One of the biggest problems many encounter when starting a diet, gym routine, or even just completing everything necessary in a day’s work is a lack of energy.
Fortunately, there are a lot of clean/free ways to improve this. They all start with YOU making a personal decision to change for the better and taking small, dedicated steps.
The number one thing you need to do is think about why you want to feel better, and why your lack of drive and energy is negatively impacting your life, then use that to build some resolve for some of the big three following topics.
Do I follow my own advice all the time? Hell no, it’s really difficult. But the key is that I actively think about it and strive to do better.
Sleep is numero uno and it took me until my early thirties to stop playing around in this area. This is when you repair, grow, and process everything your body encountered throughout the day physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Remember how we talked about resolve and willpower at the start? Getting too little sleep makes you act like you’re drunk. That means impulsive. And what do you do when you’re drunk? You probably binge on taco bell, skip the gym, miss your personal training sessions, and damage personal relationships.
We all know we need more sleep anyway, so what I want to focus on is how to improve the sleep you get and get to sleep a little earlier.
- Cut the stimulants early enough – Clint at Myshakercup has an excellent article on making your own workout drinks that allows you to do this on the fly if that’s what troubles you. This was paramount for me to get a good rest every night.
- GET A GOOD BED AND PILLOW – For ten years I slept on a cheap mattress that was well past its expiration. My body would ache when I woke and I tossed and turned. I finally spent a lot of money on a good quality mattress and my shoulder pains evaporated. I can’t stand sleeping on anything else! What many of you don’t know is that cheap mattresses just aren’t rated for big boys. I’m 260 pounds, and to get a mattress that truly supports my weight, I had to spend more. This can also help a ton with sleep apnea!
- Darken your room – Blackout curtains or materials can be cheap. You’d be surprised how much car lights, street lights, and morning sunlight negatively affect your sleep.
- Even if you aren’t tired, lie in bed – you will eventually train yourself. Practice breathing exercises while you’re bored, or reflect on things. Try this military sleeping technique.
Eating rubbish makes you feel like rubbish! The best way to gauge this is just think about how you feel after eating various meals 10, 30, 60, minutes or even 6 hours later. Heck, if you dial in a good diet you may notice after a cheat meal how you feel sluggish the next day! Doing this could help you curb the temptation of eating junk.
Remember to eat a little something every few hours if you can. Try to eat lean protein (whey), complex carbs (think beans), and some healthy fats (no trans fats and think nuts or avocados) when you do eat. Just eat clean. You already know what food is junk, so stop kidding yourself.
If you feel thirsty, you’re already mildly dehydrated. And as little as 2-3% of lost body fluid lowers blood volume and that means your heart has to work harder. Just drink more water and feel the difference for yourself. Reflect on it later.
What helps me get more intake is having a really nice water bottle. I like the kind with a built-in straw because I find it helps me suck down large quantities quickly. I have it with me all the time at home and work and I keep it full.
What should I consume when I feel weak?
- Guzzle water first.
- Get going on some lean, clean protein from my list of sources.
- Complex carbs are your friend. Carbs are energy, but you want it clean and slow. Think beans, quinoa, or sweet potatoes – not sweets or chocolate bars.
- Fruits and vegetables.
Alcohol, nicotine, and other chemicals.
Alcohol dehydrates you and we talked about why that’s bad, but it also makes you impulsive. It ruins your sleep and it makes you eat rubbish. This is a perfect recipe for bad sleep. Obviously you’re going to throw a few back, but be aware of all the consequences.
Nicotine is another inhibitor of REM sleep. If you’re going to use it, try to reduce close to bedtime.
Caffeine is a godsend. It’s great for work-outs and waking up when you’re tired. I don’t expect anyone to stop using this. What you should do is cut off heavy consumption too close to bedtime and try to limit your consumption where you can.
Have you ever had caffeine and felt tired after? Well, you could already be in a state of adrenal exhaustion and if so and it may actually make you more tired. Think of it as taking a loan on your energy. If you’re abusing it, you will have trouble.
Sugar – Sugar isn’t evil, but it has a very specific place and that’s before, during or after rigorous activities like the gym with things like creatine and protein.
Sugar causes an insulin spike and too much of it can make you insulin resistant which leads to things like Diabetes. It’s pure energy and it processes really quick and if you don’t use it, you’ll store it!
I promise you that your horrific first week or two of a new exercise routine won’t last forever. That feeling of ache and soreness and being exhausted goes away, and what you’re eventually left with is a much higher energy level. This seems counterintuitive, right? Wrong because you get your metabolism boosted, you get your blood pumping, and all your systems work better. Give it a try for yourself and gauge how you feel.
Any activity you love that gets you moving, sweating, and panting is perfect for stress reduction. The more you enjoy doing it and forget you’re exercising, the better. Stress causes fatigue and depression, so get rid of it in whatever way works for you. Yes, I work out, but sometimes I need to step back and think about a situation and gauge if it’s really something I need to worry about so much or if it’ll be okay anyway.
I think many of us are guilty of worrying about things outside of our control or that don’t affect us much anyways. Just relax. Maybe you think meditation is hokey, but you could try closing your eyes and reflecting on things logically.
Understand that all these systems are tied together. They’re all part of the same puzzle. Improving your diet may improve your sleep and vice-versa, just as getting hammered the night before will screw your sleep up which can wreck your diet the next day and leave you feeling even more tired for days to come, which could, in turn, have you pounding energy drinks at 6 pm while you skip the gym. Now everything is ruined!
Self-monitor and pay attention to your body, then take steps to improve them all every day because they are all continuous feedback loops.