33 Ways To Have More Energy
Illustration by Mr Simon Landrein
Energy crashes and daytime sleepiness are common phenomena that prevent us from enjoying life and getting things done. It is hard to battle through a work assignment, run errands or enjoy a social event when you’re not firing on all cylinders. Low energy is not just bad for productivity. It can leave you feeling unhappy, stressed and irritable. Below, experts share how you can boost your batteries through diet, supplements and lifestyle changes.
Sleep on schedule
London-based physician Dr Hani Hassan advises “establishing a strict sleep schedule – going to bed and waking up at the same time every day to train your internal body clock”. Mr Jay Revan, a fitness coach at the luxury health club Third Space, agrees. “Having a consistent wake-up time can help to regulate the body’s natural sleep cycle and promotes better-quality sleep, which leads to high energy levels during the day.”
Regulate your cycle with melatonin
“If your sleep is irregular due to shift work or travelling, melatonin is a great supplement to take occasionally to help re-regulate your sleep-wake cycle,” Hassan says. [NB: melatonin is not available for purchase in the UK, but it can be prescribed by a medical doctor.]
Hydrate in the morning
“Hydrating first thing in the morning can help replenish fluids lost during the night and give your body’s digestive system a boost to wake up,” Revan says.
Give your water a boost
“I always start the day with a glass of water, to which I often add a few drops of liposomal B vitamins and PHGG fibre,” says the nutritionist Ms Emily English. Vitamin B helps to convert food into energy, while PHGG fibre increases energy recovery in athletes, according to a study published in the Journal Of Functional Foods.
Catch the morning light
That extra half hour lying in bed after you wake up is more likely to drain your energy than boost it, English says. “I like to move and get some natural-light exposure within 15 minutes of waking,” she says. “This helps clear the remaining melatonin, our sleep hormone, out of my system, leaving me refreshed. It’s like nature’s coffee.”
Master the power nap
Revan believes that sometimes a 20-minute nap is all you need to reset the mind and boost energy. Experts at the Mayo Clinic support keeping naps short to avoid feeling groggy afterwards and ensuring they are taken before 3.00pm, “so as not to interfere with night-time sleep”.
Eat a balanced diet
“Opt for high-fibre carbohydrates that are minimally processed and in the right portion sizes,” English says. “Fibre, protein and fats help to slow down the digestion of carbs and delay their absorption into the blood stream.” This avoids sugar crashes and energy slumps. “Ensure your meals contain some plants and wholegrain for fibre, some high-quality protein such as chicken, fish, beans or lentils, and healthy fats, such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds.”
…Especially at breakfast
“I opt for a high-protein and fibre-balanced breakfast that includes a combination of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats,” English says. “Eggs are always my go-to [for a high-energy breakfast] paired with wilted spinach with lemon and a slice of good, dark sourdough.”
Keep to a regular eating window
“I like to have three good meals a day within a set eating window – breakfast at 9.00am, lunch at 1.00pm and dinner at 7.00pm with a snack at 4.00pm,” English says. “This regulates my hunger and digestion, leaving me energised and balanced.” Studies carried out in 2022 by the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the University of California, San Diego, suggest that eating within a 10-hour window is associated with improved energy and mood, whereas eating too late at night can cause fatigue, according to the dietician Ms Kate Watts.
“Sugary foods and simple carbohydrates are among the fastest ways to get a quick boost of energy,” Hassan says. But it’s also a poor long-term strategy. “The subsequent drop in blood sugar causes feelings of fatigue, weakness and hunger.”
Go low GI
Hassan recommends a diet rich in low glycaemic index foods to maintain energy. “Wholegrains, legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables – these are foods that are digested and absorbed more slowly, resulting in a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels,” she says.
Cut back on caffeine
“Be mindful of the amount of caffeine you consume after 4.00pm as this will help to promote sleep quality,” Revan says. English agrees. “While caffeine can provide a quick energy boost, consuming too much can make us dehydrated and fatigued,” she says. “It is important to consume caffeine in moderation. Limit yourself to one or two caffeinated drinks a day.”
Reduce your alcohol intake
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, write that alcohol “can disrupt the water balance in muscle cells, thus altering their ability to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is your muscles’ source of energy”. If you do drink, make sure you drink plenty of water as well.
Get your vitamin C
A 2020 study funded by the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi suggested that vitamin C is crucial because it is involved in “energy-yielding metabolism”. Hassan explains that because vitamin C is a “water-soluble vitamin, meaning it passes through your body in urine”, it needs to be replenished every day. “Citrus fruits and dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale are good sources,” she says.
“Snacking on healthy foods such as nuts, fruits and vegetables can provide the body with sustained energy throughout the day,” Revan says. English recommends “high-protein snacks between meals to sustain you”.
Take a vitamin D supplement (especially if you have dark skin)
The increased amount of melanin in darker skin makes it more difficult to metabolise vitamin D from the sun, which can lead to deficiency and low energy. “If you have dark skin or live in the northern hemisphere, I recommend supplementing vitamin D regularly,” Hassan says.
Give NAD+ a go
Dr William Buxton, medical director of the IV therapy service EffectDoctors, recommends NAD+ drips. “They detox and reduce chronic fatigue, energise and increase concentration,” he says. “They also improve mental functioning and boost mood.” His cofounder Dr William Turner notes, “The exact mechanism by which NAD IV therapy improves energy levels is not fully understood and more research is needed to fully elucidate its effects on energy metabolism.”
“If you feel sluggish, there may be something wrong,” Buxton says. “We would recommend that patients with such symptoms undergo blood testing. We can look at iron levels, kidney function, thyroid function, vitamin levels, in particular vitamin D and vitamin B12. Any abnormalities identified can then be investigated and treated.”
Don’t skip cardio
“Increasing your VO2 max [how efficiently your body uses oxygen to produce energy] improves overall cardiovascular health and endurance,” Hassan says. “It also increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscles, which can help to reduce fatigue and increase energy levels.” Avoid working out too close to bedtime, because this can interfere with your morning routine.
Go for a walk
“Try not to focus on a single high-intensity session or class for one hour,” English says. “Instead, improve your movement patterns throughout the day. Walk to work or fake a commute if you work from home. Head outside to grab a drink or snack at lunchtime and take active walking breaks. The difference this will make to your energy levels is incredible.”
“Stretching helps to release tension in certain areas and improve circulation, both of which can help boost energy levels,” Revan says. “Yoga is low intensity and it helps to improve flexibility, balance and strength. It also promotes relaxation and helps to reduce stress.”
Do some strength training
Turner recommends picking up the weights. “Strength training exercises that build muscle mass can also help increase energy levels over time,” he says.
Avoid too much Hiit
Doing high-intensity interval training every day is “unsustainable for someone who is not conditioned to do so”, Revan says. “Find a balance between training at a high intensity and a lower intensity. You will feel less fatigued and your energy levels won’t take as much of a hit.”
Take BCAAs pre-workout
If you struggle to get through your workout because of low energy levels, try a pre-workout. In particular, look for pre-workout supplements that contain branched-chain amino acids (or BCAAs), which studies published in The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition show are good for exercise recovery and energy.
Take a cold shower
“Turn your shower as cold as it can go and try to stay under for three minutes,” English says. “Cold water exposure has been shown to increase alertness, energy levels and immunity and always brushes off any lethargy.”
Or try a cryochamber
“Your body basically goes into survival mode and you end up being more focused as all you can do is just breathe,” says Ms Sarah Benmerrah, practice manager at Ten Health & Fitness in London. “It increases your dopamine levels, energy levels and serotonin so you feel joyful and calm afterwards.”
Try an ozone sauna
If cryotherapy sounds daunting, Benmerrah recommends trying an ozone sauna instead. “It’s a treatment that certain hospitals use for cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy to get rid of the metal and toxins in the blood. It basically cleans your blood, so if you have a stressful life or feel a bit run down, you go in there, do a treatment and the next day you’re brand new.”
Try massages with energy work
“A lot of the time people go about their day-to-day life in the same physiological position – sitting in the car or at work – and because of that, we tend to hold and store tension within our bodies,” says Ms Helen Porter, a qualified massage practitioner. “With energy work massages, we’re stretching your body in ways that it wouldn’t normally be stretched, manipulating it so that those energy channels can run freely and smoothly. It’s almost like charging you back into your mains.”
Give earthing a go
Earthing is a therapeutic strategy that suggests bodily connection with the earth can help charge our physiology, reduce inflammation and boost energy and blood flow. Porter recommends that her clients “take their shoes and socks off and stand on the earth, because that really helps to heal and rebalance our life-force energy”. She suggests doing this outside – bare feet on soil or grass if possible.
“Taking a few controlled deep breaths in can help to increase oxygen flow around the body and reduce feelings of stress and fatigue,” Revan says. English concurs. “Deep breathing can be done at your desk and it’s amazing the difference three minutes can make to your cortisol levels,” she says.
Shake it off
To tackle the increase in energy-depleting stress levels, Porter suggests shaking it out like animals do in the wild when they’ve escaped being eaten. “What you’re doing is releasing the adrenaline,” she says. “Otherwise, all that cortisol, the stress hormone, gets stuck in your body.” She recommends taking three minutes to shake every morning to “recharge and rebalance”.
Take five to meditate
English recommends meditation as a key way to reduce stress and boost energy. Try Headspace or The Mindfulness App.
“Laughter can help reduce stress and increase energy levels by releasing endorphins,” Revan says. “It’s the body’s natural feel-good chemical.”