Energy can often feel like an elusive health currency – we all want it, but at times, even when we catch it for a little while, it can feel hard to maintain.
We tend to think of low energy as a physical issue, but the truth is that experiencing low levels of energy, particularly on an ongoing basis, can begin to impact our broader wellbeing, including our ability to be productive and achieve our desired goals beyond the day-to-day.
Something that I have come to learn over years of working in clinical practice is that the basics do matter – and this is certainly true when it comes to energy. While gadgets and ‘magic’ pills are fantastic, and definitely have their merit, you will never be able to see or maintain the benefits quite like you will when your foundations are solid.
So, with this in mind, here are my top 10 energy-boosting basics to help you feel sustainably energised…
It may seem insignificant, but hydration matters when it comes to feeling energised. For instance, did you know that water accounts for approximately 75% of brain mass? Studies have demonstrated that even mild dehydration can impair aspects of brain function such as memory, concentration and mood, while rehydration reduced fatigue, restored attention and brightened mood.
2. Eat balanced meals
Eating for energy doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be balanced. There is a reason that the governments ‘healthy food plate’ is built on a foundation of protein, fats and carbohydrates – it’s because the body requires these raw materials in order to function optimally. It may sound simplistic, but the best approach to ensuring that you’re feeling energised throughout the day is by feeding your body a steady balance of nutrients.
Discover our nourishing recipes ideas.
3. Read the label
The truth is that some foods will boost our energy levels, while others will deprive them (sugar, I’m looking at you). As a general rule of thumb, foods that are less nutrient-dense (i.e. have a lower concentration of nutrients per gram), tend to be less energy giving. Think highly processed foods such as packaged breads, cakes, biscuits, crisps, pastries, microwave and ready meals versus fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, fish and meats. The latter can work with the body to feed our energy mechanisms, while the former are often lacking energy giving nutrients while also being relatively high in trans fats, salt and sugar.
4. Watch your sugar intake
I love sugar. At times, my sweet tooth can get the better of me and usually my energy levels pay the price. While a certain amount of sweet indulgence is a necessary treat, in my opinion (my indulgence of choice being these incredible sweet potato brownies), too much sugar can quickly zap your energy by spiking blood sugar levels which can then cause you to crash later on. For a more sustained energy boost from sweet foods, you ideally want something with added fibre, protein or fat to slow digestion and allow a more steady rise in blood sugar.
For inspiration, check out our healthy sweet snacks
5. Get moving
While it may seem counterintuitive, especially when you are feeling tired, exercise can help you to feel more energised – particularly for those of us leading a rather sedentary lifestyle these days. When figuring out how to approach exercise, it’s really important to listen to your body and engage in activities that make you feel energised and refreshed, not worn out. Start where you’re at – whether that means a three-minute at-home workout, a 20-minute walk or an hour-long run, exercise with the intent to feel good and you will reap the energetic benefits.
6. Reassess your workload
Too much work is too much work. Not only can overworking push you to exhaustion, but for many of us it can also trigger stress. In the short term, your body can release extra glucose into the system to provide an energy boost when stressed, however this mechanism won’t be maintained when stress is chronic. As well as this, stress raises cortisol, your body’s stress hormone. Too much cortisol in the system can start messing with your sleep and other hormone cycles, leaving you feeling even more depleted in the long run.
7. Manage expectations
When it feels like there are just too many demands on your time – from work, family, friends, chores – your energy can begin to suffer. While reasonable expectations can be a positive pressure in life, too much pressure can lead to stress, exhaustion and eventually burnout. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, seek advice from someone with an outside perspective, such as a friend, family member or counsellor. Too often we put completely unrealistic expectations on ourselves, only to realise that it doesn’t need to be the case. Carve out some time to think about what activities are most important to you and then try to see how you might delegate or put other tasks on the back burner for a while.
8. Reign in the cocktail hour
You’ll rarely hear me say that you have to avoid something completely in order to be healthy – particularly if that thing brings you a lot of joy and pleasure. With that said, it’s about being realistic. While low to moderate levels of alcohol don’t appear to have a great influence on energy levels, consuming large quantities of booze can impact sleep quality and duration which can affect your energy levels in the long run.
Discover our low and zero alcohol options.
9. Optimise your sleep cycles
Sleep is the only time of day that the body takes to restore many of its essential functions such as immunity, temperature regulation and hormonal balance that it relies on during the day. If these essential rejuvenating cycles aren’t happening, your energy levels during the day can suffer. While optimal sleep cycles vary according to age, The National Sleep Foundation suggests that between 7-9 hours is best for most adults. Too much more or less and it can start to impact your energy.
10. Don’t forget to laugh
While laughter is more of an indirect route to boosting your energy, it’s still a useful one. Laughing increases oxygen in the body, reduces feelings of stress and stimulates the release of feel good chemicals called endorphins, which can provide you with a quick sense of renewed energy.
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