by Dana L. Barron, PhD, Health Coach and Advocate
Here are some tips (which are also good for weight management):
Do you find that you don’t have as much energy as you’d like? Do you have highs and lows throughout the day? Do you look to certain foods or drinks to give you a boost? Do you have trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep? Fatigue and low energy are among the most common reasons that people seek guidance from health care providers. They can be mild or extreme, but they are NOT inevitable. There are many natural and easy ways to increase your energy, and along with it your mood and your outlook.
The foods and beverages that you consume have a huge impact on your energy level. If you can stabilize your blood sugar throughout the day, you will be amazed at how much more energy you have!
- Eat real, whole food rather than packaged or processed food
- Balance macro-nutrients (fats, proteins, carbohydrates and fiber) with every meal and snack
- Eat every few hours to get ahead of hunger
- Educate yourself - know what is in your food (read labels or consult reference sources like www.self.nutrition.com)
- Get enough fat (yes, that’s right!) But all fats are not created equal. Healthy fats, which are essential to energy and health, include fatty fish, olive and coconut oil, nuts and seeds. Include them in EVERY meal or snack. Avoid processed fats and most vegetable oils. Limit animal fats, especially from grain-fed animals. Choose pastured and grass fed meats.
- Limit or eliminate sugar (including fructose which is found in fruit), processed grains, and starchy foods. Choose complex carbohydrates from whole grains, beans and legumes, low-glycemic fruits, and vegetables.
- Watch out for hidden sugars (e.g. corn syrup, fructose, agave, and words ending in “tol.”) Read labels and know what is in your food
- Minimize processed foods and food additives which will zap your energy
- Limit caffeine, especially after noon
- Pay attention to the nutritional content of your food MORE than the calorie count
Most of us do not get enough. And it’s not just the number of hours of sleep we get – it’s the quality of that sleep that matters. We need periods of deep, restorative sleep to have energy and stay healthy. Take a good look at your “sleep hygiene” and find the areas where you can improve. Small changes can have big effects.
Here are some tips to train your brain to wind down around bed-time:
- Set and maintain consistent times for going to sleep and waking up
- Get enough hours – this varies from person to person, and with age, but most of us need at least 7 or up to 9 hours per night
- Avoid stimulating factors in the hours before bedtime:
- “Blue light” from electronic screens is interpreted by the brain as sunlight. They tell the brain that it’s time to get up and go, not to wind down and rest. Shut them down (including your phone!) two hours before bed
- Caffeine within 4-6 hours of bedtime will make it harder to fall asleep and will diminish the quality of sleep
- Exercising too close to bedtime will stimulate your system
- Engage in relaxing activities that signal to your brain that it is time to wind down. Take a warm bath, read, listen to music, meditate, practice relaxation exercises, or do anything you like that relaxes and calms you
- Be sure your sleeping environment is completely dark and as quiet as possible
- Stabilize your blood sugar. Blood sugar drops are the main cause of middle-of-the-night wake-ups. Follow the nutrition tips above and have a nutrient-balanced snack at bedtime (protein, fat, fiber, complex carbohydrates).
Most of us are low in some essential vitamins and minerals. These deficiencies are huge energy zappers. Talk to your health care provider to see if you are getting enough, especially the following:
- Vitamin D
- Magnesium and zinc
- B vitamins (in the right form for your genetic type)
- Iodine (for thyroid health)
- Antioxidants (for liver function and cardiac health)
Food sources for vitamins and minerals are best, but supplements may be helpful, especially for nutrients that are not readily found in our food supply.
This is a long list and it is easy to get overwhelmed. I suggest taking one area, or a few tips, and focusing on them for a week or two. Keep track of your energy levels using a log or diary. See what works. Most people will see changes fairly quickly. However, if your fatigue feels extreme, if you notice a sudden change in your energy, if you have other symptoms, or if none of these strategies is helpful, please talk to your health care professional.
Dana Barron is a health coach and advocate. She collaborates with clients to investigate the root causes of symptoms, apply holistic and natural approaches to healing, and enlist the body’s innate capacity to heal. She also supports clients in getting the care they need from their doctors and other health care providers. Contact her at 215-688-5108 or healingpathcoaching@ yahoo.com, or see http://www.theresiliencycenter.com/bio_dana-barron.html.