Your Guide to Never Feeling Tired Again
By Nancy Rones
22 ways to tackle life's biggest energy zappers.
Every day, 2.2 million Americans complain of being tired. Most of us chalk it up to having too much to do and not enough time to do it in, especially during extra-busy periods. But often the true culprits are our everyday habits: what we eat, how we sleep, and how we cope emotionally. Read on for some simple, recharging changes that can help you tackle all of the energy stealers in your life.
Energize Your Diet
Why is it that filling up on pasta or Chinese food for lunch leaves us snacky and sleepy an hour later? Or that falling short on fluids makes us forgetful and foggy? Fact is, eating habits play a powerful role in how well we function on every level. Below, six top fatigue-fighting nutrition strategies to chew on.
Have breakfast... even if you don't feel hungry. You'll be a lot perkier: Studies show that people who eat breakfast feel better both mentally and physically than those who skip their morning meal. British researchers at Cardiff University even found that spooning up a bowl of breakfast cereal every morning is associated with lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Eat every three to four hours. Having three smallish meals and two snacks throughout the day can keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable all day long, says Roberta Anding, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (ADA). Note the word "smallish." Supersized meals demand more of your energy to digest, which can leave you feeling lethargic. At each mini-meal, get a mix of carbohydrates (which the body uses for energy), protein (which helps sustain energy if needed), and healthy fats like those found in fish, nuts, and olives -- these fats and protein contribute to meal satisfaction, so you don't go hunting for sweets an hour later and wind up with a short-lived sugar high and subsequent crash. A few meal ideas: a low-fat yogurt parfait with berries and a couple of tablespoons of whole-grain granola; salmon over mixed greens with whole-grain crackers; and beef tenderloin with a baked sweet potato and asparagus.
Fill up on more fiber. Fiber has a time-releasing effect on carbs, so they enter your bloodstream at a slow and steady pace, giving your energy staying power, says Anding. When choosing your mini-meals (see above), include fiber-filled options that add up to the daily recommended 25 to 30 grams of fiber (the average person gets only between 10 and 15 grams). Some suggestions: a bowl of raisin bran (5 grams of fiber per cup); black beans and cheese wrapped in a multigrain tortilla (beans have 7.5 grams per 1/2 cup; one tortilla has 5 grams); air-popped popcorn (3.6 grams per 3 cups); an apple with the skin (3.3 grams); and whole-wheat spaghetti (6.3 grams per cup).
Fuel your brain with omega-3s. Found in fatty fish (such as tuna and salmon), walnuts, and canola oil, these essential fatty acids play a role in keeping brain cells healthy and helping you feel mentally alert. Another potential bonus: Omega-3s encourage the body to store carbs as glycogen — the storage form of glucose (blood sugar) and the body's main source of stored fuel — rather than as fat.
Stay hydrated. Water makes up the majority of your blood and other body fluids, and even mild dehydration can cause blood to thicken, forcing the heart to pump harder to carry blood to your cells and organs and resulting in fatigue. Also, ample fluids keep energy-fueling nutrients flowing throughout the body, says Nancy Clark, R.D., author of Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook. To gauge your hydration, Clark recommends monitoring how often you urinate. You should be going every two to four hours, and your urine should be clear or pale yellow in color. Tip: Besides drinking more, you can also consume foods that naturally contain water, such as yogurt, broccoli, carrots, and juicy fruits, like watermelons, oranges, and grapefruits.
Watch caffeine intake after noon. Typically, consuming a moderate amount of caffeine — 200 to 300 mg, the amount found in two to three cups of coffee — can make you more energetic and alert in the hours following, says Anthony L. Komaroff, M.D., a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. But when caffeine is consumed in large quantities — or anytime in the afternoon or evening — the quality of your sleep that night can take a nosedive, leaving you with heavy eyelids the next day. One caution for those who are highly sensitive to caffeine: Although switching to a decaf latte in the afternoon sounds like the answer, researchers at the University of Florida found that out of 22 decaffeinated coffee beverages tested, all but one contained some caffeine.