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Natural pick-me-ups

Expert tips for improving your flagging energy levels

Do you feel as if you are tired all the time? Fatigue and lethargy are very common problems and are often linked to the types of foods we are consuming on a regular basis. “Food is fuel,” says Lydia Oyeniran, a health and nutrition consultant with “What we choose to ‘fill the tank' with ultimately determines how well we function, how much energy we have and how tired we feel during the day. If you find yourself exhausted throughout the day or wide awake at night, it’s time to switch up your diet. There are some really easy ways to naturally boost your energy levels in a healthy and long-lasting way.”

Eat a healthy breakfast

“The British Dietetic Association (BDA) suggests that over a third of adults skip breakfast,” says Sharan Verma from Nutrition and You, ( “Having breakfast in the morning may give you the energy you need. Perhaps opt for porridge or a low sugar, high fibre cereal, or even a boiled egg on wholemeal toast. These foods are filling and will release energy slowly so you won’t feel a sudden dip as you would after eating a chocolate bar for example.”

Eat more protein

Ryan Hodgson, a health and lifestyle coach, (RyanHodgsonFitness), says that a common cause for lower energy levels is drops in blood sugar levels. “We get a peak, then a trough in the energy,” he says. “One simple way to help reduce these peaks and troughs in energy is to ensure when eating a substantial carbohydrate source that you’re having a good protein serving too. Doing this will slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and keep energy levels more consistent. Many people who begin to eat more protein in their meals notice more stable energy levels, plus they’re less inclined to turn to that sugar for a pick-me-up too.”

Swap refined carbs for complex carbs

According to Lydia Oyeniran, a common cause of blood sugar drops is eating refined and processed carbohydrates such as white bread, cereals and pastries. “These can cause temporary spikes in blood sugar that may boost energy in the short-term but ultimately lead to crashes later in the day,” she explains. “Instead, opt for complex carbohydrates such as wholewheat bread, brown rice, nuts and seeds and oats which release energy more slowly helping you stay alert for much longer.”

Ditch the caffeine

Many of us rely on a cup of coffee to give us an energy boost first thing in the morning, or when we feel the afternoon slump coming on. “Unfortunately, like refined carbs, caffeine causes spikes in energy that ultimately result in a come-down later,” says Lydia Oyeniran. “Caffeine remains in our systems for most of the day and can cause disruptions to our sleep which only make us more tired the next morning. Instead of relying so heavily on caffeine for a temporary boost, opt for natural energy-enhancing nootropics. Nootropics enhance brain performance in many ways from supporting blood flow to the brain to boosting our resistance to stress, helping us conserve energy for the activities most important to us.”

Check your iron levels

“If you’re lethargic it could be a sign of low iron levels so do have this checked out by your GP,” says Sharan Verma. “If you do have low iron levels you could try and include more green leafy vegetables, forfeited cereals and some red meat.” You might also want to consider supplementation, particularly if you are a vegetarian or vegan.

Tackle your energy zappers

“Many of us tend to fall into habits that actually deplete our energy levels, without even realising it,” says Angela Hartley, a cardiac nurse and exercise coach “Here are some of the most common energy zappers that I see. When you reduce or take these out of your life, you should start to see an improvement in just a couple of weeks.”

Go through the following list and circle any of the following energy zappers that apply to you:

Did you circle two or more?

Angela recommends looking at ways of improving each area one by one. She says: “For example, turn off your phone a little earlier at night. Look at reducing your alcohol and sugar intake a little at a time. Ask your doctor to test your iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and thyroid. Start to exercise a little at a time – even a five to 10-minute walk can help to boost your energy and your mood! By tackling one to two things at a time it will give you a sense of empowerment that you are in control of things.”

Quick energy boosters

Once you’ve started tackling your energy zappers, Angela Hartley recommends starting to add in one to two energy boosters every week and you should start to see an improvement in no time!

Here are some examples:

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