Five Ways to Boost Your Energy
Don't Let the Season Bring You Down
Winter has a unique knack when it comes to our health. It provides the perfect cocktail for infection: frigid temperatures, sealed buildings, sneezing, coughing, cold & flu viruses. Winter also seems to work at systematically draining our energy at every turn.
Maybe it’s the lack of sunlight, change in diet, reduced outdoor physical activity or a combination of the three but it seems that all of us need a boost to our outlook and energy.
Tweak What You Eat
For many of us each day starts with a "cup of joe". However, if you are feeling tired, you should cut back on the coffee. Sure food and drinks containing caffeine (chocolate, coffee, tea, etc) will give you a bit of a boost, but they are not recommended as a long-term solution for low energy. Although coffee will give you a boost, you will feel even more tired after the effects have worn off as your body will miss the stimulant. This will make you crave another cup of coffee to further boost your energy levels, creating a vicious cycle.
A better solution than caffeine is eating slow-release carbohydrates for breakfast to boost your energy levels throughout the day. Try eating porridge, a fresh fruit salad or a whole grain breakfast cereal ( low in sugar) to keep you going til lunchtime.
Everyone knows that exercise is good for us and most of us also know that we could benefit from increasing our level of physical fitness. Unfortunately it is quite difficult to find the motivation and resolve to get up and head outside to the gym, especially when we feel run -down before we head out the door. In fact, exercising is the very thing that will improve your energy and resolve.
Exercise has a significant impact on the body and the brain as it boosts our levels of endorphins, the chemicals the brain releases that improve mood and outlook. Other chemicals like adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine are all released during exercise, giving you a natural energy boost.
You don't need to become a body builder to feel the effects. Start with just 10 minutes a day (after talking with your doctor) of low impact exercises - even indoors, this will start improving your mood and energy. As you become comfortable, start increasing (if your doctor clears you) to hopefully get to the half hour to hour each day.
Get Up and Out
Sure the long sunny days of summer are gone and abandoning the climate-controlled comfort of your home and office for the outdoors may seem like the last thing you want to do at lunchtime but, it will actually boost your energy, if you time it right.
We produce melatonin, a natural chemical that assists our body in preparing for sleep. Our body is supposed to stop producing melatonin during the day, however with the reduced daylight of winter, some of us don't stop producing it. This constant preparation for sleep can leave us exhausted throughout winter.
To help reset your melatonin production and internal clock you need exposure to natural sunlight.
The easiest is to get yourself outside in the (cold) sunlight. Ideally aim for at least half an hour when the sun is at its brightest and temperature is at its highest, usually around noon.
You can combine sunlight and exercise in one activity simply by heading out on a short walk (1/2 hour) each day after a healthy lunch.
Drink Green, Drink Better
Often our bodies get signals crossed. Sometimes, even slight dehydration can leave you feeling tired and drowsy. The solution is simple: a tall, cool glass of water. This is particularly important to boost energy after exercise, when your body is likely to be craving fluids. To increase the effects, try adding a liquid green concentrate to your water. It can improve the amount of oxygen you are able to breathe in and thus increase your energy levels beyond what water can do by itself.
When it comes to winter energy there are two key vitamins - Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D.
Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin required for proper red blood cell formation, nerve and muscle function and DNA creation. It is also used to help produce various compounds including hormones, lipids and proteins. Vitamin B12 is needed to produce energy in the body and it can relieve fatigue and weakness. It does this by increasing the amount of oxygen going to your cells to produce energy.
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin required for protection from disease, proper mood and bone health. Our bodies naturally produce vitamin D when our skin is exposed to UV radiation from sunlight. Unfortunately even during the summer, most Canadians are not exposed to enough sunlight (of the proper intensity) to produce adequate vitamin D. In the winter it is practically impossible to get enough sunlight. The resulting deficiency is detrimental to our overall health and specifically our mood, which saps us of energy. Essentially we feel bad and it leads to lethargy. The "bright" side is that vitamin D is readily available in capsules, tablets, and drops to prevent deficiency.
Don't wait for the winter doldrums to set in and sap your energy and health. Arm yourself with good nutrition and physical activity to keep you upbeat and healthy. You will be surprised at how much you will enjoy your winter!
Joel Thuna, MH, is a master herbalist with over 30 years of experience. Dr. Claude Gallant holds a PhD in Microbiology.