It’s natural to have highs and lows, but if you’re feeling drained all the time, here’s what you need to know.
It’s completely normal for energy levels to fluctuate throughout the day, but if it feels impossible to get out of bed every morning, or you just can’t get through the afternoon without a double espresso, tweaking lifestyle factors like diet and exercise can go a long way towards ensuring better balance.
Eat your energy
One of the simplest ways of maximising your energy is to make sure that you keep your blood sugar levels balanced throughout the day. According to registered dietician Lila Bruk, it’s a good idea to have regular snacks throughout the day, ideally eating every two and a half to four hours. Healthy, energy-boosting snacks include whole wheat crackers with cottage cheese, fresh fruit and yoghurt, seed bread with peanut butter, biltong and raw, unsalted nuts and low GI muesli.
If you’re looking to beat the afternoon slump, Bruk suggests lunch options like chicken salad, low GI bread sandwich with chicken and avo, tuna salad with baby potatoes or a whole-wheat pita with feta, hummus and roast veggies. A B-complex supplement is a natural energy booster, so consider adding one to your diet. Being well-hydrated also helps to improve energy levels, but if you don’t like drinking water, Bruk suggests setting small goals, like 100 ml every two hours, so that by the end of the day you’ve reached two litres. She explains that the majority of the body’s processes require water to function, so without enough water, digestion is slowed down and the metabolism is not able to function optimally.
While it may feel like the last thing you feel like at the end of a long day, regular exercise can actually help to boost energy levels. Susan Johnston, director at Vivendi Wellness, explains that while it may be tough at first, regular exercise teaches our bodies to be more efficient in how much energy we use and so, with time, stamina and the ability to recover quickly from an exercise session improves. Another benefit, says Johnston, is that active people tend to sleep better at night. “Good quality sleep improves overall wellness and can lower stress levels.
As well as these benefits, exercise improves your mood and sense of well-being, allowing you to feel better and more relaxed,” she says. If you’d like to incorporate exercise into your routine, but don’t know where to start, Johnston suggests starting off with an easy pace and increasing the intensity as and when your body can handle it. “Doing too much too soon can cause muscle strains, loss of lean tissue and plateaus in your fitness levels,” warns Johnston.
Also, it’s important to choose a form of exercise that excites and motivates you – try a hike in the forest, a fun Zumba class or a cycle with friends if a traditional workout doesn’t appeal to you. “At the end of the day, any form of activity that gets you moving, gets your heart rate up, and makes you feel happy to be exercising, is the one you should choose. Try out a few different types and find the one that suits you best. That in itself will give you energy and motivation to exercise,” says Johnston.
Master your mornings
While lifestyle choices certainly contribute to healthy energy levels, new research shows that your genes determine whether you’re a morning person, or if you’re someone who has to continuously hit the snooze button.
A study published in the journal Nature Communications earlier this year, found that a person’s tendency to rise early, or stay up late at night, comes down to particular genes. Interestingly, the study found that women and adults over the age of 60 are most likely to be morning people, and that there are a number of health benefits to possessing the “morning” genes.
If you struggle to get up in the mornings, try and let in some natural light – open your curtains early, or sleep with them slightly open. It also helps to stick to a consistent sleep schedule so that your body gets used to the routine. Good quality sleep is essential to maintaining healthy energy levels throughout the day, so make it a priority by allowing yourself time to wind down in the evenings, take time out from digital devices and stay away from caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.