This is a topic that I get asked about quite a bit as it seems that most people struggle with finding enough energy to “get through the day.” Although, I happen to believe you should be doing far more than just getting through the day, I totally understand why people feel this way. Of course there are so many reasons why people feel tired or lack energy, but I hope this blog post can get to some of the reasons why this happens and of course look at how you can boost energy naturally and effectively.
Five Ways to Boost Energy Naturally:
Ditch the refined/white carbs and sugar: Simple carbohydrates like white pasta/rice/bread as well as those that are found in sugary drinks (such as energy drinks!), cookies, and other white flour products can leave you feeling sluggish. Unfortunately, these types of food can lead to insulin resistance which happens when your body is inefficient at managing sugars and starches. Initially, this is because your body is releasing too much insulin for the amount of carbohydrates consumed and this extra insulin ends up processing sugar too rapidly and blood glucose levels dip, this is called hypoglycemia (or low blood sugar). This adds stress to your body and causes the production of hormones like cortisol (the stress hormone) which then increases blood sugar levels. As this carbohydrate intolerance worsens, more and more insulin is needed to process a small amount of sugar. The insulin can eventually become ineffective at driving the sugar into your cells and the cells become resistant to insulin. This is why so many people feel drained after having a lot of refined carbs quite frequently. Insulin resistance can lead to a whole host of problems like weight gain, diabetes, brain fog, bloating and yes a lack of energy or sleepiness after a meal.
What to do instead: Eat more complex carbs instead of refined ones, like whole grains (think brown rice, quinoa, millet and other gluten free grains), or starchy vegetables like squash or sweet potato. These will help to stabilize your blood sugar level and keep your energy sustained for longer periods of time rather than the crash of energy you experience after eating those cookies.
Get More Rest and Better Sleep: This almost seems too simple to include here, but unfortunately it needs to be re-stated for the simple fact that people aren’t just not only getting enough sleep, but the sleep they are getting is not of good quality. I have to first give a huge thanks to the woman who is leading the sleep revolution, Ariana Huffington. When I read her book a couple of years ago, many of the concepts were new to me and it totally made me re-prioritize my sleep schedule and how I set up my bedroom. I am nowhere near where Ms. Huffington is, but its progress! Here are some simple tips that you can start to incorporate now to get a better quality sleep (note- this could be a whole other blog post entirely!).
First, I have to point out the misconception that people seem to have regarding getting less sleep so that they can get “more things done,” however when we forego getting adequate zzzzz’s we are essentially sleep deprived and in fact will get less things done, or make more mistakes along the way. So the whole culture surrounding giving yourself a pat on the back for getting so much work done, all while you’re killing yourself on 5-6 hours of sleep every night NEEDS TO STOP! That is not enough sleep for anyone, and if you need a clear example of this, I can’t think of anyone better than this guy, not trying to be political here- but seriously, I can’t think of a more clear case of sleep deprivation.
Research shows that with sleep deprivation, our cognitive functions are impaired (so we can overreact), our emotional intelligence is degraded (hello irritability) and how this is linked to mental health problems and depression. So now that we understand why sleep is important, how do we ensure we are getting a good quality sleep.
- Turn off your smartphone: The need to constantly be connected, know what is going on and be on social media is hurting our relationship with sleep. So many people sleep next to their phones and if they wake up in the middle of the night, they check their phone just to see what is going on and this ends up disrupting our sleep even more. The blue light from your phone makes it harder to readjust and get back to sleep. You can turn this off (if you have an iPhone- you can adjust it from your settings, then display & brightness section and even set it so that it turns off the blue light after a certain time). Even better, don’t have your cellphone in your bedroom at all so this way you are not distracted at all and you can focus solely on catching your zzzzz’s.
- Unwind: Whatever you need to do before bed to unwind, do it. If you had a particularly stressful day, a good idea is to journal about it, this way you can get out your stress and anxiety on paper so that you are not left stewing on it before bed. Or drink an herbal tea that can help get you in the mood for bedtime, a brand that I love is this one.
- Take a bath: Taking a relaxing bath with dead sea salt is a great way to relax before bed. The magnesium from the salts can help to relax your body and mind and help promote a more restful sleep as well. When I do enjoy a bath, I love using this brand for their salts and this one is great for a post workout bath that helps relax you.
- Actually get to bed: About a half hour to an hour before bed, it is a good idea to prepare to go to bed and turn off your cell phone so that you aren’t distracted. Having a nighttime routine can be just the thing you need to help get you ready to go to sleep and keep you relaxed and put you in the mood for a good nights sleep.
Eat more veggies (especially greens): Its true what they say, you are what you eat. So if you sit and eat a bag of chips, you are gonna feel like a bag of chips, whereas when you incorporate live foods into your diet, you are going to feel alive. Your digestion also takes up a lot of energy naturally and if you want to save yourself a little bit of energy, try incorporating green juices into your diet every now and then. I am not one of those people that necessarily promote juice cleanses as a way to detox simply because I think the jury is still out on that one. However, incorporating green juices into your diet is a great way to not only flood your body with tons of veggies, but it also gives your digestive system a break as well. When you juice, you are removing the fibre, so your body doesn’t need to work as hard to digest everything and instead your cells can essentially just soak up all of that goodness coming from the veggies. Now, notice how I am promoting green juices, not ones with tons of fruit in them because those can spike your blood sugar and that won’t lead to increased energy. Last, I am recommending green juices because this is often times an easier way for people to get in lots of greens, but by all means if you want to make a big green salad go right ahead! Just aim to eat more greens and other living foods, you will find that this gives you a boost of natural energy.
Move your body: So the last thing you want to do when you are feeling exhausted is work out or exercise, I totally get it because I have been there. But, working out or just moving your body can actually give you more energy. This doesn’t mean you have to go sweat it out at Soul Cycle (but if you do, then by all means go ahead) but that is not what works for a lot of people, especially those that are feeling tired all the time or are stressed out or anxious. High impact exercises can be more stressful on some people and work the opposite way they need them to work, because of their stressed out adrenals. This will cause more harm than good, so maybe you need to take it slow and just get outside and go for a walk. If the weather is decent, getting outside in nature can prove to be relaxing and calming and combine that with a brisk or leisurely walk and you have got a recipe for success. Also, for those feeling tired and lacking energy, you can aim to just get in 15-20 minutes of exercise a day and that might be enough for you when just starting out. If you are feeling particularly drained, yoga (especially a restorative type) can be highly beneficial to relieve stress and move your body. This could even help your sleep, which as we know is a great way to boost your energy! If you are sitting all day at work, get up and just walk around for a bit.
Ditch the caffeine/energy drinks: I saved this one for last because I know it will definitely cause a lot of panic for some people who are addicted to their coffee. The problem is not the occasional cup of coffee here or there, the problem is using coffee as a way to feel energized and relying on it throughout the day to stay awake. Caffeine can stress out the adrenal glands which are hugely important in helping our bodies deal with stress. The adrenals also produce hormones that help the body control blood sugar, burn protein and fat, react to stressors like a major illness or injury, and regulate blood pressure. If you want to read even more about how caffeine from coffee stresses out your adrenals and can lead to adrenal fatigue and thus a HUGE lack of energy, have a look at this article.
What to reach for instead? Rather than relying on coffee throughout the day, try having a smoothie, or herbal tea to help with your energy levels, I especially love incorporating matcha tea every now and then and add it to my smoothies or make a latte out of it with dairy free milk. Although matcha still contains caffeine it is less of a stimulant than coffee so it is easier on your adrenals, however I still would not overdo it with anything that contains caffeine, including matcha even with all of those amazing antioxidants.
How about a recipe for an amazing breakfast that will give you a boost of clean energy that will last all morning. It includes one of my favourite energizing foods, chia seeds and you can read all about them in this post!
For my recipe on making your own homemade hemp milk, please see this post.
Hope you enjoy it!
- 4 tbsp. chia seeds
- 3/4 cup dairy free milk (I use my homemade hemp milk + 1 tbsp raw cacao powder)
- 1/2 banana
- Berries of your choice
- Nut butter of your choice (I like hazelnut or almond)
- Cacao nibs or nuts of your choice (walnuts are good)
- Coconut flakes
- Make your chocolate milk by using my hemp milk recipe plus adding 1 heaping tbsp. of raw cacao powder.
- Mix your chia seeds with the milk and stir in a big bowl.
- Refrigerate overnight or for at least 20 minutes.
- Add your toppings to the chia bowl and eat!