Need more energy? A massive 66 per cent of us say tiredness is our number one health concern. Now, with cold weather and darker nights also taking their toll, it’s time to recharge, says Dr Sohère Roked
1 STAY HYDRATED
Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the most effective, and drinking lots of water is one of them. It’s easy to stay hydrated in the heat of the summer, but in winter we don’t drink nearly as much and tend to opt for the odd cup of tea or coffee instead. Most of our energy is generated by the mitochondria (found in every cell in the body), and it might be surprising to learn that the easiest and simplest way to help them work efficiently is to drink plenty of fluids, as a well-hydrated cell is an efficient cell!
2 GET THE BEST REST
You might think more sleep equals more energy, but it’s not necessarily the amount of sleep that provides the benefit. It’s the quality of your sleep that’s really important. To improve it, try to get into a sleep routine, going to bed and waking up at the same time – give or take an hour – every night and morning. When it’s dark, the body produces more melatonin, which helps regulate hormones and maintains our internal clock, so switch off any electronics that emit blue light. In winter, we often compensate for the lower temperatures by making our bedrooms too hot. You can use extra blankets to warm up in bed, but your room shouldn’t be more than 16°C – anything higher can disrupt your sleep.
3 EAT CLEAN
Your body needs vitamins and minerals to function, so you want around 50 per cent of your diet to consist of good-quality unprocessed fruit and veg. They can be eaten cooked or raw, or in juices and smoothies. You also need to watch your sugar intake in winter – we’re more likely to crave sugary comfort foods because we’re cold, it’s dark and we feel miserable. However, this creates blood sugar spikes, which result in big swings in energy. You’re better off having slow-release natural sugars such as fresh fruit, which will keep blood sugars on an even keel and help you avoid those energy crashes. Eating regularly and not skipping meals can also keep cravings and energy dips at bay.
4 DON’T OVERDO IT
We know that exercise generates energy, and there’s a tendency to think that expending energy automatically leads to a better night’s sleep. However, if you’re already fatigued, an intensive exercise session can actually make you feel more tired and less energised. The key is to find a moderate version of exercise that works for you – maybe some gentle Pilates rather than 60 minutes of intense cardio. We’re all different, and if your exercise regime raises your stress hormone levels, it won’t benefit you.
5 BE KIND TO YOURSELF
The stress hormone cortisol causes inflammation in the body, which can zap our energy. Anything we can do to reduce stress is a good thing, because it doesn’t just affect us mentally, but has a physiological effect on the body, too. Of course, you can call on the usual stress-busters, such as doing yoga or practising meditation, but there are some small things you can do that are often undervalued, yet make a big difference. Socialising, laughing, watching TV shows you enjoy, going for a mindful walk – all these can help. Other emotional drains on our energy can come from low self-esteem, feeling that we somehow don’t measure up. These negative emotions stop us using our precious resources for more important things. The key is learning to acknowledge and celebrate the good things in your life – however small they are. Keeping a gratitude diary can be a great antidote to stress and a simple way to reboot your energy levels.