Stay on top of your game all day long even when things get hectic with this easy hour-by-hour guide to keep your energy up all day long.
Wake up and see the light
The average person sets her alarm to wake just before 7 am each morning but, whatever your routine, ensure the first thing you do is throw open the curtains. Bright light in the morning is a powerful natural signal, switching off sleep hormones like melatonin and sending a wakeup call to your internal clock.
Make time for “lurve”
Okay, so you might not have time for sex every day, but those of us who start the morning this way feel much better for it. That’s because around half an hour after sex, you tend to feel more mentally alert and upbeat due to the increased flow of blood to the brain.
Make time for breakfast
You know it’s important not to skip it, but eat the wrong thing and you’ll be on an energy roller-coaster all day. “When you start off with a sugar-laden breakfast, your body will be craving a quick release of sugar all day long. Many ‘traditional’ breakfasts like baked goods, noodles, toast and cereal have been marketed as healthy, but in fact, most of these options play havoc on our sugar levels and are essentially not very different from having dessert for breakfast,” stresses Pooja Vig, nutritionist and co-founder of The Nutrition Clinic, Singapore. The perfect breakfast should be balanced and contains the following:
Smoothies made fresh with a good quality protein powder, half a cup of fruit, coconut water or nut milk, coconut oil or nut butter and a good handful of spinach or green leafy vegetables.
Eggs to keep your sugar levels balanced and provide an excellent source of protein. Try whipping up a quick scramble with tomatoes, peppers, spinach and mushrooms, topped with a sprinkle of goat cheese.
A fresh salad with smoked salmon and avocado. This is not only quick to whip up, but full of the right nutrients to help you feel good all day.
Plan your day – the simple way
This doesn’t mean writing a two-page to-do list. According to Oliver Gray, energy coach and author of Energise You, long lists can drag us down. He says the key to a motivating list is that it’s manageable, so write down a maximum of the three most important tasks you need to complete that day. “Once you’ve ticked them off, celebrate your achievement and, if you have more tasks, and more time – make a list of the next three,” he says.
Stare out the window
Spending all day on Twitter or email means we’re constantly bombarded with information and never let our brains rest. “By taking a twominute break to do nothing every 90 minutes, your brain has time to tackle information overload and revive,” says sleep and energy expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, author of Tired But Wired. So if you start work at 9 am, this is the perfect time to let your eyes wander.
Check on your energy levels
How do you feel right now? “At this time of day, your body should be at peak alertness due to its natural rhythms,” says sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley. So if you’re rarely perky at this hour, a GP check-up could be in order to rule out any health issues zapping your energy.
Focus on your breathing
As we age, we take more shallow breaths, increasing our levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can affect energy levels. So try this technique from Neil Shah, author of The 10-Step Stress Solution, to get back on track:
– Stand or sit in a comfortable, relaxed position, and keep your spine erect.
– Inhale slowly through your nose to a count of five. Imagine a ball in your belly inflating.
– Hold the breath in the “ball” for five seconds.
– As if pulling your navel to your spine, count slowly to eight as you exhale.
– Repeat 10 times.
- 12.30 PM
Make time to eat lunch
“The quality of your main meals counts – if you are eating a lot of fast-release sugars, it will be hard for your body not to crave more of these throughout the day,” explains Pooja. She recommends a good balance of low-GI (glycaemic index) carbohydrates such as vegetables, which won’t spike your sugar levels, and salmon, which is packed with Omega 3 to boost brain function and supply ample protein to keep you full. Try this simple salmon salad recipe:
A piece of salmon, baked for 20 minutes
A squeeze of lemon juice
A handful of rocket leaves
A drizzle with olive oil
A touch of balsamic vinegar
Rediscover the fun of skipping
Just before heading back to work after your lunch break, try this trick from the experts at University of San Francisco. For two to three minutes, go outside and skip along, raising your opposite arm and leg super high. Find a secluded spot or you might get some odd looks. But the results are worth it! It not only gets your blood pumping round your body, but researchers say it evokes memories of childhood, which has an energising effect.
Take another brain break
But this time use it to think about whether you’ve managed to get one energising thought, feeling or action into your day and, if not, how can you do so this afternoon. “Creating positive emotions makes you feel more energised,” says Dr Ramlakhan. “Think about three things that make you glad to be alive. This makes you feel more positive which, in turn, will help you feel revitalised.”
Reach for a snack
Besides your main meals, healthy snacks in between also stabilise and balance your blood sugar, says Pooja. The following options have low GI. Any natural sugars are balanced with protein and fat to provide a slow release of energy as well:
– Half an avocado with lemon and salt
– 1 boiled egg
– 1 tbsp of nut butter, with celery or apple slices
Related: 3 Delicious Ways With Avocado
- 4.30 PM
Work out your trigger
If you’re fading fast about now, it could be something you’re doing that’s catching up with you. Do a quick body check and see if any of these account for your fatigue:
Lungs… If your workplace has lots of people and no open windows, you can be feeling sleepy by the end of the day. This is caused by a build-up of carbon dioxide levels, so invest in a rubber plant to help absorb the C02.
Eyes… If your computer screen type is too small, your eyes will be straining, which is tiring. In trials, the font Verdana at 10 to12 points was the easiest to read – and the zoom tool can help too!
Mouth… Does it feel dry? You could be dehydrated. This thickens your blood, increasing the effort required to pump it around your system, which drains energy. Aim to drink about two litres of fluid each day.
Neck… That computer again – US researchers have found that if you’re slumped forwards to look at your screen, you’ll feel more tired than if your head is upright. Even if you’re not in front of a computer, keep your eyes looking straight ahead – a study found that postures that cause you to look downwards lower energy.
Lower back… If you have poor posture, you use energy just sitting in your chair as your muscles work hard to keep you upright. With good posture, your spine does the job. Use the BBC rule – Bottom in the Back of the Chair – to stay in a healthy position.
Time to hit the gym
Throughout the day, blood flow, body temperature and lung capacity vary, but between 5 to 6 pm, these peak – core body temperature is at its highest, the airways are wide and muscles stretch more effectively. So try a 30-minute jog on the treadmill or outside. US research reveals regular sessions provide an energy boost to the brain, helping it work faster and reducing mental fatigue.
Throw away a worry
Got a thought that’s bugging you? Write it on a piece of paper, scrunch it up and throw it in the bin. According to US trials, if you treat your worries like rubbish, they have less chance of leaving you drained.
Eat smart, sleep well
What you eat for dinner can affect your quality of sleep and therefore energy levels the next day. Nutritionist Kim Pearson recommends a salmon filled with wilted spinach and sweet potato wedges. These foods are rich in magnesium, which aids a good night’s sleep by relaxing the nervous system and easing anxiety. The golden rule is to eat at least three hours prior to bedtime, as you need that much time to process food, which temporarily raises your body temperature.
- 7.30 PM
Adjust your settings
Technology is an energy drainer, especially in the evening. “It puts us in a constant state of arousal, which tires the body – not to mention that it can interfere with the processes of sleep,” says Dr Ramlakhan. But if you don’t want to switch off your gadgets completely, here are four rules to follow:
Turn down screen brightness… Looking at a bright screen for two hours reduces production of the sleep hormone melatonin by almost a quarter. The screen should be just bright enough so you can see it at arm’s length without straining your eyes.
Use the largest screen available… Small ones require you to hold them closer to your face, so you absorb more light.
Avoid stressful information… This means work emails – and, if you have trouble sleeping, Facebook and Twitter. “Clients often say that if they use faster moving sites in the evening, their mind is buzzing when they try to sleep,” says Dr Ramlakhan.
Keep it short… Don’t surf for more than one hour – US studies found short sessions didn’t affect melatonin production.
Chill out with a hot bath
A natural drop in body temperature near bedtime tells our brain that it’s time to go to sleep, and you can kick-start this trigger with a hot bath 90 minutes before hitting the sack. Once you get out, your body will start to cool down rapidly, which helps you fall asleep faster and enjoy a longer and better night’s rest
Head to bed
It goes without saying that if you don’t get enough sleep, you’re going to be tired and lacking energy the next day. For most people, seven to nine hours’ sleep is the optimum amount – making now the perfect time to drift off and still wake up for that 6.49 am alarm.
TEXT: Bauer/Good Health