Your zip has been zapped? Think it slipped away due to age? More likely, it’s been stolen. Here’s a look at five common energy thieves, and some clues for solving the crimes.
1. Refined sugars
High-sugar foods usually cause a short-term rush, but that will inevitably backfire. If you don’t burn those calories quickly, they’ll show up in your waistline and leave you feeling sluggish.
“When the body does not burn sugar and sugarlike carbs (think in terms of breads, pasta, pizza crusts, and bagels), these foodstuffs are converted to fat and stored in the belly, the buttocks, the liver, and the muscles, or they remain in the blood as cholesterol and triglycerides,” writes natural health expert Jack Challem, whose most recent book is titled No More Fatigue.
Junk food is low in the very nutrients your body needs in order to burn them for energy, such as B vitamins, coenzyme Q10, and L-carnitine. This makes the sugars and carbs from low-nutrient foods even more likely to be stored as cholesterol or body fat.
Too tired to take a brisk walk? That might be the problem right there. It may sound counterintuitive, but exercising will help you feel more energetic. “It doesn’t really matter what you do—walk, ride, swim, jog, dance—anything that gets your body moving for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes at least three times every week,” writes Mary Ann Bauman, MD, author of Fight Fatigue. “That’s your goal. If you can only manage 10 minutes at the beginning, that’s a start. Go for it.”
A new study finds that physical activity helps overcome “brain fatigue.” Exercise increases the mitochondria in muscles and the brain, boosting endurance by making the brain more resistant to fatigue.
3. Food Intolerances
According to Challem, a person with a food allergy will often experience a “crash,” falling asleep soon after eating that food. Or, upon waking the next morning, they may experience symptoms similar to an alcohol hangover—including headache and overwhelming fatigue.
Sensitivities to wheat or gluten, corn, dairy, and eggs can drain energy. Challem notes that particular foods can be problematic during allergy season, increasing the intensity of certain pollens. For example, if you are sensitive to ragweed, consider avoiding eggs, dairy, and mint during ragweed season.
4. Artificial Lights
Artificial lights—and, in fact, most electric appliances and electronic technology—create electromagnetic fields that can drain huge amounts of energy from your body. “Compelling research shows that these fields are creating energy disturbances within the body that can result in fatigue, irritability, weakness, and even illness,” writes Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, author of Zapped. She recommends using incandescent lights instead of fluorescent or halogen lights, “particularly the new generation coming to market that meets tough efficiency standards set by Congress.”
Your body needs water to create energy, so being even a little dehydrated can make you very tired. “Many people overlook the importance of hydration—that is, of consuming sufficient amounts of water throughout the day—in promoting overall health and in energy,” writes Challem. “Thirst is the body’s way of indicating a need for water, but many people attempt to quench that thirst with a soft drink, juice, or beer. The body is asking for water, but we give it a calorie-packed liquid.”
Try these energy boosters!
Certain supplements provide more than a short-lived jolt. These nutrients are essential for beating fatigue:
is a simple sugar that enables the body to make and recycle energy in the cells.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
promotes energy production.
an amino-acid like compound, helps the body burn fat deposits. Vegetarians and vegans may especially need this supplement, since meat and dairy are the best dietary sources.
deficiency has symptoms similar to chronic fatigue syndrome, including muscle weakness, fatigue, and depression.
play important roles in burning fat and glucose for energy. Processed carbohydrates such as breads, muffins, pastas, and sugary foods have little, if any, vitamin B1, yet they create a greater demand for it
Opt for nutrient-dense foods by eating a wide variety of vegetables and lean protein. You can boost your intake of greens through juices, powdered drinks, and tablets. Look for energy-enhancing barley grass, wheatgrass, and fresh-water algae such as spirulina and chlorella.
Adaptogens are herbs that help the body adapt to stresses of all types. These ones, in particular, help fight fatigue and increase energy and endurance: American and Asian ginsengs, ashwagandha, cordyceps, dang shen, eleuthero, holy basil, rhodiola, schisandra, and shatavari.
Don’t overlook the potential of aromatherapy for treating fatigue. Essential oils that tend to energize and revive include bergamot, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, eucalyptus, geranium, ginger, lemon verbena, myrtle, patchouli, peppermint, rosemary, and tea tree. Use care with any essential oils, as they can cause skin irritation if not properly diluted. Some essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy.
Bach Flower remedies are specially prepared flower essences designed to ease a range of conditions. They’re generally taken by drinking a couple of drops in a glass of water. Revitalizing flower remedies include hornbeam, oak, olive, and wild rose.