We all have days when we don’t feel energetic. When we wonder how to have more energy after work. This lack of pep may have an obvious cause, such as not getting enough sleep, working too hard or fighting off a bug. But sometimes it’s hard to figure out why our energy level is subpar. You might think you can’t do much about your energy level. But you can. Here are eight proven ways to put more “GO!” into your get-up-and-go:
1. Eat a high-fiber, carbo-loaded breakfast. Eating a meal rich in carbohydrates (such as whole grain cereals) and fiber can give you a running start. Eating more soluble fiber—including nuts, grains, fruits, beans and oats—slows down absorption of sugars, which helps regulate your energy level and prevents sugar highs followed by a crash.
2. Hydrate. Our muscles need plenty of water to operate effectively, and a fluid loss of just 1 to 3% can increase fatigue. Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily, and more if you’re engaging in intensive exercise. (Avoid diuretics, which remove water from the body. Drinking four 2-oz shots of liquor, for example, can remove up to 1 quart of liquid from your body as urine. Caffeine also has a diuretic effect.)
3. Have an energy-boosting snack. A common fallacy is that sugar increases energy. It might, but fleetingly—and as your glucose level drops, it can flatten you out in a hurry. It’s better to have a snack that’s high in protein but low in sugar to get a boost with staying power. Good options include nuts, nonfat yogurt, peanut butter and trail mix. Berries are good, too, because they contain anthocyanins—antioxidants that boost energy.
4. Breathe more deeply. Most of us fill only half our lungs when we breathe, and this shallow breathing tires us out faster. It compromises metabolism by limiting the amount of oxygen in our bodies, which converts fuel into energy. To retrain your breathing, consciously inhale from your abdomen, then from your ribs and up to your chest. Exhale for about twice as long as you inhale. At the end of the exhalation, you should feel your abdomen going in. Deeper breathing during exercise can really improve performance.
5. Maintain a consistent sleeping schedule. Erratic sleeping patterns upset the normal biorhythms of your body, which can sap your energy. Try to go to sleep at more or less the same time every night. The amount of sleep needed varies among people, but the average adult should get between 7 and 9 hours each night. Younger people need more, and older people need a bit less. If you feel tired all the time, start increasing your usual number of hours.
6. Get your thyroid checked. A few years ago I was suffering from fatigue on a daily basis, no matter how much sleep I got. A blood test revealed that I had an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). The thyroid, often called the gas pedal of the body, helps regulate how you use food to produce energy. When it’s underactive, we operate in low gear. If it’s overactive, we tend to be hyper and jittery. My condition is now regulated by medication, and I haven’t suffered from chronic fatigue since.
7. Treat your allergies. When you have allergies, one sneeze can send your energy level plummeting. Over-the-counter medications can often take care of it. If you’re not sure what you may be allergic to, consult an allergist for testing. An intolerance to the gluten found in many grain products, for example, can drain energy and give you flu-like symptoms after you eat gluten-loaded foods such as pizza.
8. Do a relaxation exercise. Daily relaxation exercises or meditation can help cleanse our bodies of stress that can really sap our energy. There are many types of these exercises, but here’s one that works well for me and takes less than 10 minutes. Take a few deep breaths, then focus on one part of your body and tell yourself silently to relax it as you exhale. I usually begin this at my feet and work my way up. Inhale, exhale and relax toes. Inhale, exhale and relax foot. Then ankle, calf, knee, thigh, abdomen and so on. Afterward, you’ll feel refreshed, alert and ready to perform with new vigor.
If following these tips doesn’t seem to give you more pep, you may want to see your healthcare provider. You may have an underlying problem such as an infection that is sapping your strength. A limited course of treatment or specific dietary adjustments may help get you back into action before you know it.