16 ways to increase your energy

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

  1. Drink water. Dehydration can cause fatigue. Drink a glass of room temperature water when you first get up in the morning. Continue to drink water throughout the day aiming for about 80 ounces total.
  2. Limit caffeine. Consuming a small amount of caffeine can be an effective way to boost your energy. However, consuming a lot of caffeine can have the opposite effect. Large amounts of caffeine can cause fluctuations in blood sugar and dehydration.
  3. Limit sugar and other refined/simple carbohydrates (e.g. white flour, white rice). Sugar and simple carbohydrates cause your blood sugar to rise rapidly. The initial effect is increase energy, but that is short-lived. When your blood sugar comes back down, you'll be left feeling sluggish.
  4. Eat breakfast every day and don't forget to snack! Aim to eat something every 2-4 hours beginning with a nutrient-rich breakfast. Every meal and snack should include protein and complex carbohydrates. Don't skip breakfast or you'll set yourself up for low energy and cravings later in the day.
  5. Get some sleep. Have you ever noticed that going to bed late makes for a sleepy morning even if you got 8 hours of sleep? Try to get to bed by 10pm and sleep for 8 hours each night.
  6. Exercise regularly. Cardiovascular exercise is a great energy booster. Aim for 2-5 hours of cardiovascular exercise each week. Try cardio intervals if you're short on time.
  7. Manage your stress. Write a list of your favorite ways to nurture yourself (e.g. get a massage, take a bubble bath, go for a walk) and pull out your list when you need to decompress.
  8. Find some downtime every day. Even if it means getting up a few minutes earlier than everyone else in your house, take some time to really relax. Don't read email, don't write to-do lists. Do something that truly feels like downtime.
  9. Make sure that you're getting enough iron. Eat lots of leafy greens (especially spinach), pumpkin seeds, soy and other beans, tofu, tempeh, lentils, hemp seeds, blackstrap molasses, and sesame seeds. To increase iron absorption, include foods that contain vitamin C with your iron-rich foods (e.g. oranges, strawberries, red bell peppers, broccoli).
  10. Make sure you're getting your B vitamins. If you're vegan, you'll especially need to watch B12. Good sources of B vitamins include: nutritional yeast, fortified products such as soy milk and cereals, beans, tempeh, lentils, brewer's yeast, and molasses.
  11. Increase your intake of magnesium-rich foods. This includes nuts (especially almonds and cashews), soy beans, spinach, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, artichokes, black beans, and fortified cereals.
  12. Include probiotics in your diet. Probiotics are the "living cultures" in yogurt and they help to maintain intestinal health and have been credited with other benefits from strengthening the immune system to preventing colon cancer. In addition to yogurt and soy yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, and kombucha (fermented tea) also contain probiotics. They are also available in supplement form- look for one that must be refrigerated.
  13. Eat lots of fiber. High-fiber foods help you to feel fuller longer than low-fiber foods. They help to maintain blood sugar and act as a broom to keep the intestinal track moving. Fiber helps to lower cholesterol and prevent constipation, diverticulosis, and colon cancer. Eat lots of whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, breads and cereals (check bread and cereal labels- not all are high in fiber), fruits and veggies, beans, lentils, ground flax seeds, oat bran, and nuts and seeds. Don't let TV commercials fool you- it is easy to get plenty of fiber from the foods that we eat and no fiber "supplement" is necessary!
  14. Get your vitamin D by spending time in the sun. The best way to get enough vitamin D is by exposing your skin to sunlight. When you spend adequate time in the sun, your body manufactures enough vitamin D (sunlight is a great mood booster too). Try to spend a few minutes a day in the sun without sunscreen. Some breads, cereals, and milks (dairy and non-dairy) are fortified with vitamin D as well.
  15. Include foods rich in omega 3s in your daily diet. Vegetarian sources include ground flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, hemp seeds, canola oil, tofu, and walnuts. Omega 3s help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, improve mood, and reduce inflammation.
  16. Try 1 teaspoon of gelatinized maca each day. Maca is an herbal supplement that is made from the root of a plant in Peru. It is said to increase energy and stamina. Please also note that it is claimed to be a libido enhancer. Don't say that I didn't warn you about that last part! You can get maca in capsule or powder form. Look for "gelatinized" (not related to gelatin) as it is the most absorbable. The powder can be added to a smoothie or other beverage or can be stirred into hot cereal.

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