Oct 19, 2011 7:16 PM
Sure, we all get draggy from time to time. A sleepless night here and there, a stressful day at the office, or one too many Krispy Kremes can take their toll. But when you're constantly feeling drained, it might be time to look at what's bringing you down. Check out these energy zappers and see how many apply to you.
Sugar provides quick energy, but after picking you up, it drops you hard and leaves you looking for more, says Debi Silber, MS, RD, president of Lifestyle Fitness Inc. in New York.
One key to cutting back on sugar is having the right food with you so you don't head to the nearest vending machine. "The best intentions go out the window when you're not prepared," says Florida nutritionist Pamela Smith, RD, author of The Energy Edge. Smith tries to make sure she always has healthy snacks on hand, and she advises making sure they contain at least 1 to 2 ounces of protein to keep your blood sugar stable for several hours, combined with a complex carbohydrate to give you a quick boost of energy. Here are a few of her favorites:
Caffeine can also leave us "tired and wired," Silber says. "If we need sleep and we choose caffeine instead, we continue to throw off our natural sleep cycle. If you find that too much caffeine -- whether it comes in the form of coffee, tea, cola, or even chocolate -- is keeping you from getting a good night's sleep, switch to decaffeinated varieties of your favorite beverage (and cut back on the chocolate), says Joyce A. Walsleben, PhD, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the NYU School of Medicine and author of A Woman's Guide to Sleep: Guaranteed Solutions for a Good Night's Rest.
When it comes to fitness, there are two ways to zap energy, Silber says. The first is by not exercising. "Exercise energizes us physically, mentally, and emotionally," she says. "Without it, we're naturally more sluggish." Exercise also enhances our mood by increasing the release of endorphins, a "feel good" chemical that increases energy levels. On the other hand, too much exercise also presents a problem. Overtraining depletes our energy reserves, breaks down muscle, and eventually makes us weaker, not stronger. Overdoing the workouts also suppresses the immune system, which in turn reduces our resistance to bacterial and viral invasion, Silber says. "We're more vulnerable to illness, which further zaps our energy as a result," she says.
"Most people don't drink enough water," says Scottsdale, Ariz., nutritionist Susan Ayersman of Kronos Optimal Health Center. "We need water to flush out toxins, keep our tissues hydrated, keep our energy up." Water is the perfect no-calorie beverage, and you can dress it up by adding citrus slices or a sprig of mint. But when you want another alternative, try 100% fruit juices (while not necessarily low in calories, they contain important nutrients); nonfat milk, which will give you a calcium boost; unsweetened tea (try herbal or decaffeinated); seltzer water with a splash of juice or slice of fruit; homemade lemonade, with lemon, water, and a small amount of sugar or artificial sweetener; or coffee (again, choose decaffeinated if caffeine keeps you up) with skim milk and artificial sweetener; try it iced in hot weather.
If you don't get a good night's sleep on a regular basis, chances are, one of these "sleep busters" is keeping you awake, says Joyce Walsleben:
To get a better night's sleep, you need to strengthen your natural sleep patterns, says Walsleben, who offers these suggestions:
A bad attitude will zap your energy, says motivational speaker Sam Glenn, author of A Kick in the Attitude. Change your attitude and your energy level, feelings, responses, outlook, and perspectives on your situation change along with it, he says. "This one simple choice can transform your life," Glenn says. "In changing the nature of the way we think and act, we build an attitude force so strong that it will attract favor, opportunities, people, and dreams into our existence."
Being disorganized or having clutter in your home can make you feel lethargic and lacking in energy and optimism, says Candita Clayton, founder of Your Life Organized in Rumford, R.I.
Looking for lost or misplaced stuff is a huge physical drain. And trying to remember where things are and all you have to get done on your to-do list is a big mental drain, says professional organizer Jamie Novak, author of 1,000 Best Quick and Easy Organizing Secrets. To cope with clutter, Novak says:
Cutting back on calories helps you lose weight, but not eating enough can leave you feeling drained, say Alex Lluch and Sarah Jang, authors of Simple Principles to Eat Smart & Lose Weight.
If you maintain a diet that severely restricts calories for long periods of time, your body will have the tendency to go into "starvation mode," they say. Your metabolism will slow down and your energy level will be low. During times of severe calorie restriction the body tends to store calories as fat and burn muscle as a way to conserve energy. Figure out your recommended caloric intake based on your age, weight, level of activity, and the rate at which you want to lose weight.
Waiting too long between meals can also sap your energy, they add. Increase your metabolism by eating enough calories at regular intervals during the day. Try to have something small to eat every 2 to 3 hours. Avoid large gaps of time without food where your hunger completely takes over. If you skip meals, your body starts conserving energy because it lacks nutrients.
Conflict and stress can quickly deplete your energy resources, say Lluch and Helen Eckmann, EdD, authors of Simple Principles to Feel Better & Live Longer. To deal with stress, they advise, communicate, compromise, and problem-solve. Cope with anxiety and stress by meditating, taking a walk, or breathing deeply and slowly. Keep a journal or diary by your bedside and write down the top issues that are stressing you out that day, says Rose Forbes, co-author of 101 Great Waysto Improve Your Health. "By putting your thoughts on paper, you're giving your brain the approval to let them go for the night."
Spending all your time pleasing others and trying to fit in can be a big energy zapper, says confidence coach Kathleen Hassan, co-author of Square Peg in a Round Hole. "It takes so much energy to wear a mask to the world ... so that others will like you," she says. "It is exhausting and leaves you feeling utterly powerless."
Hassan offers these tips for building self-confidence:
Spending time doing things you don't really want to do can be another energy drainer, says Erick Plasker, author of The 100 Year Lifestyle: Dr. Plasker's Breakthrough Solution for Living Your Best Life-Every Day of Your Life. Do you tend to do things that fuel you? Or do you find that most of your time is spent on activities that deplete you? "Your personal energy inventory is a reality check on where your energy is being distributed," he says. "I don't want you to perceive it as a list of problems, or a way to defend why things are the way they are. Instead, it is a way to raise your awareness about where all your energy is going and how to get it flowing back into your life." Here are some of Plasker's energy enhancers: