The Harvard-Approved Plan to Transform Your Energy For Good
Harvard Medical School recently published a special report on energy, covering everything from banishing long-term fatigue to boosting energy immediately. These are some of the highlights.
Avoid fruits that make you more tired in the long run
One of the more surprising findings in the Harvard Medical School report Boosting Your Energy is that despite its sterling reputation, not all fruit is good. Some—especially dried fruits—act almost like refined carbs, providing quick energy but soon leaving you even more sapped than before. That’s because they spark a surge in insulin, which, in turn, quickly ferries those sugars out from the bloodstream and into various cells throughout the body. The result: low blood sugar and an overwhelming sense of exhaustion. Instead, opt for fresh, low-glycemic foods such as oranges and apples. Make bananas, which are slightly higher in glycemic load, your plan B; consider raisins and dried dates to be occasional treats. Not feeling fruity? Carrots and hummus offer an excellent boost, too. Check out 10 more foods that boost energy.
Stick with fat-infused meals that won’t make you sleepy
Nothing will force a siesta faster than a lunch laden with fats (cheesy lasagna, anyone?). The exception, however, may be foods with essential fatty acids—fats that can’t be made by your body. It’s too early to tell whether omega-3s can help with everyday fatigue (though scientists have found lower levels in people with chronic fatigue syndrome), but research on overall brain and heart health suggests you should eat plenty anyway. The current recommendations, from the American Heart Association, recommends eating two 3.5-ounce servings of fatty fish, such as salmon, every week week. Here are more energy-boosting foods dietitians swear by.
Look to water as an energy elixir
Yes, water. No need for any fancy high-tech energy drink. If you’re feeling sleepy, chances are, you’re running low on H20. As the Harvard report points out, about half to 60 percent of your body weight is water, which helps move nutrients throughout the body via the bloodstream. If you’re having one of those go-go-go days, you’ll be losing fluid all day through sweat, exhalation, and urination. Without replenishing, you’ll have no energy left. Watch out for these other 15 surprising things that drain your energy.
Squeeze in a workout to improve sleep
If you’re still dragging after seven to eight hours of quality sleep—and you don’t have a health issue like sleep apnea—schedule some exercise. According to a study published in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity, 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week (the general recommendations from experts) can provide a 65 percent improvement in sleep. And as the thinking goes, when you have more restful sleep, you’ll feel less tired the next day.
Don’t limit yourself to aerobic exercise
Muscle cells have more mitochondria, which are the structures that convert food into energy. That means if you build muscle, your body will produce more energy (not to mention burn more calories). Pilates—which enhances core strength—has been shown to enhance the sleep quality of sedentary people and help them feel less tired during the day. As for regular strength training, start slowly: Choose a weight that allows you to do eight to twelve repetitions for two to three sets; the last couple of reps should be challenging. Breathe out as you lift; breathe in as you lower. Start these other daily habits of naturally energetic people.
Bounce back from stress
The Harvard report mentions an American Psychological Association poll that found stress wrecked sleep in one out of three people. Stress also left a third of the respondents fatigued. However: People who felt the most tired didn’t necessarily experience more stress—they just reacted to stress with more anger or anxiety. If stress is getting in the way of your shut-eye, try this five-minute trick that helps you fall asleep when your mind is racing.
Getting in touch with your artistic side can significantly boost your health, according to an American Journal of Public Health review. While more research is still needed to confirm these findings, there’s nothing wrong with starting a project you enjoy, whether it’s painting, sewing, or scrapbooking. Such projects can be thoroughly absorbing, mentally and physically, and can melt away worries. As the Harvard report points out, research finds that sewing reduces more stress than playing cards or reading a newspaper.
A growing area of research indicates that nature can help ease high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and stress. Even better: The more time you spend in a garden or park (or the more green you have right in your neighborhood), the better you’ll feel.
Put down the cigarettes
Smoking not only trashes your lungs—it wrecks your sleep too. This, in turn, can leave you feeling out of it. The Harvard report notes that “the nicotine in tobacco speeds up your heart rate, raises blood pressure, and stimulates brain-wave activity associated with wakefulness, making it harder to fall asleep.” Worse, thanks to cravings, you may also end up waking up again even after you’ve finally fallen asleep. Try these 25 natural energy boosters that just might change your life.
Keep busy (without overworking yourself)
If you’re adding an activity that you really enjoy with a goal that motivates you, it can be energizing. The Harvard report suggests making a couple of lists: one composed of the things you enjoy doing, and the other with things that you’ve done that have inspired you. “The idea is to combine the things you love with the goals you can accomplish. Try to focus on your priorities so that you channel your energy into the activities that truly matter to you,” the report explains. Just confirm with a doctor that your lack of energy isn’t from these 9 medical reasons you might feel tired all the time.
Run on solar power
You should know that establishing a smart sleep routine—like keeping the bedroom dark, cool, and electronics-free—helps make you feel energized the next day. But it’s also important to set up a good wakeup routine. Charge up for the day by going out into broad daylight soon after you wake up in the morning. That burst of sunshine will help reset your internal clock and get you ready to take on the day, according the report.