Have you been feeling extra groggy lately? Has a lack of energy been preventing you from living your life to the fullest?
If you're otherwise in good health, then it may be time to make some simple changes to your everyday routine. From getting more sleep to kicking cortisol-causing stress, we've got some simple ways for you to give yourself a boost. Let's take a look:
1. Exercise More (Trust Us)
It might sound counterintuitive, but sometimes when your energy is too low to keep active, the key is actually to increase your exercise levels. The Brookings Institute breaks down the reasoning behind this interesting fact: it all comes down to the mitochondria within your cells.
Mitochondria produce a chemical called ATP which your body uses to make energy. Interestingly, physical activity helps your body create more mitochondria — which in turn produces more energy-creating ATP.
If you've recently fallen out of practice with exercise, then it's time to get back into the game. If you're not quite ready to hit the gym, here are some tips for starting out:
- Hiking trails. Get outside and explore. Hiking is a great way to incorporate more exercise into our lives, because it also helps us reconnect with nature, breathe in fresh air, and reap the benefits of Vitamin D from the sunlight.
- Bicycle Rides. Biking is another excellent way to get outside, build muscle, burn calories, and put the enjoyment back in exercise. Challenge yourself to bike a little more each day so that you're feeling a sense of accomplishment with each ride.
Gentle yoga. If you find yourself waking up groggy in the morning, try some gentle yoga poses to re-energize your body and get in touch with your breath. The cat-cow pose is simple: on your hands and knees, arch your back and lift your chin with your inhale. Then round your spine and hollow your belly with the exhale. This will bring blood flow to your spine, energize your neck muscles, and wake up your entire body.
Remember: the key to exercising for energy (like with many things) is to maintain balanced habits. This means that you're not pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion each day, but that you're merely challenging yourself to reach your greatest potential.
2. Supplement for Balance
Sometimes your body needs a little boost in the form of a well-chosen supplement. Let's take a look at some supplements you can effortlessly add to your day-to-day routine.
L-Arginine. If you've never heard of L-Arginine, you definitely should check it out. In supplement form, it's a precursor to nitric oxide in the body, which is a powerful vasodilator. This means that it helps blood flow more freely throughout your body, which can keep fresh blood and oxygen circulating and energizing your body. In addition, L-Arginine is used for protein synthesis in the body, encouraging the release of growth hormones. It also aids in fat metabolism, and helps take fitness to a new level.
Vitamin D. Synthesized naturally from sunlight and found in certain foods like egg yolks and fish, Vitamin D has been shown to improve muscle efficiency, thereby boosting energy levels. During the winter months (especially at higher latitudes) your body can no longer synthesize sufficient Vitamin D from sunlight so it may help to incorporate a supplement into your diet.
Magnesium. This is a mineral that is necessary for so many bodily functions, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, and energy production. Magnesium deficiency, though rare, can manifest as nausea, loss of appetite, and fatigue. It's present in many foods, from almonds to spinach to avocado, and is also available in supplement form.
Water. Okay, so water's not technically a supplement, but we had to add it on here anyway. Dehydration can sap your energy, and even mild dehydration can make it difficult to concentrate. Your best bet is to bring a reusable water bottle everywhere you go. That way you can load up from the water cooler at work and turn drinking water into part of your regular routine.
3. Knock Out the Bad Stuff
Even if you're putting a bunch of good stuff into your body, it's not going to reverse the damaging, energy-sapping effects of not-so-good stuff. When it comes to revamping your energy levels, give the following a serious look:
- Alcohol. Although some people believe that drinking alcohol before bed will actually give them a good night's sleep, Harvard Health breaks down why this simply isn't true. Alcohol triggers the release of the stress hormone epinephrine, which actually wakes you up periodically throughout the night after drinking. This can negatively impact your quality of sleep — and sap you of energy the day after.
- Smoking. Many people experience a short-lived jolt of energy after a cigarette, but these effects are actually quite deceptive. In studies, smokers were found to participate in far less physical activity, which researchers suspect is due to smoking's side effect of decreased lung capacity.
High caffeine. Short term, a little bit of caffeine can certainly give you a jolt of energy. The problem comes when you're drinking too much caffeine, and it begins to affect your sleep quality. When you don't get good sleep, you probably won't maintain the same level of energy.
It can be difficult to change habits overnight, so definitely give yourself some leeway when you're adjusting your lifestyle. For example, if you're currently drinking five cups of coffee everyday to stay alert, gently wean yourself off over the course of a couple weeks by gradually consuming fewer cups per day, or switching out some of your coffee with green tea (which has a lower caffeine level.)
4. Back to Basics: Good Sleep
Sleep is where it all starts. In addition to making you feel tired and listless during the day, lack of sleep actually increases your risk of more serious problems like diabetes and heart disease. If you're finding that it's a struggle to get eight hours of sleep in every day, check out these tips:
- Breathing Exercise. Try out the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique if you're having trouble falling asleep. First exhale through your mouth. Then, inhale for the count of four. Once you've inhaled, hold that breath and count to seven. After the seven seconds is over, exhale over the course of eight seconds.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation. This method can help you naturally relieve tension before bed. Focus on your body's muscles. Think of each set of muscles as a group, so start with the muscles in your feet. First, focus you attention on tensing the area, then consciously work on releasing all tension from the area. Once you've completely relaxed the muscle group, move up to the next group of muscles (calves, thighs, abdominal, etc.) By the time you're done, your mind and body should both be relaxed.
Lights Out Before Bed. You may have heard that the blue light emitted your smartphone can actually increase your drowsiness the next day. It's thought that this is because it disrupts our natural circadian rhythms by suppressing melatonin production. Beat the harmful effects of blue light by avoiding smart phone use an hour before bed.
It's also possible to improve your sleep by adjusting small habits in your day to day life. In fact, if you follow our first tip and increase exercise, you might be improving your sleep as well. Studies have shown that exercise can even help those who suffer from chronic insomnia fall asleep faster!
5. Kick the Stress: Journal, Meditate, Talk it Out
Over time, stress can be very detrimental to your overall health and is known to result in a myriad of side effects. It can not only impact your quality of sleep, but also lower your energy levels significantly.
So work on kicking the stress to give your energy a boost. Try to find good coping mechanisms for extra stress like journaling or meditation. Think about adding the power of aromatherapy into your life to calm and balance your mood. Think about anything in your life that's causing you undue pressure, and focus on eliminating some of those sources of stress.
Have you recently taken on more at work than you can handle? Try to figure out a way to balance your workload. Constantly feeling drama and interpersonal conflicts eat up your happy-time? Work on eliminating negative or toxic people from your life. When it comes to beating stress, sometimes the best way forward is to simply recognize there's an issue — and work on coping mechanisms from there.
Better Energy is Possible
Above all else, it's important to stay positive. If you're in good health and you adopt some of these tips, you may find that you have an energy boost that can help carry you through the day. Life is an adventure. Make sure you have the energy to enjoy it.