Give Yourself a New Year’s Energy Makeover
T here’s an old slogan that’s been floating around for years that states, “My get up and go has got up and went.” That’s arguably true for most Americans, living as we do in a fast-paced culture where many people spend their days gulping Red Bulls, sitting in front of a computer and getting by on far less than eight hours sleep a night.
So what to do to resolve your own personal energy crisis? The New Year is a great time to give yourself an energy makeover. Rather than attempting a massive lifestyle overhaul, though, your odds of success are much higher if you make tweaks to your lifestyle over a period of weeks and/or months.
Along with getting plenty of sleep, your quest for more energy will require you to pay attention to the physical and dietary aspects your life.
“The most important change to have more energy is to begin with an overall attitude adjustment,” said registered dietitian Kathy Onley, Ph.D. and former chairman of the University of Oklahoma’s Department of Nutritional Sciences. “Most of us want a magic bullet answer, and there just isn’t one. The change for a better, more energy-producing diet, for example, is complex, so you have to accept that there is no one answer, and you must be able to live with those lifestyle changes.”
“Just like anything else, you have got to have passion about living a healthier lifestyle in order to enjoy it and/or succeed at it,” adds Alyssia Migliaccio, a coach and personal trainer with Orangetheory Fitness in Moore. “Our job as coaches is to remind you why you are passionate about living a healthier lifestyle, whether it’s about feeling better, living longer or looking better. YOU are the only person stopping you from living a healthier lifestyle.”
Movement = Pep
Hands down, regular exercise is the best and fastest way to gain energy. It may seem ironic that expending energy will give you energy, but that’s how it works. Even simple walking boosts your overall health, mood and ability to sleep, again giving you more energy. If you’ve been a couch potato, start slowly with regular short walks, then slowly work your way up to a more intensive workout. If you’re extremely overweight or have other health concerns, check with your doctor before you begin. It’s also beneficial to have an exercise partner and/or work with a fitness trainer to get you started. Even if you can only afford a couple of sessions to get you going, it’s worth the investment.
Taking advantage of high-tech tools such as Fitbit, Applewatch and others is also desirable.
“I encourage using any technology that makes you more aware of your daily activity or inactivity,” Migliaccio said. “Our world has become so sedentary that most people don’t realize how inactive they are, but thanks to technology Siri can tell you just about anything.”
Eating for Energy
American diet fads and eating programs have historically focused around eliminating entire categories of foods from the diet, especially fat, on a permanent or temporary basis. To create energy, however, “You have to open your mind and accept that all three major nutrients–carbohydrates, protein and fat–are all essential to our nutritional health,” Onley said. “To emphasize one over the others does not produce more energy. Rather, you get an unbalanced diet that will probably lead to even more fatigue. You’ll get much better results by balancing your protein, carbs and fat at every meal. The best ratio is to eat meals that are about 15-20 percent protein, 50-65 percent carbohydrates and 20-30 percent fat.
“After that, the next step will be to educate yourself on which carbohydrates, proteins and fats are the healthiest, and plan how you will use them to keep this balance, yet create a diet that you will stick to,” she said.
“Most of us are guilty of focusing on exercise over diet,” Migliaccio said. “It’s OK to have a cheat meal here and there, but it’s important to give your body the proper fuel it needs to get the job done right and change your lifestyle. If you’re going to put higher demands on a car engine, you’ve got to prepare the car for those demands, or it will break down. Your body is the same way. Everything in moderation.”
Making small tweaks to your diet will improve your odds of being successful over the long term, as people rarely can maintain rigid dietary restrictions, and they usually are more fatigued while doing so. You’ll have far more energy if you:
- + Drink water. Most Americans are dehydrated, living as we do on energy drinks, soda, tea, coffee and alcohol, all of which pull water out of your system.
- + Limit the caffeine. Caffeine may give you an initial energy boost, but it will lead to a big crash later. Plus, too much caffeine will keep you up at night and lead to sluggishness in the morning. Try to keep your caffeine intake to no more than 300 milligrams per day, and don’t have caffeinated beverages after noon.
- Eat breakfast. “It’s the most important meal of the day” isn’t just a cliché; it’s the truth. Eating breakfast gets your metabolism going and your brain in gear.
- + Eat about every four hours. This will prevent spikes and dips in your blood sugar, which will in turn keep you from crashing during the afternoon. Keep in mind, though, that this doesn’t mean eating five or more meals per day. Instead, have three small meals and a couple of energy-rich snacks, such as nuts, yogurt, olives, fresh fruit or legumes.
- + Select healthy fats. Omega-3 (found in fish, nuts and canola oils) and monounsaturated fats are healthier and will keep you more mentally alert.
Above all, people need to be realistic about just how much they can achieve and how much energy they will be able to generate.
“WE HAVE AN INCREASING EXPECTATION THAT WE CAN KEEP SQUEEZING MORE AND MORE OUT OF OUR LIVES IF WE CAN JUST FIND THE RIGHT FORMULA,” ONLEY SAID. “THAT KIND OF PRESSURE IS UNREALISTIC AND OVERWHELMING AND CAN ACTUALLY HAVE THE REVERSE EFFECT OF DRAINING YOUR ENERGY.”