Do you often feel sluggish in the morning? Is the snooze button your best friend? Did you fall asleep last night half way through watching your favourite TV programme? Are biscuits or chocolate bars the first thing you grab for a quick energy fix?
If you answered yes to just one of these questions then chances are you need to look at boosting your energy levels. Why do I need to improve my energy level? Feeling tired seems a way of life these days, it even has its own acronym - TATT (Tired all the time). Whilst you should consult your GP in extreme cases (a simple blood test can reveal any medical issues), most of the time it's unusual to find anything wrong and the tiredness can be linked to mood and lots of stresses in your life. If you are suffering from constant fatigue, it’s a sign that your body’s normal systems are being disrupted. Don't however just brush it off! There are lots of things you can do to try and address the issue and live a more energetic, stress free life! Here are 5 handy lifestyle tips to boost energy.
ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP?
It may sound simple but one of the most common causes of fatigue is not enough sleep. Your age has a lot to do with sleep requirements. Babies need about 16 hours a day and teenagers about nine. Most adults need seven to eight hours a night. Generally speaking, the older you get, the less sleep you need. BUT SLEEP IS IMPORTANT, not only for your health and wellbeing (allowing your body to repair and renew) but also it’s said to help you live longer, improve your memory, reduce inflammation, boost creativity, improve grades, increase attention span and the list goes on… A consistent sleep pattern is also important too so try to go to bed and wake up at similar times each night so your body can reenergise properly. 2. LOOK AT YOUR NUTRITION & HYDRATION WATCH YOUR WEIGHT Being overweight (10-20% higher than a healthy ‘normal’ weight) or obese (20% or more than a healthy ‘normal’ weight) is a major factor contributing to fatigue. Don’t just resign yourself to your size, it has a massive impact on how long you live and how you feel, both emotionally and physically. Stop eating the processed, junk food & comfort eating, establish why you eat these things day in day out and deal with it (harsh as it may sound but more people in the UK are either overweight or obese than at any other time in the last 3 decades). One of the only ways to address this is to establish what the cause is - it may be linked to your childhood, laziness, a lack of information, bad habits or even sugar addiction! HOW AND WHAT TO EAT Do not miss breakfast. After your body has fasted overnight it is important that you fuel your body to set it up for the day ahead. Choose wholegrain cereals and avoid heavy laden sugar cereals that plague the shopping aisles. Our favourites are porridge or oatbran with almond milk with a banana & a handful of almonds; low fat greek yoghurt with fresh fruit and a handful of nuts; wholegrain toast with peanut butter; or poached eggs, avocado & mushrooms on rye or wholegrain toast. Forget fad diets – THEY DO NOT WORK (ok they may help you lose weight in the short term but as soon as you return to old habits the weight goes back on and before you know it you’re on another fad diet again!) Your daily eating habits should include 3 main meals and up to 3 snacks a day with a healthy balance of fresh fruit, veg, lean protein, healthy fats & good carbs such as wholewheat pasta & quinoa (pronounced ‘keenwa’ & you don’t need to be a vegetarian to eat it!) CUT OUT SUGAR! The key here is keeping blood sugar balanced so energy is constant. When you're eating a sweet food, you get a spike in blood sugar, which gives you an initial burst of energy. But that is followed by a rapid drop in blood sugar, which in turn can leave you feeling very wiped out. Whole grains provide a slow and steady release of fuel, meaning your energy will be consistent and balanced, so by the end of the day you'll feel less tired. Also reaching for caffeine may boost you initially but can leave you more tired afterwards! Snacking – Often people get confused with snacks and end up with a whole plate full of food. Keep snacks to around 100 calories, some healthy options include fruit (1 or 2 pieces), raw veg is a great option as well as oatcakes with say peanut butter. Also, popcorn is far better than reaching for pretzels or crisps (popcorn is wholegrain and contains fibre but lay off the sweet varieties and keep salt to a minimum). Just like sleep patterns, it’s important that you also follow a consistent eating pattern (at similar times of the day). VITAMIN DEFICIENCY A balanced healthy eating habit should provide you with adequate energy levels but if you are still flagging perhaps you are deficient in Magnesium, Vit B12 or Vit D. Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including breaking down glucose into energy! To increase your magnesium levels try a handful of almonds, hazelnuts or cashews daily (just a handful!), increase your intake of whole grains (particularly bran cereal) & eat more fish, especially halibut. Vitamin B12 is important for the way the body works and helps produce healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body (good food sources include meat, salmon, milk, eggs & some soy products). Vitamin D is vital for making our muscles work efficiently and boosting energy levels. The majority of the average person’s Vitamin D comes from the body’s ability to produce the vitamin from sunlight. Vitamin D can also be found in natural food sources such as fish, milk, eggs, & cereals. HYDRATION Don’t underestimate the effect water has on the body – your body is approx 60% water, the brain 70%, & lungs nearly 90%. Each day you should replace approx. 2.5 litres of water through liquid and foods. Water is needed for many bodily functions and is more important for your body’s survival than food. Lack of water can result in dehydration with headaches and dizziness then leading to exhaustion and perhaps nausea. However, be mindful that you can have too much water. The best way to determine if you are getting enough water is to look at the colour of your urine – if it is dark you need to drink more and ideally it should be pale straw coloured. 3. GET UP AND MOVE There is no doubt that exercise whether it be a walk in the park to a 10 mile run can have a positive effect on your mind and body. Experts say that increasing physical activity - particularly walking - increases energy. A brisk 10 minute daily walk over a 3 week period has proven to lift overall energy levels and mood. Alternatively 40 mins of exercise at least 4 times a week should get you started, a month in and you should feel less fatigued. Skipping your workout to save energy actually works against you. Regular exercise boosts strength and endurance, helps make your cardiovascular system run more efficiently, and delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. So next time you're tempted to collapse on the couch, at least go for a brisk walk—you won't regret it!
4. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE ENERGY Clutter free desks, a tidy house, a clear mind, & a reduction in stress will all help provide you with more energy. Stress is the result of anxiety and anxiety can use a whole lot of energy, leaving you mentally and physically exhausted. You need to programme more relaxation activities into your day, while for some that may mean exercise which releases the feel good hormones, for others it may be reading a good novel, relaxing in the bath or listening to music - whatever takes the stress away do more of it! Time to unwind is essential for a stress free mind and can give you that little boost you need. Another thing to look at is who you surround yourself with…. Do your friends offer a positive experience for you or do they constantly zap you of energy by being negative most of the time? Perhaps it’s time to change your friendships to give you more energy and a more positive life. Positive people attract other positive people so perhaps look at your own outlook on life – are you positive or negative and if the latter could you look at ways to turn it around to provide you with more energy and overall a better life? Try this exercise – if you have a negative thought erase it immediately from you mind and replace it with a positive one (eg a negative - “Why doesn’t anything go right for me” replace with a positive - “my 3 year old has just given me the loveliest hug and the sun is shining”). It may take some practice but do this over and over again for a week and start to see how this positive mindset will replace the negative one automatically. REMEMBER - it’s your mind & you can choose which way to think - positive or negative, which one do you prefer? 5. BREATHE (sounds simple!) Your subconscious mind does it automatically but how many of you actually take time to breathe in and breathe out mindfully? It’s the most simple but most effective way to relax and de-stress and it’s also important strengthen the brain in the same way exercise strengthens muscle groups. Before you mindfully breathe, begin by relaxing your mind (imagine your mind is blue sky and your thoughts are the clouds – some are light & wispy, some are grey & heavy - they come, stay a while and then they go). Now, by consciously focusing on your breathing you can forget the clouds, focus on the blue sky and become relaxed. Breathe in and count to 4, hold for 4, then exhale for 4, then start again. Build up from a few minutes to 10-20 minutes a day and reap the benefits.