Healthy Ways to Boost Your Energy
This is the time of year, when it is cold and cloudy, and the daylight hours are short, when many people feel their energy levels dropping. The whirlwind of the holiday season is over, and as our lives are sometimes overly-full and overly-stressed, many of us are looking for a quick fix to combat fatigue.
You have probably heard about energy shots and drinks coming under fire recently, when it was reported that 13 deaths have been reported after consumption of 5-hour Energy and Monster Energy drinks. Depending on caffeine and energy drinks can actually make us feel worse by causing our systems to crash. And they have not been proven to be entirely safe!
Continued fatigue can be hard on our immune systems and make us more susceptible to illness and even depression! We may find it harder to concentrate on tasks and find our patience running thin, even when confronted with seemingly simple challenges. Energy zappers are all around us—some obvious and some hidden. But take heart; the good news is that there is a way around many of them! Here are a few ideas to help you!
Increase your magnesium intake. Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including breaking down glucose into energy. A study done at the Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota showed that women with magnesium deficiencies had higher heart rates and required more oxygen to do physical tasks than they did after their magnesium levels were restored. This means that their bodies were working harder. This can, over time, leave you feeling exhausted. The recommended daily intake of magnesium for women is about 300 mg., and for men, 350 mg. Adding a handful of almonds, hazelnuts, or cashews to your daily diet, eating more fish (especially halibut), or increasing your intake of whole grains, particularly bran cereal (if you don’t have a problem with wheat or gluten) can supply the needed magnesium.
Omega-3 fatty acids. Take your fish oil, or eat fish several times weekly. Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, combat depression, and improve mood and memory. Excellent food sources for omega-3 fats include salmon, tuna, walnuts, flaxseed, and leafy greens.
Drink water! This is something we have all been told over and over, and it really is true. It’s easy to confuse signals of hunger with thirst (we think we need food when we really need water). But thirst can also masquerade as fatigue. In other words, even slight dehydration can leave you feeling tired and lethargic. So try drinking a large glass of cool water. You will probably feel more energetic soon after re-hydrating yourself. And if you find yourself frequently tired after a good night’s sleep, try cutting down on alcohol during the evening hours (alcohol is dehydrating!)
Consume less sugar and simple carbohydrates. If your blood sugar is balanced, your energy will be more consistent. When you consume sweets and simple carbs like white bread, pasta, and potatoes, you will get a spike in your blood sugar. This gives a burst of energy, but that is followed by a rapid drop in blood sugar, which in turn can leave you feeling very wiped-out. Try to choose more complex carbohydrates like whole grains, and also eat more protein to get a more even blood sugar level.
Don’t skip breakfast! Studies show that those who eat breakfast report being in a better mood and have more energy throughout the day. “Breaking the fast” soon after rising gives your body a jolt of fuel that can increase your metabolism and get you off to a clear-headed start for the day.
Take a Power Nap. Research has shown that a short nap (see my article about naps!) can reverse the mind-numbing effects of information overload, and a nap may also help us to better retain what we have learned. And of course, a good night’s sleep is essential for adequate energy levels.
Take a walk! Experts say that increasing physical activity, particularly walking, increases energy. A brisk ten minute walk can not only increase energy, but the effects have been shown to last up to two hours. Studies have shown that daily ten-minute walks can increase overall energy levels and improve your mood!
Reduce stress and deal with anger. Stress is a huge energy drainer. Stress is the result of anxiety, and anxiety uses up a huge amount of energy. Worry and fear can also steal your energy. Unexpressed anger can sap your energy levels as well. In this case, we expend all our energy trying to contain our angry feelings, and that can be exhausting. How do you deal with feelings of anxiety, stress, worry, and anger? Try increasing your exercise to burn off the chemical effects of stress and anger. Or do something else relaxing for you: listening to music, reading for pleasure, or talking to a trusted friend.
See your doctor if your symptoms of fatigue do not resolve. You may need blood tests to determine the cause of your fatigue. Talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner if you are feeling depressed.
With good wishes for an energetic New Year and blessings to you!