Most people I know would love an increase in energy levels. From a nutrition point of view there are a number of different factors to look at, including (but not limited to) adequacy of vitamin and mineral intake, types and amounts of carbohydrates eaten, timing of meals and snacks, and total kilojoule intake. A super healthy diet can do so much for you, however, it can't make up for other lifestyle factors that are working against you in the energy stakes. While many people are searching for the right fad diet, green juice combination, or magic vitamin pill to boost their get-up-and-go, it's worth paying some attention to these 5 lifestyle areas.
Stress and demands
If we think of energy as being an absensce of fatigue, one of the first steps in increasing your energy levels is to take an honest look at what is fatiguing you in the first place. Excessive work hours, social demands and other commitments that don't leave you with time to unwind can lead to stress, zapping your physical, mental and emotional energy. You may need to reassess where your energy is being used up and look at creating greater balance. While some demands may be unavoidable, there is always a benefit at considering how you can do things differently while still getting all the things done that you need to do. Do you need more support from others? Can you change routines so you are getting things done more efficiently?
Life shouldn't be all work with no rest or play, but have you ever stopped to consider whether the way you relax is actually effective? Many people don't mindfully set aside time to relax, but instead fill their 'down-time' with TV, social media or computers. Do you watch TV in the evenings only to go to bed still wired? Do you sit down for a coffee break, eye's glued and finger scrolling constantly through your instagram feed? It's time to get serious about relaxing! I'm not saying you need to sit cross-legged under a tree listening to whale sounds and chanting calming affirmations (but hey, if that's your thing go for it), but spend some time considering what activities are effective at relaxing you and schedule them in.
The old idea of drinking 8 glasses of water per day can sound like an overwhelming amount, and in reality we all have differing fluid needs. You might find it more helpful just to remember to drink smaller amounts more frequently over the day. Regularly drinking from a small glass (i.e. 200mL) may seem more manageable. With the boost and increase in concentration you get from keeping hydrated, you might find you are also less likely to reach for high sugar snacks at that 3pm slump. You might also be prompted to get up and move more due to needing to visit the bathroom more regularly.
Lack of movement
This one can be the most challenging. Becoming more active when you already feel drained sounds like the last thing you would want to do, right? However getting more movement in your day will help you to develop fitter muscles, a healthier respiratory system, and better body condition in general, meaning that your body can cope better with the demands you place on it during the day. The key here is to gradually introduce activity into your daily habits so to not overwhelm and exhaust your system. A bit like the glass of water example above, don't picture the marathon just start with a 10 minute walk down the street and back.
If you are unsure about the best way to introduce exercise into your day, see your GP or an Accredited Exercise Physiologist for guidance.
Lack of sleep
I have a feeling that I'm telling you something that you already know here, so consider this a gentle reminder to get enough Zzz. On average we need about 8 hours per night to function at our very best, some will need a little more, some a little less. Getting less sleep than you require can lead to tiredness (obviously) but also mood swings, irritability, reduced concentration and depression. So consider if your sleeping patterns are working for or against your energy levels during the day...... And remember, flicking through Facebook for 20 minutes in bed is not sleeping, it's time lost to thug-life cats and pictures of your neighbour's cousin's best-friend's wedding.
If you feel you need help to create an action plan to improve any of these areas, or would like to look at what you can do differently with your diet to maximise your energy levels, book an appointment with an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD).
Have you made any small changes that have resulted in significant increases to your energy levels? Share you tips below in the comments.