Do you often feel sluggish during the day? It might be time to give your energy level a tune-up.
Your body requires energy to function. How much energy you have available depends on several factors, including:
The amount and kinds of food you eat
How efficiently you convert food into energy
How your body uses and stores energy
The quantity and quality of your sleep
Your mental and emotional states also play a role in your energy level. For example, if you're worried or bored, you may feel fatigued even when you're sleeping and eating well. In the same way, poor diet or poor sleep habits promote stress.
To keep your energy level at its peak, adopt a schedule of daily maintenance that will provide your body with what you need, when you need it. Consume just enough food to meet your body's demands and follow through with regular activity and rest to use that energy efficiently.
These strategies will help you keep your energy level in balance.
Fuel Up Often
"Energize yourself by eating small, frequent meals instead of a few larger ones," says Kathleen Zelman, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "Big, heavy meals slow you down while your body digests all that food."
In contrast, eating smaller, healthy meals distributes energy calories more evenly and keeps your blood sugar normal throughout the day.
One simple strategy: Split breakfast and lunch into two meals each. You might kick-start your morning with a high-fiber cereal, skim milk and juice — then, a couple of hours later, eat a small muffin and a piece of fruit. At lunch, save your yogurt or part of your salad for later in the day.
If you need a pick-me-up, beware of simple sugars, such as candy — they give a quick boost but quickly let you down.
When you drink coffee or colas, alternate them with water or other caffeine-free fluids.
Choose to Use It
"Exercise conditions the body to build up stores of available energy. That means you can perform longer and better, whether you're writing a report, playing sports or washing the car," says David Armayor, a personal trainer at the Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas.
Exercise also helps you maintain a higher rate of metabolism, so you use energy more efficiently.
For peak energy, do strength training and stretching exercises several times a week, and get 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity three to four times a week.
Give It a Rest
"If you're not getting adequate sleep, you won't have enough energy to get through the day," says Gary Zammit, Ph.D., director of the Sleep Disorders Institute in New York City.
Devise a sleep strategy based on regular sleep periods that begin and end at the same times each day. If you're constantly napping or struggling to stay awake, you're probably sleep-deprived.
Quality of sleep is also important. If you're sleeping eight or more hours and still feel tired or sluggish, you may have a sleep disorder that prevents your body from getting the rest it needs.
Recharge Your Spirit
"Start your day with a flow of positive energy," says Mary Finn Maples, Ph.D., professor of counseling and educational psychology at the University of Nevada in Reno.
While you're still in bed, "take a couple of minutes to focus on your plans for the day," Dr. Maples advises. "Consider what you need to do and what you want to do — then strike a balance. Save some time for spiritual reflection or prayer."
Try to see the useful side of any problems or challenges that arise. "It doesn't take any more energy to think positively than negatively," Dr. Maples says.