Question: I used to be so full of energy but I’m finding it increasingly hard to get up in the mornings and my motivation is low through the day. I need an extra boost! What do you recommend?
16 September, 2008 – 17:10
Answer: I think most of us are reluctant to leave our beds in the morning, especially now the winter months are setting in!
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Iron Deficiency Anaemia are two conditions which cause fatigue and these can’t be ruled out, but usually flagging energy levels are often just our body’s way of telling us we need to slow down and take better care of ourselves.
Believe it or not a few lifestyle changes can make a huge difference.
Exercise is very important. By exercising you speed up your metabolism not only when you exercise but generally, so that the body is permanently producing more energy.
Try to do some form of exercise that speeds up your heartbeat for at least 20 minutes a day four times a week.
Learn to breathe properly! By increasing your oxygen intake your energy levels will rise.
This requires deeper abdominal breathing with your stomach going out when you inhale and coming in when you exhale, and you should always try to breathe through your nose.
Persistent tiredness and lack of enthusiasm can also have a chemical origin.
At the body level, mood and energy are controlled by body chemicals, and what we eat affects how we feel.
Being pleased with life and eager to leap out of bed in the morning depends on having enough of a natural body chemical called dopamine in our system.
Dopamine is made from an amino acid called tyrosine, which is found in certain foods.
Foods rich in this magic ingredient include cheddar cheese, peanuts, prawns, tuna, salmon, sunflower seeds, oats and almonds.
Increasing your tyrosine intake will also optimise your metabolism and help you to burn energy more efficiently rather than storing it as fat and causing you to gain weight.
The best time to top up is early in the morning, so eating porridge for breakfast will definitely set you in good stead for the day ahead.
Answer: In today’s fast-paced world we all tend to feel a little tired and run down from time to time. Work, relationships and the stress of every-day life can all take their toll, leaving us feeling both mentally and physically drained. Sometimes this can be an indication of a more specific condition, such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Iron Deficiency Anaemia, but usually it’s our body’s way of telling us we’re not looking after ourselves as well as we could be.
The following steps should help to boost depleted energy levels, but if after two weeks symptoms persist, consult your GP.
Breathing properly is vital for energy levels. Most us do not breathe properly, reducing our oxygen intake (and hence energy levels) by up to a third. Italian research discovered that the optimum amount of breaths for a resting adult is 8 breaths per minute. This requires deeper abdominal breathing; your stomach should go out when you inhale and in when you exhale, and you should always try to breathe through your nose. By taking fewer but deeper breaths you will optimise your oxygen intake and keep energy levels high.
Exercise is also important. By exercising you speed up your metabolism not only when you exercise but generally, so that the body is permanently producing more energy. Exercise can also turn more of your body into muscle, which also gives a long-term metabolism boost and makes you less sluggish. Try to do some form of exercise that speeds up your heartbeat for at least 20 minutes a day, four times a week. This could include jogging, skipping or dancing, but even regular walking will make a real difference.
You should also try to exercise in the morning rather than at night, as this will give your sluggish morning metabolism a kick-start, which should lift your energy levels higher for the rest of the day.
Equally, a balanced and healthy diet is essential. For low energy levels it is best to pick foods, which release a gradual and prolonged amount of energy.
Foods to avoid include those high in carbohydrates and sugar. Although carbohydrates and sugar do give us energy by providing glucose, the body uses it too quickly. The quickest to disappear are sugars found in biscuits, cakes and pastries and then refined carbohydrates such as white bread, rice and pasta.
The best foods for slow release are peanuts, nuts and high protein foods such as meats, which take hours rather than minutes to release all their energy, keeping your energy levels constantly topped up. You should also drink plenty of water to flush out toxins and enable the body to function more efficiently.
Finally, try to incorporate into your diet essential energy minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, chromium and zinc. You can find many of these in nuts and seeds, or alternatively in a daily mineral supplement.
As far as herbal remedies are concerned, Russia’s best-kept energy secret is a herb called Rhodiola, or Arctic Root. Its traditional use has been to enhance physical endurance and sexual potency. Many of Rhodiola’s benefits are related to its function as an adaptogen, or compound that increases the body’s resistance to any type of stress. It was these health benefits that helped many of the Russian Olympic athletes to glory.
Ginseng has also been used for centuries to increase energy and overcome fatigue. There are a number of different types of ginseng; Panax ginseng (Korean or Chinese ginseng), Eleutherococcus Senticosus (Siberian ginseng), Panax Quinquefolium (American ginseng) and Panax Japonicum (Japanese ginseng).
Siberian ginseng has often been described as the ladies’ ginseng. It has a gentle regulating effect on the hormonal system, as well as a strong immune enhancing effect. However, it is not advisable to take ginseng if you suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease hypoglycaemia.