Energy

By Catherine McNulty

April 29, 2011 5 min read

You've seen the commercials; tired and desperate-looking office drones use any means necessary to keep from falling asleep at work. Anyone who has worked in an office knows the feeling -- that post-lunch, pre-going home downswing in energy. But there are easier, more natural ways of staying energized than chugging an energy drink like one of those drones on the commercials.

The first thing any doctor will tell you if you're dragging is to make sure you're getting adequate amounts of nighttime sleep. In our 24/7 society of go-go-go, sleep easily can be overlooked. The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep every night, and zoning out on the couch to "Seinfeld" reruns at midnight does not count as sleep. Make sure your bedroom is quiet and comfortable, and get in the habit of going to bed at the same time every night. Your body eventually will crave bed at that time, making falling asleep and staying asleep easier.

Sleep is the body's reset button; it allows your systems to run on standby and recharge. Getting adequate amounts of sleep will not only keep you from dragging at work but also increase your overall health. Sufficient sleep has been linked to helping adults lose weight, reducing stress, boosting the immune system, and generally improving one's quality of life.

Another thing that will help beat the midday need for a nap is a pre-work workout. Getting exercise at any time of day is beneficial, but working out before work will help set the tone of the day and keep you energized throughout. Studies have shown that people who exercise before work are happier, more productive and less stressed than those who don't.

You don't have to run a marathon or climb Mount Everest in the pre-dawn hours. If you're not used to working out, simple things -- for example, a 30-minute briskly paced walk, coupled with some basic stretches -- can have a huge impact on your day. An added bonus? You'll be hungry for breakfast, which can speed up your metabolism.

If you're already a gym rat, change up your routine. Your body may have gotten used to what you have been doing and be in need of a new challenge. If you're feeling inspired, you can split the difference and do both morning and evening workouts! Strength training in the morning, followed by cardio in the evenings to burn through any frustration you may have accumulated in the day.

Speaking of food, what you eat has a huge impact on your energy level. Everyone knows caffeine and sugar will give you a temporary boost, followed quickly by a crash. To keep that from happening, try to stay away from overly sugary drinks and foods, as well as processed carbohydrates. Your body does need some carbohydrates to function, but in modern society, you'll have no trouble getting enough.

The banana may be the world's most perfect food for a natural boost. No less a fitness icon than Chuck Norris swears by the banana. In his syndicated health column, "C-Force," Norris writes that if you cut up a banana and "put it on a slice of multi-grain bread with organic peanut butter, you will have the secret recipe for the Norris family breakfast of champions." Though it's higher in calories and carbohydrates than most fruits, its blend of natural sugar, potassium and fiber gives the eater an immediate and sustained energy lift. Not really hungry at breakfast time? Eat a banana. Sluggish at 3 p.m.? Eat a banana. Bananas even have been known to help relieve muscle spasms and heartburn.

If you do all the right things and you still have moments of fatigue at work, try to work with your body and not against it. Maybe your natural rhythm is always on a downswing at a certain point in the day. Just make sure to do your most important tasks before you get tired, and have some backup no-brainer tasks at the ready for when you are. It might even be beneficial to see whether you could have a 20-minute power nap to recharge your batteries.

Just remember that after little sleep, you may be able to power through your days with the aid of sugary drinks and unnatural energy boosters now, but eventually it will catch up with you. Treat your body kindly and it will stay healthy for years.

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