If there’s one thing most of us need more of but really struggle to get, it’s energy. Like sand in the palm of your hand, getting a good read on what’s impacting your energy levels can be tough to grasp. Let’s talk about a few long-term choices you can make to improve your energy levels and go over some immediate steps you can take when you need a good energy boost.
Reset your sleep patterns
An obvious correlation to your daily levels of energy is the quality and length of sleep you get. If you aren’t getting rest, your body doesn’t have the opportunity to repair itself or stock back up on energy. If you have consistently low energy because you aren’t getting quality sleep, there are a few options to consider in getting things back on track. (1) Although it seems counterintuitive, if you think you may be sleep-deprived, reset your system by getting less sleep for a few nights. According to Harvard Medical School, by determining how much sleep you actually need, you can improve sleep and reduce the time you spend trying to fall asleep. If you already know you need 7-8 hours of sleep to feel good, make it a point to have a solid night routine with a set bedtime. Consistency is key when trying to reset your system for energy.
Go on a caffeine detox
Many people rely on caffeine to get them out of zombie mode, but the temporary energy boost can also be throwing you off in more ways than one. If you follow the guidelines for caffeine, you shouldn’t be drinking more than 400mg per day. But for most people, that’s already far too much based on their tolerance of caffeine (10). If you’re like most Americans, you may be consuming 3 or more cups per day – and that’s just the average for Americans (8). With that much caffeine hitting your system, it’s no wonder you may have a tough time sleeping, feel addicted, feel like you have zero energy without it, or get headaches when you don’t consume it. That’s likely because you are addicted. Caffeine is a drug, and like many drugs, over time and consistent use, our bodies need more of it to feel its effects (9). If this is resonating a little too much, and you still wake up each day feeling exhausted, it may be time for a caffeine detox. By removing this “fake” form of fuel, you make way for your body to boost your energy levels naturally.
On the flip side, if you don’t have a coffee or caffeine habit and you feel the effects quickly, in small doses it can be useful in combination with other energy-fueling foods to perk you up – occasionally.
Eat a breakfast high in protein and low in sugar
No, really, don’t skip breakfast! If you’re looking for a quick way to boost your energy levels, start at the beginning of your day. But before you reach for a pastry, studies have shown that not just any breakfast will do. No high sugar, simple carb pastries. Those types of sweets will do the opposite of what you want. You may enjoy the “sugar rush” in the short term, but within an hour you’ll feel the energy crash (5). Instead, go with a high protein, high-fiber, low carb combo. This combination may help to boost energy levels naturally and could even benefit overall health (2). Not only will you have more energy, but more than one study has shown that those who skip breakfast may be more likely to be obese or have health conditions (3).
Take a quick walk and take in the sunshine
If you find yourself bobbing your head at your desk in a desperate attempt to stay awake, it’s time for a quick dose of sunshine. A quick walk will help to get your heart pumping, get some fresh air on your face, and allow for some Vitamin-D from the sun. One study suggested that those who were exposed to sunlight in the morning had fewer symptoms of insomnia, PMS, and Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)(4). Additionally, the sun helps to increase levels of serotonin – the hormone which can give you more energy and help you feel more positive (4).
“The light we get from being outside on a summer day can be a thousand times brighter than we’re ever likely to experience indoors,” says melatonin researcher Russel J. Reiter of the University of Texas Health Science Center. “For this reason, it’s important that people who work indoors get outside periodically, and moreover that we all try to sleep in total darkness. This can have a major impact on melatonin rhythms and can result in improvements in mood, energy, and sleep quality.”(4)
Take a cold shower
If you’re struggling to find the energy to start your day, consider some good old hydrotherapy – AKA a cold shower. Water below 70 degrees Fahrenheit triggers your sympathetic nervous system to elevate beta-endorphin and noradrenaline (6). These chemicals in your brain give you a jolt of energy and positive feelings. In addition, cortisol, the hormone produced by stress which usually signals inflammation, goes down (6). Cold water also allows for more blood flow (6). With the quick shock to your system it may also increase your heart rate, giving you that rush that perks you right up. It should be noted that if you are ill, dousing yourself with cold water is not the route you want to go.
Feeling stiff and cold tends to make you also feel tired. One way to heat and limber up those muscles while also giving yourself a jolt of energy is to stretch. It’s not ideal to stretch cold stiff muscles because it may lead to injury. First, start with 20-30 jumping jacks or another safe mini exercise. Once your muscles are a bit warmer, do a few stretches that target the main muscle groups. These include your neck, shoulders, upper back, lower back, pelvis, hips, and legs (7). By taking a few minutes to stretch, you open the pathways for increased blood and nutrient flow throughout the body.
By taking a few of these steps, you may be on your way to a much more energized day. With anything, trial and error will help you figure out exactly what boosts your energy levels in the way you need it most.
1: 9 tips to boost your energy — naturally
2: The impact of breakfast in metabolic and digestive health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4017414/
3: The Big Breakfast Study: Chrono‐nutrition influence on energy expenditure and bodyweighthttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5969247/
4: Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health
5: Sugar rush or sugar crash? A meta-analysis of carbohydrate effects on mood
6: Scientific Evidence-Based Effects of Hydrotherapy on Various Systems of the Body
7: Stretching: Focus on flexibility – Mayo Clinic
8: COFFEE STATISTICS 2020 – E- Imports
9: FDA: Spilling the Beans: How Much Caffeine is Too Much?
10: Caffeine: How much is too much? – Mayo Clinic