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Health & Balance

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What’s Zapping Your Energy?

11 surprising things may be draining your energy without you even knowing it.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD

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 doughnuts 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.

1. Sugar

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:

  • Whole grain crackers and low-fat cheese
  • Fresh fruit or a small box of raisins and low-fat cheese
  • Half a lean turkey or chicken sandwich
  • Plain, nonfat yogurt blended with fruit or all-fruit jam
  • Small pop-top can of water-packed tuna or chicken with whole grain crackers

2. Caffeine

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.

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