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Top Ten: Zap These Hidden Energy Sappers

November 24th, 2008

Who stole my energy?!!  I've <em>gotta</em> start readin that blog!

Who stole my energy?!! I've gotta start readin' that blog!

Based on the kinds of questions customers email us, it’s pretty clear: one thing everyone seems to need more of is energy. Everyone’s looking for more energy. While there are some great products you can use for a useful short-term energy boost, you can’t depend on these to get you through life, and you’ll need a better long-term solution.  Make sure you’re not losing juice to these hidden energy sappers.

1) Don’t skip breakfast, and don’t eat the wrong kind of breakfast.  Breakfast is THE critical meal of the day if you want an active, robust metabolism that can power you through the whole day without crashing.   A good breakfast for high energy levels is high in protein, moderate in fat, low in carbs (except complex carbs from whole grains and high fiber foods) and no sugar.  At all costs, avoid high carb and sugary foods, low in fiber, and low in protein. Unfortunately, many common breakfast foods fall into this category;  low-fiber breakfast cereals, bagels, donuts, white toast and fruit juices fall into this category. High-protein bars and shakes are a good way to go if you’re pressed for time in the mornings.

Want more energy? Here's about THE worst thing to eat for breakfast.

Want more energy? Here's about THE worst thing to eat for breakfast.

2) Skip the salt. Eating high-sodium foods and adding a lot of salt to your food is a great way to waste energy.  Sodium, along with potassium, is how most cells regulate their water content and volume, which must be maintained within a narrow range for the cell to survive.  This is achieved by keeping sodium (outside the cell) and potassium (inside the cell) in a precise ratio, like keeping a see-saw balanced.   Most natural foods are ideally balanced in sodium-potassium. Most processed foods, however,  have tons of sodium which essentially adds all that weight to one side of the see-saw, making your body work much harder to keep it balanced. Sodium-potassium pumps are the structures in the membrane of the cell that maintain sodium-potassium balance, and they burn considerable amounts of ATP energy doing so.  Overall energy production in the body is limited;  running these sodium-potassium pumps costs your body significant amounts of energy, energy that can no longer be used for other purposes.  The more excess sodium you consume, the harder these pumps have to work and the more of your valuable energy they consume.

High-sodium diets upset the vital sodium-potassium balance, forcing your body to waste energy.

High-sodium diets upset the vital sodium-potassium balance, forcing your body to waste energy. Photo by Jeff Keen (http://jeffreykeen.com/)

3) Don’t drink too much caffeine all at once. Studies have shown that the best way to use caffeine and coffee are in small doses, spaced out over a few hours, versus consuming a lot all at once.

Don't drink too much coffee all at once; sip it and spread it out over a few hours. Balancing it on your head is not advised under any circumstances.

Don't drink too much coffee all at once; sip it and spread it out over a few hours. Balancing it on your head is not advised under any circumstances.

4) Don’t stay up too late. Most people who complain of low energy aren’t getting the right quantity or quality of sleep. Try Valerian root if you need help falling asleep or melatonin if you need help staying asleep.

Turn that thing off and go to bed.

Turn that thing off and go to bed.

5) Cut out the sugar. Sugar in the form of fruit juice, soda, candy….is the enemy of long-term energy by causing a spike, then a crash, of insulin which leaves you feeling hungry, tired and irritable. Sweeten your beverages and foods with either xylitol or erythritol instead.

6) Resolve stress. Stress, anxiety and frustration are major energy sinks that will undermine both your physical and mental energy until and unless you confront the underlying issues and resolve them. Talk to a friend or relative, take a walk, write that letter…..take some kind of action towards a resolution even if you can’t resolve everything today.

7) Clean up and organize you living and working environment.  It doesn’t happen in an obvious way, but when your work and living spaces are cluttered and chaotic, you waste energy ignoring it and it makes it hard to stay focused and follow through on tasks.

Clutter isn't just unsightly, it's the ultimate black hole for mental and physical energy.

Clutter isn't just unsightly, it's the ultimate black hole for mental and physical energy.

8)  Exercise! Exercise is not just a lifestyle choice, it’s an indispensable requirement for health. Lack of exercise makes you metabolism grow ever-slower, and you’ll feel less and less energetic by just not exercising.

9)  Check with your doctor about drug side-effects. Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs produce fatigue as a side-effect. If you’re taking medication and experiencing fatigue, check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if it could be related to that.

10)  Pace yourself and set a reasonable agenda for each day; don’t over-commit yourself. Some people complain about low energy, and then you look at the unrealsitic way in which they’ve structured their days and weeks, and it’s no wonder they need more energy. Recognize that you have limits as a human being and respect those limits. Don’t try to do too much too soon and recognize when you need to rest, take a break or stop altogether.

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