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Friday, September 26, 2014

8 Strategies to Solve the Energy Crisis

Energy: your most precious commodity
“I thought we were going to work on that habit,” I said half jokingly, pointing to my client’s venti Starbucks she absentmindedly swigged while texting someone as she walked into my office.

I immediately regretted my mock-bitchy tone as I sympathetically eyed her haggard, worn-out expression. I even half-bought her I’m too tired to work out spiel because indeed, she looked that fatigued.

She wasn’t alone. Frazzled from pile-it-on-higher jobs, difficult relationships, and the zillion other demands life throws at us constantly, many clients appear running on empty as they determinedly show up for workouts even if their adrenals could use the rest. Welcome to the 2014 energy crisis: Good for coffee shops, not so good for you.

“Ultimately everything comes down to
energy,” writes Dr. Mark Hyman in The UltraMind Solution. “We need it, we want it, we lose it, and we try to get it back until finally we can’t make energy anymore. That’s called death!”

What goes up must come down. You learned that in high school science class. So while caffeinated “big energy” drinks feel exuberant in the moment, that euphoria comes at a cost: Namely, a serious crash about an hour or so later.

Instead, you want steady, sustained all-day energy levels. These eight strategies have helped numerous clients attain and maintain that equilibrium, and they can help you too.

1.      Pull the Junk. When you eat a sugary, processed snack or meal – looking at you, pepperoni deep dish or spaghetti with meatballs – your blood sugar rises. Insulin pulls that blood sugar back down, but too often it over-compensates and pulls it down too low. Energy crashes are the inevitable result. Protein, healthy fats, and slow-release carbohydrates like spinach or sweet potatoes provide your ticket for steady, all-day energy without crashing.

2.     Eat Enough Carbs. I just told you carbohydrates spike and crash your energy levels, and now I’m telling you to eat more carbs. What the what? Well, it depends on the type. Processed, sugar is out; whole, nutrient-dense carbs are in. I especially hear low-carb dieters complain they slog through their day. Toss in some healthy carbs like quinoa and voila, they have more energy and variety in their diet.

3.     Do Breakfast Correctly. What you eat for breakfast sets your whole day’s metabolic tone. Make it a big-ass coffee and a muffin and you’re setting the stage for hunger, cravings, and massive energy fluctuations. Just as bad is skipping breakfast altogether. I frequently see clients make up those calories (and more) throughout the day. If I have time, I make a big omelet for breakfast. It makes getting green veggies like spinach so easy. If I don’t have time – and I admit, I usually don’t – I’ll grab a few hard-boiled eggs or make a protein shake. Grab my easy-to-make, delicious Double Chocolate Shake here

4.     Get Enough Sleep. You’ve likely experienced the aftermath of a terrible night’s sleep. You’re dragging along on your third Starbucks, you’ve got a hankering for something sugary, and you’re not going to win any Ms. Congeniality awards at work. We all agree sleep becomes important for steady energy, and you’re going to do everything possible to get eight hours starting tonight. Capisce?

5.     Control Stress Levels. Being constantly stressed out is like cranking up your engine and letting it idle all day. You’re going to run out of gas eventually. I could throw out a thousand de-stressors, but what ultimately matters is what works for you. That might mean meditation or yoga. It could be a mani-pedi or a coffee date with your best friend. Whatever; just do it regularly.

6.     Curb those Energy Thieves. Caffeine can give you a much-needed morning boost, but if you’re over-relying on it, it’s going to keep your stress hormone cortisol revved up and eventually drain energy levels. Same with alcohol: A few glasses of chardonnay might lift your spirits, but it comes with the long-term cost of lazily wanting to lie on the couch and watch Game of Thrones marathons when you should be productive.

7.     Use Mitochondrial Supporting Nutrients. Too many clients put the cart before the horse. They’re swallowing energy cocktails, yet they neglect fundamental components of optimal energy like eating the right foods. If you’re doing everything else correctly, nutrient support could be your missing energy-crisis link. Insufficient amounts of certain nutrients mean your mitochondria – your cells’ energy factory – have a far more difficult time creating energy.

Some of my favorite energy-regulating nutrients include:
  • B complex – many B vitamins play direct roles as energy cofactors. Stress, over-exercise, and a crappy diet are among the things that deplete B vitamins like crazy.
  • CoQ10 – among its numerous metabolic functions, this ubiquitous nutrient plays a pivotal role in the final stages of energy production.
  • Carnitine – this “shuttle” pulls fatty acids into your mitochondria, which burn them for energy. Carnitine deficiencies, especially prevalent among vegans and vegetarians, mean you’re not sufficiently burning those fatty acids, often resulting in energy crashes.
  • Ribose – this healthy sugar acts as a direct cellular energy source for ATP production. You can find ribose capsules, but the powder has a mildly sweet, pleasant taste that mixes well in protein shakes or water.
  • Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) – MCT oil performs like glucose for energy production, but without sugar’s inevitable crash. My favorite MCT oil, Designs for Health’s MCT Colada, has a delicious pineapple-coconut flavor. 
  • Mitochondrial support formulas – formulas like Thorne Research’s NiaCel pull these and other important nutrients in synergistic ratios.
 Again, don’t expect any miracles with these and other nutrients if you aren’t addressing other issues. “Lack of energy is often due to lifestyle – not enough high-quality sleep, the wrong diet, and adrenal burnout,” writes Dr. Jonny Bowden in Living Low Carb. “You need to address those issues and not take [an energy] ‘cocktail’ as a substitute for doing something about them.”

8.     Skip the Gym. No, I did not drink too much pinot noir as I wrote this blog. Yes, Jinifit actually told you to skip the gym if you’re constantly fatigued, since putting in an intense workout might become counterproductive. Instead, I recommend initially working with an integrative practitioner and heal your adrenals. If you want a DIY approach, read Dr. James Wilson’s book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome. Rest and recovery can help you come back stronger at the gym. Focus on your adrenals now so you can build better muscle later.

What’s your top steady, sustained energy strategy? Share it here or on my Facebook fan page.

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Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at© 2014 Jinifit, Inc.

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