Energy and Endurance for Work and School

If you work or go to school full time you know how tiring long days can be.  When your time is not your own, self care can slip before you reailze it. Staying energetic throughout the day is doable, but will take some planning. Here are some tips to enhance your endurance:

Get enough sleep. Too many of us think we can rob ourselves of sleep and function well the next day. Not true. Everyone needs his or her full complement of sleep and most of us need seven to eight hours. Sleep as many hours as it takes to awaken well rested.  Tell your doctor if you snore, have a hard time getting up in the AM and feel tired during the day--you may need a sleep study.

Eat breakfast and bring a nourishing lunch and snacks. Most vending machines contain foods high in sugars and starch that can rob you of energy not long after you eat them. Instead, eat a good breakfast and plan your lunch and snacks the night before. If you eat most of your calories during the day and your smallest meal at day’s end, you’ll save evening cooking time and sleep better at night.

Take a brisk walk. Just a 10 minute walk in fresh air can revive you when you feel fatigued. It’s a great alternative to “one more cup of coffee,” particularly in the afternoon when caffeine is most likely to rob you of sleep at night.

Power nap.  A 10-20 minute nap can provide energy and alertness for another four hours.  Carve out a 15-20 minute slot sometime during the day when you can get away from your work or study environment.  Your car, for example, can provide a handy getaway.  Set a timer (your watch or cell phone may have an alarm feature), relax and close your eyes.  Your mind may benefit from this exercise, even if you only fall half asleep.

Eat a leisurely lunch. Wolfing down food is for wolves; humans do not fare so well with this strategy. And working at your desk while you eat is a shortcut to stress, so step away from your work, relax and enjoy your lunch.

Go easy on carbs. Ever wonder why you feel sleepy after a meal of pasta? According to a study by researchers at the Chicago Medical School and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, eating carbohydrates allows your body make more serotonin out of the amino acid tryptophan.  Serotonin helps you feel relaxed, and your brain can convert it to melatonin to promote sleep. So when planning your meals, especially lunch and afternoon snacks, one strategy is to eat proteins and fats but limit processed carbohydrates. For instance, try a snack of apple and cheese or smoked fish and a bit of bread or crackers made from sprouted grains.

Go for protein. Shift your meal planning to include more protein. The proteins and amino acids in fish, poultry, meat and eggs can help boost your alertness. These foods also contain tyrosine, an amino acid that the body uses to make the adrenalin-like neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine that provide an energy boost.

If you eat a high carb diet, graze. Big meals can likewise leave you feeling tired, particularly when the overall diet is high in carbohydrates. If you tend to eat a lot of refined carbohydrates, you will need to eat smaller meals more frequently — every couple of hours —  to keep your blood sugar stable and get the calorie flow needed to fuel your energy engine.  A better strategy, ridding your diet of refined starches and sugars while adding healthy, natural dietary fats and proteins to meals and snacks, can keep blood sugars level throughout the day with fewer meals.

Drink plenty of water. According to a recent article in Psychology Today, mild dehydration is an often overlooked caused of fatigue. 

Re-set your bio clock. Our natural biological clock that tells us when to get up and when to sleep has an amazing impact on our mental and physical well-being. Changing the clock, as in daylight saving or a four-day schedule change, can dramatically impact how we feel. Biologist David Glass of Kent State University, who has been studying the bio clock for about 15 years, says exercising  stimulates the release of serotonin in the brain which controls the clock, and can help you adjust more easily to a new schedule. He also suggests exposing yourself in the mornings to a full-spectrum light for the first few weeks.