5 Natural Ways to Boost Your Energy
By JJ VIRGIN
I often find many people turning to caffeine to boost their energy levels. If energy beverages aren't your go-to drink, you can always find a nearby Starbucks for a venti dark roast.
I'm not judging. We've become a caffeine-addicted nation, trying to fulfill an ever-growing to-do list as an overwhelming array of responsibilities and demands can drain every ounce of energy before lunchtime.
Despite your best efforts, some days you feel like you're running on empty and desperately seeking a second wind to pull you through that afternoon meeting and then fight rush-hour traffic. Manufacturers have responded with a growing array of energy drinks and new coffee joints popping up on nearly every street corner.
I understand caffeine's pick-me-up appeal, but drinking caffeine may actually make you feel worse by causing you to crash.
Instead if you want a steady, sustained all-day energy, these five strategies can help you create and maintain it:
1. Get plenty of high-quality sleep.
Studies show sleep loss can measurably decrease cognitive functions. More specifically, lack of sleep reduces speed of processing and attention. The next day you're a semi-functioning caffeinated mess, more apt to make lousy decisions like eating three of those freshly-baked cookies your coworker brought in, and then blowing off your evening workout to crash on the couch with Seinfeld reruns. "Deficits worsen with increasing time awake," researchers in this study said, "but they may be overturned after normal sleep is resumed." That's good news if sleep deprivation leaves you running on empty. Starting tonight, aim for seven to nine hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep for consistent all-day energy.
2. Check your thyroid levels.
"The thyroid gland is the master switch that lets your body use food to make energy," Dr. Alan Christianson, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Thyroid Disease," told me. "When this does not work right, not only do you not make energy, but the same food ends up being made into fat. No fun!" Ask your doctor to run a thyroid panel and include free T3 to make sure you convert well to the active form. Signs of low thyroid include low body temperature, dry skin, weak nails, poor hair growth, high cholesterol, constipation, slightly yellow palms, and missing the outer third of your eyebrows.
3. Learn how to balance your blood sugar.
Despite their reputation as energy boosters, carbohydrate-rich foods create a blood sugar spike-and-crash rollercoaster, triggering hunger, cravings and fatigue. Ditch the high-glycemic carbs for protein-rich foods. "Protein can make you feel satisfied without feeling stuffed," writes Dr. Jonny Bowden in his book "The Most Effective Ways to Boost Your Energy." "When I see people with low energy, I'm almost always struck with how much better they do when they revamp their diets and increase their protein." Try to enjoy clean protein sources like wild-caught fish with healthy fats, leafy greens, and slow-release high-fiber carbs to steady blood sugar and maintain consistent energy.
4. Try burst training.
If I told you could get a fat-blasting workout in just minutes a day, you'd think I sounded like an infomercial. Fortunately, many studies support high-intensity interval training, or burst training, as the most effective workout in just minutes a day. "The most efficient way to increase cardiovascular strength, brain health, and energy is through interval training," writes Bowden in "The Most Effective Ways to Boost Your Energy." "After just 10 minutes of interval training, you should have enough energy to blast through your day."
5. Learn to relax and recharge.
"Being chronically stressed is much like having a permanent low-grade flu," Jonathan Bailor, author of "The Calorie Myth," told me. "Your body is spending energy putting out fires instead of fueling your full potential. To live a chronically stressed life is to never be fully alive." Studies show acupuncture, massage therapy, and Transcendental Meditation effective to reduce stress. You might also consider rhodiola rosea, an adaptogenic herb, to reduce stress-related fatigue. The point is to figure out what works for you and make it a consistent habit.
Readers--Have you been experiencing low energy lately? What strategies do you employ to increase your energy level? Share your ideas in the comments section below.
Celebrity Nutrition & Fitness expert JJ Virgin is author of NY Times bestseller "The Virgin Diet" and the bestselling "Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy." She was also co-host of TLC's Freaky Eaters. JJ frequently blogs for The Huffington Post, LIVESTRONG.COM and other prominent media outlets. She created the 4 x 4 Burst Training Workout and regularly appears on TV shows like Rachel Ray and The Today Show to discuss topics such as fast fat loss, weight loss, and food sensitivities.