If there’s one thing most of us could use more of, it’s energy. Whether we come crashing down after a starchy work lunch, or just never feel like we’re operating at 100 percent, finding that extra energy can be maddeningly elusive.
But instead of kicking yourself for not being able to turn things around right away, why not start building up your energy stores by making changes over time? Read on to find a few places to start.
Tackle Your Sleeping Issues
It’s one thing to know you need about eight hours of sleep each night — and another thing to actually get enough that good-quality sleep. Even people who take their diet and exercise routines seriously forget that getting the proper rest also takes commitment. The first step, of course, is to go to bed at a reasonable hour. But if you have trouble either falling asleep or staying asleep, you may need to pursue rest more aggressively.
If you’re a heavy snorer, your doctor can advise you on devices to correct the problem, often with an unobtrusive device.
For chronic insomnia, try basic methods like not napping during the day, or gradually moving your bedtime back until you’ve achieved about eight hours of sleep.
Eat for Energy
Perhaps the most important thing you can do in terms of figuring out which foods give you energy is to keep a food diary. It may be that certain dishes can make you drowsy that don’t affect others the same way. Some people have mild dairy allergies that result in sleepiness, for example.
In general, eating to boost your energy isn’t a big mystery. Here are a few things to add to your diet, and a few things to cut back on:
- Avoid starchy, sugary foods, especially those made with white sugar and white flour, which can cause energy spikes and crashes.
- Consume more low-glycemic foods throughout the day. These are foods that help steady your blood sugar, so you won’t be feeling groggy after the initial “high” wears off. Good choices include nuts, whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and high-fiber veggies like broccoli.
- Eat more frequent, smaller meals. As with eating more low-glycemic foods, having smaller meals and snacks throughout the day helps you steady your blood sugar levels. Even if you prefer keeping to the traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner, try to make them less heavy. Keep nuts, healthy protein bars, and fresh veggies at your desk to keep you going between regular meals.
- Trade coffee for water. While some coffee in the morning is OK, relying on it after lunch leads to insomnia. Instead, focus on hydration. When you’re not getting enough fluids, fatigue sets in. The best drink of all is water, because it won’t cause those peaks and crashes that sugary sports drinks do.
Fill in Nutritional Gaps
Whether it’s because of a busy schedule or dietary restrictions, you may be missing out on some nutrients that can bring you more energy.
Vitamin B12 is famous for its energy-boosting power, but if you’re vegan or vegetarian, you could be missing out on its energy-boosting qualities. (Your body can’t produce this nutrient on its own, and it is mainly found in animal products.) To correct this gap, consider a B12 supplement. Vitafusion offers an extra-strength version in an easy-to-take, cherry-flavored gummy form.
If you’re worried about your diet overall, or just want to jumpstart your healthier lifestyle, a multivitamin might make a better choice. Choose one that is suited to your specific needs. A multivitamin for women, example, contains antioxidants like A and C at levels recommended for women.
Kick the Habit(s)
It’s probably not news to you that smoking and heavy drinking can catch up with you in the form of heart disease, cancer or other chronic illnesses. But it’s only human to not worry about tomorrow’s problems today. One thing that can motivate you in the here and now? Kicking the fatigue “habit.”
If you’re having trouble feeling energized despite doing the obvious things like getting more rest, it may well be that your recreational habits are spilling over into the rest of your life. Cigarette smoking has been linked to insomnia, because nicotine is a stimulant. On the other end of the coin, alcohol not only makes you drowsy, but can make you wake up after a few hours’ sleep.
If you can’t kick these habits right away, time them for weekends, when you can somewhat afford the lack of pep on “the morning after.”
Work It Out
If you’ve been meaning to work out for a long time but haven’t been motivated, knowing how dramatically exercise can provide an energy boost just might convince you.
Obviously, in the short term, each workout provides a dopamine boost, which improves your mood and stamina that can last for several hours. But over time, regular exercising will give you longer-lasting energy, giving you increased metabolism and improved circulation.
Of course, exercise can also lead to weight loss, when combined with a proper diet. The more extra pounds you carry, the more your heart has to work. Getting to your ideal weight for your height, age and gender will stop the diversion of all that needed energy.
Ironically, sometimes feeling severely fatigued is what keeps people from starting the workouts that will boost energy. To counter this problem, exercise in small-sized chunks — perhaps a 10-minutes walk at lunch, or a quick game of tennis on the weekend.
If you’re exhausted at the end of a workday but still want to get to the gym, try to stand up and move around a bit during the day, to give yourself a bit of a mini-energy boost to get you to the gym or to the walking trail.
Ultimately, you should aim for about 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week in order to maximize your energy levels, while also encouraging heart health and optimum metabolism.