We've got energy-boosting inhalers, energy-boosting cough drops and energy-boosting flavored water. We've got energy-boosting pills and energy-boosting snack bars and...
We’ve got energy-boosting inhalers, energy-boosting cough drops and energy-boosting flavored water. We’ve got energy-boosting pills and energy-boosting snack bars and energy-boosting mantras. I have often employed energy-boosting guilt.
And we love exercise, right? So why aren’t we doing it?
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Mintel International reports that sales of products marketed on “energy” — specifically energy bars, drinks and liquid/powder protein drinks, rose from $2 billion in 1998 to $5 billion in 2003, and could reach $8 billion in 2008. Look through health and fitness magazines and you will find articles and exams measuring your energy profile. I do surprisingly well on those, which does not reflect well on the rest of the curve.
The conundrum is this: Exercise provides energy (the natural kind) but you need energy to exercise. So we fall into the cycle and do little to nothing, or at least not enough. You mean well, but life gets in the way. You’ve got commitments, and your workout can get so far down the daily chore list that by the time its turn comes up, you’re too fatigued. You shortchange sleep to fit everything in, but that only makes you less revved about exercise.
The easy answer is to start doing what you can and build on it until it becomes a challenging — and fun — habit. Keep your eye on the long-range. Here are some more ideas to keep your eye on:
Eat well. Susan Kleiner, a registered dietician and the author of “Power Eating” (Human Kinetics, $17.95), says you need a nutrition plan as much as you need a financial plan. “The concept of energy is not just physical, but mental, too,” she says. “The right foods at the right time provide that feeling of energy. What we eat affects the chemistry of our brain.”
The food that enhances the chemistry often consists of carbohydrates. Not the refined and packaged kind that has given carbs a bad name, but whole grains, fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and the like. But be sure to add protein with the carbs, she says. And don’t forget the right fats, like omega-3 sources.
Kleiner, who has worked with the SuperSonics, other teams and bodybuilders, also works with clients who want to lose weight. Invariably, they have made the mistake of not eating enough calories, which makes them fatigued and inhibits calorie-burning workouts.
“What is required is a paradigm shift,” she says. “Weight loss has to be an outcome, not a goal. That way you can more easily see food as fuel, not something you should avoid.”
Don’t forget about water. Kleiner, who maintains a Web site at www.powereating.com, says many of us are under-hydrated, which leads to less blood to your brain and a state of fatigue. Experts vary somewhat on how much to drink, but anywhere from six to eight glasses a day is generally recommended, and you might need more if you’re active.
Get some sleep. We all are aware of this one, but we all cut corners. I get by on four or five hours of sleep more days than I should admit, but the deprivation is serious. Sleep is when your body regenerates, repairs and re-energizes. Experts believe that exercise promotes restful sleep. So if you’re too tired to exercise, you set off on another vicious cycle. Seven to nine hours a night is optimal, but you should also try to make your sleeping schedule as consistent as possible. If you wake up tired, you probably didn’t get enough shut-eye. Adjust your attitude.
Energy is a state of mind. Jayne Lancaster, a Portland-based fitness trainer known as “the energizer bunny,” says negativity, depression and grief have profound effects on energy. Conversely, a positive attitude is a lasting energy booster.
I think this could be the most important advice of all. For three decades, I worked out six days a week. I did it for the pure joy. Then I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an energy-sapping disease. Exercise can be a chore now, but is at the top of my treatment plan. I’m participating in a University of Washington study on exercise and MS. As part of it, a counselor helps me set goals and calls occasionally to check on my progress and gently nudge.
One day, after patiently listening to my excuses, she asked, “So how does this guilt you put on yourself help you reach your goal?”
Well, actually, I said, it doesn’t. A light switched on. This doesn’t mean I have become a 20-something ball of fire again. I still whine and delay, but I believe I have learned a tip that’s worth a double espresso. I love movement and challenge. That’s enough. Joy brings energy.
Richard Seven is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.