Improve Energy & Performance
I am sure we have all experienced low energy and lacked the vava vroom to perform at our best – this is totally normal given all the variables that can affect our energy.
However, accepting sub-optimal energy from time to time is tolerable but, day in day out, is not a normal set of circumstances. The latter could stem from a myriad of factors but there is some low hanging fruit which is worth a review and intervention to assess whether it pushes the needle in the right direction. Let us quickly dissect the top 5 drivers of energy and performance.
Are you a night owl or a morning lark…do you even know the answer? Does it even matter? Well, 40% of us are morning larks and 30%-night owls and the remaining somewhere in the middle. Understanding your chronotype, which is our predetermined (biological) time to sleep which is genetically inherited and can only tolerate bending 30 mins +/- can certainly influence our energy and even our lifespan. Research has shown that too little sleep is pernicious to our health. Leading to disrupted gut biome, insulin resistance and obesity. Ideally, we should be getting 7-8 hours of consistently good quality sleep every day. We are a diurnal creature and have a strong circadian rhythm largely governed and influenced by the sun. When the sun sets, it triggers a release of sleep-inducing hormones, however, our modern world can interfere with the natural order of things. For example, the blue light emitted from laptops and mobiles can dampen the release of this evening hormone. Here is a quick list to help induce good quality sleep:
• Turn off screens minimum two hours before shutting eyes.
• Avoid eating dinner 2 hours before bed.
• Hot and cold showers (ending on cold)
• Ambient room temperature ideally 17-19C
• Black-out curtains
• Binaural beats
#2 Quality Nutrition
As a health and nutrition coach, I have heard the comment that food is just energy, more times than I care to share but it’s so much more than this. Food on your plate contains ‘information’ in the form of nutrients, minerals and vitamins. This ‘information’ plugs into your physiology and influences every aspect of your health and well-being. Choosing foods which are rich in ‘information’ is, in essence, the key to providing your cells with the requirements they need for energy, immunity, virility, and longevity. Our diet should largely be natural and unprocessed whilst avoiding highly processed and refined foods. The crucial element when striving for energy, health and longevity is minimising inflammation caused by diet – without getting into the weeds, a predominating unprocessed and natural diet will elicit the best health outcomes and of course provide you with clean energy, clarity, focus and less brain fog.
• Remove gluten products.
• Avoid processed foods.
• Remove added sugar.
• Remove dairy for 30 days
• Water – minimum 2 litres per day (more if hot/humid or exercising)
#3 Carbohydrate Appropriate Diet
Ok – very quick physiology lesson. We have 3 macronutrients available in our diet – protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Protein and fat are ‘essential’ meaning we NEED to consume it from our diet, and both have a structural and functional role in our body. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, are ‘non-essential’ meaning that we can go without carbohydrate without much/any consequence assuming you are not expending large amounts of energy at work and/or exercise. Carbs are purely a fuel source and any glucose (this is how the body stores carbs) our physiology needs we can create through the breakdown of protein and glycerol. Anyway, my point is someone on a carbohydrate-rich diet aka a ‘sugar burner’ (predominant in the western diet) might not be the ideal diet for energy and performance. Eating carbs in the form of cereals, bread, rice, pasta, cakes, croissants, candy etc has a hormonal cost, pushing up blood sugar and consequently insulin. Insulin then needs to transport that blood sugar into liver and muscle cells, but this can lead to sugar highs and lows and afternoon crash in energy. ‘Sugar burners’ can result in dis-regulated appetite, leading to cravings, snacking and over-eating, all of which is inconsistent with good energy. For consistently good energy throughout the day consume an ‘appropriate’ amount of carbohydrates for your energetic needs. As a rule of thumb if you’re an office worker then a low carbohydrate protocol might be best, assuming your nutrients are from natural, unprocessed sources. Prioritise protein, then fats, and any calories remaining devote to high quality (nutrient-rich) carbohydrates. The values of these macronutrients can be calculated through my nutrition coaching sessions.
• Prioritise good quality ethical protein (>1.4g/kg/bw)
• Minimum 30% calories from good quality fats
• Carb-appropriate approach
• Eat 6+ serves of above-ground veggies daily
Let me establish something straight out the gate – the most direct path to good energy, optimal performance, immunity, virility, and longevity is nutrition and sleep. Exercise is not the biggest driver of those things – it’s nothing more than the adjunct to nutrition and sleep…the cherry on top if you like.
Energy is a delicate hormonal dance largely between your two innate operating systems – your sympathetic and your parasympathetic or your ‘ON’ and your ‘OFF’ – when these are working in harmony then you should have good consistent energy, however when our ‘ON’ is activated too much/often we can feel strung out and exhausted. Exercise can activate your sympathetic nervous system and can leave you feeling depleted instead of empowered and energised. When you are feeling low in energy the best remedy is to promote the ‘OFF’ operating system to help restore the body rather than pushing through and exhausting your system even more. Are you exercising hard before or after work and feeling like you’re pushing [email protected]*t uphill? Maybe it is time to down-regulate your output to achieve better outcomes. Less is more sometimes.
• Exercise should be something you enjoy
• Exercise can include play
• Make it social
• Use it to elevate your mood
Supplements should be in addition to a largely unprocessed and natural diet, with consistent good sleep (7-8hrs) daily. Supplementation is the pointy end or the fine-tuning to your health.
Recommended supplements for improved energy and performance:
Multivitamin – to cover any nutritional deficits
Vitamin B12 – especially if vegetarian or vegan
L-Theanine – helps relaxation without drowsiness
Coffee – in moderation aids focus, attention and recall
Creatine – used by neurons – improves cognitive function
Cordyceps mushrooms – improves physical performance
Lion’s mane mushrooms – improves cognitive function
Rhodiola – help with learning and focus
Fasting – improves mood, focus and recall
Exogenous ketones – improves mood, focus and performance
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