, and eggs.
Choose complex carbs
The body prefers carbohydrates as the primary source of fuel. So choose the good healthy carbs such as whole grain foods. These release energy steadily during the day and will keep you consistently energized the whole day.
Good choices include whole grain breads, cereal and pasta, quinoa, brown rice, oats, sweet potatoes, and vegetables.
Avoid simple carbs
Stay away from foods made with white flour and sugar. These will give you a quick sugar rush followed by a huge crash in energy levels, leaving you feeling sluggish and wiped out.
Eat plenty of raw fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are packed with many vitamins and minerals that your body needs to stay healthy and powered-up every day. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming more vegetables and fruits than any other food group for the numerous health benefits and to decrease the risk of many diseases.
Experts typically recommend 2-4 servings of fruit and at least 5 servings of vegetables every day.
Eat good fats
Fats are the body’s second preferred choice of energy after the carbohydrates have been used up. There are both good and bad types of fat. It’s important to avoid the bad fats such as saturated and trans fats found in fried foods, chips, doughnuts, and cakes. These cause problems for your heart, cholesterol levels, and also block the flow of oxygen through the blood vessels and drain your energy.
Aim for healthy fats instead such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which will improve your energy levels. Some good examples include fish and seafood, olives, olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocados.
Get more magnesium
Magnesium is an essential nutrient, necessary for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including the breakdown of carbs into energy. Even a slight deficiency can affect your energy levels, so make sure to eat foods rich in magnesium such as nuts, whole grains, fish, tofu, and leafy green vegetables.
Eat iron-rich foods
Iron is an important mineral for the body’s functions including in the transportation of oxygen in red blood cells to the brain and throughout the body. If your iron levels are inadequate, you could end up suffering from iron-deficiency anemia, which can be characterized by extreme fatigue, headaches, and difficulty concentrating.
Choose foods that are high in iron such as lean red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, wholegrain cereals and breads, nuts and green leafy vegetables.
Increase your B vitamins
If you’re not getting enough of the B vitamins (thiamin, B6, B12 and riboflavin), you will feel fatigued and worn out. These vitamins play a major role in the body’s production of energy so it’s important to avoid any deficiency. Good sources of vitamin-B foods include meat, salmon, milk, eggs, poultry and green leafy vegetables.
If you’re hitting that afternoon slump, avoid reaching for a cup of coffee or sugary snack and choose a healthy snack that will help you fight fatigue and stay productive for the rest of the day.
Pick snacks that are high in protein, low in fat and also have complex carbs and fiber. For a well-fueled snack, try some of the following ideas:
- Apple or banana with peanut butter
- Oatmeal with fruit
- Whole grain crackers with string cheese or nut butter
- Low-fat yogurt and fruit
- Hard-boiled egg and fruit
- Vegetables and low-fat dip (such as hummus)
Caution with energy bars and drinks
Just because something is labeled as an “energy” food product doesn’t mean it actually delivers on its promise. Energy bars and drinks are usually filled with too much sugar, caffeine and calories. The effect is the same as other sugary, unhealthy snacks: a quick energy burst followed by a rapid crash.
Be cautious when it comes to these types of products. Read the labels so that you understand the nutritional value before consuming.
Natural foods vs. supplements
The majority of experts, including the American Dietic Association, recommend that natural healthy foods should be the first source for obtaining vitamins and nutrients. For some people, additional nutrients from supplements may be needed to help meet certain nutritional deficiencies.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that supplements are not a replacement for food. They can help to provide additional nutrients that may be lacking, but supplements cannot compare to the benefits provided in foods.
In particular, there are thousands of enzymes, phytochemicals, protein, fiber and other naturally occurring substances in foods that act together to keep you healthy and protected from illnesses.
If you do decide to take supplements, make sure to consult your doctor in advance to see if the supplements are suitable and safe for you.
Dehydration is one of the primary causes of fatigue. When the body does not receive enough fluids, blood volume drops, and the heart beats faster to pump oxygen and nutrients to the cells to function.
Being dehydrated can cause a wide range of symptoms including dizziness, tiredness, fainting, headaches, confusion and dry mouth. Make sure to stay well-hydrated throughout the day to fight fatigue and keep your energy levels up.
Drink lots of water
Fortunately, there’s an easy, cheap and fat-free solution to beat dehydration: drink plenty of water. Experts suggest nine to twelve glasses of water per day to keep yourself well-hydrated.
If you don’t like drinking plain water, try adding lemons, limes or oranges to spice up the taste.
Choose sugar-free drinks
To feel consistently energized, avoid the sugary drinks and sodas. These will only give you a quick jolt of energy followed by a huge crash, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish. Stick to plain water and add fruit instead to give it some flavor.
Cut back on caffeine
Research studies have shown that moderate coffee consumption can be beneficial for physical and mental health. When it comes to your energy levels, caffeine is effective for providing a power jolt and enhancing your focus.
But it’s important to limit your coffee intake to two cups per day (8 ounce cups) and consumption before 2 pm. Too much coffee will be counterproductive and leads to anxiety, moodiness and insomnia. Caffeine is also a diuretic, which can make you lose a considerable amount of water and become dehydrated.
Stay away from adding extra unwanted calories to your coffee by avoiding sugar, artificial sweeteners, creamers and regular milk. Try using almond, soy, or low-fat milk and add flavor with natural choices such as ground nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla bean.
Try green and herbal teas
If you’re tired of your coffee addiction, why not try green tea instead? The beverage is packed with nutrients and antioxidants and is super healthy. Studies have shown that drinking green tea has numerous health benefits including weight loss, improved brain function and reduced risk of cancer and other diseases.
Green tea still has caffeine to keep you awake and focused, but much smaller amounts than coffee. You’ll get your caffeine fix but without the negative side effects of too much coffee. You can also have it in the afternoon as it’s less likely to interfere with your sleep at night.
To avoid getting bored, why not experiment and try a variety of herbal teas? Some great choices to boost your energy include ginseng, ginko biloba, ginger, rosehip, rhodiola, and withania. These will keep you hydrated and satisfy your cravings for different flavors.
Go easy on the alcohol
Alcohol is another diuretic which causes your body to lose too many fluids and leads to dehydration. How do you know if you’re dehydrated from alcohol? The classic sign is the headache that accompanies a hangover.
Make sure to drink alcohol in moderation only as it can be a huge energy drainer. And of course there are many other serious consequences associated with heavy drinking. To be safe, experts advise up to a maximum of two drinks per day.
Try to drink a glass of water along with an alcoholic drink as this will help to prevent dehydration. It’s also best to limit your alcohol intake a few hours before you go to sleep as it interferes with your ability to get a good night’s rest.
Get up and get moving
One reason you may be feeling tired at work is from sitting in your chair for many hours on end with no movement. Next time you experience that midday or afternoon slump, try taking a break and get some exercise.
Even if you think you’re too tired, skip the excuses and go outside for a 10-minute walk. You’ll feel refreshed and recharged. The physical activity will boost your mood and productivity for the rest of the day.
Research studies have shown that a 10-minute walk will give you more energy than a candy bar (a study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology) and that the energized effect lasts for about two hours. (Robert Thayer study at California State University)
Variety is the spice of life
Are you bored of your existing exercise routine? Do you find it difficult to stay motivated and keep your workout schedule? If you answered yes to these questions, then it may be time to try different exercise activities.
A change can shake-up your routines and make them fun and engaging again. This will give you something to look forward to and it will be more difficult to slack off and skip the workouts.
Here are a few simple suggestions to get you back on track:
- If you’re bored of walking in the same areas all the time, try new trails in different areas. Changing the scenery can make walking interesting again. Bring a friend or listen to music and you’ll start to enjoy this activity again.
- Try a new cardio exercise such as running, swimming, biking, inline skating, and dancing. These all get your heart rate up and the oxygen flowing throughout your body.
- Take up new sports such as tennis, basketball, volleyball which also get the heart pumping.
- Take a new class at your gym such as aerobics or yoga. You’ll make new friends and being social helps keep your motivation up.
Reap the benefits
Exercising on a regular basis has numerous benefits. Most people exercise to burn off calories and help lose unwanted pounds. But the benefits don’t end there. Exercise has a positive effect on your overall health including improving the heart condition, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, and increased metabolism.
A good workout also releases those feel-good endorphins that elevate your mood and reduce stress. Most people would agree that the positive feelings and the energy boost are well worth any perceived pain of exercising. So stop the excuses and keep up with your exercise routines!
You need a good night’s sleep to be your most energetic and productive self. The quantity and quality of sleep you get have a huge impact on your health and your brain’s functioning power.
While you sleep, essential biochemicals and hormones are restored and cells produce necessary proteins for tissue growth and repair. Studies have shown that seven to eight hours of restorative, undisturbed sleep is optimal. So don’t skimp on your sleep.
Tips to get a good night’s rest
Create the right conditions to get the best sleep possible. Here are some expert-recommended tips that you can try right away:
- Keep a regular sleep schedule. Go to bet and get up at the same times every day, even on weekends.
- At the end of a long busy day, your mind and body need time to unwind. So give yourself about an hour before bedtime to start relaxing and preparing yourself for bed. Try reading a book, taking a bath, or listening to some soft music to help you decompress.
- Don’t drink coffee after 2 pm and avoid alcoholic drinks a few hours before bedtime. These are both stimulants which will prevent you from sleeping well during the night.
- Skip the late night meals and stop eating 2-3 hours before bedtime. If you go to sleep on a full stomach, your digestive system will be hard at work and will keep you awake.
- Keep the bedroom cool, dark and quiet to help you fall asleep quickly. The ideal room temperature is between 65 to 70 degrees.
- Turn off the TV, laptop and tablet. Watching something before bed stimulates the mind and prevents you from falling asleep.
- If you’re tired during the day, take a quick power nap around midday or early afternoon. Limit the nap to 30 minutes so that it doesn’t interfere with your nighttime sleeping patterns.
Rule out medical conditions
Are you always feeling tired and have tried lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep, but with no improvement? It may be time to check with your doctor. There are many underlying medical problems that can cause fatigue so it’s best to identify and treat the problem as quickly as possible.
Check your thyroid
One of the most common conditions that cause low energy and weakness is a thyroid dysfunction. The thyroid, a gland located in the neck, produces hormones that are involved in the majority of metabolic processes in your body.
Hypothyroidism results when insufficient hormones are produced and leads to lower energy levels. Your doctor will order a blood test to check your TSH levels in order to determine if your fatigue is caused by problems with the thyroid. The condition can be well-managed once diagnosed and treated.
Anemia could be the problem
Anemia is another common condition that causes fatigue and lethargy. Anemia occurs when there is a reduction in healthy red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen to your tissues. This means that your body doesn’t receive the amount of oxygen it needs to function at full power, and you end up feeling tired and weak.
Your doctor can determine if you have anemia from a simple blood test. There are many types of anemia with different causes. The most prevalent cause is the loss of blood. Once diagnosed, your doctor will recommend a treatment plan which can include taking nutritional supplements or certain medical procedures.
There are many other health problems that can cause chronic fatigue such as high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, depression, insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, among many others.
Only your doctor can help you identify the root of the cause so it’s best to get checked out right away. This way you’ll be on your way to feeling like your normal self and restoring your energy levels.
Coping with stress
Stress is all around us and zaps our energy. It’s caused by a build-up of tension and anxiety from a variety of demands and challenges in both our personal and professional lives.
A certain amount of stress is normal as everyone faces difficulties in their lives. However, if the stress is overwhelming, it can wreak havoc on your life and lead to mental and physical exhaustion, insomnia, and overeating. If you feel you can’t escape, then it’s time to take action.
The good news is that it’s possible to manage stress in healthy ways. You can take control of your thoughts and emotions and how you react to problems.
Below are some tactics you can use to combat stress every day.
Face your problems head-on
The first step is to identify the issues that stress you out and why. You can then face the problems and look for solutions, whether these are at work or at home. Try talking to others for support and for ways to change the stressful situation for the better. Ignoring the issues will not help you and in fact the stress will get much worse over time.
Focus on the present
Most people create extra stress by dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. But what does this accomplish? It’s not possible to change the past and the future hasn’t yet happened, so what’s the point? Focus instead only on today and the best that you can do each day. This will decrease your stress level and improve your focus and energy to keep going.
It’s easy to get sucked into a whirlwind of negative thoughts and emotions. But these are exhausting for your mind and body to handle and deplete your energy. Catch yourself next time the negative thoughts start and change the direction to positive thoughts instead. Try thinking of things that you enjoy, appreciate or look forward to. Positive thoughts are powerful and create an energizing effect.
Beat stress by exercising on a regular basis and burning off the negative effects. Exercise leads to the production of the feel-good endorphins that will keep you healthy, positive and vitalized.
Try to relax
Find activities that you enjoy and bring calm to your chaotic world. Anything that you find relaxing will be effective at busting stress and reducing your tension levels. Try reading, listening to soft music, watching a movie, or anything that works well for you.
It may seem obvious, but it’s important to remember to breathe deeply every day. Feeling stressed can cause shallow breathing which results in less oxygen to make it to the brain. Take a break every hour and take a few deep breaths, and you’ll feel calmer and more mentally alert.
Meditation is an excellent way to reduce stress. Scientific studies back this up and have shown numerous benefits from meditation including increased energy and focus.
Take a day off
Try to take a personal day every month or so to relax or do something fun. No thought about work or other stress factors, and make the day just about you.
There are many steps you can take to combat fatigue and super-charge your energy levels. Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and handling your stress in healthy ways all go a long way toward giving you more energy.
What is your favorite way to boost your energy naturally? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.