Sometimes we are simply busy. Many of us are working way to much, not sleeping enough, and not fueling ourselves optimally. This inevitably results in less energy than we need to make it through the day.
Get home and not have enough energy to play with your kids? Does the idea of working out sound too exhausting to even attempt? Often our energy levels dictate whether we make good or bad choices in the context of food, movement, and personal growth. There are some baseline things we can tackle to raise our energy levels and make healthier choices in all areas. Work will be accomplished with more efficiency. Relationships, social life, and family life will also became more enjoyable when you are not thinking about the next long day.
Here are some of the areas I recommend focusing on in the pursuit of more energy.
Sunlight/Artificial Light Exposure
I admit I can get a little obsessive with sun exposure. This is because of the massive benefits I have gained from making sure I log in time in the sun each day. The reason it has such a strong effect on us is its control of our circadian rhythm. Internal processes like digestion and hormone signaling are on finely tuned clocks that respond to external stimuli.
A few hormones in particular are melatonin, cortisol, and serotonin are regulated by our circadian rhythm. They play key roles in being able to wake up and go to sleep on time. When our hormones are being synthesized and released at the correct times (cortisol in the morning, melatonin and serotonin at night) we can not only get good sleep, but our energy levels throughout the day will be much steadier. Studies have also shown how key sunlight exposure is in cognitive function. Thinking clearly throughout the day is as important as having steady energy.
- If it’s a clear bright day out, get into the sunlight soon after waking up. This will set the circadian clock correctly. If it’s a cloudy day, have a blue light emitting device, or download an app like Blue Light Therapy to get that wake up signal.
- While blue light is important to get in the morning, it must be limited after it gets dark. It stimulates the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. This is optimal in the morning, not in the evening. Instead, get outside in the evening dusk light. Have some red light in the house, and limit electronic usage at night. If you are going to be using devices at night grab a pair of blue light blocking glasses so your circadian rhythm remains intact. Apps like f.lux can turn down the blue light on your computer screen, and smartphones can get either third-party apps or use Night Shift mode on iOS.
- Basically, get outside for a few minutes in the morning to get your system started, and don’t stare at screens after dark.
Movement can be boiled down to three words: just keep moving. There is nothing quite so exhausting as sitting in the same place for hours. While it take some energy to move it also perpetuates the creation of more energy. For a person who is extremely busy and working long hours getting healthy forms of movement is key in maintaining both fitness and energy levels. In the not so distant past, I was working three jobs and had to figure out how to get movement in whenever I could.
Movement doesn’t have to be isolated into one portion of the day for a workout. It can be spread through out the day in many different scenarios. This is an example of what I do on one of my busy day.
- The morning movement routine takes 5 or 10 minutes. I find that nothing will wake me up as effectively as doing 1-2 sets of body weight exercises or stretching. I like to do either kettle bell swings or burpees, followed by some light yoga.
- During the workday, I take a small 5-minute break every hour and either stretch or do a single set of a body weight exercise. This helps both my physical energy levels and my mental focus.
- I take a light walk after every meal as well. This helps aid digestion and post-meal energy levels. It also works to control blood sugar levels after each meal keeping energy levels in check.
Stay Away From Sugar, Especially Early In The Day
If you’ve been following the blog for a while you know that my opinion on sugar. I have talked about how important it is to control your own blood sugar. Refined sugar and carbohydrates do little except dramatically spike our blood glucose which causes a rise in insulin and fat storage with the aftermath leaving us groggy and drained from an abnormal spike in energy.
The way I approach this is to lower my glucose and insulin spikes as much as possible. Having steady blood glucose levels means I have steady energy, less cravings for quick junk food, and less mental space being wasted by thinking about food constantly. If you do intend to consume some healthy carbohydrates, get them in at dinner in the evening. The theory behind this is that you had an active busy day, and your muscle glycogen stores will be partially drained. Instead of glucose being driven into fat storage insulin delivers the glucose to your muscles. Additional carbohydrates are an option if you are working out hard and you are an active individual. Here is my routine.
- I usually do a 16 hour fast every day and do not eat until 11 or 12. If I do decide to eat breakfast it is similar to what I would have at lunch. If I have any protein leftover from the night before (like steak or ground beef), I heat that up in a pan with butter. Along side it I will fry up 4 or 5 eggs in any form, and slice up half an avocado. Sometimes this all goes into a big omelette with more greens added in. If meat is not available in the fridge it is a simple veggie egg combo. The meal is always fat and protein based. It keeps me full for a solid 5 or 6 hours.
- Dinner will often be a big protein and fat based meal with a large serving of vegetables. This could look like a taco salad, steak and brussels sprouts, or salmon with a salad or broccoli. Sometimes even breakfast for dinner! If I did an intense workout that day I might indulge in some sweet potato, fried plantains, or other nutrient dense starch.
- If I indulge in desert, I will eat a piece of very dark chocolate (often 100% cacao), coconut milk chia seed pudding with lots of toppings (see this Instagram post for a sample), or homemade stevia sweetened whipped cream and berries.
There are many other things we can focus on, but I find that these three areas are vitally important in have steady energy to get at it every day.
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