How to Hack your Energy Levels

Posted on March 5, 2024


Sometimes you wake up and you’re already tired. Other times it’s that early afternoon slump. Or perhaps you regularly fall asleep at 9pm in front of the telly? Life is tiring. However, there are lots of ways to hack your energy levels and make it through the day firing on all cylinders. As Megan Farrugia says, it all comes down to focusing on four main lifestyle categories – food, exercise, mood and sleep.

With food my mantra is moderation. Keep your sweets and treats to a respectable minimum to avoid cravings, crashes and mood swings that leave you feeling low and negative.

The worst offender is sugar. Although it will initially give you a short boost, sugar sets off that crash-and-crave cycle. If you need something sweet, target foods with a bit of protein like plain yogurt, dried fruit (watch your quantities), real fruit or a trail mix with a balance of dark chocolate and nuts/dried fruit.

Another energy depleter is caffeine. Too much can throw off your natural sleep cycle so watch your caffeine intake (found in chocolate, tea, coffee and sports drinks with caffeine) especially after 3pm.

Dehydration is a big one too. Hardly anybody drinks enough water. The basic rule is, if you are thirsty, you are already well on your way to being dehydrated. It only takes a 2% loss of fluid to lead to mental and physical fatigue, impair your performance and cause cravings. So keep drinking, little and often, throughout the day, starting with a full cup of water first thing in the morning. Keeping hydrated can help your mood and your mental alacrity, keep your joints happy and healthy, and keep cravings at bay. (Note: caffeinated drinks, fruit juices and sodas have more negative than positive health benefits on the hydration scale).

Some people gain more energy out of a morning workout, some live for the lunchtime blast so that they can tackle the afternoon with a clear head, and some people need that evening hit of energy via a good run, game or class.

If you don’t exercise at all, you’ll feel lethargic and lazy. If you’re tired or stressed, the thought of working out can be – well – stressful, but even a five-minute workout can immediately energize you.

On the other hand, if you exercise too much, or don’t train properly, it can deplete your energy by breaking down your muscles, suppressing the immune system (making us susceptible to illness or energy) and leading to dehydration. It can also cause your body to go into overdrive and crash, requiring more sleep.

If finding the time in your schedule to exercise is difficult, sneak some in at odd hours of the day. Learn short exercises that keep you active, like five minutes of yoga or Barre at the kitchen counter, 10 minutes of Pilates while watching the news, four minutes of HIIT/Tabata while you’re waiting for dinner or the kettle to boil.

Above all, it helps to establish a routine that includes exercise, rather than just cramming it in when you can. Don’t stress out about your workouts if you miss a day, just pick it up when you can. But when you make it part of a daily pattern you give yourself the satisfaction of accomplishing something that will also benefit your health and mood.

So many things affect our mood. Negative people can suck your energy levels. So can a stressful job with stressful people, and losing or starting a job. Illness or a death in the family, a major life change like getting married or making a financial commitment to something, they all take their toll.

The one consistent thing that any “successful” or “happy” person will advise you is to find something you love to do and do it often. Find something that will instil a sense of belonging, like joining a group or a team, or stir a passion, like painting, cooking, photography. How about an altruistic pursuit that provides you with a sense of accomplishment, like taking a mentor or volunteering for a cause? Or perhaps try experiencing a sense of peace through meditation, singing or dance. All of these will boost your energy.

You know the acronym PMA (Positive Mental Attitude)? The opposite is the dreaded “self fulfilling prophecy” where you can be your own soothsayer of doom and gloom. If you find yourself surrounded by people who live for drama, take worrying to Olympic class levels or constantly look for the worst in everyone, chances are that you too will become negative.

If, however, you find ways to alleviate stress, you can take an active hand in boosting your own positivity. And in my experience, if you expect good things to happen, they usually do.

The easiest way to foster your own PMA is by celebrating the small wins and by setting manageable and tangible goals. Start focusing on the good and you’ll eventually find that a conversation, events, and your life will regularly take an upturn and even better is when your attitude encourages others to reflect on their own happiness.

We have a “three blessing rule” in our house: each day we say three things that we’re grateful for that happened, no matter how small. It’s cheesy, but in a nice way.

Sleep deprivation is a killer for a healthy lifestyle, causing a nasty cycle of over-caffeinating and over-indulging in sugar and high-carb “energy” snacks to stay awake. In fact, most of these actually cause you to lose more sleep, because your body is too revved up to sleep naturally at the end of the day.

It’s not so much a question of, “if you don’t sleep well you’ll gain weight”, but, “if you don’t sleep well, your metabolism doesn’t function properly”. People notice that if they get seven-and-a-half or more hours of consistent sleep each night, they can lose weight easily, keep down cravings, think better, have more consistent moods and… have more energy!

Here are Megan’s top 5 tips
1 – Stop eating and drinking three hours before bed. Sleep is key; uninterrupted sleep is bliss. And try not to ingest caffeine after 3pm.

2 – Eat proper meals. Plan them out rather than getting stuck relying on a vending machine, fast food or a restaurant with tempting but less healthy dishes. Most work places have a fridge you can use. Alternatively take a cooler bag to store smoothies or healthier snacks. And always balance your carb/sugar/protein intake to keep energy levels up and consistent.

3 – Avoid processed foods, fried food, sugar, salt and alcohol. Also avoid sodas and fruit juices. Just eat real food and drink water all day.

4 – If you overindulge, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, appreciate the treat, and then just get right back into your healthy regime during your next meal.

5 – Stop looking at diet and exercise as a life sentence. Never crash-diet, skip meals or eat drastically different things in an effort to shed weight as this leads to cravings and over-eating. Food should be enjoyed and workouts should make you feel good.

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