Some people are naturally energetic – they bounce out of bed in the morning, don’t rely on caffeine to power through the day and are generally optimistic. Then there’s those people, like most, who snooze their alarms, drink coffee like it’s on its way out and moan and groan all day about being exhausted. Interestingly, it doesn’t have to be like this – with the right habits in place we too can be overflowing with energy.
We chatted to Stephen Eddey, principal of Health Schools Australia and qualified nutritionist and naturopath to find out how.
1. Listen to your body
The key to feeling energetic is knowing your limits and making healthy choices, he says. If you’ve had a stressful day and are feeling run down, spending the night tucked up on the couch might be just what the doctor ordered. Don’t “push yourself to run errands that really can wait,” he urges. “Relaxing when you need to will assist with a deeper sleep and see you waking up the next day refreshed rather than drained.”
2. Plan your snacks
We’ve all heard the saying that if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. Stephen agrees with this: “You will feel much more energised during the day when you sustain your body with the right food. You may aim to have healthy meals but often when that mid-morning or 3pm craving hits, people reach for the most convenient – often a highly processed and packaged – option.”
Instead, pack some fruit and a handful of nuts to eat when you’re feeling peckish rather than reaching for that convenient packet of chips or chocolate bar, he insists. “You will feel the difference.”
3. Get enough sleep
We’re forever being told to get enough sleep, however a lot of us tend to ignore it then wonder why we’re always so tired. “It’s important to be getting at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night,” encourages Stephen. “Waking up well rested makes it easier to get out of bed without hitting the snooze button three times, and that motivation and enthusiasm will continue throughout the morning if your body has had the time it needed to rejuvenate.”
If you struggle to unwind at night, it might be worth considering a bedtime routine such as relaxing with a warm chamomile tea or switching off electronics an hour before you go to sleep. Creating positive feng shui within your home is also another option that’s often overlooked.
4. Set goals
When we’re productive, we’re generally a lot happier – and when we’re happier, we tend to be more energetic. Therefore, Stephen recommends that you give yourself something to work towards. “It’s much easier to stay energised when you’re busy and to stay busy in a productive way you need to set goals.”
The naturopath/nutritionist says your goals can be anything that you want to achieve, so maybe it’s getting up early once or twice a week to do a morning yoga class, or “hitting a sales target at work.” Regardless, ticking things off your to-do list provides a big rush of energy. Stephen explains: “Once you set these goals you can take small steps throughout the day to help make sure you achieve them and the sense of reward when you do can be an excellent energy booster.”
5. Load up on antioxidants
Antioxidants have a multitude of health benefits and getting your dose via a healthy diet can boost your energy levels. Health professional Stephen recommends eating foods rich in nutrients; so lots of dark leafy greens, berries, green tea and even some dark chocolate. Another powerful antioxidant the he suggests is Ubiquinol – the active and more bioavailable form of CoQ10. Found naturally in our bodies, Stephen says Ubiquinol helps to power the body’s cells and supports overall energy, however when we’re stressed these levels can decline and result in fatigue. The solution? “You may want to consult your healthcare professional and check your Ubiquinol levels.”
6. Walk more
Sometimes the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling exhausted is to do any physical activity, but Stephen says getting your blood pumping, even a brisk 10 minute walk will leave you feeling refreshed and better able to concentrate. “If you find yourself holding off yawns and staring at the clock, have a break and go for a quick walk.” He also recommends taking the stairs whenever possible and to “stand up and stretch your legs every hour or so.” Think of all that unintentional exercise you’ll be getting!
7. Get some sunshine
Vitamin D contributes to balancing mood and fatigue. While we do get it via some foods, the majority of it comes from sunlight. According to Stephen, Vitamin D is an important energy boosting vitamin that many of us are now deficient in. Spending a few minutes sitting in the sun and getting some fresh air will ultimately “boost your mood and revitalise your mind,” he says. Remember your sun safety however, ladies – always slip slop, slap!
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We all know that feeling in the morning when the alarm goes off and it seems like the hardest thing in the world to get up. After our morning coffee/tea/juice, we usually feel better. However, if that feeling of being tired and exhausted becomes constant and it seems as though nothing can make you feel better, it’s time to make some lifestyle changes.
The most obvious reason why you’re always tired is of course, lack of sleep. Research shows that people who get at least seven hours of sleep every night are much better at concentrating and are less moody than people who sleep say, six hours. So if you’ve been getting less than seven hours of sleep at night, this is the first and most important change that needs to happen: Go to bed earlier.
The second most likely reason why you’re tired is because you’re dehydrated. If you drink less than two litres of water per day, your blood will thicken and your heart will have to work harder. This results in fatigue, so make sure you keep on top of your water intake.
The third factor when it comes to tiredness is exercise. As absurd as it sounds, moving – even though it requires energy – will give you more energy in return. It’s for this reason that we feel so amazing after a workout, while sitting all day makes you feel exhausted even though you haven’t moved a finger.
If you are sleeping enough, drinking enough water, and exercising regularly but still can’t shake the fatigue, talk to your GP. A blood test might reveal a thyroid problem or an iron deficiency – both can easily be treated through medication and dietary changes.
Do you need an energy boost right now? Take a quick power nap! Just 30 minutes can help you restore your energy levels. Alternatively, get up from your chair and walk around the block making sure you take deep breaths in order to optimise oxygen levels in your blood.
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Are you lacking in energy, after juggling work/kids/home-life/personal commitments? Does your life feel like a marathon, from start to finish, each day?
If you answered yes, and you’re struggling to achieve a home/life balance, as I am, then it might be high time you looked at fine-tuning your diet. Never fear, help is at hand dear readers, thanks to well-regarded qualified, practicing nutritionist and passionate foodie, Jessica Cox (pictured).
Jessica is armed with a Bachelor of Health Science (Nutrition) and more than eight years of clinical experience. She is also the founder and business owner of the successful Jessica Cox Nutritionist Clinic (JCNC), based in Brisbane. She treats all health conditions, but specialises in ongoing digestive issues and food intolerances. And here, Jessica reveals her top tips on how we can all lead a healthier, more energised and balanced life.
Q: What are the easiest and best ways women can boost their energy?
The best possible way to boost your energy is to eat regular meals throughout the day which contain a balance of your macronutrients: this being carbohydrates, protein and fats. Most importantly, starting the day with a breakfast within the first 30 minutes of rising is ideal. If this is not possible, then grab a small snack (such as a banana) to see you through to your breakfast meal, in an hour’s time at the latest.
When you start the day with a well-balanced breakfast, it ensures that your blood-sugar levels remain stable instead of dropping quite low from the get-go. By following this breakfast with regular meals and snacks through your day, you continue to keep your blood-sugar levels stable and your cells sufficiently fuelled to keep you energised.
An example of a balanced meal for breakfast would be a piece of rye toast or a sweet potato rosti (starchy, slow release carbs), plus some baby spinach (non-starchy carbs full of nutrients, though not enough slow release energy on its own), a poached egg or some smoked salmon (protein and a little fat) and some avocado (more fats).
A sweet version may be oats (starchy, slow-release carbs) plus some chia seeds, almond meal and nut butter (protein and fats) and some fresh strawberries to top (non-starchy carbs full of nutrients, though not enough slow release energy on its own). If you would like more of a breakdown of what carbohydrates, protein and fat foods are you can check out my f.a.q section on my website.
What are the top 10, best energy-boosting foods and why?
Fundamentally, the best way to boost your energy is by adhering to the above. You can eat foods rich in B vitamins and magnesium to fuel your energy levels, yet if they are not combined with enough protein or quality fats to keep you going you will still end up feeling tired. That being said, some foods quite nutrient-dense that will facilitate quality energy levels when combined with a balanced diet are:
- Brazil nuts: Rich in selenium and an important nutrient for thyroid health.
- Pumpkin seeds: Rich in the mineral zinc which is vital for hundreds of enzyme functions within the body.
- Sardines: The fishy food everyone hates! Sardines are a powerhouse of essential fatty acids, protein, calcium and zinc. Try them in my artichoke and lemon sardine smash recipe, on my website!
- Oats: These contain slow-release carbohydrates which keep us going for hours, while being a plentiful supply of B vitamins, magnesium and zinc.
- Barley: Similar to oats, Barley is ideal coming into the colder weather and can be added to soups and stews. It contains plant-based iron for supporting red blood cells along with selenium.
- Red meat: Many of us are too afraid of red meat! Good-quality red meat is an abundant source of B12, Iron and B vitamins integral for red blood cell development.
- Avocado: Packed with B5 for supporting your adrenal glands and also plenty of quality fats for keeping your cell membranes healthy, avocados are a great superfood.
- Rainbow trout: Similar to salmon, trout is quite rich in omega fats, which helps keep your brain firing on all cylinders, while also being an abundant source of protein and B12.
- Sprouts: Think alfalfa, mung beans and broccoli sprouts; these little guys are jam-packed with nutrients and are an easy addition to any salad. They are also fantastic on top of peanut butter on toast!
- Tahini: What’s not to like about it? Filled with essential fats, protein and loads of calcium, this favourite spread of mine will nurture your nervous system and add a punch of creamy flavour to everything.
Bonus food – Eggs: Nature’s gift of perfection (unless you are intolerant, of course). Eggs are packed with lecithin to help support your nervous system and plenty of protein to keep you charged.
What do you think about restrictive diets? What diet is best for optimum health and energy?
Anyone who follows me on Instagram or Facebook knows I am 100 per cent against restrictive diets, inclusive of fad diets, no matter how healthy they appear on the surface. Any restrictive diet leads to an imbalance of macronutrient intake and often results in “falling off the wagon” as a result; people usually give in to their cravings for carbs, in most cases.
Even more worrying is the destructive food relationship that goes hand-in-hand with restrictive diets. They create anxiety and fear around food and a very unhealthy relationship with eating in general. Restrictive diets can also damage our metabolism and make it even harder to shift weight as we age.
Regular, balanced eating with meals containing your macronutrientsis, by far, the best diet for optimal health and energy. A very general rule of thumb (and please keep in mind that this changes depending on your personal needs) is to fill half your plate with fresh vegetables, 1/3 with protein, the other 1/3 with a complex carbohydrate and then add a few tablespoons of a fat (Try 1/4 avocado, or some lovely oil and/or some nuts and seeds). Then, make sure your morning tea and afternoon tea snacks have some protein within them, such as some nuts and seeds (or nut/seed butters), or cheese, yoghurt or even some fish or an egg.
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There’s no getting around the fact that starting your day with a nutritious breakfast is one of the best health decisions that you can make. Here’s some extremely important reasons why you should not avoid it:
Energise: Breakfast literally means ‘breaking your overnight fast’. By the time you wake up your body hasn’t had food for up to 10 hours, so it is important to refuel your body for another day. Only breakfast can provide you with the energy to kick start the day!
Perform better at work/school: Enjoying breakfast can help lift your mood and has been shown to help with improving concentration levels, behaviour and learning abilities in school children.
Keep on track with weight loss maintenance: Although many people skip breakfast in an effort to reduce their food intake and lose weight, research shows that enjoying a high fibre breakfast, may lead to eating less food later in the day.This is probably because, high fibre meals can be quite filling so you are less likely to snack on high fat and sugary foods mid-morning. In fact, eating breakfast is strongly associated with successful, well-maintained weight loss maintenance.
Get your essential nutrients first thing in the morning: People who skip breakfast generally find it difficult to achieve their daily nutrition requirements so it really is best to start packing in those nutrients early!
Here are some easy ideas to help you start your day the right way:
Breakfast ideas for those on-the-go:
- Peanut butter and banana on wholegrain toast or crispbread
- Low fat yoghurt sprinkled with natural muesli – you can make these the night before and store in airtight containers in the fridge and then have them on the move when needed
- A chilled liquid breakfast– try Sanitarium UP&GO Oats2Go, it is the only one on the market with a source of real wholegrain oats and it provides the protein, energy and dietary fibre of a bowl of oats and milk, is low in fat and low GI. A pack of three is available for $4.99 – if you break it down, that’s just $1.66 for one serving, substantially cheaper than a cup of coffee. Munch on a piece of fruit or some nuts when you get the chance too and you’ll be doing well!
- Fruit smoothie with low fat yoghurt and/or milk – again, you can make this in advance and simply pull one out of the fridge when you’re ready to leave.
For those with a bit more time in the morning:
- Baked beans on wholegrain toast
- Toasted wholegrain English muffin topped with ricotta cheese and sliced tomato or some chopped up fruit (a bit of apple with a dusting of cinnamon is nice)
- Weet-Bix or porridge topped with sliced banana and a little honey
Top tips thanks to Michelle Reid, accredited practising dietitian and nutritionist at Sanitarium.