Strategies to Get Your Energy Back
Can't seem to get enough rest? To-do list dragging you down? Hit refresh with these foods, moves, and must-dos for a more revved-up you.
Ericka McConnellWish you were still bounding out of bed like you did when you were 22? Who doesn't! But it can be hard to summon all your old verve in the midst of the daily grind. "The main reason I see for loss of energy in women is that they have too much to do," says Michael Roizen, MD, chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic and founder of youbeauty.com. "There's a merry-go-round of caring for kids, caring for parents, working, and not paying attention to yourself or getting proper sleep."
Sometimes there's a medical cause (like a vitamin deficiency or thyroid disorder) for a lack of energy: If you feel deeply fatigued all the time, schedule a checkup ASAP. But if your sluggishness is just a case of you on overload, the good news is that you can do something about it yourself. Here, Dr. Roizen and other health pros share strategies for putting the pep back in your step.
Sleep more soundly
Although it's true that you naturally begin to sleep more lightly in your mid-40s—a result of changes in brain waves as you age—you can start having trouble catching zzz's much sooner. "I've got patients who at age 30 are sleeping like 60-year-olds because of stress," says Michael Breus, PhD, author of The Sleep Doctor's Diet Plan. A good night's rest is essential to waking up fully energized. A few simple steps to snooze smarter:
Sniff some lavender. In a recent study of women with insomnia, those who received lavender aromatherapy in the evenings had significantly improved sleep quality. Try putting lavender oil in an aromatherapy ionizer and sniffing the scent for 20 minutes before bedtime.
Take a hot bath. Sleep comes most easily when your core temperature drops, explains Phyllis Zee, MD, director of the sleep disorders center at Northwestern University. But if your hands and feet are cold, your core holds onto heat. Taking a bath warms your extremities, so your body gets the message to start cooling itself.
Lose the blues. In the spectrum of natural light, blue wavelengths have the biggest impact on our circadian rhythm, slowing production of the hormone melatonin, which Breus describes as "the key that starts the engine to sleep." But avoiding blue light at night can be hard. Today's energy-efficient lighting tends to be bluer than older bulbs; the screens now common in laptops and tablets can emit more than twice as much blue light as older models. Turn off tech after dinner; dim lights an hour before you hit the sack.
First, the obvious: "You won't have energy if you skip meals," says Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet. "It's like trying to run a car without gas." During the day, eat every four hours—wait any longer than that and your body feels "zapped," Gans says. Her rule for the perfect snack? Aim for less than 200 calories, and include a mix of carbs (for an instant pickup), fiber (to fill you up), and protein (for lasting energy).
Next Page: What works, what doesn't [ pagebreak ]
What works, what doesn't
Caffeine. It doesn't merely give you a jumpstart; caffeine actually helps your body fuel itself. (In technical terms, it stimulates lipolysis—the breakdown of stored fats into fatty acids, which can then be used by muscle and other tissues for energy.) Just don't overdo it. The typical American consumes an average of 200 milligrams of caffeine per day, most of that from coffee (which contains 90 to 110 milligrams per cup).
But for optimum benefit, stick to no more than 150 milligrams daily—and cut yourself off by 2 p.m. to avoid keeping yourself awake at night, Breus says.
Supplements. Most supplements marketed as energy boosters—such as yerba mate and bitter orange—are "basically caffeine-like stimulants," Dr. Roizen says. You'll get the same effect from a cup of coffee, he adds, which is a safer way to go, because some supplements may have dangerous side effects (always consult your doc before taking them).
Going outside. Cubicle dwellers, take note: There is indeed a link between being outdoors and feeling more energized. In one Canadian study, participants led on a 15-minute tree-lined walk showed more vitality than those led on an indoor walk of the same length. "When you get outside, the fresh oxygen that comes into your blood from breathing open air helps recharge you," says Muhammad Amer, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Internal Medicine division.
Music. Sure, listening to music improves your workout, but it can also provide a boost when you're sitting at your desk. "What's fascinating about music is that it can be very effective in calming someone down, but it can also energize them when they're feeling lethargic," says Suzanne Hanser, chair of the music therapy department at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. There's no exact track or even tempo—some folks are even energized by mellow music. The key is to create a playlist that makes you feel up. Hanser adds, "It absolutely helps to move with the music, even if it's just shaking your shoulders and tapping your toes."
B12 shots. Celebs from Madonna to Charlize Theron have reportedly used vitamin B12 injections for increased vitality. But the shot helps only if you're deficient in B12 (ask your doc to check your levels) or if your body is unable to absorb it—which is rare for people under 60, Dr. Roizen says.
Water. A recent study in the Journal of Nutrition found that women suffering from dehydration felt fatigued, unfocused, and unhappy. (A sign of dehydration: urine that is dark rather than pale yellow or clear.) Be sure to sip plenty of water or other beverages to stay alert.