Dealing with low energy
Tired of feeling tired? You’re not the only one. Our energy levels sometimes take a nosedive, making it harder to perform when it matters most. There are a number of simple steps you can take to stop you feeling sapped. First of all, however, you need to recognise the source of your fatigue. If it’s depression, or you suspect it could be related to an illness, then you should consult your GP. On the other hand, if it’s just a simple case of low energy that has left you lacklustre, read on
Keep your motor running.
You should think of your body as a car. Like any motor, it needs fuel to run, and that fuel, of course, is food. The right food. First of all, you need a good breakfast. Bacon and sugar-laden cereals are out, fruit and porridge are in. Fruit is really important in the morning because it helps to rehydrate and flush out all the waste and toxins from our liver and digestive system. Protein is also great morning fuel because it is more slowly digested than refined carbohydrates that you find in cereal, meaning it delivers a steady stream of energy throughout the morning, rather than a burst followed by a dip.
An ideal breakfast would be a bowl of berries with natural yoghurt and some flaked almonds or seeds. Porridge is also a good choice and contains fibre for the slow release of energy. Cook with water and some coconut milk or coconut oil for brilliant energy release and serve with berries, seeds or nuts.
A number of people are probably guilty of reaching for a coffee when they need an energy boost. But there are more efficient ways to hydrate. Caffeine triggers a release of sugar into the blood stream, temporarily giving us a burst of energy. However, this is borrowed energy that leaves us depleted and low afterwards. It is also very addictive and over time more and more is required for the same physical effect. The body works hard to process it, using up precious nutrients and making the liver work harder to detoxify the caffeine.
As for sugar-loaded energy drinks, forget about it. The dramatic spike in glucose into the bloodstream is followed by a big dip, again leading to very low energy and mood. People then reach for another or some chocolate or a coffee to get back the high, a vicious cycle that leads to sugar and caffeine addiction. The whole process depletes the body of nutrients, particularly B vitamins, magnesium and vitamin C, which are used in the energy cycle. For a more healthy energy boost, eat a banana, a few nuts and (if you must) wash down with fresh espresso.
It sounds too simple, but just stay hydrated. Dehydration can really zap energy. Superfoods like fresh green juices, wheatgrass powder and acai are brilliant for some extra daily energy. Eating some essential fatty acids in the afternoon can keep you going, while sushi, egg, coconut bars and pumpkin seeds are also good options.
It should also go without saying that, without a good night’s sleep, you’re going to struggle to make it through the day without needing a nap. Try to stick to a routine of going to bed and getting up at the same time and banish all distractions from the bedroom. This means no TV and, increasingly, no social networking. A survey conducted earlier this year found that 72% of people spend time in bed before falling asleep updating or checking Facebook (20% even said they stopped midway through sex to look at an incoming text message, which is just insane). Exposure to bright screens before sleeping will have a major impact on the time it takes to fall asleep, making you feel tired the next day. So keep all gadgets out of the bedroom.
Keep on running
It may sound counterintuitive, but working out may actually make you feel rejuvenated, rather than even more exhausted. It’s always better to exercise first thing in the morning when possible. First of all, it’s done, and work or your social life can’t get in the way. Exercise helps the feel-good hormones surface, so why not let these hormones out of the bag first thing in the morning?
Fast, high-intensity workouts, such as spinning, are particularly good at sending our energy levels through the roof. Our mood and energy levels are very much linked. We can get a boost from low and high intensity exercise, but the higher the intensity, the shorter amount of time it takes to produce the positive effects on our mood and therefore energy levels.
Finally, if you are feeling completely worn out, you might just need to clear your schedule and put your feet up. To improve energy levels, you can eat better, exercise, even meditate, but sometimes the best way to improve your energy is to simply rest. The work, work, work mentality will lead to burnout. Go for a stroll, read a book and generally take time out so you can unwind and recharge.
Sluggishness is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. The best way to fix it and get over your energy slump? Listen to it.