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Higher energy through diet! Discover the Top 5 High-Powered Energy Foods.
Why is it that we don’t truly appreciate energy until we lose it? At one point or another, most people have experienced how it feels to lose steam.
Fatigue is one of the most common reasons people seek the advice of a doctor. It’s also the cause of about 20% of car crashes in the United States and contributes to workplace accidents and lack of productivity. It can even lead to irritability, anxiety or depression. It’s no wonder we work so hard to combat fatigue. But why are so many of us losing the fight? Experts agree that the first step toward winning the battle is getting to the root cause.
What’s going on?
“Fatigue can be a symptom of many health conditions including anemia, hypothyroidism, cardiovascular issues, diabetes, fibromyalgia, cancer or others,” explains best-selling author and naturopathic oncologist Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO. “In addition, other factors can cause fatigue such as stress and the use of certain prescription medications like antidepressants.” The key, she stresses, is to rule out any serious illnesses before you embark on your energy-enhancing plan.
How do you know if there is something serious going on? According to energy expert and author of The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution (Avery, 2013), Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, if your fatigue persists for more than 12 weeks despite taking time to rest and sleep, it’s time to see a physician. Teitelbaum recommends looking for a holistic physician via abihm.org or naturopathic.org to work in conjunction with your medical team to get the most comprehensive, holistic care.
Both Alschuler and Teitelbaum agree that if there is no underlying medical condition, the first place to look for more energy is at mealtime and nighttime. “Poor nutrition and poor sleep – both quality and quantity – are the leading causes of lack of energy,” says Alschuler.
Blood Sugar Balance
Your internal power plant is located on your plate – after all, food is energy. So ask yourself, are you filling your tank with high-powered fuel or energy-sapping sludge? The best way to continually maintain high energy is through optimal nutrition – choosing quality, unprocessed foods, and, more specifically, keeping your blood sugar in check.
Why is blood sugar balance so crucial? When you eat high amounts of carbohydrates with minimal amounts of protein and healthy fats, your blood sugar can spike rapidly and then plummet. This roller coaster will wreak havoc with your energy levels.
See alsoTop 5 Energy-Zapping Foods.
“A foundational tenet of any high-energy diet is to swap the quick fixes like sugar and carbs for enduring energy enhancers like quality protein, healthy fats, fiber and whole, unprocessed foods,” says Alschuler.
World-renowned natural health expert and author of more than 30 books on natural medicine, Michael Murray, ND, agrees with Alschuler and adds: “Avoiding foods that quickly raise blood sugar levels and keeping carbohydrate portions to reasonable amounts can really help. Focus on nuts, seeds, lots of non-starchy vegetables, and low-glycemic fruit like berries.” He adds that a great way to stabilize blood sugar levels is by eating more fiber and even taking a high-quality fiber supplement.
Along those same lines, Teitelbaum says that most people will find that their energy improves when they eat a high-protein diet with frequent small meals rather than three large meals. Additionally, choosing clean, unprocessed foods will go a long way in keeping energy up. “It is most critical to eat healthy whole foods instead of highly processed garbage that makes up the typical Standard American Diet [SAD], which is truly sad as the acronym indicates,” says Teitelbaum.
One simple but effective way to boost energy is to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Even mild dehydration that is not noticeable can cause fatigue. Light-colored urine is a great indicator that you are drinking enough water. Be sure water is filtered and free of toxins.
Another energy fueler? Start each day with the right mix of nutrients. “A healthy breakfast includes protein and fiber,” says Alschuler. “Research indicates that people who begin their day with a nutrient-packed, robust breakfast are more likely to maintain high energy levels throughout the day and avoid blood sugar crashes.”
Finally, in addition to blood sugar swings, some nutrient deficiencies such as B12 or iron can cause fatigue. Alschuler says correcting these deficiencies will be important to maintaining energy.
See alsoTop 5 Energy-Enhancing Supplements.
The Secret is Sleep
It’s impossible to have high energy if you aren’t getting enough sleep, and there are plenty of people who struggle. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared that lack of sleep has become an American public health epidemic. Being sleep deprived not only causes fatigue, but it is also linked to many serious conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and some cancers.
It’s important to note that a long history of impaired sleep or significant snoring can be signs of sleep apnea, which can disrupt sleep quality. Talk to your doctor if you think you may have sleep apnea.
“The first step I focus on in helping people boost energy is improving sleep quality,” says Murray. “The goal is not necessarily to increase the total time a person sleeps, but rather the time spent in the deeper, more restful stages of sleep.” Getting better quality sleep leads to more energy during the day, which then leads to a better night’s sleep, creating a positive feedback cycle.
One secret of some of the most sound and serene sleepers is exercise. Generally, the recommended amount of exercise is a minimum of 30 minutes a day, five days a week – that’s only 2% of the day! Remember, small bouts of movement add up and can be just as effective as one long period of physical activity.
Exercise and high energy go hand in hand. In fact, a 2008 study featured in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics demonstrated that inactive people who participated in a regular, low-intensity exercise program increased their energy by 20% and decreased their fatigue by 65%. Also keep in mind that late-night exercise can actually disrupt sleep, so it’s best to get your exercise in earlier in the day.
In addition to exercise, it’s important to develop a consistent sleep ritual, a concept that has come to be known as “sleep hygiene.” Good sleep hygiene includes going to bed at about the same time each night in a quiet, dark room and rising at about the same time each morning. It also includes avoiding sleep inhibitors like watching TV or working on a laptop in bed as well as drinking excessive alcohol or eating large meals before bedtime.
Dietary supplements can also help with sleep. “Nutrients that have been shown to naturally and safely induce a restful night’s sleep include melatonin, magnesium, magnolia, L-theanine and chamomile, just to name a few,” says Alschuler. She suggests trying natural alternatives before resorting to over-the-counter and prescription sleep medications because studies indicate that these medications are associated with an increased risk of cancer and premature death.
Abundant Energy is Possible
After determining that there is nothing serious going on, focus on food, sleep and movement. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can recover and win that battle against fatigue.
It’s also important to evaluate energy from a mental-emotional standpoint. Ask yourself what you would do and how you would live your life differently if you had more energy. Dr. Teitelbaum’s final words of advice speak to this issue: “If you try to get energy so you can go back to doing what made you exhausted in the first place, you’ll simply crash again. As your energy improves, use it for things that feel good, not for things that you think you should do.”