20 secrets to more Energy
DO YOU WAKE UP FEELING FATIGUED?
NEED A COFFEE BREAK AROUND 3? COLLAPSE ON THE
COUCH AFTER WORK? FOLLOW OUR PLAN TO FEEL AMAZING ALL DAY LONG.
Ah, the holidays—the most wonderful (and exhausting) time of the year. Whether you’re cooking, shopping, hosting, party-going or all of the above, there’s nothing like Thanksgiving through- New Year’s busyness to make you feel joyful and drained. But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Frank Lipman, M.D., director of Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City and author of Revive: Stop Feeling Spent and Start Living Again (Pocket Books).
“Think of energy as if it’s a bank account,” he says. “Each day we make energy withdrawals and deposits. When we use more than we put in, we’re in the red.”
If you’re feeling more pooped than party-ready these days, take heart.
These tips from leading experts in the field of feeling good will help you recharge instantly. Learn from their wisdom, live it and you can make hefty deposits in your energy bank—even
during this jam-packed time of year.
1 breathe before you get out of bed
Instead of jumping up immediately when the alarm goes off and making a beeline to the
bathroom, take a few minutes to get focused and clear your mind with this easy breathing technique. “Keep your eyes closed and place your tongue behind your teeth,” says Svetlana
Kogan, M.D., founder of Doctors at Trump Place in New York City.
“Take a deep breath in through your nose on a count of four, hold it for a count of four and then slowly exhale through your mouth to a count of eight.” Do this six times.
2 splash cold water on your face
This simple and energizing hydrotherapy technique literally wakes up your brain by helping it make the switch from the parasympathetic nervous system (sleep mode) to the sympathetic nervous system (awake mode), says Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., author of From Fatigued to Fantastic! (Avery).
3 EAT BREAKFAST
Sounds simple, but it’s super important: Have a morning meal.
“If you don’t start your day with a good breakfast, you can expect to be hungry throughout the day, and both your energy level and cognitive performance will suffer,” explains
Mary Horn, M.S., nutritionist and exercise physiologist for Vail Mountain Lodge in Vail, Colo. So fuel up with a breakfast that includes whole grains, lean proteins and small amounts of healthy fats. With this winning combo, both your mood and your blood-sugar level will stay steady all morning, sustaining energy and alertness and keeping hunger pains at bay.
Try two eggs scrambled with 1⁄2 cup chopped veggies, a slice of whole-wheat toast and a cup of antioxidant-rich green tea—and skip the coffee and scones. “Sugar and caffeine give you a false start,” Horn says. “They cause blood-sugar levels to spike, then drop, and your energy
will drop as well.”
4 stretch yourself
Sore muscles and too-tight fascia—the membrane that surrounds bones, muscles and tendon can leave you feeling beaten up before the day has even begun. Try Lipman’s neck and shoulder release: Lie on your back, knees bent and hip-width apart.
Put a tennis ball under the top of each shoulder blade.
Straighten your arms, lift them to the ceiling, move them slowly toward your knees, then back
over your head—the tennis balls will massage tight muscles and fascia. Repeat 10 times.
5 take a technology break before lunch
Close your eyes for five minutes to engage the revitalizing yogic practice pratyahara, or
withdrawal of the senses. “The point is to purify yourself from the sensory stimulation that
you’ve probably been overloading yourself with for the past three hours or so,” says Mas Vidal, director of Dancing Shiva Yoga and Ayurveda in Los Angeles. “This simple practice will protect your nerves from the kind of overtaxation that drains your energy.”
6 have a snack at 11 a.m.
For sustained energy, blood sugar needs to remain stable throughout the day—and that
means eating every three to four hours, says Michelle Babb, M.S., R.D., a Seattle-based dietitian and owner of Eat.Play.Be. “Most people should be eating two healthy snacks in addition to three balanced meals.” To maximize energy, your snack should include a lean protein, complex carbohydrate and healthy fat. Examples: a small apple with 1 ounce of almonds (about 10 nuts); a mozzarella stick with four small whole-grain crackers; or baby carrots dipped in hummus.
7 FILL UP ON FIBER
To optimize your energy at midday—and avoid the dreaded afternoon slump—choose foods that are high in lean protein and fiber for lunch. Beans fit the bill perfectly. “Legumes are great for stabilizing blood sugar and sustaining energy throughout the afternoon,” says Babb.
They are rich in quality protein, magnesium, iron, fiber and antioxidants. Try a bowl of meatless chili, hummus in a whole-wheat pita or a black bean burrito, or top your salad with a spoonful of garbanzos or kidney beans.
Even if all you manage is a trip to the bathroom farthest from your desk, get moving. “In our
research we found that a brisk, 10-minute walk leads to increased energy for up to two hours
afterward,” says Robert Thayer, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at California State University, Long Beach, and author of Calm Energy: How People Regulate Mood with Food and Exercise (Oxford University Press). Why? When you walk briskly, your metabolism, heart rate and blood pressure increase.
So does your breathing, which means more energy-boosting oxygen circulates. Small amounts
of cortisol and adrenaline are released into your bloodstream and levels of feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine also increase.
9 get some sun
According to several studies, a majority of Americans are running low on vitamin D, a nutrient that protects against osteoporosis, cancer, depression, heart disease and—yes—
fatigue. Since sunlight stimulates the body to produce D, get outside for 10 to 20 minutes of
sun exposure on bare arms and legs. Too chilly to show some skin? Take 1,000 to 2,000 IUs of vitamin D3 with food, suggests Babb. “Some people feel a significant increase in energy as
soon as they start supplementing with vitamin D,” she says.
10 have fruit for dessert
Always on the hunt for something sweet after you eat? The refined sugar in the cookie, pastry
or piece of candy you may crave will send your blood sugar soaring—and crashing soon after. “When that happens, you crave more sugar and the vicious cycle continues,” says Babb.
The solution? Get your sweet fix with a piece of fruit. Its fiber will slow the absorption of fructose (fruit’s naturally occurring sugar), helping to short-circuit a spike in blood sugar.
11 have an “after-school” snack
Your mom was onto something when she had a snack waiting for you when you got off
the school bus: A bit of high-quality fuel in the early afternoon keeps mood and energy
levels stable. Now’s also a good time to think about what you’ve eaten so far, and coursecorrect for any mistakes you made earlier in the day. “When you feel the urge to reach for a sugary snack, ask yourself, ‘Have I had enough protein? Have I had enough water? Have I had enough healthy fats?’ ” says Babb. “If you’re robbing your body of any of those things
throughout the day, it might show up as a false sugar craving.”
12 do Legs-Up-the-Wall
Celebrate the end of your workday with a restorative yoga pose, suggests Roger Cole, Ph.D., a certified Iyengar yoga teacher and a sleep research scientist in Del Mar, Calif. Lie on your back and place your legs up a wall so that your body forms an “L” shape. Get your hips
comfortably close to the wall, but not so close that your leg muscles can’t relax. “This pose sends blood that’s been stuck in your legs back to your trunk, increasing the volume of blood in circulation and allowing the waste products to be cleansed by the liver and other organs,” explains Cole. Stay in this position for 10 to 15 minutes and then roll to your side to come out. If your office setting isn’t conducive to this pose, simply close your eyes and take another tech break, and try it later at home.
13 FILL UP YOUR GLASS
Buy a beautiful glass or cute, BPA-free reusable water bottle and kee it with you all day long.
“We often feel tired when we’re dehydrated,” says Horn. “Proper hydration is necessary
for the breakdown and use of nutrients in the body, which is essential for energy production.”
Drinking more water helps your body extract and absorb those nutrients optimally—it’s like putting more gas in your tank. Whenever you start to feel sluggish, take a sip.
14 hit the gym for 30 minutes
In addition to energizing us in the short term, physical activity is the best antidote for the
long-term effects of stress, says Jörg Blech, author of Healing Through Exercise: Scientifically Proven Ways to Prevent and Overcome Illness and Lengthen Your Life (Da Capo Press). “As soon as you start to exercise, your brain produces proteins that trigger the growth of new nerve cells in the brain, which make you feel alert,” Blech explains. “They also make you more resilient, so you’re better able to handle the unexpected.”
Of course, if your usual routine is to work out in the morning, stick to that. “Some of us
are morning people, some of us are afternoon or evening people,” says Horn. Try to arrange
your schedule so that you’re able to exercise at a time that agrees with your body. If you work
with your own biorhythms, you’ll be more likely to enjoy your workouts.
15 challenge yourself in the kitchen
As you cook your evening meal, try using your nondominant hand to flip the salmon or lift
a pot. “The moment we bring our attention to what we feel as we move our body, rather than
operating on autopilot, brain activity increases dramatically and new connections between
brain cells are made, bringing about increased energy and vitality, ” says Anat Baniel, author
of Move Into Life: The Nine Essentials for Lifelong Vitality (Harmony Books).
16 create a balanced plate
At dinner, fill half of your plate with vegetables, one-quarter with a lean protein and the final quarter with a starch or whole grain, says Babb. Salmon is an energizing protein choice because it’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which provide fuel for the brain to keep you sharp. Add a side of spinach, which is high in magnesium (a nutrient the body needs to manufacture energy).
17 put your electronics to sleep
To help your body prepare for bedtime, create what Lipman calls an electronic sundown
by turning off your computer, cellphone and television at least an hour before you go to bed. “Melatonin is the hormone that induces sleep, and it’s secreted with darkness,” he says. The
bright light from your electronics can fool your body into thinking that it’s daytime, resulting in decreased melatonin production and a tougher time winding down at night.
18 take a warm bath
Hopping into the tub helps relax your muscles.
To deepen your relaxation response, sprinkle lavender essential oil into the bathwater. “The
smell of lavender has been shown to increase the brain’s alpha waves, which generates a
more relaxed state,” says Alan Hirsch, M.D., director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and
Research Foundation in Chicago.
19 help yourself fall asleep
If you’re too wound up to drift off, add a few drops of vanilla essential oil to a tissue and tuck it inside your pillowcase. “Vanilla has been shown to help people get to sleep faster,” says Hirsch.
20 JUST CONNECT
Fill your psycho-emotional tank by spending some time with your family or friends, says Teitelbaum. “The only thing that really matters in life is the connections we have with other people,” he says. “Make time to be with the people who feed your soul because they will make you feel joy—the greatest energizer of all.” Go on a date, hang out with the kids or exchange messages with your Facebook community—it doesn’t much matter how you do it, so much as you just do it, Teitelbaum says.
AllFitness ___20 secrets to more Energy Susan Hayes is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, N.Y.