Feeling exhausted? Too tired to play with the kids? Can’t even imagine tackling your laundry pile? When you’re in the throes of an energy slump, it’s easy to grab a coffee, soda, or sugary snack for a quick fix.
But this short-term fix leads to a quick burst of energy, an inevitable sugar crash, and a craving for more sugar. This combo is a sure-fire way to ensure that your performance is anything but high. To perform at its best, the body requires a consistent energy source, which can’t be obtained from sugar and caffeine.
Improve and maintain energy levels and perform at your best with these 10 tips.
1. Improve sleep hygiene.
Getting adequate sleep might be the No.1 way to naturally increase energy. Sleep is a function of quality as well as quantity, which makes a consistent sleep ritual key. Make sure the bedroom is dark, cool, and free of television and technology. Go to bed at a consistent time. And power down an hour before turning off the lights by reading hard copies of books or magazines rather than reading on a digital device. “Getting good, adequate sleep means making some sacrifices, like shutting off tech and nixing Netflix,” says Jennifer Noiles, senior performance director at EXOS.
Feeling a sudden pang of thirst? You’re already dehydrated. That’s right, by the time you feel it you’ve already ventured into an unhealthy zone that can lead to fatigue and decreased performance. And while water is the right answer, many people grab a soda, coffee, or other beverage instead. “Almost everyone is not drinking enough water, even though they think they are,” says Geralyn Coopersmith, vice president of fitness staff development at EXOS.
For a simple way to check your hydration, look at your urine color. The clearer the urine, the more hydrated you are. So, take a peek next time you’re in the restroom, and use these tips to determine how much water you need.
3. Take a stretch break.
Sitting at a computer or behind a steering wheel for hours at a time tightens hamstrings and glutes, leading to muscle dysfunction, long-term ailments, and injuries. It’s also tiring. Taking a five-minute break once an hour to stretch, whether at the office or from a long car ride, increases blood flow and serotonin levels and “sort of wakes up the mind,” says Russ Orr, vice president of performance at EXOS. Need some ideas? Try these essential stretches you can do right at your desk and these five-minute movement ideas you can do anywhere.
4. Get outside.
Take a hint from plants. Besides getting enough water, you also need sunlight to thrive. Taking a break outside or doing an outdoor workout resets the mind and body and boosts energy levels. It gives you a chance to breathe fresh air, take in the sight of trees, flowers, and bodies of water, and simply get away from technology. “Exercising in nature, on trails, or around rivers and lakes just feels more invigorating than stepping on a treadmill,” says Tiffany Grimm, director of recovery at EXOS.
5. Enjoy a power nap.
A nap of even 20 minutes can do wonders to break through that midafternoon malaise, proving more effective than reaching for caffeine or sugar. It’s one of the proven ways to recharge your brain battery. Many workplaces have created quiet rooms for just this purpose, but with more people working from home either by design or because of the pandemic, it’s easier to find a comfortable place to rest. “A nap is one of the easiest, most natural ways to increase energy and finish the day strong,” says Orr.
Deliberate breathing not only reduces stress, but it also boosts energy. Everyone has moments of anxiety and while it might seem awkward to engage in breathing exercises outside of a private office, it’s possible to do so inconspicuously. Noiles recommends inhaling for six seconds, holding for four, and exhaling deliberately for a count of 10. Repeat nine to 12 times for a total of three to four minutes so you can feel a shift to a more relaxed state. “That’s naturally going to calm you and help with stress,” she says. “High stress can suck the energy out of you.” For more tips and exercises, browse our guide to breathing.
7. Fuel your brain.
In moments of stress or fatigue, highly processed foods are tempting. And while they may feel like a good short-term fix, they’ll leave your body and your brain wanting more, says Amanda Carlson-Phillips, vice president of industry leadership at EXOS.
So say “no” to cravings by reaching for a brain-boosting snack complete with healthy fats, like avocado, flaxseeds, or walnuts; protein from Greek yogurt, turkey slices, or a hard-boiled egg; and a bit of color from berries, dark, leafy greens, or dark chocolate. Wash your snack down with a glass of water to hydrate your brain and help it think and feel better.
8. Practice grounding.
Grounding, or earthing, is the process of transferring the Earth’s energy from the ground into the body. This can be done by walking barefoot outside, for instance. According to the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, grounding appears to improve sleep, decrease pain and stress, shift the autonomic nervous system form sympathetic toward parasympathetic activation, and increase heart rate variability.
9. Train early and often.
A consistent training regimen leads to better performance, improved health, and greater energy. Training first thing in the morning provides a dopamine boost and a sense of accomplishment of getting it done. “Once you’re accustomed to rising early, it’s easier to train early before work and life gets in the way,” says Coopersmith.
10. Take the vacation.
Even before the pandemic, many people didn’t use all their vacation time. Now that vacation locales are locked down or restricted, it can feel strange to take time off to go nowhere. But all work and no play leads to a lack of recovery, both mentally and physically.
Shifting attitudes have led people to re-evaluate the benefits of staying busy all the time, so now is the perfect time to make taking time off a habit. “Vacations have been shown to reenergize life so you can attack work with new vigor,” says Orr. So schedule your time off now. Consider adding an extra day off after your vacation to prepare for the transition back to work.
Still feeling burned out after your workout even with these tips? Check out these signs of overtraining and what to do about it.
About the AuthorMore Content by Pete Williams