Here is my checklist of areas to address if you want to improve focus, productivity and energy levels through the day.
1. Eat balanced regular meals
Our energy comes from the food that we eat. The most available source is from carbohydrates, however we have to have those carbohydrates released into the bloodstream at a rate that the body can use them. Otherwise, we can experience blood sugar highs and lows, stimulating insulin and cortisol production. This makes us feel super alert at first but then crash an hour or two later. A carbohydrate-heavy breakfast or lunch is what often creates that mid-morning or mid-afternoon slump. Adding adequate amounts of healthy fats, proteins, and fibre slows the release of the energy into the bloodstream, sustaining energy levels through the day. Eating every 3-4 hours also helps balance out blood sugar levels.
2. Avoid coffee and black tea
These contain caffeine which also affects blood sugar balance. It can stimulate a rise in blood sugar giving you a short, sharp, pick-me-up burst of energy - but what goes up must come down. Another crash in energy will probably make you reach for another cuppa or a sugary snack, and so the blood sugar rollercoaster continues. Over time, overuse can cause chronic imbalance of cortisol, a stress hormone, which has a negative effect on sleep, leading to more entrenched fatigue.
3. Workout in the mornings
Working out is great for you and your energy levels, improving fitness, helping your body more efficiently balance blood sugar and producing feel-good endorphins. However, it is also an increased 'stress' on the body, so over-exercise stimulates cortisol, which we know can cause sleep issues. It is important, as with all aspects of health, that you find the balance between activity and rest. Try to do your cardio in the morning and calming activity such as yoga or pilates in your evening workouts.
4. Get enough sleep
If you want to be energised, it is important to give your body time to rest and recover. 7-8 hours is optimum, any less than this has been shown to damage your short- and long-term health. Find time to relax and chill out. A simple 10 minute 2:4 breathing exercise (breath in for a count of 2, breath out for a count of 4) can have an incredible effect on calming the nervous system and relaxing the body. Digital detox an hour before bed, turning off from work and social stimuli but also the light from the screens themselves.
5. Keep your micronutrient levels up
We consume food and breathe in oxygen to create the energy that we need. However, the body needs to change those raw materials into something called ATP, before we can use it. This requires a complex chain of reactions which in particular need B vitamins and co-factors such as Co-enzyme Q10. We produce CoQ10 in our bodies, but at the tender age of 28, levels start to decline. Levels can also be affected by oxidative stress, activity levels and illness, so if you suffer from poor muscle recovery or have low energy after sickness, then it is ideal to take a supplement to boost your levels.