So after last weeks post on the negative effects of energy drinks and caffeine, a Starbucks trip is no longer a part of your morning routine. Unfortunately, you’re still in need of some sort of pick me up? The good news is you don’t need the added caffeine and sugar to fuel your day. Here are four easy tips for a natural energy boost that will last through the entire day and leave you feeling healthy and ready to go.
1. Get more sleep: Okay, I know what you’re thinking, it’s easier said than done and I agree. We have all fallen victim to a restless mind once our head hits the pillow and while unfortunately I have no cure-all tips, I do have some that may ease the racing thoughts.
–Get on a sleep schedule: Your body runs on a biological clock regulated by your circadian rhythm. This is how your body tells you when it’s time to sleep and when its time to wake up. Fighting this cycle by either going to bed later or even sleeping in beyond when your body tells you its time to wake up can lead to you feeling more drained than when you originally fell asleep! Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends! Trust me, I whined about losing my sleep-in time just as much as you are, but I’ve also tested the theory and have to say…it does work!
–Avoid prolonged napping: The urge to nap is built into our body around midday when our body temperature drops making us feel sleepy. If you absolutely can’t overcome this urge, limit your nap to 20 minutes. A nap beyond 20 minutes can result in sleep inertia (feeling groggy and disoriented immediately after awaking), as well as throw off your circadian rhythm causing you to have difficulty falling asleep at night.
–Limit all forms of light: Yes, this includes the obvious sunlight and lamps, but few realize it also includes the less obvious artificial blue light. To our bodies, blue light means daylight, even if it is coming from your alarm clock, television, or computer screen. Because our bodies recognize this blue light as daylight, we produce less melatonin (that sleep hormone that works with our circadian rhythm to make us sleepy). In other words, if you must do something before bed, try reading a book instead of watching TV or sitting on the computer and change that LED blue light alarm clock.
–De-stress: The biggest cause of insomnia (at least for me) is constantly thinking about what I need to get done the following day. One way, I found, to deal with the nagging stresses is to create a to-do list for the next day. By writing down all the things you have to do you give yourself peace of mind. You are no longer worrying about remembering or counting all the different things you have to do. To go even farther, it’s helpful to write down solutions next to each task. For example, if the task “do laundry” is on your to-do list, next to it, write something like, “I can put a load in before my workout. I’ll put another load in after my workout before I jump in the shower. Another load after my shower and before grocery shopping.” Catch my drift? This way, you have a plan to, kill two birds with one stone so to speak, allowing your mind to focus on other things…like sleep.
2. Eat breakfast: Remember all those times Mom told you to eat a good breakfast? Well, once again, Mom was right about something. What Mom didn’t do however, was explain what a good breakfast was. That’s what I’m here for. A good breakfast is one that includes all three of the macronutrients: complex carbohydrates, protein, and good fats.
–Complex Carbohydrates: The body quickly breaks complex carbohydrates into glucose; its main energy source. The body then converts this glucose into energy through a long scientific process which I won’t bore you with. The end result however, is an immediate energy boost to start your day. Some good sources of complex carbohydrates are:
Fruits, Vegetables, Whole Grains, Milk
–Protein: The body uses protein for a plethora of functions including, but not limited to, maintaining tissues, building new cells, and most of all, sustaining energy. Because protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, it doesn’t produce the same immediate results, but rather has the ability to keep you full and hold you over for a long period of time – like until lunchtime. Each individual will have a different recommended intake of protein. The University of Maryland Medical System’s website has a great calculation tool to gauge your proper intake found here: http://bitURL.net/bdr6. Some good ideas for high protein breakfast foods include:
Egg whites, Peanut butter, Nonfat Greek Yogurt.
The list goes on. Check the label on your potential breakfast food items to see if it contains the proper protein amount for your body.
–Good Fats: Remember, good fats are those with the words mono- and poly- in front of them. (monosaturated and polysaturated). Avoid foods with simple saturated fats and trans fats! Fat is the slowest digesting macronutrient so it therefore sits in your stomach longer, acting as a stored energy source. This leaves you feeling fuller for longer and gives a continuous flow of energy. A few good fats to keep on the breakfast menu include:
Nuts, Olive or Canola Oil, Low fat milk, Low fat cheese.
A few good powerhouse breakfasts that include all three of these macronutrients and guarantee a full, energized feeling are:
Egg whites cooked in olive oil and whole grain toast.
Whole grain toast spread with peanut butter and topped with banana and cinnamon. (Note: cinnamon, NOT cinnamon sugar).
3. Drink plenty of water: Dehydration has a long list of negative effects on the body, but one I bet you didn’t realize is that it can kill your energy. Being dehydrated leaves your muscles feeling fatigued and weak as well as you feeling dizzy and worn out.
4. Exercise: I know this sounds counterintuitive being that exercising can make you feel worn out and fatigued, but it actually increases energy in the long run. Not only does exercising release those feel good endorphins we all love, it also produces the required energy to fuel your exercise. This is done by producing more mitochondria, (the little part of cells that allows you to produce energy). Therefore, the more you exercise, the more mitochondria your body produces to meet the energy requirement and the more energized you feel! The best time to try and fit a gym session into your day is in the morning. This will cause the body to produce energy early in the day so you’ll have a full tank for the rest of the day.
These are just a few of the natural energy boosting tips out there. There are tons more that can be personalized to each individual’s lifestyle and desires. If you have any energy boosting tips you would like to share, feel free to comment and let others know a good way to add a kick to their day without the added sugars and caffeine, the body doesn’t need!