A lot of us struggle with the problem of low energy levels, whether they be at the beginning of the day, following a big lunch or early into the evening as we get home from work. Life is busy, it's stressful and it takes it's toll. But you are not using that as an excuse. You are the type of person that when your feet touch the floor in the morning the devil says 'Aww shit... they're up' -- Thanks Dwayne.
There are simple things you can do to ensure that you have energy all-day
Vitamin D is a bit of a super vitamin. Though it's primary function is to help regulate the absorption of Calcium and Phosphorous in our bones and aid in cell to cell communication, it manages to do a whole host of other cool things at the same time. From helping with cognitive function as we age, reducing our risk of MS, helping maintain a healthy body weight and significantly lowering our risk of cancer, Vitamin D does it all without breaking a sweat. Vitamin D is also a contributor to daily energy levels!
Vitamin D levels are inversely related with melatonin -- a naturally occurring hormone that controls your sleep and wake cycles. As melatonin rises you start to feel drowsy and inevitably fall asleep. When you have low levels of Vitamin D, your body will produce higher amounts of melatonin. Lack of Vitamin D is why some people can get that 'rainy day blues' feeling on a cloudy day
There are also some foods which are a good source of Vitamin D, including Eggs, Milk, Soy, Beef and many types of fish. The recommended daily intake ranges depending on who you talk to but shooting for about 1000 IU is not a bad start.
In a world where we place so much focus on hitting the right number on the scale and having that perfect physique, it's sometimes forgotten that calories are more than a just a means to maintaining an optimal body weight. Calories are the energy associated with the food we eat that fuels all of our body functions!
You may be eating less calories than you need to properly fuel your body and as a result you could be feeling lethargic and a bit 'slow'. Your bodies resting metabolic rate responds to the amount of calories in -- if you spend too much time reducing calories your body will naturally lower it's RMR to adjust to that calorie restriction. It's a survival thing. Spend too much time in with restricted caloric intake and your body may have to start choosing between function and survival.
Strategy: Know your BMR or RMR (here's a handy caculator if you don't know yours off hand). Try to keep your calorie intake within 500 Kcal of your total daily energy expenditure
You knew this one was coming! But I'll add a little wrinkle to this one -- timing may help your manage your sugar related energy 'crashes'. Now if you remember my last article on Sugar and Artificially Sweetened drinks, we discussed briefly how (almost) all carbohydrates break down to simple sugars in the body and enter the blood stream to fuel different body functions. So when I say sugar I am talking primarily bad sugar, but you could extend this idea to all carbohydrate intake.
Simple Carbs, Complex Carbs and Fiber all follow under our greater 'carb umbrella'. Our body breaks down the first two into simple sugars. You can probably guess that simple carbs break down faster than complex ones. Fiber doesn't break down at all and slows down the digestion process.
The faster a carb breaks down, the bigger the blood sugar spike we get, the harder we eventually 'crash'. This is why we get that big 'let down' from sugar binges or big thanksgiving dinners (not necessarily the turkey's fault).
Ever had a lunch work during day long meeting, sandwhiches or pizza or pasta, and come back for the afternoon and barely be able to keep your eyes open? That's the blood sugar rise and fall. There are a couple of good strategies for avoiding this energy sapper.
Strategy: Consider shifting more of your starchy carbs to the end of the day to reduce the impact of the 'crash' associated with carb intake.
Try eating your sugar sources in the form of complex carbs or are paired with a source of fiber (think fruit...)
Ok, this one is a no brainer but I had to put it up here. I do, more so to remind myself than anything. This is one area that I've tried to be more diligent in, because I know how beneficial it is to my overall health.
Being a new Dad and keeping a decently busy schedule sometimes (most times) it feels like there just aren't enough hours in the day. That being said, sacrificing sleep is not a good option. You pay for it the next day and you'll pay for it in the long run. Sleep is cumulative so you can make up for sub-optimal night time hours with a nap in the day, but your most restorative sleep comes in 'deep sleep and REM sleep' which you don't usually enter till 30 minutes and 90 minutes respectively. Don't skimp too much on the nightly snooze!
If you habitually find yourself going to bed late there may be a couple things holding you back. Beyond just the basic habit of not getting enough sleep, another source may be artificial lighting.
'Blue Light' (as described by it's wavelength) inhibits the release of melatonin and has a negative impact on ability to fall asleep. In the modern world we have all types of artificial 'blue light' sources from incandescent lighting, TV, computers, Ipads etc. One way you can help improve your sleep, and as a result your daily energy, is by shutting off your electronic devices an hour before bedtime.
Strategy: Try shutting off the TV an hour before you go to bed to encourage proper melatonin release
There are lots of different strategies you can attempt to keep your energy levels up throughout the day. Next time you find yourself yawning in that mid-afternoon team meeting, you can harken back to this blog post and pick one (or a few) of the strategies off the list and try applying it.
Honorable mention to this list includes
Keeping your Protein Levels Up
Ensuring your Drinking Enough Water
Ensuring a healthy Omega 3:6 ratio
Live your Best Life!