The days are getting shorter and colder – not exactly the best combination to make you want to jump out of bed in the morning. And just as your energy may be slumping, you’re probably gearing up for one of your busiest times of year: the holidays, which are just around the corner and will entail countless hours spent running through department stores and grocery store aisles, cooking, wrapping, socializing … it’s the “most wonderful time of the year” — but it sure is exhausting.
Don’t Fall for These Common Energy Zappers
Is coffee your go-to fix when you need energy? While sipping a cup or two in the morning is probably ok for most people, if you can go through an entire pot or two by yourself, you’re risking more than just the jitters. Too much caffeine can lead to heart problems, stroke, anxiety and caffeine toxicity, plus as soon as its effects wear off, you’ll be tired again.
The risk is even greater if you rely on energy drinks, which contain not only high levels of caffeine but also other stimulating ingredients like guarana and taurine. The energy they give you is “artificial,” and will only last as long as these stimulants stay in your system … and the risk of “overdosing” is great.
If candy, not coffee, is your “thing” when you need a pick-me-up, this is another trap you’re better off avoiding. Following the initial sugar rush, your blood sugar will crash – and take your energy levels right along with it. Same goes for any sugary treat – cookies, doughnuts, cake, sugary breakfast cereals and those super-sweet coffee drinks; they’re all bound to leave you searching for another energy boost in short order.
9 Top Energy-Boosting Foods
So, what should you eat to fight fatigue naturally?
- : A natural energy booster, kefir is loaded with vitamins, minerals and beneficial bacteria that will boost your immune system. Try a kefir smoothie instead of your morning coffee and see if you notice a difference.
- : They’ve got protein, antioxidants, B vitamins and other natural fatigue fighters, making them a smart way to start your day (or eat anytime – a hard-boiled egg makes a great snack). One study even found that replacing a bagel with two eggs for breakfast gave people higher energy levels (plus more weight loss!).
- : This tasty little fruit packs a powerful energy-boosting punch, thanks to its natural stores of vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and more. (Both low vitamin C and low magnesium levels are known to make you feel tired.)
- : Because nuts contain both protein and magnesium, they’re the perfect snack for an energy boost. If your body is lacking in magnesium, your body will have to work harder just to get through the day,
- which is a major energy drain. Try cashews, almonds and hazelnuts to start.
- : Adding some chicken breast to your mid-day salad, or having a half of a chicken sandwich as a snack, is a great way to boost your feelings of alertness, as it contains the amino acid tyrosine, which boosts brain chemicals that improve focus. Tyrosine is actually added to some popular energy drinks because of its impact on energy levels – but eating lean meats is a natural way to get it.
- : Even mild dehydration (about 1% lower hydration than is optimal) can leave you feeling fatigued and unable to focus.
- So be sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
- : Berries are not only a low-sugar fruit, they’re packed with fiber, which helps keep your blood sugar – and your energy levels – steady.
- : These legumes are a rich source of fiber and iron, which helps ensure oxygen is transported throughout your body. Without enough iron, you’ll feel wiped out quickly.
- : A handful of pumpkin seeds gives your body a boost in energizing nutrients like magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc, along with providing a healthy source of protein, fat and fiber to keep your energy levels steady and strong.
What Else Can Fight Fatigue, Naturally? Nutritional Supplements and More
There are many nutritional supplements on the market that claim to improve energy and metabolism … but do any of them actually work? The following are some of the best supplemental options to consider:
- CoQ10: Found in each and every plant and animal cell, this enzyme helps cells produce the energy needed to fuel your body. While your body naturally produces CoQ10, tissue levels of this important enzyme peak at age 20 and decline with age, which is why CoQ10 supplementation may be beneficial.
- B Vitamins: The vitamin B family consists of 22 vitamins, each displaying distinct qualities and uniquely supporting different bodily functions, including energy production and metabolism. B vitamins are found in varying amounts in certain foods, but processing methods often strip them of much of their potency. Because it’s often difficult to obtain the proper amounts of all the B vitamins through your diet, you may want to support your body’s energy production with a high-quality vitamin B supplement.
- Ginseng: An age-old plant well known for its ability to stimulate your central nervous system, support energy production and improve your resistance to stress.
- Acetyl –L-Carnitine: Acetyl-l-carnitine is believed to be most helpful in supporting energy function in your brain, as well as support energy production at the cellular level and help offset age-related declines in energy production. If you’ve heard of l-carnitine before, studies suggest acetyl-l-carnitine may be more bioavailable.
Finally, if you feel your energy slipping, a quick workout may be just what the doctor ordered. Far from making you feel even more worn out, even a low-intensity workout – like a walk around the block – can leave you feeling energized. In one study, those who started exercising for just 20 minutes three times a week felt their fatigue levels drop by 65 percent and their energy levels increase by 20 percent.4
So if you’re in a pinch and you need a quick pick-me-up, do some jumping jacks, then go for a quick jog or brisk walk (even if it’s down the hallway in your office building). Even better, make exercise a regular part of your routine. Not only will it clear your mind, it will get you naturally energized too.
1. Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Oct;32(10):1545-51.
2. J Nutr. 2002 May;132(5):930-5.
3. J. Nutr. January 1, 2012
4. Psychother Psychosom. 2008;77(3):167-74.