Lifestyle Changes to Help Increase Energy
With the fast pace many people experience daily, most people would appreciate a little more energy in their lives. While there are stimulates that can increase energy, most lead to dependency, and their effects depreciate over time.
Take coffee, or caffeine, for example. Caffeine is perhaps the most common everyday stimulate and is very addictive and completely legal. According to the National Coffee Association (yes, that’s a thing), sixty-three percent of Americans drink coffee . While drinking one cup of coffee occasionally is completely fine, drinking multiple cups a day can lead to caffeine tolerance, which can lead to caffeine abuse  . Additionally, coffee consumption throughout the day can wreak havoc on one’s sleep cycle and natural body cycles  . Though coffee will always exist, it is best used as an occasional tool.
Nonetheless, there are several ways you can change your lifestyle and increase your energy levels naturally.
Have a Wholesome Diet
One of the substantial factors that drive an individual’s energy is their eating habits, and each component of the food pyramid has a purpose.
For example, proteins are the body’s building blocks and are used to build and repair tissues. Any extra protein you consume is used for energy. You can get protein from animal sources, e.g., seafood, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, or you can get it from plant sources, e.g., beans, peas, nuts, and seeds .
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy and encompass a wide array of foods, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, and sugars. It is much healthier to get your daily carbohydrate intake from non-processed sources, such as fresh grains, fruits, or vegetables . Refined carbohydrates, including white and processed bread, have been linked to inflammation and a variety of chronic conditions . Carbohydrates also supply fiber to the body. Fiber is a kind of carbohydrate that the body cannot process and is essential to help prevent stomach or intestinal problems, such as constipation .
Fats also give you energy and help the body absorb specific vitamins. Because the body does not make essential fatty acids, you have to get adequate amounts in your diet. Many foods have these fats, e.g., meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, nuts, avocados, and coconuts .
Having improper levels of these food groups can lead to decreased energy as the body does not have the nutrients to function correctly.
Further, studies have found that healthy nutritional habits decrease one’s risk of developing chronic diseases [8-10], and fresh, whole, and unprocessed foods have also been found to be superior to processed products .
If you eat a lot of processed foods, you likely have an unbalanced nutrient intake that is high in processed carbohydrates, sugar, and fat, which can cause fatigue and decreased overall health [12-13].
Also, if you skip a meal, it can further add to the nutrient imbalance and cause additional fatigue.
In a 2008 study, researchers found that skipping breakfast and eating meals irregularly are associated with the prevalence of fatigue , and a very restrictive diet can cause you to be deficient in an essential mineral, such as ion, which can affect energy levels .
Avoid Excess Sugar
A food high in sugar will give you a short-term energy boost, but it will wear off quickly .
This is because high-sugar food caused the body’s blood sugar to spike rapidly, resulting in the body’s significant release of insulin to bring the levels back to normal. This rise and fall mechanism is what causes a blood sugar crash, which is characterized by brain fog and decreased energy [17-19].
In a 2003 study, researchers studied this effect. They compared two groups’ breakfast and their corresponding energy levels . In the first group, the participants consumed a breakfast high in simple carbohydrates, and the second group ate a breakfast high in complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates breakdown into sugar quickly, whereas complex carbs are released more slowly into the bloodstream. The researchers found the complex carbohydrate breakfast compared favorably because participants had more energy and a higher degree of satiety .
Excess sugar in your diet can also increase your chance of chronic illnesses, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, so limiting sugar intake is not only suitable for your energy levels but also your overall health [21-22].
It is also crucial to note that sugar is highly addictive. In truth, several studies have found that sugar is more addictive than cocaine [23-25], so coming off of a high-sugar diet can be challenging, but simply switching out a sweet snack for fruit can, over time, have a cumulative effect and make a low-sugar diet doable .
Get Some Beauty Sleep
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), thirty-five percent of Americans do not receive the recommended seven hours of sleep , and sleep deficiency is linked to many chronic health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, depression, and of course, decreased energy  .
A 2004 study investigated the connection between mental fatigue, work, and sleep and noted the straightforward conclusion, “Disturbed sleep is an important predictor of fatigue, apparently stronger than previously well-established predictors such as work load [sic], female gender, lack of exercise, etc [sic]” . Additional studies have come to supplementary conclusions [31-33].
Seven hours of sleep a night is the recommended amount, though depending on lifestyles, some people require a little more or less. If you usually cannot fall asleep quickly, try doing something relaxing before you go to bed, such as taking a shower or bath or reading a book. Also, if you cannot fall asleep, do not force yourself. Get up and do a repetitive task for a little bit, such as light cleaning or folding socks, and when you begin to feel tired, then try again.
You should also avoid using your cell phone or watching television before going to bed. These screens emit a large amount of blue light, which the body associates with daylight, and this can disturb the body’s natural sleep cycle. A 2016 meta-analysis investigated this phenomenon and found that using these devices before bed was associated with inadequate sleep quality, poor sleep quality, and excessive daytime sleepiness .
Limit Alcohol and Avoid Smoking
Drinking alcohol can lead to tiredness since alcohol is a sedative . Studies have found that drinking alcohol before bed can interfere with sleep quality and cause you to feel tired and sluggish the next day [36-37]. Alcohol is also a diuretic, which can cause you to have to pee in the middle of the night, which disturbs sleep.
Additionally, smoking is perhaps one of the worst things you can do for health, since smoking significantly increases one’s chance of developing numerous health conditions, including lung cancer and heart disease. Because smoking causes tar buildup in the lungs, this can decrease oxygen flow in the body, which can make someone tired [38-39]. A 1993 study even found the best way that someone who smokes can increase their energy levels is to stop smoking .
Regular and consistent training is probably one of the most underrated ways to increase energy levels, especially if you live a sedentary lifestyle and sit for long periods [41-42]. This paradox may seem counterintuitive because when you are tired, exercise is probably the last thing you want to do. However, you do not have to partake in a high-intensity activity to experience these benefits.
In a 2008 randomized, controlled trial, researchers investigated the effects of exercise training on feelings of energy and fatigue in sedentary adults and found, “Six weeks of low and moderate exercise training performed by sedentary adults without a well-defined medical condition or an unexplained fatigue syndrome but reporting persistent feelings of fatigue resulted in similar beneficial effects on feelings of energy. The effects for symptoms of fatigue were moderated by exercise intensity, and the more favorable outcome was realized with low-intensity exercise” . Therefore, even if you feel fatigued, exercising can help increase energy levels.
A 1987 study investigated the difference in energy benefits of getting a snack versus moderate exercise and found “walking was associated with higher self-rated energy and lower tension significantly more than was snacking” . This indicates merely going on a brisk, ten-minute walk can increase energy levels.
Stress can come from a variety of factors, and increased stress can affect physical and mental health. Also, feeling stressed is closely related to tiredness [45-46]. Therefore, doing something relaxing, such as going on a walk in the park or reading, can decrease stress levels, which can increase energy levels .
I have examined ways to decrease stress in several articles, including “Cortisol’s Effects and How to Reduce it Naturally,” “CBD: What Does the Research Say?”, “GABA: What Is It and What Does It Do?”, so if you are interested in lowering your stress levels, I would recommend checking out those articles.
As much as we wish that there is a single pill that would increase my energy without any side effects, there is not. Nonetheless, there are beneficial lifestyle changes we can all adapt and integrate into our daily routine, such as having a wholesome diet, avoiding excess sugar, getting proper amounts of sleep, limiting alcohol and smoking, exercising, and lowering stress levels.
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