Top 10 Ways to Boost Your Energy
Experts offer some fatigue-zapping tips that really work.
By Colette Bouchez
Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD
Everyone is familiar with all-out energy drain -- that exhausted day (or night) when no matter how enticing that new movie, fabulous shoe sale, or friendly barbeque, we just can't psych ourselves up to go.
What can be harder to recognize is a low-grade energy drain. In this case, you may not necessarily feel the classic signs of exhaustion -- like achy muscles or that all-over tired feeling. What you do experience is an increasing lack of get-up-and-go for many of the activities you used to love.
"You may also find it harder to concentrate on tasks, and, eventually, you can also find your patience grows short and your level of frustration rises, even when confronted with seemingly simple challenges," says New York University nutritionist Samantha Heller, MS, RD.
If this is starting to sound familiar, take heart. Energy zappers are all around us, some obvious, some hidden. The good news: There is a way around almost all of them.
To this end, we asked health experts to help compile this list of the top 10 energy boosters. Try one, two, or all 10, and you're bound to see your energy levels soar.
Top 10 Energy Boosters
1. Increase Your Magnesium Intake
Eating a balanced diet can help ensure your vitamin and mineral needs are met. But if you still find yourself too pooped to pop, you could have a slight magnesium deficiency, Heller says.
"This mineral is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including breaking down glucose into energy," Heller says. "So when levels are even a little low, energy can drop."
In a study done at the Department of Agriculture's Human Nutrition Research Center in Grand Forks, N.D., women with magnesium deficiencies had higher heart rates and required more oxygen to do physical tasks than they did after their magnesium levels were restored. In essence, their bodies were working harder which, over time, says Heller, can leave you feeling depleted.
The recommended daily intake of magnesium is around 300 milligrams for women and 350 milligrams for men. To make sure you're getting enough, Heller suggests:
2. Walk Around the Block
While it may seem as if moving about when you feel exhausted is the quickest route to feeling more exhausted, the opposite is true. Experts say that increasing physical activity -- particularly walking -- increases energy.
"I like walking because it's accessible, easy to do, doesn't need training or equipment and you can do it anywhere," says Rita Redberg, MD, science advisor to the American Heart Association's "Choose To Move" program.
In experiments conducted by Robert Thayer, PhD, at California State University, a brisk 10-minute walk not only increased energy, but the effects lasted up to two hours. And when the daily 10-minute walks continued for three weeks, overall energy levels and mood were lifted.
3. Take a Power Nap
Research has shown that both information overload and pushing our brains too hard can zap energy. But studies by the National Institutes of Mental Health found that a 60-minute "power nap" can not only reverse the mind-numbing effects of information overload, it may also help us to better retain what we have learned.
4. Don't Skip Breakfast -- or Any Other Meal
"Studies show that folks who eat breakfast report being in a better mood, and have more energy throughout the day," says Heller.
Her personal theory, she says, is that breaking the fast soon after rising supplies your body with a jolt of fuel that sets the tone for the whole day.
Moreover, studies published in the journal Nutritional Health found that missing any meal during the day led to an overall greater feeling of fatigue by day's end.
5. Reduce Stress and Deal With Anger
One of the biggest energy zappers is stress, says psychologist Paul Baard, PhD.
"Stress is the result of anxiety, and anxiety uses up a whole lot of our energy," says Baard, a sports psychologist at Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y.
Like worry or fear, Baard says, stress can leave you mentally and physically exhausted -- even if you've spent the day in bed. More commonly, he says, low but chronic levels of stress erode energy levels, so over time you find yourself doing less and feeling it more.