In our 24-7 world, if you find yourself feeling like your battery's been drained, you're certainly not alone. The good news: It's easy to recharge with smart lifestyle strategies.
No matter how your day starts and ends, you may need some "oomph" to help get you through all the stuff in the middle. Where will it come from?
Eat for Energy
To understand food's relationship to energy, consider the "official" definition of the word calorie--the measure of the potential energy in food. The right amount of calories is vital to our daily functioning. It's only when we take in more calories than we burn that we run into trouble.
Like the wood that feeds a fire, the calories in food fuel every part of our bodies, from our brains to our muscles. For peak performance, we should include high-quality fuel: a balance of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and small amounts of "healthy" fats. And don't forget the other bastion of nutritional health--moderation.
Here are a few energy boosting tips:
- Break for a smart breakfast. Too many of us grab on-the-go choices that don't provide optimal fuel; some of us skip breakfast entirely. The smarter path: Look for a breakfast that contains complex carbohydrates, your body's principal energy source. Then add a serving of your favorite fruit for a tasty wake-up.
- Drink up. Water transports nutrients, carries away waste, and hydrates cells throughout our bodies. Make sure you drink adequate liquids each day.
- Find food bargains. Make your calories nutrient-dense. This means choosing foods that provide ample amounts of vitamins and minerals and relatively fewer calories.
- Bet on the Bs. When it comes to energy, the B-complex vitamins--thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, B12, folate, pantothenic acid, and biotin--are most often linked to peak mental and physical performance. Though each B vitamin works differently, they work best together to help turn carbohydrates into blood glucose, which fuels your cells, muscles, and brain. You'll find B vitamins in beef, chicken, and other meats, and in foods made with whole grains, such as breads and cereals.
It's surprising, but many people don't realize that one reason for their energy crisis may be a lack of exercise, says James S. Gordon, MD, the founder and director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC, and a clinical professor in the departments of psychiatry and family medicine at Georgetown University's School of Medicine.
"Everyone's always rushing, often under great pressure, so we feel like we're doing a lot," says Dr. Gordon, who recommends a daily dose of physical activity for all his patients. "But in fact, many of us get very little physical activity and hold a tremendous amount of tension in our bodies--all of which can be exhausting."
Although it may seem contradictory, expending energy can actually increase your energy. How? According to Dr. Gordon, exercise if done right may:
- Relieve muscle tension and send oxygenated blood to the brain and other vital organs
- Boost the efficiency of the heart and lungs, making the tasks of daily life easier and less tiring
- Provide an outlet for stress relief.
Many American adults don't get the recommended eight hours of sleep per night. In fact, nearly one-third report sleeping fewer than seven hours each weeknight, with several saying they try to sleep more on weekends.
Sleep experts say most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimum performance and health. When we don't get adequate sleep, we accumulate a sleep debt that can be difficult to "pay back" if it becomes too big. Try these tips to help get a good night's sleep:
- Set a schedule for going to bed and waking. Try to keep to that schedule even on weekends.
- Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine. Soak in a warm bath, listen to soothing music or read a calming book.
- Check your sleep environment. You want your bedroom to be dark, quiet, comfortable and cool.
- Finish eating two to three hours before bedtime. Avoid caffeine after late afternoon.
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