How to recharge and get energised

How often do you feel tired, exhausted, fatigued? 

Do you want to get more energy? To reverse those low energy levels?

I don’t know anyone who would say no to more energy.

  • We like to feel energetic.
  • We like to feel energised.
  • We like to feel like we’ve got energy to burn.

No one likes to feel tired, lethargic, exhausted, and lacking energy. 

What does energy mean to you?

Energy has another meaning in human health. 

  • Energy comes from food and drink. It is the kilojoules (kJs) in foods and drinks that we consume. Kilojoules are a measure of energy.
  • Energy (kJs) fuels the body.
  • Excess energy is stored as body fat.

Given that some people eat and drink more than enough energy for their body needs, how can it be that many lack energy? How come the stored energy doesn’t make you feel energised?

Kilojoules (from food or drink and stored as body fat) are just one of many factors that influence how energised you feel, your energy levels.

Where you get your fuel (kjs) from matters. You need most of the fuel to come from high quality food and drink sources. Sources that contain critical nutrients to maintain and support the complex energy pathways and release systems inside cells. Stored body fat is an inferior source because it doesn’t contain the extra critical nutrients. 

Think of your body as a high performance car.

What happens to a car that is filled with inferior fuel or clocks up too many kilometers without an oil top-up, water in the radiator, a tune-up and service? The car will run but it will run badly. Eventually it will overheat or pack it in entirely and come to a spluttering stop. The once gorgeous vehicle turns into a dilapidated wreck through neglect. 

The human body is similar to a car but fortunately for us, more sophisticated. The body tolerates some really bad neglect and treatment (missing nutrients from food, long hours, not enough sleep). 

We continue to function, to plod along. But there comes a breaking point when a neglected body finally sends a message to say enough is enough.

Look after me!

The message may start vaguely. Feeling tired, fatigued, run-down and with low energy. It could be reflux, ulcers, headaches, infections ... the early signs are variable and easily ignored.

Respond early to the body’s subtle attention seeking and you may prevent a catastrophic physical and emotional collapse.

Although food and drinks supply the base energy, for optimal performance and to feel energised we need a few other key ingredients.

Treat your body well to feel more energetic and energised. 

This is how to do it.

Look at what you eat and drink. You need more than just calories or kilojoules. Your body needs vitamins, minerals, trace elements and other nutrients to keep it in good condition, well tuned. Taking a vitamin and mineral supplement may help today but it is not necessarily the best solution long-term. Your body deserves a range of high quality food for optimum performance. High quality does not mean high cost. High quality means less commercially processed.

Consume enough. Not too much, not too little. Consuming more food fuel doesn’t give you better energy levels. The reverse is usually true.

Excess food fuel makes you feel flat and tired. It adds to stored body fat. Body fat adds a physical load to the body. It takes more effort to move about.

Think of body fat as the human equivalent of a long range fuel tank. In a vehicle, a long range fuel tank is important for long distance travel when there are no petrol stations on route. But when are humans in need of a long range tank? We are rarely without a near-by promise of food, our source of fuel. 

If you constantly run your body on empty in the hope of tapping into the energy stored in body fat, you will feel drained, tired and add to a foggy head. Body fat slowly delivers kilojoules but not the other nutrients essential for feeling energised. 

And interestingly, don’t overeat because eating and drinking too many kilojoules and too much volume at a single time may leave you feeling sleepy and tired. It’s like you’ve got no energy even though you took in more than enough. The name for after meal sleepiness is post-prandial lassitude.

Now look at when you supply the energy and nutrient sources. When you run on empty by skipping meals, you will feel tired. Converting stored body fat into useable energy doesn’t happen the very second you need a pick-up. The conversion from fat into useable energy takes time. 

The human body and brain prefer to quickly draw on more instant energy reserves: blood glucose and glycogen (found in muscle and liver). 

Other factors to help you feel more energetic

Drink enough water for hydration. The release of energy in the body needs water. If you don’t drink enough water, you will feel tired and lose concentration. You will feel shattered like you’ve got no energy. Your hand eye coordination will begin to fail you. Water is also part of the body’s cooling system, just like a radiator in a car. 

Make sure you drink plenty of water during your waking hours. 

Don’t trust lollies, chocolate, sports drinks and soft drinks to energise you. Although sugars quickly lift flagging blood glucose levels and seem to perk you up, the risk of rebound is strong when you have too much of them.

Energy levels drop quickly and you may find yourself feeling as tired as you did before you had them.

If you are an athlete whose muscles need instant fuel, sports drinks may help but for the rest of us, sugary drinks and lollies let us down quickly. 

High sugar fixes are really just fizzers.

Track your week to find out when you need a pick-me-up. You may discover a pattern or predictable time.

Perhaps late afternoon is a flat time you crave a chocolate or guarana laced energy drink, or are hungry?

Once you spot a pattern or time, it is easy to beat the impulsive urge for a sugar splurge.

In the ideal world, take a break before you hit the predicted flat time. Enjoy a cup of tea, coffee or water. Eat a snack that adds substantial nutrition or, if the time is close to a meal, eat the meal early. If these are not possible, be ready with a compact snack and water. Try a small snack bag of nuts and dried fruit, fresh fruit, a tub of yoghurt with fruit, or cheese and a slice of wholemeal bread. Respond to your body’s flagging reserves with good nutrition and hydration.

You won’t need a lot to top yourself up between meals but leave the decision too late and you will impulsively choose processed sugary hits.

My main problem time is 11 am because I sometimes can’t or I simply forget to break for food at morning tea. My best fix is to eat lunch straight away and backup with my forgotten morning tea a few hours later. I’ll have two afternoon breaks. This works for me but it won’t suit everyone. 

What’s the catch with caffeine, energy drinks, guarana and coffee? Caffeine is a stimulant. It can give you a lift but have too much and it raises anxiety levels in both adults and children.

Anxiety is exhausting and draining.

The caffeine dose that raises anxiety levels is surprisingly low. Just 2 cups of percolated coffee per day (about 210 mg caffeine) for adults. For kids aged 5-12 years, the dose is much smaller at 3 mg caffeine per kilogram body weight a day. When you consider that a small 250 ml can of ‘energy drink’ contains 80 mg caffeine, both adults and kids can hit the ‘anxiety dose’ very quickly.

How to tap into your long range fuel tanks, your body fat.

Train your body to expect fewer kilojoules (calories) through the mouth. That is, eat and drink fewer kilojoules (calories). Don’t starve yourself, just take in less food fuel energy than you do now.

Your body will adapt and tap into its own stored body fat fuel tanks. Within a few weeks you will start to feel the benefits. With time your body will appreciate the lighter load and move with less effort.

You will need to compliment your food with a multi-vitamin and mineral if you cut your energy intake below about 6500 kJ daily.

What else is important to help you feel energetic and energised?

Value good sleep. Sleep resets the mind and body. A sound sleep ought to see you bounce out of bed, full of energy, refreshed on waking.

Broken topsy turvy sleeps will leave you feeling tired and sapped of energy. New parents know this all too well. Shift workers may battle with low energy when their internal body clock (promoting sleep) misaligns with work rosters. Sudden alarm-triggered early rises may also be enough to ruin the sleep cycle.

If you have sleep apnoea and don’t get enough oxygen into your body, you will feel tired. Your bed partner’s sleep will also suffer.

Take note of your caffeine intake at night. Caffeine disrupts sleep for some people. You may be one of them but have never noticed the connection.

Manage your blood sugar levels. High blood glucose levels make you feel tired all the time. Undiagnosed or poorly controlled diabetes are behind this.

Glucose is a form of sugar. You’d imagine high blood glucose will deliver instant energy but it doesn’t. The reverse is true.

Too much sugar in the blood does not give you energy. An unwell body can’t use this energy source very well.

Too much sugar in the blood also makes you super thirsty. Toilet visits increase and night time sleep is disrupted to avoid bed wetting.

Exercise. Exercise’s role as an energiser is mixed. Too much or too little? At both ends of the exercise spectrum you will feel tired or exhausted.

Finding what’s best for you, both the amount and type of activity is essential.

Don’t be the ball hurtling down the hill. It started slowly but quickly built up speed, bouncing and rolling out of control until it finally crashes.

Don’t let yourself crash. Start moving but start slowly and build up your pace to suit your body’s improving ability.

Aim to linger longer in natural surroundings away from the hustle and bustle of manmade structures and noise.

Seek out a stream or river and sit quietly. Listen to the sounds of nature under treetops. Brush with nature at the Botanical Gardens. Enjoy the sensation of sand on bare feet. Ramble over rocks.

If you can’t get out amongst nature, look at pictures of nature. Research shows they will boost your mood (not quite as good as getting out there in nature but still beneficial). Hang scenes of nature (no manmade structures) by your desk and in front of your exercise equipment. Install images as screen savers on mobile devices and computer screens.

If an overhaul of your food and water balance don’t deliver a total energy boost, see your doctor for a full check-up. Some health concerns that leave you tired are related to food, nutrition and hydration. Others need medical attention.

    • Anaemia (low levels of iron, folate or vitamin B12) will see you low in energy levels with no get up and go. The cause of anaemias may be due to a simple dietary lack. Anaemia may signal other health concerns (e.g. coeliac disease), reflect an aging body (e.g. unable to absorb vitamin B 12), be caused by certain medications (e.g reflux and diabetes medications), or be due to surgery of the intestinal tract (e.g. weight loss surgery)
    • Sleep apnoea will leave oxygen levels in the blood stream low. You end up drowsy and and low in energy.
    • Thyroid disorders (e.g underactive thryoid) may cause lethargy, low energy and tiredness.
    • High blood glucose due to undiagnosed or poorly controlled diabetes adds to low energy levels and tiredness.
    • Mood and emotional concerns weigh heavy and drop your energy levels, leaving you feeling flat and un-energised. Depression, anxiety and stress are amongst these.
    • Sleep interrupters and insomnia speak for themselves. You will not wake refreshed and energised.
    • Medications prescribed to treat another health concern may add to low energy levels. Don’t stop any medications before you speak with your doctor. Your doctor is in the best position to decide whether a low energy level is a side-effect of medications and what else is available.
    • Constant pain is draining and could leave you with low zing.

Your body deserves TLC. Enough water and high quality food. A good mix of exercise (both mental and physical), rest and sleep. Improve these and your energy levels will improve as well. It doesn’t take long to feel the benefits.