Body Building Resources

Eleven Ways to Increase Your Energy
By Jean Lam

Feeling your energy lag throughout the day? If you're doing everything right, you should feel more energetic as you become more fit-but not everyone experiences smooth sailing, and it's common to hit a plateau. If you're barely making it through your workout, it could be for one of several factors. Here are a few tips for increasing your energy level.

Get enough sleep. There is absolutely no substitute for proper rest. There's no "magic number" for the right amount of sleep for you-some people need seven hours of uninterrupted shut-eye, while others need as much as nine. Make sure you give yourself enough time for sleep at night so that you don't feel the urge to hit the Snooze button four or five times before getting out of bed. Regulate your sleep schedule so your body becomes accustomed to your sleep cycle. Once it does, it will begin to release metabolism- and energy-boosting hormones. Follow this tip, and you'll improve your energy a great deal without having to do anything else.

Stay hydrated. If you're even mildly dehydrated you'll lose energy-especially during a workout. Make sure you drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout and throughout the day. Experts recommend an average of eight to nine cups of water a day. If you're doing intense sustained workouts, a sports drink that replaces sodium can be more healthy than plain water while you're working out.

Stay away from stimulants. Stimulants like caffeine and sugar are often the first things we reach for when we're tired. They may give you an initial burst of energy, but they also make you crash. If you're constantly feeling wired and then tired throughout the day, it may be because you've been drinking too much coffee or eating foods with too much sugar.

Eat smaller meals more often. Eating three square meals a day isn't necessarily the best approach to increasing metabolism and energy. If you go four or five hours without food, your energy level will suffer. Most bodybuilding experts recommend that you eat five or six smaller meals per day, allowing less time to lapse between meals. This means you'll spend less time hungry and your energy level will be higher as a result.

Do more cardio. Spending all your time at the gym pumping iron? You may not be getting the most from your workout. Cardio exercises like running on the treadmill, working the stairmaster and stationary biking can increase your endurance, giving you more staying power during your lifting workouts. Incorporate some cardio exercises into your regular routine, and your workouts will see a marked improvement.

Replace simple with complex carbs. Simple carbs like refined sugar, white bread and white rice are easy for your body to break down. They're digested quickly, flooding your body with sugars and giving you a quick lift before crashing. They're not good for long-term energy, and can make you feel tired over the long run. Incorporate more complex carbs into your diet instead-foods like brown rice, wholemeal breads, wholegrain cereals, beans and lentils. If you do, you should see an energy boost that will last throughout your day and won't make you crash later on.

Avoid junk food. Refined sugars found in cookies, cakes, soda, candy, and even fruit drinks can give you a quick burst of energy followed by a crash into exhaustion. Avoid these foods at all costs if you want to increase your energy levels, especially in the morning and in the middle of the day. They'll bring your energy down during your workout and make it difficult for you to maintain a healthy physique as well.

Get enough iron. Iron loss is a particular problem in women, who lose iron every month when they menstruate. If you aren't replacing the iron you lose, you'll become anemic-and one of the symptoms is chronic fatigue. Your doctor can help you determine whether or not your fatigue is a symptom of anemia. Make sure you're getting enough iron by eating red meat, vegetables like spinach that contain iron, or iron supplements.

Reduce your stress. Are you taking on too much? If so, you're likely to be constantly tired-even if you get enough sleep. Look at your calendar and to-do lists. Is there any way you can delegate some chores and tasks to friends and family or hire professionals to help you? If so, do what you can to minimize stress and schedule in some free time each week where you don't have to go to work, fulfill family obligations or work out. If you do, you should see your energy levels increase.

Eat naturally. Canned, preserved and processed foods have additives that can affect our energy levels. For the absolute best diet possible, look for fresh, natural and organic foods, and skip anything that comes in a box, can or too much packaging.

Eat breakfast. A healthy breakfast can give you a big boost of energy that will carry you through the day-but not if your normal breakfast consists of donuts and coffee. Avoid sugary cereals and go for complex carbs instead. Incorporate proteins, dairy, and vegetables into your meal. A healthy breakfast makes your mind sharper and your body more energetic.

Your diet, sleep habits, stress levels, and exercise routine can all have a profound effect on your energy levels. Eat a balanced diet rich in complex carbs, proteins and veggies, and avoid refined sugar at all costs. Stay away from stimulants that give you a boost and then a drastic drop, and incorporate cardio into your exercise routine. Add to that a healthy sleep cycle, and you should have plenty of energy throughout the day.

About the author

Jean Lam is the webmaster of Body Building Resource which provides articles on weight training, nutrition and fitness, body building book and DVDs.

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