Whether you need to travel for work, take care of your children, or simply run errands throughout the day, having enough energy to support your mind and body is critical. Rather than reaching for that sugary drink or large coffee when the grogginess hits, there are some steps you can take to get more energy naturally.
Why is it Important to Have High Energy Levels?
Regardless of age, the human body needs energy to function properly. Whether it be mental or physical energy, our cells need to be supplied with fuel. You may have noticed that when you are lacking in physical energy, you are less likely to feel motivated and excited to take on the day. Concurrently, when you do not have enough mental energy, even the smallest of tasks are difficult to wrap your head around. Cognitive performance is also likely to decline, making it hard to work productively.
There are plenty of supplements and drinks online that claim to give your body an optimal supply of energy. Although there are times when supplements may be necessary, there are plenty of other things you can do to get more energy naturally, without the fancy drinks and pills. Here are some research-based practices:
1. Exercise/Get Outside
A large body of research has shown that low-intensity exercise is correlated with higher energy levels and lower levels of fatigue. Although it may sound counterintuitive, engaging in low-intensity exercise when you are feeling run down actually helps you to get more energy naturally. This is partly because our bodies need to create energy in order to use it. One study found that sedentary people with persistent fatigue decreased their tiredness by 65% solely by participating in low-intensity cycling.
In another study, 36 previously sedentary women engaged in moderate cardiovascular activity over a 14 week period. At the end of the 14 weeks, the women rated their level of physical exhaustion significantly lower than they did at the beginning of the study. Additionally, the scores on the revitalization subscale significantly increased.
More and more of the epidemiological studies that have been conducted in recent years have shown a positive association between physical activity and increased energy. This evidence implies that an increase in physical activity may be one of the most effective methods for improving feelings of fatigue.
Thankfully, low-intensity exercise does not need to be strenuous or time-consuming. It can range from walking uphill on a treadmill to taking a ten-minute walk on your lunch break. Getting outside also helps you to get more energy naturally because you expose your body to sunlight and fresh air. Your body makes vitamin D from the sun which is integral to many vital processes in the human body that keep you feeling good. Breathing in fresh air can also give your energy an immediate boost.
2. Improve Sleep Quality
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults ages 18 to 60 years old should be getting seven or more hours of sleep each night. This helps your body to work optimally. However, it is still possible to wake up from a long sleep feeling run down.
If this is happening to you, you may not be optimizing your sleep cycles. REM sleep (rapid eye movement) typically begins about 90 minutes after you fall asleep, and accounts for the deeper sleep that is associated with memory consolidation as well as cell regeneration. REM sleep should be happening a few times each night to help you feel rested and rejuvenated in the morning.
If you are not feeling rested after a night of sleep, you may want to try making some changes before bed to help. Some of these could include:
- Turning off blue-light electronics 1-2 hours before bed
- Eliminating caffeine after 3 p.m., as the effects can last up to 12 hours
- Setting up a sleep space conducive to restful sleep (limiting noise, ensuring the room is dark)
- Winding down your body and your brain before getting into bed
3. Get Yourself Into a Daily Routine
Waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day not only helps you get more energy naturally, but also helps to regulate the human body clock. This internal body clock is called your circadian rhythm, which you can think of as a little clock that sits inside your brain and takes signals from the environment.
When you are exposed to daytime light in the morning and in the afternoon, it actually helps set the stage for better sleep. Research has shown that natural light in the morning helps to lower cortisol levels later on in the night. This may sound strange, but opening your shades in the morning or taking a five-minute walk after you rise actually helps your brain to regulate its circadian rhythm, which in turn helps you get more energy naturally.
A daily routine may look different for everybody, so don’t fret if you’re a night owl. Those who wake up earlier in the morning are not necessarily more productive. Listen to your body and choose a consistent and realistic bedtime every night. Try to wake up at the same time each morning so you train your circadian rhythm to recognize these cues from your environment.
4. Tweak Your Diet
There are many diets out there today that promise to help you get more energy. Although these diets may work for some, it is important to take an individualized approach to eating and listen to your body.
Research has shown that simple carbohydrates, like those found in sugary drinks and processed foods (white bread, pasta, chips) burn through the body quickly. This means that they provide the body with a quick boost of energy for a short period of time, and then leave you feeling groggy and sluggish after your blood sugar drops.
Eating foods with a low glycemic index and limiting processed foods and simple sugar are ways to get more energy naturally. When you think of low glycemic foods, think of foods that are high in fiber or made from whole grains, such as leafy greens, berries, seeds, legumes, and nuts. These foods take more time for your body to digest, which helps to avoid the quick blood sugar spike that results from eating processed foods. Try to plan out snacks and meals in advance to avoid reaching for the sugary snack when you are feeling low on energy.
5. Drink More Water
Staying hydrated is advice you have likely heard before but may have overlooked. Here’s one reason you need to put it at the forefront of your brain: Dehydration can actually cause physical damage to your DNA. When your cells are dehydrated, they cannot work optimally, in turn leading to headaches, mood swings, and fatigue.
One study, for example, looked at 25 women during and after moderate exercise. Mild dehydration that was produced during the study showed that a fluid loss of 1.36% after exercise impaired mood and concentration. The women also reported symptoms of fatigue and headaches.
Our bodies need an adequate amount of water to function properly. One way to ensure you get plenty of water throughout the day is to start your morning with a big glass. Keep it filled on your nightstand before going to bed so it is waiting for you when you wake up in the morning. This will set your day off on a good foot right from the start.
Whether you try one or all of these energy-enhancing practices, it is important to find something that works for you and your daily routine in order to get more energy naturally. Change does not need to happen overnight, but simple steps that are free and easy to implement can only help to set you on a path towards a more vibrant, energetic life.
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