- Clare Backhouse
A pro-energy checklist
Ten ways to check you're set for get-up-and-go
Despite the warmer weather and being outside more, it can be easy to feel sluggish on summer days. Short nights, early light and noisy birds in the mornings, or even just the heat can keep us from sleep.
But there are all sorts of other things which can cause tiredness too.
So I thought, let’s have a checklist! Then if ever fatigue hits, it’s easier to discover the culprit.
Here are some of the most important ways we keep up our energy:
This is the most fundamental one. Lack of hydration will make you tired and often lower your mood as well. This is understandable, since our bodies are mostly made up of water and rely on it for carrying blood and nutrients around the system. About two litres of water per day is a great way to improve energy – but you may need more if it’s hot or you take strenuous exercise.
The next most important thing for energy is sleep, for obvious reasons.
Have a look at my sleep blog for fresh ideas on getting more and better sleep.
3. Bowel movements
Daily, healthy bowel movements are crucial for energy. Constipation means you’re carrying around toxins that can get re-absorbed through the gut and overload your liver. Diarrhoea means that you’re not absorbing the nutrients from your food properly. Either can cause fatigue. Get in touch if you’re affected and want to have healthy bowels again.
Exercise can be hard to stick to when feeling sluggish, but without it we can lose energy. Exercise stimulates oxygen delivery to the brain and encourages the health of our mitochondria, a kind of ‘organelle’ which creates energy inside each cell of the body. (It’s also pretty good at getting a sluggish bowel going.) Allow time to take yourself on some form exercise each day – ideally, out of doors.
5. Sugar avoidance
Sugary and high-carb foods like white pasta offer temporary energy by spiking blood sugar. When blood sugar spikes, so does insulin, the hormone that puts sugars from the blood stream into all the cells of our body to use. But too much insulin means it’ll clear the sugars so well that the blood sugar level becomes too low – and we end up feeling tired.
6. Singing vs stress
Now of all times in history we can each take stress into account. Spikes of anxiety about world events, and our own safety, can put the whole body on high alert - which may then trigger exhaustion afterwards. As I was saying to a client only today, singing is a great physical signal to the nervous system that all will be well, and it reduces the stress response. We might not be allowed to sing with others yet, but in the shower is still an option!
Consuming adequate protein is essential. This is because it supplies plenty of energy but without raising blood sugar by much. Also, protein is what much of our body is made out of! I often recommend eating a palm-sized amount of protein at every meal, especially breakfast, for example pulses, nuts, seeds, meat, eggs, cheese, or adding plant protein powders to smoothies.
8. Time of the month
People who menstruate: you will have different energy at different points in your cycle, just as we all have different energy levels across 24 hours. Don’t force yourself to ‘power through’ the lower energy phases, eg not taking extra rest during your period, any more than you would ‘power through’ a night’s sleep, unless you really had to. More on this subject later!
Some of the top nutrients for energy are B vitamins (especially B12), iron, zinc and magnesium. All of which require a healthy digestive tract to absorb them successfully. If you’re not eating red meat, you may need to supplement B12 and zinc, and be very careful with iron-rich foods. Do get in touch if you have questions on this - it can be tricky.
10. Thyroid function
Thyroid health is required for energy, and an under-active thyroid causes the whole body to slow down. Other symptoms include feeling the cold easily, constipation, low mood, weight gain, cycle disruption, and infertility – though one may not experience all of them. I am super keen on thyroid health, because 10-15% of the population suffer from a low-functioning thyroid and it is VERY easily missed, due to typical lab test procedures. Feel free to book a free chat about your thyroid if any of this resonates with you.
Well, I hope this will be helpful checklist if you're ever feeling sluggish. Do ask if you have any questions, and let me know if you'd like a brief chat about shifting your symptoms.
To your best of health & energy,
Clare Backhouse, dipION, Registered Nutritionist MBANT,
Registered Nutritional Therapist CNHC
References and resources
Ganio, M.S., et al, 2011. Mild dehydration impairs cognitive performance and mood of men. British Journal of Nutrition 106, 1535–1543.
Loy, B.D., O’Connor, P.J., Dishman, R.K., 2013. The effect of a single bout of exercise on energy and fatigue states: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Fatigue: Biomedicine, Health & Behavior 1, 223–242.
Monroe, D., et al, 2016. Effects of Sprint Interval Cycling on Fatigue, Energy, and Cerebral Oxygenation. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 48, 615–624.
Nilsson, M.I., Tarnopolsky, M.A., 2019. Mitochondria and Aging—The Role of Exercise as a Countermeasure. Biology 8, 40.