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You’re crushing this life thing. The only problem is—you’re exhausted. So how do you get and keep the energy you need to keep being phenomenal?
The Lowdown on Energy
Remember when you learned about photosynthesis in 4th grade? Plants harness energy from sunlight into chemical energy. During this process, carbon dioxide and water are combined to make glucose (sugar) which the plant uses for living and growing. Humans then take the chemical energy found in foods and convert it into a form of energy that can be used to power the cells of the body. The energy harnessed from food allows us to:
- Stay warm
- Stay alive
So if energy comes from the food you eat, the obvious solution to tiredness or fatigue would be to eat more food… right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. It’s true that eating enough food is an important part of keeping yourself energized. The problem is that the feeling of tiredness, fatigue, and exhaustion that most of us feel is likely not the result of a lack of food.
Where then is your exhaustion stemming from and how can it be fixed?
It’s in Your Blood
Pinpointing exactly why you’re tired can be tricky, and there are loads of well-meaning people out there who tell you to just exercise to increase your energy levels. The problem with that is that if there’s an underlying reason you’re tired, exercising can make it worse.
The very first thing you should do is see your doctor and ask for a full blood panel. You’ll be able to check your vitamin levels and see how your thyroid and other areas of your body are functioning. Check out this article for an explanation of normal blood levels and a breakdown of what the various tests in a blood panel mean.
If your blood test results are normal, it’s time to look at your lifestyle and eating habits.
Activities to Help
And by “food,” I don’t mean pizza—we’re talking vegetables, protein, and fruits. Look, whole entire industries have been built convincing us that food is sexy and comforting and rewarding, but its basic function is fuel. When you stop looking at food as a friend or a prize, you realize that it’s just there to help us live. Which means that higher-quality food provides a higher-quality life.
One potential reason for your increased fatigue could be due, in part, to a lack of nutrients in the foods you eat. According to an article published in Scientific American, some of the food you eat today appears to have less nutritional value than at any previous time in history.
Thanks to things like soil depletion and pesticides, the carrot you eat today appears to contain less vitamins and minerals than the carrots your parents ate growing up. This would mean that even if you eat the same amount of food as generations before, you’re not getting as much of the nutrition that helps to fuel your body.
Therefore, to ensure that you give your body the fuel it needs to thrive, it’s important to make the focus of your diet on high-quality foods and limit your intake of high-sugar, high-fat foods.
If you’re tired, the last thing you want to do is work out. But exercise is absolutely vital for giving you energy and has a number of other health benefits, one of which includes boosting your metabolism.
If you find that exercising keeps losing out to Game of Thrones when you come home from work, switch your routine to morning workouts. You’ll most likely find that the 3 o’clock slump disappears and that you have more energy to power through the workday. Not a morning person? Make it a point to go for a long walk after dinner. Walking after a meal can also be good for digestion.
Ok, this is basic, but because the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 30% of adults don’t get enough sleep, it’s worth repeating. Sleep helps keep you slim, promotes optimal cognitive function, and lowers the risk of developing chronic conditions.
Plus, if you’re exhausted, you’re less likely to choose healthy eating options and you’ll definitely be less likely to work out. There’s no way around sleeping less, either, so don’t try and trick your body into having energy by pounding Monster drinks all day: just go to bed.
While we’re primarily talking about physical fatigue, it’s impossible to ignore how great a role stress plays in our overall energy. Why is that? Mental stress can be draining.
Meditation lowers cortisol, the stress hormone that puts your body into the flight-or-fight mode. Meditation gets a bad rap for some reason, and it’s most likely that people are less likely to believe that the mental state and the physical state are connected. Trust science on this one: they are.
So, to give yourself more energy and give your brain a break, begin meditating at least twice a week. And if you’re skeptical, try it anyway—you just might like it.
Our bodies need water even more than they need food. If you’re even slightly dehydrated, you’ll likely notice a decrease in energy and cognitive function.
And it doesn’t take much: even mild dehydration can increase fatigue and stress.
Products that (Actually) Increase Energy
While there are plenty of hoaxes on the market that promise increased energy, there are a few legitimate products that can work small miracles. They won’t replace the hard work of eating well and exercising, but they can help you feel better in conjunction with the rest of a healthy lifestyle.
Ah, B12. The tiny little pill helps your cognitive function and provides you with a mood boost as well as an energy lift. It won’t help if you’ve already met your daily recommended dose, but if you’re even slightly deficient, B12 may be a miracle worker.
If you’re not into the pill thing, try AXIO by LifeVantage. It’s a powdered drink mix that can easily be added to water. You’ll still be getting the full punch of B12 and other natural energy boosters, but it tastes much better than a pill.
This seems like another no-brainer, but multivitamins have been getting a bad rap in recent years. Too many blogs and health sites say that taking a multivitamin is just a way to create expensive urine, but that’s not exactly true. If your nutritional needs are being fully met by your diet, then you most likely don’t need a multivitamin. However, many of us are guilty of not eating our 2-3 servings of fruits and vegetables every day, so taking a multivitamin every now and again might be a good idea.
When you’re looking for a multivitamin, quality matters. Reviews.com did a massive review of multivitamins that did most of the work for you. Start adding a multivitamin to your regimen to optimize both your health and energy levels.
Products that Are Sabotaging Your Energy
Eating vegetables is a chore and exercising is even worse—this is the future, so why in the world do we have to keep doing things the hard way? Why isn’t there a single pill that makes you feel like you can tow a semitruck with your teeth?
There isn’t. But that doesn’t stop company after company from claiming that their product can give you the endless supply of energy you’ve been searching for. Here are some of the worst culprits:
Look, we all love caffeine. it releases adrenaline that wakes you up, gets you through the day, and makes you feel like every idea you have is a good one. But the dark truth about caffeine is that it’s a short-lived cure. You’ll feel more invigorated for a while, but after that initial high wears off, you’re doomed to a heavy crash that will leave you feeling more tired than you initially were.
And that’s not all. Excessive caffeine intake has been linked to dehydration, poor sleep quality, increased heart rate, headaches and even diarrhea. And for some, it can be addicting. How many people do you know who can’t get by without a morning cup of coffee? That addiction leads to an increased tolerance, which means you’ll be forced to increase your caffeine exponentially over time in order to give you the initial rush of your starting amount.
Coffee isn’t the only enemy here though: these days, it’s all about the energy drinks. Even the name “energy drink” implies it’s the answer you’re looking for, but it’s a dangerous misnomer. Energy drinks amp up your adrenaline and when taken in high doses can lead to a host of adverse health effects which include:
- vomiting, and
- rapid heart rate.
Make sure you keep your caffeine intake to a safe level to avoid any of the negative side effects and to minimize the chances of a heavy crash. Adults can safely consume between 300-400 milligrams of caffeine per day, though individual tolerance can vary.
Sugar may be even more beloved than caffeine and can be just as problematic. When consumed in large amounts, simple sugars from sweets and treats can lead to that same crash you experience with high caffeine intake. They are quickly digested and absorbed into the bloodstream and are taken up by the cells just as quickly as they entered the bloodstream. When your blood glucose falls as a result, you’ll have what’s normally referred to as a sugar crash. You might feel irritable, confused, anxious, or just plain exhausted.
To avoid this crash, reach for foods that include fiber, fat or protein in addition to the sugar. This will help to slow the digestion and absorption of the sugar, giving you sustained energy.
So, yes, cake is delicious, but try some Greek yogurt instead. You’ll avoid the crash and find the afternoon slump no longer affects you.
If a product promises instant energy, avoid it: chances are, it’s relying on sugar and caffeine, and now you know that those are energy zappers, not energy makers.
The real secret is that changing the way your body feels is all about how you treat it. Give yourself real fuel like vegetables and fruits and get more rest than you think you need. Consider taking a high-quality multivitamin, look for good supplements, and learn to meditate. It’s not a sexy, easy answer and it takes more work on your part, but you’ll find the results are well worth the lifestyle adjustment.