Energy! That elusive ‘thing’ we all wish we had more of. Do you ever see a child running around for no reason and think to yourself, “I wish I had that kind of energy”? I’m here to share with you five very simple ways that you can look after and improve your energy levels. And when you have more energy, everything is easier.
It’s amazing that something as simple as drinking water can help to improve your energy levels. When you are dehydrated, fatigue can quickly set in, so it’s important to avoid dehydration and stay hydrated throughout the day. A general rule is that you should be drinking 500ml water per 25kg of body weight, so for example if you weight 75kg you should be drinking 1.5L water per day. Add an extra 500ml water (at least) onto this on days you exercise, or if you’re in a particularly warm climate.
Perhaps an easier way to monitor your hydration is to make sure your urine is light in colour – the darker it is, the more dehydrated you are.
Obviously, sleep affects your energy levels. The good news is – there is plenty you can do to improve your sleep quality! Going to bed at a reasonable time and trying to get eight hours of sleep each night is a good start. Avoiding screen time (computers, phones, tv, etc) for 30-60 minutes before bed is also going to make a big difference. The artificial light from screens messes with your sleep-wake rhythm and is very confusing to your body, and can not only make it harder to fall asleep but also impact the quality of that sleep, thereby leaving you feeling unrefreshed in the morning.
Another thing that has a big effect on sleep quality is alcohol (sorry, I know you didn’t want to hear this!). Alcohol can often put you to sleep faster, so you might think that it is good for sleep – but it actually reduces your sleep quality and depth. Throughout the night, you cycle through different stages of sleep, some are a deeper sleep and some are lighter. Alcohol consumption can actually prevent you from reaching or staying in the deeper stages of sleep. This ultimately means less restorative sleep and you wake up feeling less refreshed. So minimise your alcohol intake to improve your sleep quality and increase your energy levels the following day.
Iron – The Fatigue Fighter
You might already know that iron is super important for energy production and if you are low in iron, you’ll often feel quite fatigued and low in energy. You might also feel irritable, suffer from dizziness or light-headedness, breathlessness, heart palpitations, or look more pale than usual. If you think you might have iron deficiency, speak to your doctor about getting a blood test. The “normal” range for iron can be as low as 5-30umol/L, but the optimal range is 25-30umol/L. So if you have a blood test and your doctor says there’s no issue with your iron levels, ask what the value is and make sure it’s closer to optimal, because there’s a wide scope between 5-25 where you might be classed as having “normal” iron levels but it’s still affecting your energy levels because it’s not at optimal levels.
Dietary sources of iron include: lean meats (esp. red meats), liver, eggs, green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach, kale), wheat germ, whole grain breads and cereals, raisins and molasses.
Stress & Caffeine
I guess I talk about stress a lot, but the truth is it has such a huge impact on our health it is impossible to ignore. When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands work really hard to produce cortisol (stress hormone) to help you cope with the stress. After long periods of stress, your adrenal glands can get over-worked, and this constant production of cortisol is exhausting in it’s own right. Sometimes your adrenal glands might struggle to continue producing cortisol, and so low cortisol starts to contribute to your low energy levels. The important thing here is that you start managing your stress in healthy ways, take time out for relaxation and rest, and look after your adrenal glands so that they can keep functioning the way they need to.
Caffeine stimulates production of cortisol (stress hormone). If you’re using caffeine to wake up or stay away during the day, your cortisol levels and adrenal gland health is definitely contributing to your low energy – it’s a never-ending cycle. If you’re also using alcohol to relax of an evening, you’re just adding more stress to your adrenals and stress response. Take care of your adrenal glands first, by managing your stress in a healthy way. You will find that your energy levels naturally improve by doing so, and your reliance on coffee and alcohol will greatly reduce.
Yes, I know, when your energy levels are at zero it can be really hard to get up and exercise. But I’m not asking you to go for a run, simply moving your body is enough to improve your energy. Some ideas of low-intensity, low-effort exercises:
- walk around the block for 5 minutes
- dance around the house to one of your favourite songs (bonus points if you sing along too)
- practice a few simple yoga postures
- lie down and stretch your muscles (yes, this counts! Try it, you’ll feel better afterwards)
It’s not necessary, but doing any of the exercises outside is a faster way to increase your energy levels than inside – and being outside will also help to reduce stress and balance cortisol levels (discussed above). It doesn’t take a long time, and it doesn’t have to be a full ‘workout’, but moving your body and preferably getting outside while you do it is a great, immediate way to increase your energy levels. Make it part of your daily routine and notice how much of a difference it makes to the rest of your day.
So as you can see, healthy energy levels don’t have to be something you ‘wished you had’! These five simple tips will have you running around in circles in no time at all (though it’s probably not as socially acceptable for adults as it is for kids). Drink more water, improve your sleep quality, eat iron-rich foods, reduce your stress levels and move your beautiful body – you’ll thank yourself for it!