Are you in an “energy crisis”—with a bad diet, poor sleep habits, too many commitments and too much stress causing you to feel exhausted and depleted? You don’t have to live that way! Here are seven natural, easy-to-do energy hacks that can dramatically restore your vim and vigor…
Hack #1: Check your magnesium—you’re likely deficient. Low magnesium is linked to low energy and even to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Magnesium is essential to many body functions (especially muscle function), regulates heartbeat and helps convert food into energy. Since the mineral is not produced in our bodies, we need to get it from dietary sources. The typical heavily processed American diet does not provide the daily Recommended Dietary Allowance of magnesium—420 mg for men and 320 mg for women.
Power up: Cut back or eliminate processed food. Stick to fresh foods or foods with less than five ingredients on their labels. Good dietary sources of magnesium include leafy greens, seeds, nuts and whole grains. Also consider taking a 150-mg to 200-mg magnesium supplement daily. Bonus: Taking the supplement at night can help improve sleep quality.
Note: Magnesium supplements are generally considered safe but can cause diarrhea in some people. If that happens, cut back the daily dose to 75 mg. Magnesium glycinate and magnesium aspartate are good forms to take. Check with your doctor before starting magnesium if you take medication or have a chronic medical condition.
Hack #2: Get more D-ribose. D-ribose, a type of sugar produced by the body, plays a key role in production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary molecule that provides energy to every cell in the body. Our bodies manufacture some D-ribose naturally, but you may need more.
Power up: D-ribose supplements are available in a powder that can be stirred into coffee, tea or a smoothie. Look online or in health-food stores for brands with “Bioenergy Ribose” on the label, such as Doctor’s Best Pure D-Ribose Powder, NOW D-Ribose Powder or my own brand, SHINE Ribose. Bioenergy Ribose is formulated to be more bioavailable—other kinds may not offer the same results. Typical dose: 5 g every morning. Note: D-ribose can lower blood sugar, which may affect dosing of diabetes drugs.
Hack #3: Cut out or minimize toxic relationships. Being around people we enjoy or engaging in activities that bring us pleasure gives us energy. Doing things we loathe, or being with angry, abusive, manipulative or pessimistic people, depletes our energy levels.
Power up: Keep healthy boundaries. If spending time with a particular friend, colleague or family member drains you, find ways to limit or cut out interactions with that person. Of course, it may be easier to cut off a strained friendship than a relative. Simply learn to say “no” to interactions that feel bad. This can often be done without disconnecting from the person.
Simple trick: For difficult people whom you would like to (or need to) keep around, focus only on aspects of them that make you feel good and ignore the rest. After about eight weeks, it’s very likely that only those aspects will show up in your relationship—or the person will no longer be part of your life.
Hack #4: Hydrate with cold water. According to the Natural Hydration Council in the UK, symptoms such as fatigue and lack of energy account for one in five doctor visits…and for one out of 10 of such patients, dehydration is the primary culprit. Afternoon energy slumps are especially common—partly because we get busy and forget to drink…or a heavy lunch can put our parasympathetic nervous system into “rest and digest mode.”
Power up: When you feel your energy dipping, drink 12 ounces of cold water. Or splash cold water on your face. The cold temperature stimulates adrenaline receptors in your skin, which signals your heart to pump harder and drives an energizing blood flow to your brain…while the water hydrates you.
Hack #5: Check your medications. Statins, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor), lower cholesterol…but also lower levels of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a vitamin-like substance that helps maintain energy levels. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) for heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease and ulcers, such as omeprazole (Prilosec) and esomeprazole (Nexium), cut stomach acid production. But long-term use impairs absorption of key energy-producing nutrients, including magnesium, vitamin B-12 and iron.
Power up: If you need a statin, ask your doctor about taking a CoQ10 supplement as well. A typical dose is 200 mg per day taken with a meal that contains fat to boost absorption. If you take a PPI, ask your doctor if you can switch to an H2-blocker, such as ranitidine (Zantac) or cimetidine (Tagamet). Research shows that they are far safer. These drugs reduce stomach acid but don’t block it as completely as PPIs do, so nutrient deficiencies are less likely to occur.
Hack #6: Caffeinate…strategically. Caffeine is considered to be an adenosine blocker. (Adenosine triggers sleep and is not the same as energy-producing ATP.) Caffeine attaches to the same receptors in the brain that adenosine attaches to and prevents the drowsiness that occurs as adenosine levels rise during the day. But coffee also can cause a jittery, wired feeling and stomach upset.
Power up: Green tea is gentler than coffee, with about 25 mg of caffeine per cup versus 100 mg to 200 mg for coffee—enough to still kick your energy up a notch. According to a review of nearly 50 studies, just 40 mg of caffeine is enough to provide stimulating effects. Green tea is also rich in theanine, an amino acid that promotes calm alertness and improves deep sleep.
Hack #7: Wind down wisely. You’ve probably heard a lot of sleep-hygiene advice, such as powering down electronics an hour or two before bed and sleeping in a cool room. Also try…
Power up #1:Soak in a warm bath with two cups of Epsom salts added an hour before bedtime. The magnesium from the Epsom salts soothes tired muscles and eases stress, promoting a good night’s sleep. Note: Soaking in a warm bath can lower blood pressure and might make you feel light-headed. Be careful getting out of the bath, especially if you already have low blood pressure.
Power up #2: Eat a small protein-rich snack, such as a hard-boiled egg or a few tablespoons of cottage cheese, before bedtime to prevent blood sugar drops that often wake people up in the middle of the night.