Is your energy just not quite where you need it? Maybe you’re waking up tired before the days even begun, you’re crashing mid-afternoon or you’re snappy with those around you?
If this sounds like you then read on! I’m going to share the non-negotiable practices within my day that keep my energy topped up. Let’s dive in!
While the causes of low energy can be many, and it’s best to get low iron and other causes ruled out, ticking the box on these tips will see your energy start to increase.
Water first thing, and throughout the day
I know it can be common for nutritionist’s like me to blame everything on not enough water. While it’s something I see a lot of in my clinic, I also feel it myself if I’ve had a bad day on the water front the day before. I’ll find it hard to wake up the next day and can just feel lethargic all day.
Our body is made up of 60% water and much is used by the body during the day just to function and that all has to be replaced. If it’s not replaced then we show signs of dehydration such as poor concentration, energy dips and feeling hungrier. Many of the drinks we use to help perk us up, like coffee, also dehydrate us, so the make this situation worse.
‘’Just by upping my water means I feel able to get out of bed before my kids and get me ready before they have to get up’’ – Workshop attendee, Carlow
The days that I have workshops and afterschool activities I’ve to be extra careful in making sure I drink my 3 litres each day. I always start my day with 500mls of warm water, so I get re-hydrated after my sleep, but also that I start the day on the right foot. I’ll also make sure I have a bottle with me when I’m out and when I’m home I keep a large jug of water on the counter to keep reminding me to drink.
Aim to get 2-3 litres of water in each day and start to notice the improvements in your energy over the week.
Healthy protein in my breakfast (and any snacks)
Energy dips during the day can be coming from blood sugar dips. And blood sugar dips can arise from too high blood sugar in the first place, and this all relates to what we’ve just eaten an hour or two before.
What does this mean?
When we eat food it’s broken down in the body into its smallest parts so that it can be absorbed and used by the body. When we eat carbohydrates this is broken down into glucose, or sugar. This is what our cells primarily use for energy. This process raises our blood sugar and the body sends in Insulin to transport this energy to the cells. The problems arise when the blood sugar rises too high and then too much insulin is needed. This level of insulin clears the glucose too quickly and that’s when we feel tired, sleepy, low energy and brain fog.
There are lots of things you can do to slow this down and avoid any energy crashes. The main thing I always make sure is that I have protein in my breakfast rather than just cereal or toast. This could come from eggs, Greek yogurt or nuts and seeds. This will keep me full right up to lunch.
For those days I’m a little hungrier I’ll also make sure I’ve added some protein to may snacks. So if I’m having an apple I’ll add some peanut butter. If it’s chocolate I’m having, I’ll add some nuts and make sure it’s dark chocolate I have.
Protecting my sleep
Many of us are not getting enough sleep. On average as an adult we need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Many things can stop us from getting any way near this amount and in our 40’s the natural decreases in progesterone can make getting enough sleep feel impossible. I know as a busy parent, sometimes staying up later in the evening feels like the only time I can get time to myself during the day. However, establishing a sleeping routine and healthy habits for bedtime can make for better quality sleep and more of it.
Mathew Walker points out that we naturally wake up during the night several times. This equates to about 10% of our total sleeping time. So if you want 8 hours sleep and you need to be up at 7am, then you need to add on 48 minutes. So you need to be in bed for 10pm for that 7am wake-up call.
Getting ready for bed earlier in the evening means that you won’t be waking yourself up when it’s time to be going asleep. I also avoid my phone screen as much as I can in the couple of hours before bed. Instead I opt for a book and I find that my head is less wide awake when I do want to go asleep. This also gives me that ‘me time’ that I need after a busy day and so I don’t feel the need to stay up later than is best for me.
Planning to eat enough
Being a working mum and juggling my work around school pick-ups, homework and activities can mean that if I’m not careful I may end up grabbing something quick and not eating enough during the day. It’s a common complaint and one that I’ve linked with increased snacking due to those energy crashes I mention above.
To avoid this from happening I really have to plan my meals, both lunches as well as dinners. This highlights to me those busy days that I may have to have something from the freezer ready to hand, or plan to make more for the previous days dinner so I’ve something quick, but filling on hand. Meal planning may feel restrictive or daunting if you haven’t done it before. But I’ve found it life changing. I can plan to double up on meals to batch cook so to have something for a later date, or plan in an extra potion of something so that I have something for those busy days I know I have during the week.
Moving throughout the day
Lastly adding in movement through my day helps get my energy back up if I’m feeling tired. While I might not want to head out for run if I’m having a bad day energy wise, I’ll always add in a walk out in fresh air.
Getting outside mid-day, even for a few minutes, can help with keeping your circadian rhythm on track and lower any spike in blood sugar post lunch. This will help with better sleep, and with avoiding those 3pm slumps too.