Your all-day energy plan

Is the mere thought of cooler weather making you feel tired? Here’s how to put the pep back into your day.

Woman holding yoga mat

We all have a friend who’s a bit like the Energizer bunny. You know the type: they’ve been to the gym and made tonight’s lasagne before you’ve even had your morning shower. You could try to keep up with them by drinking multiple coffees, but there are better, less jitter-inducing ways to feel more energetic. 

Understanding how your body’s energy cycle works – and making a few small tweaks to your daily habits – can boost your vitality and make you feel more switched on. It’s all about taking the right approach for the time of day. 

Get that… morning energy 

Tweak your AM routine to power up and seize the day. 

Set a fixed wake-up time

While genetics play a part in determining whether you’re a natural early bird or not, you can manipulate your body clock so you feel more alert in the mornings. This is good news for the night owls among us. Try resetting your body clock by going to bed 30 minutes earlier each night and waking 30 minutes earlier in the morning, aiming for seven to eight hours’ sleep in total. First, work out which times suit you best, then stick to a routine, going to sleep and waking at the same time each day. Allow the changes to happen gradually over a few weeks, to give your body time to adjust. 

Break a sweat

The easiest way to bank energy credits into your daily account is to exercise in the mornings. Even if you’re tired – in fact, especially if you’re tired – a workout could be the solution. Researchers at the University of Georgia in the US found overwhelming evidence that regular exercise plays a significant role in increasing energy levels and reducing fatigue. A brisk 20-minute walk outside or a YouTube yoga-flow routine before brekkie will pep you up for longer than your latte. 

Eat an A-game breakfast

To start your day like a boss, make sure there’s protein, slowly digested carbohydrates and fruit or veggies in your breakfast, say experts at Harvard Medical School.

Here, we break down the best habits to adopt for morning, afternoon and night, to keep you feeling naturally alert and ready to go. Two good options to try: spinach and scrambled eggs on wholemeal muffins with a side of tomatoes, or whip up a banana smoothie made with Greek yoghurt, a handful of oats and a scoop of protein powder. 

Power up

If you don’t have enough iron in your diet it can make you feel tired and lower your immunity. People at risk of low iron levels include those who are menstruating, pregnant or breastfeeding, vegans and vegetarians, and gym goers who train hard. A study published in BMJ Open journal found that taking an iron supplement when your iron levels are low may reduce fatigue levels. Always consult your doctor before taking any new supplements.

Get that… 3pm energy

Let’s face it – the afternoon struggle is real. Here’s how you can beat it.

Head outside

A daily dose of sunshine during your lunch break is so important during the winter months, when our mood and energy levels tend to dip. Vitamin D is a hormone produced in the skin using energy from sunlight and is vital for making our muscles work efficiently and for boosting energy levels. In your diet, vitamin D can be found in fish, fish liver oils, egg yolks and fortified cereals but it can also be effectively boosted with a supplement.

Hydrate

Your body’s afternoon cry for a siesta is often just a plain old lack of H₂O. As the saying goes: if you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Drink two cups of water every hour, and more before you exercise or if it’s a warm day. To help you hit your target for water consumption, invest in a good-looking water bottle and add some sliced cucumber, lemon or strawberries to make regular sipping even more enticing.  

Chew gum

If you need to focus but you’ve got afternoon brain fog, try chewing some sugar-free gum. According to a study published in BioMed Research International, chewing a stick of gum can enhance your alertness and help you sustain attention for longer. 

Turn on the tunes

If you’ve ever been to a gym class, you know that music can hype you up and help you push through mental barriers. Listening to classical music in the afternoons can have a similar effect on the brain, according to a study published in Experimental Psychology journal. The study participants listened to Vivaldi’s 

Four Seasons in comparison to a silent control group. The composition “Spring”, in particular, enhanced their mental alertness and attention.

Get that… evening wind-down

Prep your mind and body for the number-one natural energy booster: sleep.

Invest in glasses that block out blue light

The reality of life in 2021 means that many of us do need to be on laptops and computers in the evening hours. Exposure to light during the day is beneficial, but night-time light exposure tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime. Blue light, which is emitted from electronic screens, blocks your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin, making you feel more alert instead of drowsy. Invest in blue-light-blocking glasses for the evening and set your phone to night mode. 

Stay clear of caffeine

When you’re in wind-down mode, the last thing you want is to inadvertently rev up your body with a hit of caffeine. What’s more, its effects can linger in the body for hours after that initial buzz has worn off. One study found that consuming caffeine up to six hours before bedtime can have an impact on your sleep. As well as the obvious sources like coffee and cola, don’t forget that caffeine is also found in tea, green tea and dark chocolate. Avoid them later in the day and sip on a relaxing herbal tea blend, instead. 

Magnesium may help

Magnesium can help to relax your muscles, calm your nervous system, and help you feel sleepy. A study review by the University of Leeds in the UK found that magnesium supplements can also have a positive effect if you’re feeling anxious. Try to get a solid amount of magnesium in your diet by adding in foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, legumes, dark leafy greens and peanut butter. Or try adding two cups of Epsom salts – a type of magnesium sulphate – to a warm bath in the evening to relax your muscles. 

Keep a diary beside your bed

Before you go to sleep, spend 10 to 20 minutes writing down your to-do list for the next day. Also jot down anything that is worrying you or on your mind, plus a possible resolution. This ‘brain dump’ can be really helpful in clearing your mind and may stop it ruminating when you’re trying to head into the land of Nod. Sweet dreams.