Friday 20th March is officially the first day of spring, so what better time to refuel your energy tanks ready for the new season!
Editor Jane Garton looks at how to wake up your get-up-and-go naturally.
Most of us want more energy especially after the long winter months, which can leave us feeling sluggish and lethargic. But how do you rev yourself up? A cup of coffee, tea or a chocolate bar may spring to mind. And although they will give you a sudden burst of energy it won’t be long-lasting. The healthier option is to tweak your diet, manage your stress levels and make sure you exercise regularly.
Here’s how to boost your energy the healthy way.
Food that is as fresh and close to its natural state as possible is best for boosting energy. New crop fruit and vegetables have the highest nutrient value of all so make sure you include plenty on your menu. Light meals are more energising than heavy ones, which take more energy to digest. Take advantage of the new season vegetables to make salads and other light bites.
Main meals should include:
- High quality protein
- Fruit and/or vegetables (fill at least half your plate with these)
- Slow-release carbohydrates such as rice, quinoa, and buckwheat noodles to keep blood sugar levels stable and provide a steady source of energy to fuel your metabolism.
Too many starchy foods, especially those with a high glycaemic (GI) index (foods that raise the body’s blood glucose levels), can leave you feeling tired and sluggish. So steer clear of foods such as potatoes, white rice, white bread and refined carbohydrates, and try swapping to lower GI types. Go for a sweet potato instead of a baked potato, oatmeal instead of high GI breakfast cereal, apples, oranges and pears instead of tropical fruits.
Activity is vital if you want to stimulate your metabolic rate (the amount of energy you produce) so the more energy you expend through exercising the higher your energy levels.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of some kind of sustained aerobic activity 5 days a week. Think walking, running, swimming, dancing or anything that makes you slightly breathless and forces you to breathe more deeply. You can do it all in one go or in short bursts of 5, 10 or 15 minutes throughout the day – whatever fits in best with your lifestyle.
Get enough sleep
Sleep is essential for revitalising body and soul, which is why it is so important to get enough. To ensure you get a good night’s sleep try to go to bed at approximately the same time every night. Before you turn in spend some time winding down. Take a warm bath with some essential oils such as camomile, orange blossom and lavender. Try listening to some soothing music or read a few pages of a book. See ways to better sleep for more ideas.
There are also several natural supplements that can help give your energy a boost:
Rhodiola has been shown to help beat fatigue as well as improve mental performance, especially the ability to concentrate. It has also been shown to help reduce stress in people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome.
St John’s wort
The days may be getting longer and lighter, but studies show that many of us often feel down or unhappy without knowing why. And the good news is a course of St John’s wort, often known as the sunshine herb, may be all that’s needed to bring back the smile to your face. It is not known exactly how it works but it is thought to help prolong the action of the brain neurotransmitter serotonin – a deficiency of which can result in low mood and low energy.
If you can hardly get out of bed in the morning, and then when you do everything is a struggle, you need something that will give you a quick boost to kick-start you into action. And the herb that springs to mind is ginseng. Long regarded as something of a wonder plant, it is a highly respected herbal tonic, which will give your body the injection of energy you are looking for.
And if you’re still wanting a bit more get up and go, try these six fast fixes:
Eat a small bunch of cherries, an apple, kiwi or papaya for a burst of fruit-based energy.
Take deep breaths
Fully inhale and exhale to get energising oxygen to your brain.
Have a shower
Alternating warm and cold water stimulates circulation, encouraging oxygen-rich blood to penetrate the tissues.
Place a few drops of energising essential oils such as cedarwood, grapefruit or peppermint in a bowl of water on top of a radiator.
A good chuckle helps muscles to relax, reduces the stress hormone cortisol and releases energising, feel-good hormones called endorphins.
Spend as much time outdoors as you can. Natural light inhibits the body’s production of melatonin – the hormone that makes you feel sleepy – and boosts your energy naturally.