How to boost energy naturally

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Life is fast. You are constantly on the go, balancing a million things at once. It is easy to become fatigued with such a busy schedule. And when you’re exhausted, it’s tempting to rely on coffee and energy drinks for a quick boost.

But is there a better choice? If you want a more natural method for generating energy, what other resources are available? Mariann Giles, MD, and Lori Chong, RDN, LD, with Ohio State Integrative Medicine, share their advice for making it through a tiring day.

How would you like your coffee?

Coffee is OK in small amounts, especially for a quick jump-start in the morning. However, coffee is often paired with cream and sugar, which can cause "sugar crashes"’ and fatigue. The same problem is more pronounced with energy drinks.

“Energy drinks can be even more of a problem because they usually contain large amounts of sugar and more caffeine than coffee,” Dr. Giles says. “This causes blood sugar spikes that can give you some quick energy, but these spikes are followed by extreme drops in blood sugar levels that leave you tired and wanting more sugar.”

And if you have anxiety or insomnia, coffee and energy drinks are not great options because caffeine can intensify those conditions. So how else can you increase your energy levels?

Be proactive

“Don’t wait until you are tired to fight fatigue,” Dr. Giles advises. “It’s best to prevent fatigue by living a healthy, balanced life. Start with a healthy diet combined with exercise, quality sleep and stress management.”

Aim to eat a healthy diet low in sugar, chemicals and refined grains. Focus on consuming whole, unprocessed foods such as lean proteins, fruits, veggies and seeds, which are high in antioxidants and fiber.

While you’ve heard this before, the importance of water cannot be overstated: Strive to drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water a day. For example, a 200-pound person should drink 100 ounces of water a day. Chong also suggests matcha green tea or yerba mate tea as coffee alternates. Both of these teas have less caffeine than coffee.

These recommendations are certainly easier said than done, but our experts have some practical advice on how to implement a balanced lifestyle and ultimately increase energy levels.

“Get in a regular eating pattern: Eat breakfast within one hour of waking up, eat every four hours and plan for a healthy afternoon snack,” Chong says.


What about exercise and physical activity?

When you’re weary, exercising might sound like the last thing you want to do. However, getting moving can be extremely beneficial for your energy levels. Dr. Giles suggests practicing yoga to prevent fatigue. There are two yoga poses particularly useful for boosting energy:

  1. Legs up on the wall: Lie on your back with legs at 90 degrees against the wall. Maintain this position for 3-5 minutes.

  2. Warrior pose: Stand up straight on your yoga mat. Bring your right foot to the back of your mat then angle your toes outward. Bend your left knee at a 90 degree angle and stretch your arms above your head. Maintain this pose for 5-10 seconds and repeat for the other leg.

You might become groggy throughout the day while you’re sitting at the office. Your desk is actually a great place to work in some physical activity.
  1. Chair pushups: While sitting, grasp the arms of the chair and push up about 10 times.

  2. Take a walk: Leave your desk and take a 10-minute walk outside with your co-workers. Nature is energizing; brisk winter air or a warm summer breeze can give you the boost you need to make it through the afternoon.

  3. Take deep breaths: Put one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Take slow, deep breaths. This increases oxygen flow to the blood and also helps with stress.

  4. Check out these tips on making the most of a lunch break workout.

“Once you get into the habit of exercising regularly, you will see that it boosts energy,” Chong explains.


Balancing family life with your wellness goals

As a parent, it’s difficult to prioritize your own wellness when you’re accountable for the well-being of children. The solution: Get your family involved with your healthy lifestyle and energy-boosting habits. The more you can make it fun and interesting for the whole family, the better.
  1. For children: Make eating healthy fun. Ask them to draw a rainbow and identify fruits and vegetables for each color. When they eat all the colors of the rainbow, reward them with a sticker or small prize.

  2. For teenagers: Compare their bodies to sports cars. Explain that healthy food is high-octane fuel and this fuel will optimize function by promoting success in school and sports. In addition, it will keep them out of the repair shop (i.e. the doctor’s office).

  3. For the whole family: 
    • Most families relax around the television after dinner. Use this as an opportunity for family bonding and exercise. Place small dumbbells, yoga mats and foam rollers in a basket in the living room, and make a habit of exercising with your family to finish the evening.
    • Adapt to a healthy sleeping habit. Implement a consistent bedtime as part of your family’s nightly routine.

Dr. Giles stresses the necessity of prioritizing downtime and not over-scheduling yourself.

“The more we get into a rhythm, the more balanced we are,” says Dr. Giles. “Not only does it help with energy, it helps us stay healthier.”

Finally, it is important to ensure that your fatigue isn’t caused by an underlying health issue, such as anemia or a thyroid disorder. If fatigue persists after lifestyle modifications, consult your doctor.

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