How often do you put something off that you know you should do simply because you don’t have enough energy? A lack of energy is a huge barrier to success. It kills your productivity and motivation. When you are tired, your focus and concentration suffer. Your chances of doing anything constructive or creative are very low. If you do manage to get things done, it is almost a guarantee that it won’t be your best effort. Many people try to counter this problem with caffeine. Coffee shops and energy drinks are more popular than ever. While caffeine can give you a quick boost of energy, its lasting effects in your system can result in poor sleep at night, causing you to be chronically tired, and dependent on more caffeine. This vicious cycle is hard to break, but with some knowledge about how to take better care of your body and mind, you can start to increase your energy levels more than you ever imagined.
The number one most important factor influencing your energy level is your diet. It is crucial to supply your body with enough vitamins and nutrients so it can perform at its best. If you eat a lot of junk food, your body and energy will suffer. Our bodies cannot run efficiently on a diet of sugar and empty calories. The problem is that if you are already tired, you won’t feel like fixing something healthy to eat, and might resort to something quick and convenient like fast food or junk food. This further impairs your energy levels, resulting in another vicious cycle that’s hard to break. It becomes easy to see why we are becoming more unhealthy and overweight on average. It takes some discipline to break this cycle, but once you do, you will feel better than ever.
The first key to improving your energy is eating a well-balanced breakfast with plenty of protein. The protein is essential to maintain steady blood glucose levels. Glucose is a simple sugar that provides energy to all of the cells in your body. If you eat a meal full of carbohydrates, like a bagel or sugary cereal, your blood glucose levels shoot up quickly. This will give you a quick burst of energy, but your body tries to return these levels to normal quickly by releasing insulin, which can basically store the glucose for later use. This causes a rapid drop in blood glucose, making you feel tired and sluggish. Protein doesn’t cause blood glucose levels to spike because the protein must be broken down during a process called gluconeogenesis. You don’t need to worry about the science behind it, just know that protein is a better source for steady energy than simple carbs.
In order to keep your blood glucose levels as steady as possible, you should try to eat smaller meals more frequently. Eating 5 to 6 meals every 3 or 4 hours is ideal, but this isn’t always possible to work into your schedule. Just make sure you don’t go for the quick, high sugar alternative, as this will leave you feeling tired shortly after. A great power snack option contains a high percentage of protein, some fat, and some fiber. Some low-fat yogurt, a turkey sandwich, or a few ounces of walnuts or almonds are a great choice.
Drinking plenty of water is also important for your energy levels. When your body becomes dehydrated, you will start feeling fatigued. Your body relies on water for quick and efficient delivery of nutrients to your cells. When you are dehydrated, your body and mind won’t perform at their best. Try to drink eight glasses a day, spread out evenly to maintain proper hydration.
I’ve mentioned before, and will mention many times again, how important exercise is. Few activities, if any, can have such an important impact on our lives. From helping us maintain our weight, to keeping us healthy, to making us feel good, exercise covers it all. Moderate exercise increases our body temperature and blood flow, making us feel more awake and alert. These effects can last several hours with only a gradual decrease, instead of an instant crash like caffeine. Not only that, getting good exercise can help you get better quality sleep at night, which can greatly improve your energy levels. If you are looking for a quick burst of energy, consider taking a brisk walk instead of getting a cup of coffee.
Getting some sunlight can also be a great way to wake yourself up. Bright light stops the production of melatonin, allowing your body to quickly come out of its zombie-like state when you first wake up. Another great thing to do in the morning is focus on your breathing. Often when we feel stressed, we start taking quick, shallow breaths, which drains our energy. Focus on taking slower, deeper breaths in order to get more oxygen to your cells. This lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, improves circulation, and ultimately gives you more energy. Doing this at the start of your day can be a great way relax yourself and prepare for the day ahead. Finally, the most obvious way to improve your overall energy is to get quality sleep at night.
Take Action Now: Plan out your breakfasts so that you can eat something high in protein and low in simple carbs to start the day. Try to get plenty of bright light to start the day, and consider pairing it with some exercise. Try spacing your meals about 3 or 4 hours apart, and eat 5 to 6 per day. Try to avoid fast food and junk food, as these can cause you to feel sluggish. If you find yourself feeling stressed, focus on your breathing, taking slow, deep breaths. Finally, make sure you are getting plenty of quality sleep at night.