Permanently weary and low in motivation, tired and feeling like you’ve lost your get up and go even though spring is just around the corner? Dr Hilary Jones looks at ways of boosting your energy and helping you to put a spring back into your step…
If you’re finding it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, if work is exhausting and leaving you too drained to even think about exercise, or the stresses and strains of daily life and relationships have become no more than a cheerless chore, read on for some simple changes you can make to recharge your batteries.
FRIEND: Grazing throughout the day
Rather than sitting down for three blow-out meals every day, eating little and often, sometimes known as grazing, is a friend to energy levels. Your body likes to use a small amount of fuel at a time. Overload the digestive system and it just becomes overwhelmed and less efficient so eventually it shuts down.
BOOST IT: Eat for energy, rather than comfort. Plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables are good, especially in their raw form, and opt for low GI foods (which release their energy slowly) rather than starchy carbohydrate foods like cakes, biscuits and sugary snacks, which play havoc with blood glucose and insulin levels.
FOE: Alcoholic drinks
Alcohol always made you feel wired, so it must be a good energiser, right? Wrong. It may surprise you to learn that alcohol, pleasant though it is, is actually a central nervous system depressant. A small amount will give you a short-lived buzz, and remove your inhibitions at a party but large amounts have a sedating, even anaesthetic effect, interrupting normal sleeping patterns, dehydrating you, generating unhealthy food cravings and is one of the worse energy foes.
BEAT IT: Try to minimise your alcohol intake. If you’re at a party, try having a glass of water for every alcoholic drink to even things out, and consider taking a few days off from alcohol each week to keep you well hydrated.
FRIEND: Spending time with loved ones
Don’t forget the energising effect of love and laughter. It helps you feel secure, supported and loved, so spending time with family and friends is vital. We know that married couples live longer than singles and we also know that happiness boosts immunity at a cellular as well as cerebral level.
BOOST IT: Laughter really is the best medicine and interestingly it takes less energy to laugh then it does to frown and grimace!
FOE: Ditch quick fix foods
Rob Hobson, Healthspan Head of Nutrition says…
Busy lives and eating on the run inevitably means skipping meals, relying on quick fix foods to fill the hunger gap as we start to feel fatigued. These foods are often high in sugar or rapidly digested (high GI) carbohydrates which cause spikes in blood sugar and a quick source of energy swiftly followed by slumps that leave us feeling sluggish and tired. It’s at this point that we reach for another snack and the cycle begins. A poorly balanced diet may also mean a potential lack of key nutrients linked to energy and fatigue such as the B vitamin complex and iron. Including plenty of wholegrain foods and lean proteins will help to keep you fuller for longer and ensure you get enough fatigue-fighting nutrients.
Brown rice: Low GI and rich in B vitamins
Quinoa: Low GI, good source of protein and B vitamins
Kale: Rich in B vitamins
Lean red meat: Rich in protein and iron
Lentils: Low GI, great vegetarian source of protein, B vitamins and iron
FRIEND: Keeping fit
Exercise is your greatest energy friend. Contrary to what you may think, regular moderate exercise is highly invigorating and energy-giving. So forget obsessive masochistic forms of physical torture, which deplete all the stores of energy you have carefully accumulated. Any form of regular physical moderate activity that you enjoy will refresh and revitalise you.
BOOST IT: Good options include dancing (just think of how much weight all those stars of Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing on Ice have lost) swimming, step classes or cycling. All will generate life-giving adrenaline to clear out your mental cobwebs, increase blood flow and reduce stress. They will also release mood-enhancing brain chemicals, such as dopamine and serotonin, which help to keep you happy and content.
Many of us feel tired and exhausted with dry skin, constipation and headaches simply because we don’t drink enough water throughout the day. Being even mildly dehydrated can lead to reduced energy.
BEAT IT: Two litres of water a day is not excessive. Water contained in caffeine and tea, hot chocolate and fizzy drinks does count, but the caffeine and sugar content is counter-productive so you need to keep these fluids to a minimum. If you find plain water boring zip it up with a slice of lemon or lime.
FOE: Carrying extra weight
Being a couple of stones overweight is the equivalent of carrying a sack of potatoes around on your back all day. No wonder you’re tired! Those niggly little symptoms that are weight-related, such as indigestion, snoring and joint pain can all zap energy too.
BEAT IT: Losing weight and rediscovering how light on your feet you can feel will amaze you. You will soon see how much quicker you move, how much more flexible you are, and how much better you look. Losing those extra pounds can also give your heart a boost. When trying to lose weight, portion control is the key – whether eating out or at home. A little of what you fancy does you good, but according to a study from the University of Colorado, eating 75 per cent of what is on your plate can save an average of 300 calories per meal.
FRIEND & FOE: Feeling stressed
Some degree of stress is our friend. Without a challenge, without any type of stimulation, without a sense of achievement and feeling empowered, we would have no energy at all as any of the long-term unemployed or those who feel under-used or under-appreciated at work will tell you. Too much stress on the other hand can soon become a foe. When we feel overloaded at work, tied to impossible deadlines, frustrated by new technology or abused by everyone around us with little support or understanding, we experience burnout, anxiety and apathy.
BEAT & BOOST IT: Adapt coping strategies to match the level of work with your ability to manage it. This creates a state of eustress or healthy stress, which allows energy to flow through you positively. You can do this by organising your life better, avoiding unrealistic deadlines, becoming more assertive while staying polite, delegating certain work to other people, and establishing better priorities. You might need to adjust your work-life balance as well so that you work to live rather than doing what so many exhausted people seem to do these days, living to work.
Think of the amazing abundance and vitality of the plant kingdom and all its life-giving forces and it is not surprising that natural supplements derived from it can significantly boost energy.
GUARANA: With twice the amount of caffeine as coffee beans, guarana can boost your energy fast and naturally. It is thought that the stimulatory effect of guarana is more gradual and sustained than caffeine due to the presence of oily ‘saponins’ that produce a natural timed-release effect.
PANAX GINSENG: Panax ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years for its wide-ranging tonic and adaptogenic properties. Research suggests that people taking ginseng have faster reaction times than those not taking it, improving stamina while also reducing muscle cramps and fatigue.
CO-ENZYME Q10: Our levels of CoQ10 production decrease as we age. Studies have also suggested those taking statins for high cholesterol may be at risk of their coQ10 levels becoming even further depleted, as the drugs are thought to inhibit its production. This could lead to problems like fatigue and muscle pain, so those taking statins may find it useful to top up their supply of CcoQ10 by taking a supplement.
B GROUP VITAMINS: Everybody should ensure they have sufficient levels of B vitamins, but for some groups this is even more important. The elderly particularly are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, as absorption through the gut decreases.
Rob Hobson, Healthspan Head of Nutrition says, “Diet and exercise should always come first but today there are many natural ways boosting energy even with a multivitamin such as Healthspan MultiVitality Boost that contains Guarana but also other essential vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and Zinc that which may help combat tiredness.”
You can find out information on supplements and how they work via http://nutritionexpert.healthspan.co.uk. If you are taking medication do consult your medical practitioner first.