Most of my clients come to me for digestive issues, body composition goals, and chronic disease prevention or management. Maybe they’ve gotten a lab result that was out of range, or they want to take a look under the hood and see what’s going on in their bodies. But as I start my intake process, I almost always uncover the symptom of low energy. It’s SO common, in fact, that many people think this is just “how adults are.” Let me tell you, though … it’s not!
You CAN have energy to get through your day without relying on coffee after coffee. Unlocking the code to sustained energy goes beyond just eating right and exercising (although those are important, too!). For those who are already fairly nutrition-savvy but still yearning for that consistent vitality, let’s delve deeper. I’m going to explore four key areas—blood sugar balance, movement outside of exercise, gut health, and hormone balance—each backed by science and loaded with actionable strategies.
Blood Sugar Balance: Mastering the Energy Symphony
The science: Energy fluctuations often stem from erratic blood sugar levels. When we consume simple carbohydrates, they cause rapid spikes, triggering a surge of insulin. The subsequent crash leaves us feeling tired and lethargic. In contrast, opting for more complex carbohydrates, rich in fiber and paired with healthy fats and / or protein, results in a gradual release of glucose. This stable energy flow ensures your body has a continuous supply of fuel.
- Smart Sugar Choices: Skip highly refined sugars (if you see “high fructose corn syrup,” choose again!) and choose to get sugar from fruit and other naturally occurring sources. 2 grams of added sugar in your square of dark chocolate or otherwise healthy salad dressing won’t be a huge deal (although they do add up!), but if you’re downing a beverage with 25 grams of added sugar each afternoon, you will FEEL it with an energy slump a few hours later.
- Balanced Meals: Combine carbs with proteins and healthy fats for optimal nutrient absorption. See this post for all about naked carbs, how to balance meals, and so much more.
- Snack Wisely: Having several little “hits” of blood sugar during the day means you’re constantly crashing down the other side. Think about the number of times per day you put just a little sugary creamer in your coffee, then grab just a few candies from the receptionist’s desk, then grab a handful of your kids’ Goldfish crackers when making a snack, and so on. Choosing snacks with protein, fat, and fiber (almost like mini-meals) will prevent energy dips.
Stay in Motion: Fuel Your Energy Engine
The science: Movement acts as a catalyst for increased energy by improving circulation, promoting oxygen flow, and releasing endorphins—the body’s natural mood lifters. Additionally, regular physical activity regulates sleep patterns, leading to better quality sleep, which is vital for overall energy restoration and rejuvenation.
- Sit and Stand: Because I’ll often have more than 10 Zoom calls on an average workday, I alternate sitting for one and standing for one … all day long. When I’m standing, it’s not uncommon for me to balance on one leg then the other, roll around my ankles, and generally fit in a bit of movement. Research even shows that fidgeting or bouncing your legs through the day can help with energy and even metabolism!
- Enjoy Exercise Snacks: That morning workout session you’re doing is so awesome – proud of you! But it’s not enough to sustain your energy throughout the day. Instead, we need little bursts of movement, called “exercise snacks,” scattered through the day. Walk up and down the stairs twice between meetings, take a 5 minute walk around the block before your next call, get down on the floor with the kids and play for a while, or do a burpee challenge with yourself (how many can you do in a row?). These little bursts of movement go a long way for your energy.
- Take Walking Meetings: Ask your friend or colleague if they are OK with you taking the phone call while walking. Almost everyone will be fine with it – and you may even inspire them to join in! I offer “walk and talk” sessions to my clients (if we don’t need the screen to review labs or other documents), and most people who take me up on them find it even more enjoyable!
- Take a 10-minute family walk after dinner: This is really a blood sugar strategy AND an energy strategy! Plopping right onto the couch after a big dinner (or any meal) can be tough on your body. Do your best to get in a teeny bit of movement after – your digestion, blood sugar, sleep, and energy will thank you!
Gut Health: Cultivating Your Internal Garden
The science: What we commonly refer to as the gut is actually a huge ecosystem of bacteria that influences everything from digestion to immune function. (More on gut health here!) Focusing on foods and lifestyle practices to support the microbiome can actually increase your energy! The beneficial gut bacteria aid in efficient nutrient absorption, so when they’re happy and abundant, we absorb more nutrients from the food we eat. They also support the production of short-chain fatty acids, which are a key energy source for the body.
- Include Probiotics in Your Daily Diet: Incorporate probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso into your meals. These foods introduce beneficial bacteria into your gut, supporting a healthy microbiome and enhancing your body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients. More on probiotics (and whether you need a supplement!) here.
- Diversify Fiber Sources for Gut Nourishment: Consume a variety of vegetables, fruits, seeds like chia and flax, and (if you tolerate them) whole grains and legumes to provide your gut bacteria with a range of fibers. This diversity fuels the growth of different beneficial bacteria, promoting a balanced and resilient gut microbiome.
- Limit Processed Foods for Gut Microbiota Balance: Artificial additives and preservatives found in processed foods can negatively impact the balance of your gut microbiota. Minimize your intake of processed foods to maintain a healthy and thriving internal environment.
Hormone Balance: Nurturing Your Inner Harmony
The science: Hormones orchestrate a symphony within your body, influencing everything from metabolism to mood. All people have hormones, but women in particular are prone to hormonal fluctuations, especially in estrogen and progesterone levels, which can have huge impacts on energy. A nutrient-rich diet, stress management, and adequate sleep contribute to hormonal balance.
- Nutrient-Rich Diet for Hormonal Support: Prioritize a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Include colorful fruits and vegetables, fatty fish for omega-3 fatty acids, and lean proteins. These nutrients play a crucial role in supporting hormonal balance.
- Manage Stress for Hormonal Harmony: Chronic stress can disrupt hormone levels, leading to fatigue and mood swings. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness, deep breathing, or meditation into your daily routine to promote hormonal harmony and sustained energy. Or, consider a morning routine! Here’s a way to start.
- Prioritize Sleep for Hormone Regulation: Quality sleep is essential for hormonal regulation and overall well-being. Establish a consistent sleep routine, create a relaxing bedtime environment, and aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep to support optimal hormonal function. Need more on that? Check out these tips for how to improve sleep naturally.
Additional Considerations: Targeted Supplementation and Personalized Lifestyle Enhancements
While these strategies form the core of increased energy, individual needs may necessitate targeted supplementation or personalized lifestyle adjustments. Consulting with a healthcare professional ensures a tailored approach.
If you’re seeking further guidance on functional nutrition to elevate your energy levels, my team offers personalized programs designed to support your unique wellness journey. Feel free to reach out for more information, or check out our offerings on this page.
With these strategies addressing blood sugar balance, regular movement, gut health, and hormone balance, you’re poised to reclaim and sustain your energy. Embrace these changes, make them your own, and watch as vitality becomes an integral part of your everyday life. Here’s to a more energized and vibrant you!
Now it’s your turn! Do you struggle with energy slumps? What’s your favorite way to increase energy?