Healthspan February 09, 2017

If you're finding it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, if work is exhausting and leaving you too drained to even think about exercise, or the stresses and strains of daily life and relationships have become no more than a cheerless chore, read on for some simple changed you can make to recharge your batteries.

FRIEND: Grazing throughout the day

Rather than sitting down for three blow-out meals every day, eating little and often, sometimes known as grazing, is a friend to energy levels. Your body likes to use a small amount of fuel at a time. Overload the digestive system and it becomes less efficient so eventually shuts down.

But do make sure you eat for energy and not for comfort.

Do eat:

- Plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables are good, especially in their raw form. Opt for low GI foods (which release their energy slowly)

Don’t eat:

- Starchy carbohydrate foods like cakes, biscuits and sugary snacks, which play havoc with blood glucose and insulin levels

FOE: Alcoholic drinks

Alcohol, pleasant though it is, is actually a depressant. A small amount will give you a short-lived buzz, and remove your inhibitions at a party but large amounts have a sedating effect, interrupting normal sleeping patterns, dehydrating you and generating unhealthy food cravings.

Try this:

If you're at a party, try having a glass of water for every alcoholic drink to even things out, and consider taking a few days off from alcohol each week to keep you well hydrated.

FRIEND: Spending time with loved ones

Don't forget the energising effect of love and laughter. It helps you feel secure, supported and loved, so spending time with family and friends is vital. We also know that married couples live longer than singles.

Did you know? It takes less energy to laugh then it does to frown and grimace! Laughter really is the best medicine.

FRIEND: Keeping fit

Exercise is your greatest energy friend. Any form of regular physical moderate activity that you enjoy will refresh and revitalise you.

Try:

- Dancing (just think of how much weight all those stars of Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing on Ice have lost);

- Swimming;

- Step classes;

- Cycling.

All will generate life-giving adrenaline to clear out your mental cobwebs, increase blood flow and reduce stress. They will also release mood-enhancing brain chemicals, such as dopamine and serotonin, which help to keep you happy and content.

FOE: Dehydration

Many of us feel tired and exhausted with dry skin, constipation and headaches simply because we don't drink enough water throughout the day. Being even mildly dehydrated can lead to reduced energy.

BEAT IT: Two litres of water a day is not excessive. Water contained in caffeine and tea, hot chocolate and fizzy drinks does count, but the caffeine and sugar content is counter-productive so you need to keep these fluids to a minimum. If you find plain water boring zip it up with a slice of lemon or lime.

FOE: Carrying extra weight

Being a couple of stones overweight is the equivalent of carrying a sack of potatoes around on your back all day. No wonder you're tired! Those niggly little symptoms that are weight-related, such as indigestion, snoring and joint pain can all zap energy too.

Losing weight and rediscovering how light on your feet you can feel will amaze you and losing those extra pounds can also give your heart a boost. When trying to lose weight, portion control is the key - whether eating out or at home.

FRIEND & FOE: Feeling stressed

Some degree of stress is our friend. Without a challenge, without any type of stimulation, without a sense of achievement and feeling empowered, we would have no energy at all as any of the long-term unemployed or those who feel under-used or under-appreciated at work will tell you. Too much stress on the other hand can soon become a foe. When we feel overloaded at work, tied to impossible deadlines, frustrated by new technology or abused by everyone around us with little support or understanding, we experience burnout and anxiety.

Try:

Adapt coping strategies to match the level of work with your ability to manage it. You can do this by organising your life better, avoiding unrealistic deadlines, becoming more assertive while staying polite, delegating certain work to other people, and establishing better priorities.

Supplement it...

Think of the amazing abundance and vitality of the plant kingdom and all its life-giving forces and it is not surprising that natural supplements derived from it can significantly boost energy.

- GUARANA: With twice the amount of caffeine as coffee beans, guarana can boost your energy fast and naturally.

- PANAX GINSENG: Panax ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years. Research suggests that people taking ginseng have faster reaction times than those not taking it, improving stamina while also reducing muscle cramps and fatigue.

- CO-ENZYME Q10: Our levels of coQ10 production decrease as we age. Studies have also suggested those taking statins for high cholesterol may be at risk of their coQ10 levels becoming even lower, as the drugs are thought to inhibit its production. This could lead to problems like fatigue and muscle pain, so those taking statins may find it useful to top up their supply of coQ10 by taking a supplement.

- B GROUP VITAMINS: Everybody should ensure they have sufficient levels of B vitamins, but for some groups this is even more important. The elderly particularly are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, as absorption through the gut decreases.

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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