Scientifically-Backed Solutions to Combat Fatigue
Energy is a hot commodity. We can hope for it, but that doesn’t always mean we are going to get it. For many of us, fatigue is a more consistent companion. We go to bed at night thinking, “Tomorrow I’ll have the energy to do that thing. Tomorrow I’ll turn this ship around and be productive. Tomorrow. Tomorrow.” But unless we start making a few tweaks to our lifestyle, that “energetic tomorrow,” will never come. Our bodies don’t just change on demand. There may be moments where you can “mind over matter” your way into a burst of energy, but that is an unreliable method.
According to a Study…
The good news is that there are several scientifically proven ways to consistently boost your energy levels, naturally. We’ve scoured the studies and curated a science-backed list of methods that can get you back on track. With a bit of intentionality and some minor alterations, your “energetic tomorrow” could be right around the corner.
Mornings are Crucial
If you’re keeping those blackout curtains closed when you wake each morning, then you aren’t setting yourself up for success. There’s a reason why sunrise alarm clocks are a thing. Our bodies need to experience light in the mornings to fine-tune our circadian rhythm and get us going. It turns out that the picturesque scene of sunlight streaming in an open window while Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 plays softly in the background is truly the quintessential image of a perfect morning.
According to Andrew Huberman (Huberman Lab Podcast), light–ideally blue or yellow light from the sun–inhibits our pineal gland from releasing melatonin. Looking up at the sky is nature’s wake-up call. Sunlight signals to our body that it’s time to move. Without experiencing some sort of light, our minds are fighting our bodies’ instinct to stay asleep. And those mixed signals lead to a feeling of low energy.
Huberman also felt it important to point out that you should not attempt to look directly into the blazing sun and burn your retina. We thought this was obvious, but you never know. The point is simply to let the light in. And if you don’t have enough access to natural light, then it may be time to invest in one of those sunrise alarms.
Blue Light is Not the Enemy
In the same episode, Huberman adds that those blue light glasses everyone is so crazy about may not be doing you any favors in the energy department. Blue light suppresses melatonin, ergo, wear your blue blockers and be vulnerable to pesky melatonin attempting to sidetrack your productivity. Blue light glasses should be worn primarily in the evening when you’re winding down, to welcome the release of melatonin.
As with most things, the key here is consistency. You may watch the sunrise one morning and still feel tired all day. But spend 2-10 minutes in the sunshine for 7 mornings in a row and you’ll start to feel the effects.
Take Your Vitamins
Be honest with yourself: are you actually taking your vitamins each morning? Consistently? Or is your medicine cabinet full of good intentions? There’s no shame; forgetting to take your vitamins is as natural as “forgetting” to floss. But if you’re concerned about your low energy levels, then checking your daily supplement routine is a good place to start.
Vitamin deficiencies can result in excess fatigue, along with anxiety, depression, irritability, sleeplessness, and a whole host of other issues. There really is no excuse to not be taking your vitamins. Your body needs them.
Although a shot of espresso may seem more appealing than taking a vitamin, you may be able to get all the caffeine you need from more nutritious sources. Superfoods like Guarana contain naturally occurring caffeine that your body craves. There are vitamin supplements available that have Guarana (and its caffeine) PLUS 100% of all your essential daily vitamins. That’s it. Everything you need in one vitamin.
Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit of Northumbria University conducted a gold-standard study on vitamins + Guarana and found that Guarana’s “addition to a multi-vitamin-mineral supplement can improve cognitive performance and reduce the mental fatigue associated with sustained mental effort.” Like we said, science.
You knew it was coming… Regular exercise encourages your body to make more of all the things that give it energy. According to Toni Golen, MD at Harvard Medical School, exercise improves your energy levels on three fronts:
- Movement causes our body to produce more mitochondria cells in our muscles. Mitochondria cells are primarily responsible for turning the glucose in the foods we eat into fuel, essentially resulting in a more energized feeling within the body. More exercise = more mitochondria cells = more energy overall.
- Frequent exercise improves the circulation of oxygen in the body. A stronger supply of oxygen allows our bodies to expend energy much more efficiently. A simple example of this is how winded a person may be after climbing a flight of stairs. Those who exercise more often will not feel as drained as a person who never exercises.
- Finally, regular exercise gives your happy hormones a boost, which can often feel like an energy boost as well.
Training More Than Just Your Muscles
Exercise literally trains your body to be more energetic, while also tricking your mind into believing it. Let’s say you begin with a stroll through the neighborhood every evening after dinner (which is an excellent idea, by the way, mentally and physically). After a week of this, you’ll find that you feel more energetic later in the day. Should you decide to skip your walk one day, the energy will still be there on reserve, waiting for you. You may choose to expend this extra dose of energy on a new hobby, time with friends, or even cleaning up the kitchen. All the things you once thought you never had energy for.
Remember those golden days of pre-school? Nap time…little cushions on the ground…dim lights…20 minutes of sleep we swore we didn’t need? If only we could go back and appreciate it for the gift that it was… According to science, it’s time to return.
This fascinating article in Life Hacker makes the case for bringing back the midday nap. Apparently, the urge to nap is biological and evolutionary. For many of us, our circadian schedule necessitates a midday nap. That 3 pm slump isn’t something to be combatted but rather to embrace! Regardless of the amount of sleep you get at night, midday exhaustion is just a signal from our body that it’s time for a little snooze. When it comes to energy levels, studies show that naps are more effective than caffeine.
But that’s not the only clue that naps are necessary. In that same Huberman Lab podcast, he discusses a molecule in our brains called Adenosine, which builds up the longer we are awake. Adenosine literally makes us hungry for sleep. Ignoring it or willing it away won’t work–it’s a molecule, not a feeling. The only way to flush out the Adenosine is to sleep.
We’re No Better Than Babies
According to studies, naps allow us to function more coherently and efficiently. When babies get fussy, we know it’s because they missed their naps. We don’t shame them for it, we just understand that their brains are processing a lot and they desperately need naps to reset. Somehow we’ve decided that as fully grown adults, our brains should just run like machines. But the brain isn’t a machine. It’s a living organism that functions better when rested. Just like babies.
A good rule of thumb is to take your nap halfway through your wake cycle, or 8 hours into your 16-hour day. For most people, it’s after lunch. If you can, a 26-minute nap is the sweet spot, but if you don’t have that luxury, consider an Einstein Nap. To prepare for his nap, Einstein would rest with a metal spoon in his hand, his hand hanging over a metal cooking pan. When he’d truly drifted off, his grip would loosen naturally, and the spoon would clang onto the pan, waking him up. He claimed this natural alarm clock method would give him just enough rest to reset. We’ve tried it. It works.
Fuel Your Body
This one seems like a given so we’ll keep it short. Our bodies must have food to use as fuel. It’s not just exercise that burns calories, living burns calories. Breathing, sleeping, and even thinking burn fuel. Calories are essentially a measurement of energy, so make sure you are eating.
Most humans need between 225 and 335 carbs a day, and ideally, only 50 of those should be sugars. Calories from sugar burn much faster than other calories and can cause spikes that lead to energy crashes. If you are truly trying to boost your energy, you should feed yourself calories that burn more slowly. Foods like vegetables, berries, nuts, and dark chocolate will get you on the right path.
Of course, each body is different, and your needs and results will vary. If you’re curious, you can get a better idea of what you burn in a day by using this free calculator.
To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
If all else fails, it could just be that you aren’t getting enough quality sleep (‘quality’ being the key word here). All humans are different, but the goal should be to average between 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
There are so many factors that can disrupt our sleep. Anxiety, stress, alcohol, a heavy dinner, etc. Ultimately each person must find their own method to combat these blockades. It could be a simple fix like an earlier dinner time, or it may be something that requires a little more work, like therapy or counseling. Either way, sleep should be a priority.
Melatonin Alone Isn’t Enough
Many people turn to melatonin to help them sleep, but unfortunately, melatonin alone only helps you feel sleepy and fall asleep, not stay asleep. Melatonin does nothing to combat anxiety-induced sleep suppression, which many of us recognize as that nagging voice waking us up at 3 am, asking if we remembered to pay taxes.
However, there are natural remedies that can help. In many gold-standard studies, Valerian Root and Passion Flower were found to be as effective as Ambien in suppressing insomnia. The addition of CBD to your nightly routine will also help keep the anxiety at bay, allowing you to fully rest without waking up groggy.
“The World Belongs to the Energetic.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The bottom line is that low energy just isn’t sustainable. We live in a world that is constantly demanding more from us. Sometimes it can feel as if we use up all our energy just trying to keep up, and then we have none left for living.
Although these solutions should help, every body is different. If you are still struggling to get your energy levels up, then you should talk to your doctor. You can have your blood levels tested and find out where you may be deficient. Information is a powerful thing and knowing precisely what your body needs can make a world of difference.
Feel Better, Bud
Here are a few key takeaways. Remember, consistency is key.
- Start the day with sunlight
- Take your vitamins
- Eat your greens
- Take a siesta
- Move your body
- Sleep is your best friend
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