15 ENERGY BOOSTERS
Try these simple ways to tackle some surprising energy sappers.
Agallon of gas costs less than a good cup of coffee, but it seems America still has a serious energy crisis. Boomers—folks 50-plus—who probably should know better, are downing more and more energy drinks to fuel their endeavors or just make it to bedtime. Some are getting more than they bargained for: ER visits due to heavy consumption of energy drinks are up, especially among men over 40. The massive caffeine dump can increase blood pressure and heart rate and even cause symptoms that can be mistaken for a heart attack. Can’t remember where you stashed your energy? Try these expert-endorsed solutions to help you find it again.
1. BUSTER: TOO-BIG MEALS A huge dinner sends blood to the digestive tract and away from muscles and other areas that need it for energy, says Michael F. Roizen, M.D., chief wellness officer at Cleveland Clinic and author of This is Your Do-Over: The 7 Secrets to Losing Weight, Living Longer, and Getting a Second Chance at the Life You
Want (Scribner). What’s worse: “Over time, those big meals probably cause damage to mitochondria, the cells’ energy factories,” Roizen says. The sugar dump froma big plate of food produces more celldamaging free radicals than your natural antioxidant defenses can handle, and your mitochondria may take the hit.
Booster: Smaller snacks Eat throughout the day for ongoing energy. At snack time, don’t just eat pretzels. “Every snack should have complex carbs plus protein,” says Elizabeth Ward, RD, author of several nutrition books. Add peanut butter or cottage cheese to that pretzel break.
2. BUSTER: YOUR “BAD” BACTERIA Your gut is home to an array of bacteria, some beneficial, others not. “You eat steak, you change the bacteria inside your gut to those that like steak,” says Roizen. Too many of these “bad” bugs leads to inflammation, which saps energy.
Booster: Probiotics Start taking a probiotic pill, such as Digestive Advantage (available at Walmart and drugstores), every day to repopulate the gut with “good” bacteria, Roizen suggests.
3. BUSTER: YOUR OLDER GUT People over 50 sometimes have trouble absorbing nutrients, such as B12, from natural sources like red meat. “B12 is involved in nerve conduction, and the central nervous system is involved in feeling fatigued,” Ward says. Booster: Take supplements or eat
fortified grains “It’s recommended that you get the majority of nutrients in fortified foods or as dietary supplements,” says Ward. Roizen suggests half a multivitamin in the morning and half at night to keep the level in your body steady (you lose the soluble vitamins in 12 to 16 hours).
4. BUSTER: YOUR MEDS Sometimes the drugs you take to keep you healthy can have an impact on energy production, says Ward. “Certain diuretics deplete potassium, for example. That can lead to an energy slump,” she says. Booster: Fill in the gaps with supplements Talk to your doctor. “You’ve got to drill down and find the potential nutrient interactions and compensate,” says Ward.
5. BUSTER: LACK OF PROTEIN “I find people, especially women, are really short on their protein. They save it up for dinner,” says Ward. Booster: Eat protein at every
meal and snack “Getting 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal is a very good way to give your body a steady source of amino acids that it needs to build neurotransmitters, which help you to feel in a good mood and more energetic or awake,” says Ward. Her favorite sources of concentrated protein: Greek nonfat yogurt and cottage cheese. Her favorite protein tips: » Blend cottage cheese and marinara in a blender for creamy, high-protein pasta sauce. » Mix cottage cheese with fruit, honey and nuts and add to wholegrain toast for a high-protein breakfast.
6. BUSTER: YOUR WEIGHT Being overweight saps your energy.
Booster: Walnuts before meals Try this: 30 minutes before a meal, have six walnut halves. “That decreases your desire for food because when it hits your intestinal wall, it decreases ghrelin production,” says Roizen. (Ghrelin is a hormone that makes you hungry.)
Bonus: Walnuts contain an amino acid that helps blood vessels dilate for better blood flow. More blood flow means better delivery of ATP, a coenzyme known as the “energy currency of life,” to muscles, Roizen says.
7. BUSTER: SUGAR Sugars “give you that energy rush, but you’ll pay for it” with an energy crash, says Ward. “In the long term, sugary food and drinks inhibit your blood flow,” says Roizen. Without good blood flow, nutrients aren’t delivered where you need them for get-up-and-go.
Booster: Complex carbs “Foods rich in complex carbohydrates almost always have vitamins, minerals and fiber in them. Complex carbs take longer to digest, so you get a more even source of energy rather than the sugar rollercoaster,” says Ward.
9. BUSTER: STAYING UP LATE Not enough Zs leaves you depleted. Booster: Go to bed one hour earlier Can’t fall asleep? Take ½ to 3 milligrams of melatonin, a sleepinducing hormone supplement, two hours before bed. Don’t take more or for more than two weeks at a time, says Roizen.
8. BUSTER: ALCOHOL “Alcohol is an energy drainer. You have one or two drinks and you just don’t sleep as deeply,” says Ward.
Booster: Water Skip the booze, and drink more water. Dehydration contributes to fatigue.
10.BUSTER: YOUR ELECTRONICS Blue wavelength light can inhibit your body’s natural production of melatonin.
Booster: Banish the blues “Eliminate TVs and cell phones in your bedroom,” Roizen suggests. You can find red wavelength lights that filter out blue light in the hardware store.
11. BUSTER: A RIBOSE DEFICIENCY Ribose is a sugar produced by the body that’s essential for mitochondria to create energyproducing ATP. “Some people with chronic fatigue aren’t making it efficiently,” says Roizen.
Booster: Ribose supplements Start with 500 milligrams three times a day. Work up to 5 grams total per day, Roizen suggests.
12. BUSTER: MEDICAL CONDITIONS Thyroid dysfunction is one common cause of low energy. Booster: Get your thyroid checked You’ll need medication if your levels are low.
13. BUSTER: TOO MUCH SITTING “Sedentary people typically have lower-than-average energy levels,” says Patrick O’Connor, PhD, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at University of Georgia.
Booster: Any type of exercise “A single 20- to 40-minute bout of exercise reliably increases feelings of energy,” says O’Connor.
14. BUSTER: LOW-GRADE INFECTIONS Gingivitis and sinus infections are energy zappers.
Booster: Mouth and sinus TLC Get your teeth cleaned twice a year and brush and floss routinely. If you’re prone to sinus infections, rinse your nasal passages with a Neti pot (a nasal irrigation systemthat flushes out mucus), Roizen suggests.
15. BUSTER: BOREDOM “People are energized when they have fun,” says Roizen.
Booster: Pursue an interest “When we see people who have a lack of energy,” says Roizen, “we ask them two questions: ‘How are you sleeping?’ and ‘What’s your passion?’ If they can’t tell us that second thing, we know that’s one of the things that is needed to get them energized about life.”