Natural Energy Boosters
You want to keep on top of work but maintain a fun social life and keep the home looking pristine all while looking after yourself and your family. Life is thrilling but draining and feeling tired has simply become the norm. If living worry-free on the beach all year round isn’t an option for you, we’ve created a roundup of the best ways to bring a little buzz back into our lives and boost our energy levels!
First things first, let's cover the basics. Lack of sleep = lack of energy. There is no way around that simple fact, even plying yourself with espressos and energy drinks can’t change it. The ideal sleep time for most people is 7-9 hours a night, but it’s not just the time that matters, quality is just as important. Studies have shown that sleeping for 8 hours from 10PM is better for our brain and body than the same length of sleep from 1AM, as we are still tied into the cycle of the sun.
Light plays a key role in our circadian rhythm, the internal clock, it helps us to feel sleepy and energised at the right times during the day. You may have heard the concerns that blue light at night impairs sleep, however that’s only one part of the puzzle. We can’t simply avoid light at night, we need to seek it out during the day, particularly mornings. Getting morning light is one of the simple but effective ways you can improve your energy, try to add in a 15 minute walk in the morning before work or have your morning tea in your garden or by an open window.
It’s a vicious cycle you feel tired so you don’t exercise, and not exercising makes you more tired! Movement helps us to release happy hormones and keep our bodies calmer to allow our nervous system to function optimally. It doesn’t need to be high intensity workouts, as these can actually worsen fatigue, instead opt for brisk walking, swimming and yoga.
Stress is draining in every way! Our stress response mobilises the body’s energy stores in order to respond to a perceived danger, leaving our energy supplies low and resulting in a crash. When stress is ongoing our body doesn’t have the chance to rebuild our energy reserves and this results in ongoing fatigue. Stress management techniques are a great way to keep this in check, some activities include breathing exercises, mindful colouring and walks in nature.
B vitamins are key for our nervous system, they are essential for processing carbohydrates, fats and proteins to create energy. Some great sources are wholegrains, eggs, lentils, meat, fish and various vegetables, however some B vitamins, primarily B12, are only found in sources of animal origin and may require supplementation in those following a vegan or plant based diet.
Another vitamin vital for energy production is vitamin C that supports the conversion of food into energy. We can find it in a variety of food sources such as broccoli, peppers, kale and citrus fruits.
A lack of iron in the diet can reduce energy levels as we need to to carry oxygen to the cells in our body, weak cells create a tired body. In cases of iron-deficiency anaemia the symptoms are feelings of sluggishness, weakness and an inability to focus, however even mild cases of low iron can reduce energy levels. Iron is particularly high in organ meats and oyster but quality plant-based sources are tofu and lentils.
Imbalanced blood sugar is often the cause of the afternoon slump, causing cravings and low mood alongside tiredness. When we eat a carbohydrate rich meal or snack, the sugar is quickly absorbed into our bloodstream creating a burst of energy followed by a crash. The best thing to do here is balance your meals by ensuring simple carbohydrates are accompanied by a protein source, fibre and fat. For example, if your breakfast is toast with jam, swap that for toast with eggs and sauteed vegetables.
The gut is responsible for breaking down food and extracting the nutrients that provide us with energy, so it’s unsurprising that your gut needs to be in a healthy state in order to do this. Everyone has different requirements to optimise their gut health, but a good starting point is to include live bacteria in the diet, in the form of sauerkraut and kefir, and keep a varied diet with 30 different plant foods consumed each week. Plant foods include fresh fruits and vegetables but also wholefoods such as chickpeas, lentils and brown rice.
Low energy makes it tempting to reach for stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol however these can worsen our energy levels in the long run. For example, caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands, which are responsible for creating hormones in the body, making energy levels fluctuate even more. Opt for non-alcoholic and decaffeinated options which can satisfy the urge without disrupting energy levels.
There are various herbs and mushrooms that can support energy levels, our favourites are ashwagandha and cordyceps. Ashwagandha, an adaptogenic herb, has long been used to increase energy levels as an Ayuervedic medicine practice. In the fungal world, cordyceps are used to increase energy in muscles to support energy levels during exercise. These herbs and mushrooms can be taken in supplement form or in drinks mixed with cacao or coffee to combine the benefits.