Having low energy is the worst! Feeling sluggish and fatigued can also make you feel depressed, down, and unproductive - not good! We all feel a little low energy at times which is fine, but there are definitely ways to kick start your energy back into high gear quickly!
Below are the top ways to increase your energy right NOW:
Light in general has a powerful effect on our body. Just getting ten minutes of natural sun light helps to energize our mind and body and decreases fatigue. Light shuts off the production of melatonin, which is the sleep inducing hormone produced by the body. If you feel like you are starting to get sluggish around 3pm, go outside to get some direct sunlight.
This one is already pretty well known, but it works! Caffeine kick starts the nervous system to increase focus and attention. Caffeine takes about 30 minutes to start having an energizing effect and it can take 60 minutes or longer to exert its peak effect, so don't worry if you don't feel energized immediately. Be aware that caffeine can stick around in your system for 6 hours or more so make sure you don't drink it too close to sleep time.
3. Avoiding Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates make you sleepy because they calm the nervous system and increase serotonin, the mood stabilizing neurotransmitter. Why do you think carbs are the main food of choice for stress? Because they calm you down.Carbs also spike your blood sugar and then bring it down sharply, leading to fatigue and low energy.Instead stick to protein and fat to keep you on an even keel and also to prevent blood sugar spikes and low that comes with eating carbs.
Exercise stimulates your mind and body and boosts neurotransmitters involved with focus and attention. This could be as simple as a ten minute walk, to a thirty minute high intensity interval training workout. Try it!
Dehydration is one of the most common causes of fatigue, and most of us are walking around slightly dehydrated. Aim for 64 ounces of water per day, more if you are working up a sweat with your workout. A good way to remember to drink water is having a glass as soon as you wake up, a glass before every meal, and a glass after every meal. Always bring a water bottle with you to the gym, if you have water available then you are much more likely to drink water during your workout.
6. Power nap
A 20-30 minute nap can actually boost your energy afterward. Just make sure you don't go longer than this because too long of a nap can get you into a deeper sleep which can make you feel groggy if you wake up in the middle of a deep sleep. Taking too long of a nap can also interfere with your night time sleep. Make sure to set an alarm to wake yourself up!
Laughing has been found to increase positive energy and boost happiness. Watch a funny movie or show or get together with a good friend for a good laugh.
8. Chew peppermint gum
Chewing gum has been found to increase alertness and the smell of peppermint has been found to help with attention and focus. Get the benefits of both by popping a stick of peppermint gum the next time you are finding your mind wander.
9. Cold shower
At the end of your morning shower blast some cold water on your face for at least 30 seconds. The cold water shocks the system (in a good way) to boost attention immediately. You don't even really need to test this, just think about splashing cold water on your face and you know this works to make you alert!
10. Deep breathing
Taking deep breaths increases oxygen to the brain and slows down your breathing. This decreases stress in the body by calming the central nervous system, and in effect allows for greater attention and focus.
11. Listen to music
Listening to upbeat music helps to boost your mood and your energy. If you are feeling sluggish, turn on your favorite artist and your headphones and get a quick energy boost. Click here for a list of upbeat tunes to get your energized.
You've been working out really hard and eating healthy, and you still feel like you aren't making much progress, what gives? This is a very common situation I see in practice. Well, when we look a little closer at your day-to-day life, normally there are a few situations where unhealthy foods lurk and you might indulge and forget about what you ate or drink, or think it was just a bite - that adds up quickly without you even realizing it.
Below are the most common sneaky situations that derail your diet:
1. At work
If you spend a good amount of time at work, this place can sabotage your healthy diet. Treats and desserts are extremely common at work, whether it be a birthday, a holiday, a Monday, a Friday, basically any day of the week can be a day to bring donuts or cookies in. These treats add up and they also make you hungrier and crave more sweets after you eat them. It can also be difficult to say no to sweets just out of peer pressure, "you're not going to take anything?" or "why aren't you eating any of the cake I baked?" Don't worry about being polite here, just say thanks but no thanks, I don't eat sweets. Done with discussion.
2. Your kitchen
If you know your freezer is stocked with ice cream and you have chips in the cupboard, there's a good chance that those treats will be eaten sooner rather than later. The best thing to do is to not buy them in the first place. If you don't buy the unhealthy foods, you won't have the option to eat them. And if you are craving the desserts so much you will to drive to the store to get them, that barrier to entry will definitely cut down on the likelihood of eating the treats.
3. The smoothie shop
I love a good smoothie, however, smoothies are typically very high in sugar. Smoothies are super sneaky because they are marketed as healthy, however, most not only have sugar from fruits but also add high sugar yogurts and juices. Tropical fruits are the highest in sugar which include bananas, pineapple, and papaya, so avoid smoothies that list all of these as the main ingredients. If you are going to get a smoothie, go for berry heavy smoothies which have the lowest sugar and most fiber, or go for a green smoothie that lists only one or two fruits, this will ensure that you are getting less sugar in your drink.
4. The movie theater
I've never come across a movie theater that served healthy food. The usual suspects include hot dogs, popcorn, hot tamales candy, etc. The best scenario would be to not snack at all while at the movies, the second best would be to chew some gum, and other options if you have to munch on something could be apple slices or almonds, or even a protein bar.
5. Happy hour
Going to happy hour can sabotage your healthy lifestyle in a couple of different ways. Number one is the type of drink you are ordering. Avoid beer, sweet wine, and basically any cocktail on the menu because all are high in sugar and empty calories. Instead go for spirits with a zero calorie sweetener, lite beer, or dry wine. The second obstacle with happy hour is the food - usually the happy hour menu is filled with salty, carb heavy foods and calorie dense dips. Try not to go to happy hour hungry, and if you do want to order some food, then go for high protein sources such as meats, cheese, nuts. Avoid the wings and anything fried such as mozzarella sticks or french fries.
6. The party
Whether this be a birthday party, a baby shower, or a wedding party, any kind of celebration gathering is code for desserts galore. Who ever celebrated with an omelette?! You never know what the food will be at a given party or event, but odds are that the majority is not going to be very healthy. Best thing you can do is not go hungry. If you go hungry and there isn't much healthy food, you are going to gorge on the unhealthy stuff, and I've never been to a party that didn't have cookies or cake readily available. Stick to the protein sources and vegetables, can't go wrong with those choices.
Of all the meals, brunch tends to be the greatest diet disaster. Brunch items tend to be the most whimsical and over-the-top with the pie-filling french toasts, or ice cream pancakes. The typical drinks served at brunch are also a dessert - i.e mimosas which are typically a glass of orange juice with a splash of sparkling wine. This doesn't mean you should never partake in brunch, just have a healthy meal in mind or check out the menu before you go.
8. The coffee shop
If you get anything but black coffee, you are likely going to get a cup of sugar. Not to mention all of the tasty pastries the coffee shop has on display. Even a fat free or "skim" latte has a great amount of sugar (skim milk has about 12 grams of sugar in a cup). Pair a skim latte with a muffin and you probably just doubled the total amount of sugar you should have for the day - and it's just the morning, yikes!
What should you do?
It can be helpful to right down everything you eat, every bite, every sip, and see how these small bites and sips can turn into hundreds of empty calories and sugar into your body.
Board Certified Nurse Practitioner in California. Blogging about health, fitness and mindfulness.