The evening finally comes after a whole day at work. You hope to spend the rest of the evening watching a nice movie or working on your secret project but you feel so exhausted that you can just eat whatever left-over is in the fridge and go to bed. Then, you wake up the next morning and for some mysterious reason, you feel more tired than before you went to sleep, even though you managed to rest for 8 full hours. At this point, for the thousandth time you wonder how not to feel tired and finally start to enjoy life more. If you can see a bit of your current life in these few lines, please keep on reading.
No one knows you better than yourself
First of all, reflect on the following statement for one second: no one knows you better than yourself.
It might sound just like a spiritual mantra but in reality, I would like it to become one of your main beliefs in life. Consider this: you are in control of almost everything in your life. You can decide what and how much to eat, whether going for a walk or staying on the couch, binge watching or going to bed early, working 7 days a week or taking a break once in a while. I could go on forever. In the end, the quality of your life is intimately connected to the decisions you make every single day.
Here is the problem: sometimes the implications that those decisions have on your life seem to be unclear; other times, you are aware of the implications but you simply ignore them because you are chasing an immediate reward. This immediate reward is very good at disguising itself as, for example, the end of your favorite Netflix show, those sweets displayed so beautifully in the cafè or even the impossible project you were assigned at work that you can’t wait to finish.
Based on my experience as a food scientist, it’s extremely helpful to go through a 360-degree scan every so often, with the goal to identify those relatively simple and probably unconscious decisions you make every day that you think might impact your energy levels. If you don’t know exactly where to start, please read on.
We are complex, yet very receptive creatures
Most likely, you have the feeling that no matter how hard you try, there is no way you can significantly improve your energy levels. Perhaps, after trying many different options, you just decided that either stress or aging is the main culprit of your low energy levels. I know, life can be very stressful for many reasons and aging just happens. How can you avoid that? Well, you only need to be more aware of what’s happening inside of you. In fact, your organism is a fantastic machine that never ceases to be alert. It continuously defends itself preventing or at least, minimizing the damage that the simple fact of being alive causes at a cellular level. Your cells are totally interconnected through a mind-blowingly complex network of biochemical signals. The good thing is that you hardly need to know anything about it in order to make your organism work properly. In the end, you are that network. That’s why, in theory, no one knows you better than yourself. The only difficulty here is understanding how to plug yourself into this network and communicate with yourself more efficiently. What helps immensely is the fact that, as long as you are alive, your organism sends you pretty clear signals and warnings. It basically never stops talking to you. Why shouldn’t it? It wants to stay alive and possibly healthy. So do you.
Let’s be more practical
What I want to share with you is the result of at least ten years of research I started when I realized that most people can’t clearly make out the origin of relatively simple health issues,among which lack of energy. The most common approach people adopt is the following: 1) I’ll go to the doctor; 2) the doctor will prescribe some medicine or supplement, because he knows me better and there’s certainly something wrong with me; 3) now that I have this treatment, my life will be better; 4) damn, nothing has changed. Now what?
This process is based on the wrong assumptions that it’s impossible for you to get to know yourself better, as if whatever happens within you was locked inside an impenetrable safe. Believe me, it’s not.
Feeling tired, sluggish and sleepy too often are clear signals that the organism is sending you to warn you that its intrinsic defense mechanisms are failing to keep the whole system running properly.
In order to facilitate this process of self-discovery and also make it exciting for you, I want to share a few lifestyle tips you can easily use to figure out how to respond to your organism’s request for help.
1) Exercise regularly
a) Don’t spend your whole day sitting: from an evolutionary point of view, we are born to be in motion. No wonder that being sedentary is one of the main causes of death in the world. In fact, the sitting position, no matter how perfect it is, doesn’t allow for proper blood circulation, dangerously constrains our internal organs, just to mention a few. Also, your brain needs to be stimulated constantly but checking your phone and talking to your desk neighbor once in a while is not enough. Remember that our brain is not that different from the one of your hunter and gatherer ancestors. By depriving your brain of proper visual, sensory and, intellectual stimuli mental fatigue ensues. This is one of the possible reasons why you feel so exhausted after the whole day staring at a screen. Set alarms and get up at least once every 30 min for 5 min, stretch and walk around a bit. If you really want to solve the problem at its root, I strongly recommend getting a height desk or an under-desk treadmill, a great solution to stay active without affecting productivity at all. You can find a selection of the best ones here.
b) Do activities that allow your heartbeat to rise above resting pace for about 30 min at least 5 times a week. You depend on your heart, therefore you better keep it in shape. Focus on activities that you like. You don’t need to go to the gym or do yoga, if you don’t want to. It can be anything, like dancing, tennis table, trail running, swimming in a lake or a mix of all this. Just do it. In particular, if you want to enjoy running or walking more than ever, please read this article and check out my personal “foot-picked” selection of minimalist shoes. Also, if your life schedule doesn’t allow for regular runs or walks, or if the place you live in is not ideal for outdoor activities, having a treadmill at home can be the perfect solution to stay active anytime you want. Here is a selection of tested and recommended treadmills.
2) Avoid carbs-loaded foods and gluten.
I wrote about the connection between food and fatigue in this article. I advise you to take a look in order to have a better understanding of what lies behind. Generally speaking, your two big enemies in terms of fatigue are carbs and gluten and almost always like to show up together in your food. Pretty much any food that contains gluten is also rich in carbs (that is, it has a high glycemic index). This is a double-edge sword for the following reasons:
a) Carbs-rich foods usually have a very high glycemic index, which means that they provide energy very quickly and then make you crash, the reason why around 10 or 11 am you are already craving for lunch, and around 5 pm for a snack.
b) Gluten is a protein that messes up with your brain. After being metabolized in the gut, gluten reaches your brain where it binds to the same receptors as morphine, thereby causing fatigue as well as headache, mood swings, etc. Depending on the individual, these effects can last multiple days and become more intense at certain times, like in the morning and in the evening (!). I suggest that you experiment yourself to figure out if gluten affects your life quality.
4) Strengthen your immune system with turmeric
Oftentimes, your body is able to keep infections under control so well that the only symptoms you observe is fatigue. In order to help your body fight the initial onset of infection and boost your immune system , nature provided us with one of the most powerful tools, that is turmeric, which is among the oldest medicinal herbs humans ever used.
Turmeric has exceptional anti-inflammatory properties, dramatically boosts the antioxidant capacity of your organism, speeds up injury recovery and has been shown to improve brain functions and mood swings, that is exactly what you need. By taking turmeric everyday either through food or capsules, I have seen incredible results for myself as well as for hundreds of people I assisted. I came to the conclusion that in addition to the tips I provide in this article, taking turmeric on a daily basis is one of the best ways to support your organism in its everyday endeavor to keep you healthy. The Wise In Motion team tested the best turmeric products for you. Discover what we found out here.
5) Reduce coffee intake.
Most likely, either coffee or some other caffeinated beverage is your best friend and by this I mean the only real friend you can’t live without. If that’s the case, this relationship needs some adjustments. Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychotropic substance in the world. Some individuals are more sensitive to caffeine than others. This means that it’s possible that the coffee you drink at lunchtime or in the early afternoon ends up affecting your sleep quality at night, without you realizing it. Even worse, if you got so used to drinking coffee that you have multiple cups a day, you’re highly likely to drag the caffeine effects all the way into the night with deleterious consequences on your sleep quality.
You don’t know where to start in order to decrease coffee intake? Consider the following solutions:
a) Challenge yourself and opt for water instead, whenever you feel like drinking coffee (fatigue and sleepiness are often due to dehydration);
b) Start drinking decaf coffee. Please, stop thinking that decaf coffee is not real coffee. In my opinion decaf coffee is the best invention for those who like coffee but don’t want to continuously assume a psychotropic substance. By doing so, you keep the habit and the pleasure of drinking coffee without stressing your body with caffeine. Taste matters a lot and I agree that most decaf coffees are not nearly as good as regular ones. Well, my upbringing in Italy, my background as a food chemist plus years spent in New York experimenting with many different coffee preparations taught me how to tell good and bad coffee apart. You can certainly start with the most loved Italian coffee brand, that is Illy.
Illy made an exquisite decaf coffee. Try it here.
c) Try chicory root coffee! It doesn’t sound appealing, I know but this is a great alternative to coffee. In fact, it has become extremely popular in recent years thanks to its slightly sweet and barely bitter taste that will remind you of (good) coffee. One of the best pros of chicory root coffee is that it’s naturally caffeine-free. You can also find coffee-chicory root mixed preparations with a taste closer to coffee but less caffeine. Café du Monde definitely makes the most authentic chicory root coffee. Explore more here.
d) Take guaraná capsules to lose the habit of drinking coffee. Guaraná is a tropical climbing plant whose fruits are rich in caffeine. A big problem with coffee is that because caffeine absorption is very fast, the stimulating effects last much less than you would like them to, whereas the side-effects due to caffeine spike in your bloodstream are quite common (headache, restlessness, stomach irritation, increased heart rate). By taking guaraná pills you will get slightly milder stimulating effects and virtually no side effects thanks to a much slower and more physiological caffeine release. I selected for you the highest-quality guaraná capsules. Check them out here.
5) Get better sleep
We know we need to sleep but we are not yet 100% sure what happens when we do. What we do know for sure though is that sleep-deprivation or low sleep quality, if prolonged for days or months, can wreak havoc in your body on so many different levels. It can lead to fatigue (of course), mood swings, depression, lack of appetite, dementia, stroke, etc. Really bad stuff. Therefore, please fix your sleeping routine:
a) Get 7-8 hours of sleep (not less, not more!).
b) Be consistent, especially during the week.
c) Make sure that the room is not too hot: at night your body temperature needs to decrease by a couple of degrees. If it’s too hot, your sleep quality might be affected.
d) Identify possible sources of noise or light pollution: for example, by simply using thicker curtains or wearing earplugs, you might improve your sleep quality significantly.
e) Be careful of what you eat and drink before bed: some people have slower digestion and need to finish eating dinner at least 2 hours before laying down. Skipping dinner or having too little food might not be a good idea either, as you might wake up in the middle of the night hungry which would disrupt your sleep cycle. Experiment a bit and try to figure out what’s the perfect balance. Same story for alcohol: it can help you fall asleep but it has been shown to worsen sleep quality.
f) Don’t take sleeping pills. Please don’t flood your brain with man-made chemicals (it’s a chemist telling you so…). If you’re looking for an effective and natural way to improve your sleep or get over jet-leg very quickly, I highly recommend melatonin, which is a substance that your brain produces physiologically at different levels during the day. Melatonin in combination with zinc and selenium, two fundamental micronutrients, has a much higher efficacy at regulating sleep cycle. On the market there is one product that stands out for its unique formulation and efficacy, that is Dr. Pierpaoli’s Melatonin MZS (Melatonin+Zinc+Selenium). You can find it here.
g) Be wary of your phone screen. The blue light emitted by your phone has been shown to interfere with your brain by disrupting melatonin production, the hormone responsible for the sleep-wake cycle. I recommend using apps that filter out blue light especially in the evening, they can make a huge difference.
6) Drink more water.
The tiredness you feel in the morning might be caused by dehydration. After spending a whole night without drinking, it makes sense that your body needs some water. Your brain is particularly sensitive to dehydration. Do you know that it shrinks slightly when you’re dehydrated? You don’t want that. In the morning drink at least two cups of water at room temperature (avoid cold water at this time). I understand that most likely, tasteless water is not the first thing you crave in the morning but you can find a way to make it more palatable by adding lemon juice or some other flavors you like (no sugar, though). Taking coffee helps you wake up but stick to simple water to start with, then you can move on to other things. Also during the day, make sure you drink at least a cup of water every two hours, otherwise you might face dehydration-induced mental fogginess at the end of the day.
Keep in mind that your current level of dehydration can be easily assessed from the color of the urine. In theory, a perfectly hydrated body produces almost colorless and odorless urine. If what you see doesn’t match this description, please drink more water!
In conclusion, this list of suggestions represents only the beginning of your journey of self-discovery. The most important thing is to firmly believe that no one knows you better than yourself. I provided you with what I consider the most effective solutions to make a tangible change in your life. Yet, keep in mind that this is not going to be enough without a bit of determination and curiosity on your side. These are essential elements to finally dig deeper and enjoy life to the fullest.
Please share your thoughts with me.
Live wise. Live in motion.