By: Jessica Cassity
If you're tired all the time you're not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have gone so far as to call Americans' lack of sleep a "public health epidemic." Chronic fatigue is also related to a variety of medical conditions including autoimmune disease, thyroid disorders, depression, and anemia. Combine any of these possibilities with long hours at work and it's no surprise you're reaching for a third cup of coffee by 3 o'clock. But there are other natural ways to boost energy that will provide a more sustainable lift and won't compromise your ability to wind down in the evening so you can finally get the rest you need. Read on for a few research-supported strategies to stay energized all day long.
Balance your carb consumption. That afternoon slump may happen because you're bored at work, but more than likely it has a lot to do with what you just ate for lunch. Your body and brain need food for fuel, but when a lot of the calories you consume come from carbohydrates--such as the bread used in sandwiches or a hearty bowl of pasta--you may start to feel sleepy about an hour after eating. Carbohydrates are absorbed into your blood stream almost immediately after eating. Right after a carb-heavy meal your blood sugar will experience a big surge then, when all the carbs are used up, your blood sugar will plummet, bringing on that feeling of fatigue. However, calories that come from fiber, fat, and protein take longer to release. For even all-day energy, eat a mix of nutrients at each meal and snack, including plenty of fiber-rich veggies and fruits, lean proteins such as chicken or beans, and some healthy fat, such as that found in avocados and olive oil.
Sniff some mint. Have you ever noticed that spas tend to smell of flowers such as lavender and ylang ylang? Studies show that these scents increase calmness, which is right for that setting. If you were to look for an essential oil that had the opposite effect--one that made you more energized and alert--choose peppermint. This distinct odor has the opposite effect of soothing essential oils, although it's still a pleasant scent. Peppermint can even enhance your memory, according to a study in the International Journal of Neuroscience.
Take in more B12. Even if you eat a balanced diet, you may be deficient in important nutrients. If you're feeling sluggish, try increasing your intake of vitamin B12. This vitamin is naturally found in animal-derived foods like meat, fish, poultry, and dairy, which explains why many vegetarians and vegans may not get enough through diet alone. (Vitamin B12 is also important for anemia prevention.) Vitamin B12 supplements can be found in the vitamin aisle of most grocery stores; you can take this vitamin on its own or in a blend of other B vitamins.
Go to yoga or take a walk. It may seem like being active will only make you feel more tired and it can be true--going to an intense bootcamp class may make you want to take a nap. But engaging in low or moderate activity--such as a short walk or a yoga session--can boost energy levels, according to an article from the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics. This sort of exercise is enough to increase your circulation--and with it the blood and oxygen flow to your body and brain--without actually tiring you out. The next time you feel fatigued but you really need to be awake, try it out: Go on a brisk 10- or 20-minute walk and see how you feel after. Chances are you'll be much more awake than when you left. For a quick yoga pick-me-up try some repetitions of Sun Salutation A, demonstrated in the video above.