The Blog

Month #1: HuffPost Living 'Total Energy Makeover' with Ashley Koff, RD

You know what the changes you ought to make are, but if you haven't been able to incorporate them into your life personally, follow along.
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To Get Energy, Start with Sleep

No kidding, right? We didn't need a contest to tell you that a "Total Energy Makeover" needs to begin with Total Recovery--as in more and better quality sleep. But if you are like our winner and makeover contestant, Marissa Campise--despite being extremely well-read (China Study, yoga sutras, etc), well-tried (200+ yoga hours, high quality food choices) and well-accomplished (Yale, Wall Street, venture capitalist)--your efforts may have produced awareness that you need to make changes. You know what many of those changes are, but if you haven't been able to incorporate them into your life personally, follow along. We, (myself and the superstar HuffPost Living experts who've joined the Total Energy Makeover), are going to help you this year, step by step--or in the case of this month, Z by Z by Z. We'll start with how to sleep, and sleep better.

Whenever I meet a new patient I listen for what will give them the biggest bang for their buck in terms of what modifications will give them the most significant results. Why? One, it gets us moving along the quickest and, two, success breeds future success. When we feel like we are getting results, we continue on, we're motivated. So when I met Marissa and heard her talk about lack of sleep (as little as three hours, or five to six hours tops) and waking up several times a night, I wanted to look at sleep as a first intervention because it would give her so much in terms of results.

Not sleeping is a vicious cycle (see my earlier blog - Sleep: Mother Nature's Weight Loss / Health Gain) and while weight is not Marissa's issue, health loss absolutely is. Lack of sleep has Marissa grabbing caffeine three to four times a day to provide energy, in the form of Red Bull and coffee ("I tried tea for awhile and it worked great, less jittery, etc. but then I got this new job and I came back to," Red Bull and coffee, Marissa said). Her Red Bulls are sugar-free, which she intelligently noted adds more chemicals in addition to caffeine. In addition to caffeine, Marissa reaches for carbohydrates, not awful quality but higher quantity, at key points in the day when her energy is lowest (early morning, mid-afternoon, and late night). She has three to six servings of carbohydrates, at least half of which are from added sugar at each of these energy seeking "eating occasions." And finally, also part of the vicious cycle, Marissa fails to "unplug and recharge" nightly; her iPhone and Blackberry stay on AND used 24/7, functioning as her alarm, but also as a disruptor. Messages that come in mid-night's sleep not only wake her momentarily, but she replies to them creating a sleep disruption that impairs recovery and recharge.

So starting with the last point and moving forward, I gave Marissa tips to improve her energy (and which you can view in our segment on "Good Morning America" Health,).

Tip No. 1: Turn off and stow your BlackBerry and iPhone nightly. What would happen to our gadgets if we only plugged them in to recharge for three or five hours a night or we interrupted their charging each night for 10-minute segments here and there? Their power would run out way sooner than desired, right? Well, same goes for our power. So Marissa's agreed to try to turn it off--check back this month to see how she handles it

Tip No. 2: Cut the caffeine? No. It may seem strange but I didn't tell Marissa to ditch the caffeine in this first month. Why? Because without effective support and replacements just going cold turkey sets her up for headaches and energy-aches as she would struggle unnecessarily in her meetings, exercise, and communication. That's not a recipe for long term success. Instead, we started with exchanging for better quality, ditching Red Bull for coffee and coffee for tea gets rid of chemicals and lowers her overall intake of caffeine daily.

Tip No. 3: To help sleep and make it better quality, we added magnesium at night (I recommended Peter Gillham's Natural Calm powder, a company that I work with) as magnesium is Mother Nature's muscle relaxant. It works inside the cell to turn off our stress ('fight or flight') in favor of encouraging rest and recovery. It also helps address constipation and tightness of major muscle areas like the back and neck (these aren't chronic issues for Marissa). I also provided a homeopathic option--SleepEase by to help her sleep and stay asleep--but we aren't going to start it until she's tried the magnesium nightly for at least a week. (Tip: you don't want to add too many new things at one time as it can overwhelm the body and you don't know what's the effect of each new change).

Tip No. 4: For an energy boost midday to help her as she moves from coffee to tea, I suggested she take a multivitamin/mineral, (I recommended at this time New Chapter's Unbounded Energy, but this may change after she's evaluated by our Makeover doctor, Frank Lipman, author of "Revive," an energy solution book), at lunch versus breakfast as the B vitamins specifically and other nutrients will provide a boost of energy.

Tip No. 5: Dietary changes - as noted above, Marissa's diet (she gave me a few days' food journal) is out of nutrient balance though she's doing a good job of eating frequency. We reviewed the AKA menu worksheet and discussed how for optimal energy we want to "pit stop" with balanced eating occasions about every three hours. I advised her to aim for one to two servings of carbs, protein and healthy fats plus unlimited vegetables at each eating occasion. This means instead of three waffles with butter and honey for breakfast, try one waffle (I recommended Natures Path--a company I work with--because they are organic, which means food only, not food and chemicals) with one or two tablespoons of nut butter (I recommended NuttZo--a company I work with--because it's organic and provides flax seeds for fiber and Omega 3 fatty acids) for protein and healthy fat, as well as 1/2-cup organic blueberries for extra sweetness, fiber and antioxidants. And did I mention that the TV anchor and crew each ate up our breakfast samples ("Oh they're soo good!") immediately on finishing the segment? Check back and read Marissa's blogs here on HuffPost Living and follow her on Twitter to see if she likes this energy-enhancing breakfast option--and let us know if you try it too.

So that's what Marissa has to get started. In addition, I spoke to yoga instructor extraordinaire, Tara Stiles, about getting started with Marissa and using yoga not just to relax but also to provide energy boosts--stay tuned for next month when Tara shares these tips with us all. (I can't wait!)

And this month, Marissa will also meet with Dr. Frank Lipman. (She's got his book "Revive" to read as homework so grab a copy yourself and get great 'Daily Beats' energy tips). This is critical as anyone engaging in a makeover, new exercise plan and new dietary choices should be evaluated by their doctor. Dr. Lipman will share his evaluation and insights with us in March.

Ok, BlackBerry is being turned off now, it's time for me to UnPlug and ReCharge.