Wouldn’t it be nice to work in a culture that believed “nap time” should be adhered to even after kindergarten? Latin countries get it right with daily siestas; unfortunately, that’s not an option for the US workforce.
“Before turning to food, there are a number of things you can do for a lift,” says Suzanne Forsberg, RD/LD, with St. John Healthy Lifestyles.
“Stand up, place arms over your head, and stretch while taking deep breaths: This will help oxygenate your body and brain. And try laughing,” she continues. “A good laugh is like your heart is jogging. Laughing reduces stress hormones, changes our perspectives, and connects us with others.”
Here are some other easy ways to ward off energy lulls in your day.
Drink more water. According to Dr. Shawna McCalip, a physician with Utica Park Clinic, the first thing to do for fatigue is make sure you are hydrated.
“Most people do not drink enough water,” says McCalip. “Getting into the habit of having a refillable water bottle with you at all times greatly increases the likelihood that you will drink more fluids.”
Eat throughout the day. Instead of eating three large meals, eat small meals throughout the day. This will help keep your blood sugar stabilized and provide energy in a more consistent way. McCalip and Forsberg agree that intake of caffeine and chocolate should be limited. Both energize and sharpen the mind – temporarily; however, they recommend portion control because of caffeine/sugar highs and lows and the energy roller coaster that follows.
Eat smart. McCalip recommends that meals be made up of low-fat items, complex carbs and a protein source.
“Think an apple and string cheese or Greek yogurt with a few tablespoons of nuts,” says McCalip.
Get up and move. While it may feel counterintuitive to exercise when fatigued, it can actually release endorphins and flood your body with much-needed oxygen. Just five minutes of revved up activity will leave you energized and focused.
“Hit the stairs, do wall push-ups, walk around the parking lot or simply stand up and sit down several times in your chair,” advises Forsberg.
Steer clear of energy drinks. “Energy drinks have been linked to a number of serious complications including an increased risk of heart attack and stroke – even among young and healthy individuals,” warns McCalip. “Other side effects are jittery sensations, diarrhea, nausea, palpitations and irregular heartbeat and lightheadedness.”
Take your vitamins. While there is no direct evidence of increased energy with vitamins such as B12, anecdotal stories abound.
“Vitamin supplements in moderation are potentially beneficial and are not dangerous,” says McCalip. “However, the practice of ‘loading up’ with large doses of vitamins doesn’t increase health or improve energy. What it does do is create expensive urine as your body filters out the excess.”
If all else fails, try re-fueling.
“Snacks are usually high in sugar, fat and salt, so I avoid typical snack foods. I like to think of a boost as ‘fuel’ for my body,” says Forsberg. “So I choose between eating a honey straw (15 calories), eating a 500-milligram chewable vitamin C tablet (15 calories each; limit two daily); or eating a glucose tablet (15 calories), followed by a 16-ounce cup of water.”
Bottom line: The keys to increasing energy include staying hydrated, steering clear of high-fat/high-sugar foods, and exercising – just 20 minutes a day can make a significant difference in your health and energy.