James A. Peterson, Ph.D., FACSM, is a freelance writer and consultant in sports medicine. From 1990 until 1995, Dr. Peterson was director of sports medicine with StairMaster. Until that time, he was professor of physical education at the United States Military Academy.
1. SHAKE A LEG. Get moving. Research indicates that being more physically active will boost an individual’s energy level, just as engaging in a sedentary lifestyle will often lead to fatigue in a person. In this regard, exercising on a regular basis can be particularly beneficial. Not only can a workout trigger the release of feel-good endorphins but also can lower an individual’s level of elevated stress hormones.
2. IN THE MOOD FOR FOOD. Watch what you eat. Adhering to sound nutritional guidelines is integral to experiencing an enhanced level of get-up-and-go. In fact, poor eating habits can elicit feelings of fatigue. As such, the age-old caveats of “eat a healthy diet” (i.e., one that features an appropriate amount of vegetables, fruit, whole-grain foodstuff, and low-fat dairy products, as opposed to foodstuff with elevated levels of fat, sugar, or salt) and “don’t skip meals” (particularly breakfast) remain as relevant and applicable as ever.
3. REST IN PEACE. Get enough sleep. As a rule, most adults function best on about 7 to 8 hours of sleep. In fact, not getting enough sleep or not experiencing quality sleep (i.e., relaxed restorative, undisturbed) is a common cause of fatigue during the day. It also is important to note that it can take up to 2 hours for an individual’s brain to become fully alert once a person wakes up.
4. FIND INNER PEACE. Learn to relax. Individuals should identify and address issues/problems in their lives that may be causing them to experience prolonged bouts of anxiety. Studies show that constant anxiety can zap the body of energy. One viable strategy in this regard is to learn and practice specific relaxation techniques (e.g., yoga or meditation) to help minimize the release of adrenaline. Another possible step to counter any potential energy drain is to try to carve out some time each day to simply relax (i.e., do nothing).
5. TOO MUCH STIMULATION. Don’t overdose on caffeine. Too much caffeine, particularly in the evening, can lead to insomnia, which in turn can result in fatigue during a person’s waking hours. As a general rule, caffeinated drinks should be limited to no more than five per day. In fact, as a pick-me-up, coffee tends to work in the short run. On the other hand, ingesting an excessive amount of caffeine (i.e., the exact amount is dependent on a number of factors and tends to vary from person to person) can cause a number of problematic side effects, including an upset stomach, irritability, accelerated heartbeat, and muscle tremors.
6. ENOUGH ALREADY. Don’t overeat or undereat. Eating too much can drain an individual’s energy. On the other hand, not eating enough can lower a person’s metabolism level and cause them to feel lethargic. The key for individuals is to consume enough food to meet their daily caloric needs (note: crash dieting is highly discouraged for anyone who wants to fire on all cylinders energy-wise), but not too much. Furthermore, snacking also can be an effective tool in an effort to maintain and/or boost energy. Eating the right snacks at the right time over the course of the day can help prevent significant changes in a person’s energy level.
7. IT’S JUST A JOB. Reduce stress in the workplace. More often than not, problems occur at work that lead to fatigue. The key for individuals is to manage these situations so that these matters don’t have a negative impact on their level of energy. The first step in that regard is to put any problems into perspective. In fact, no one’s life is problem-free. Every problem has a solution. Every situation can be dealt with rationally, even if it eventually means finding a new job.
8. LIGHTEN UP ON LIGHTING UP. Don’t smoke. In addition to being bad for a person’s health, smoking also tends to be counterproductive to any attemptto have more energy. For example, the body makes energy by combining glucose with oxygen. On the other hand, cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide, a substance that reduces the amount of oxygen available in the blood. Not surprisingly, smokers typically have lower energy levels than nonsmokers.
9. LAUGHTER AS MEDICINE. Incorporate fun in your life. Individuals should do whatever they can to make sure that they have enough time for fun. In fact, laughter has been found to be a very effective energy booster. Not only does it lift a person’s mood and immune system, it also can elicit the release of beneficial hormones in the body.
10. A CAUTIONARY NOTE. See a physician if it appears that nothing can be done to boost your energy level. It is important to make sure that your persistent fatigue is not the result of an underlying medical problem.