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admin 31.07.2015

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Includes a hit of banana, mango, tropical juice, TD4 mango yoghurt & ice + an energiser booster to keep you buzzing and loving life. In another survey taken at a women’s health symposium, fatigue was rated as the number one and most common health concern.
We’re going to cover the three best research-backed ways to actually improve your own energy, wakefulness, alertness, and performance in the short and long-term.
We could give you scarier examples of rarer health problems that could cause fatigue, but we aren’t trying to give you a panic attack. If you’re feeling healthy though—and keep in mind that low energy is the most common health concern among healthy women—onwards and upwards! While we don’t fully understand why we sleep, we have a good idea of what sleep can affect. Your risk increases for a ton of diseases, such as: strokes, obesity, heart attacks, and cancer.
Now that you’re a bit more motivated to get some quality zzz’s, what exactly does it mean to get a good sleep? Most of us could improve our sleeping routine to either help fall asleep better or wake up better—or both. There are two systems that work together to control our wakefulness: our sleep drive and our biological clock.
Lifting weights is great for this because muscle is so incredibly healthy (article), it’s fun and rewarding to build strength, it can be great cardiovascular exercise, and more muscle will probably make you look better—all while helping you get to sleep.
Serotonin in our body is affected by exposure to daylight (among other things, like exercise).
In a recent study analyzing how much sunlight people were exposed to at the latitude of 45° N*, researchers found that people were only exposed to 1000+ lux for 30 minutes a day during the winter, and 90 minutes in the summer. We’re starting to finally understand that we’re living in a “light deprived society” and we’re feeling the consequences. If you work inside all day or you live in a high latitude country, you should consider making an effort to get some more bright light during the day (and ask your doctor if you’re getting enough vitamin D).
So basically you just want to get a lot of bright blue light (preferably sunlight) to fully wake you up during the day, and then gear down after sunset with dimmer and more yellow-y lights. In another study, researchers took participants to live out in the country and simulated ancient living conditions (except unlike our ancestors, they didn’t need to worry about food). For those who participated in the ancient living study, we can logically conclude that without having access to the Internet, which would expand their social stimulation, once the majority headed to bed things got dull and everyone went to bed. Many of us have had some experience living in pretty ideal conditions at some point in our lives. Even those living in rural areas can be unlucky enough to have a street lamp just outside their house. Blacking out your bedroom does create a whole new problem though—no morning sunlight to wake you up! When you’re a couple hours away from trying to fall asleep and ready to start gearing down, that’s when you should lower the temperature of the room. Personally, I’m surprised that this is something currently only marketed toward the rich. If you have a bit of money to invest into making your morning a little cheerier but don’t want to go full out with the automatic blinds (or perish the thought, you need to wake up before the sun does), the Philips Wake Up Light will gradually turn from amber to blue while getting brighter to wake you up softly. If you have a little bit of money to invest into making your morning a little cheerier, but don’t want to go full out with the automatic blinds (or perish the thought, you need to wake up before the sun does), the Philips Wake Up Light will gradually turn from amber to blue while getting brighter to wake you up softly.
You’ve probably already heard that drinking enough water will help you feel your best. By eating a good amount of protein (say 30g) in the morning, you’ll feel more satisfied after breakfast and stay that way for longer (study, study, study, study), helping you get to work without being bothered by hunger.
There’s also research showing that meals with carbs that are high in fibre result in more energy and alertness than lower fibre or fattier breakfasts. So starting the day with eggs and fruit (lots of protein, lots of fibre, moderate fat) might be better than starting the day with eggs and bacon (lots of protein, tons of fat). In fact, regular drinkers were found to have better mental functioning and most people were pretty good at controlling their intake normally (study).
Lastly, we don’t want caffeine to interfere with your sleep, which should get priority when it comes to feeling energized. If you want to get really nitpicky, since (fat soluble) toxins are stored in fat deposits, fat loss can also be a form of detox, although this releases the toxins into your bloodstream to be disposed of by your natural detoxification system… so that actually increases the amount of toxins you’re exposed to in the very short term.
It’s great to eat more kale and leafy greens but radically altering your diet to restrict certain foods, doing risky practices, or going on extreme calorie restriction are not healthy actions.
Exercising can boost you energy by up to 20% while reducing fatigue by 65% (study, article). Researchers found depressed mood symptoms and fatigue are commonly seen in people who didn’t get to do their usual exercise routine.
We know it’s easy to skip gym day, especially during busy times—the holidays, crunch-time at work, exams. Overreaching is a technique where you push your body a little too hard, preventing full short-term recovery. Researchers took well-trained men around 25 years old, doubled the amount of weightlifting they were doing, and told them to lift a little harder while they were at it.
This might sound like an extreme example—asking weightlifters to double their training volume—but many people will intentionally do intense bootcamps or take a “no pain, no gain” approach to exercise. Be productive, not efficient. Many people feel like they never have enough time to complete their to-do list. Habits are a way for our bodies to automate our decisions so that they no longer use precious our willpower.
For example, right now it might take you a bunch of willpower to start lifting weights three times per week. Over time these healthy behaviours will all be automated, no longer requiring any willpower to execute. In fact, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) says women between the ages of 18 and 44 are nearly twice as likely as men to report feeling very tired or exhausted.
When asked why they thought they were tired, the five most common responses in order were: working both at home and at work, poor sleep, lack of time for themselves, lack of exercise, and financial worries (among a ton of other reasons). Or perhaps you already feel amazing (right on!) and want to get even more out of your life.
That’s just click-bait, not a solution that properly addresses the root of the issue. They might not be the sexiest or simplest solutions out there, but they’re very thorough, healthy, effective, and long lasting. If you’re feeling overly or chronically tired, that could signal an underlying health concern.
Before you can berate me for making the most obvious statement of the year, first let me explain. Experts define good sleep as when you fall asleep easily, do not fully wake up during the night, do not wake up too early, and feel fully refreshed in the morning (article). But sleeping in will delay your biological clock, and the alerting signals that make you feel awake won’t start firing until later in the day.
Not waking up fully because the alerting signals from your biological clock aren’t in-sync with the day. Studies show that moderate exercise has us waking up feeling more refreshed, improves our mood and vitality, and improves our sleep quality.
Moderately high levels of serotonin help put you in a positive mood, so it’s often called the “happiness hormone” (alongside endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin).

One melatonin researcher found that light levels outside on a summer day can be 1000x brighter than typical indoor lighting (article).
Some clever entrepreneurs have used this as a business opportunity, and are opening up shops to address the problem, like the “light cafe” in Sweden (link). When you’re exposed to very bright light during the day, our melatonin production starts sooner, which means we enter into sleep more easily at night.
Aside from brightness, the colour temperature (the hue) from the sun also helps signal to our body that it’s daytime.
Just like blue “sunlight” tells our bodies that it’s daytime, dim amber or yellow coloured light—sunsets, fires, candles—tell us that the day is over. F.lux is a free app that will slowly change the colour of your screen to coincide with the sunset outside (based on your timezone). When you brush your teeth and wash your face, use a dim or amber tinted nightlight instead of turning on your regular bright bathroom lights.
Studies have demonstrated that both light and social cues help set our biological clock to a 24 hour period.
Have you ever travelled to a beautiful place where you’ve spent most of your days out walking in the sun, your evenings being social, and then passed out—hard—by 10 p.m? During a blackout in ’94, many Los Angelites called local emergency centres to report strange lights in the sky. To get a truly restful sleep you might need to black out your bedroom with curtains or blinds. Fortunately that’s probably a less serious issue health-wise but we’ll discuss solutions for it in the next section. According to the National Institute of Health, people report that it’s easier to sleep when they have time to wind down into a less active state. Researchers think we’re partial to going to bed at dusk and waking at dawn partly because of the temperature changes. It’s best to use some sort of sheets or blankets because it helps protect you from changes in the environment allowing you stay asleep (study).
If you decide to try this, you may want to experiment with the timing based on exactly when you want to wake up.
After you wake up, you’ll want to be exposed to bright lights and get moving as soon as possible. It seems like it’ll only be a matter of time until Ikea comes out with cheap motors and timers for their blinds. But what you might not have heard is that thirst is actually a very good indicator of whether you need more fluid or not (study).
As a teenager I got heat exhaustion due to dehydration while haying in 35 C weather (it’s not as fun as it sounds). There’s research showing that those who eat a protein-rich or a balanced meal in the morning have the best attention, memory, judgement and energy (study, study). This is also the optimum amount of protein to kickstart muscle protein synthesis, helping you stay lean, healthy and build muscle. Perhaps better still, this research could be used to suggest starting the day with something like a protein and fruit smoothie. As with thirst, in the context of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, hunger is often a good indicator of how much you need to eat to stay the same weight. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals (and we like to include fibre here too). An overview of all the micronutrients you need and what they do in your body could be its own article… or book… or book series… or even one of those encyclopaedia sets that fills up an entire bookshelf. For example, magnesium deficiencies are relatively common, and are known to cause anxiety and depression. Getting your macronutrients right is about eating the right amount of food, getting your micronutrients right is about eating the right types of food. The more restrictive your diet is, the fewer foods you eat, limiting the variety of vitamins, minerals and fibre that you’re getting. And with good reason—caffeine heightens your arousal and makes it easier to complete tasks (study). We also don’t want to need to use caffeine in the morning to wake up from a lack of sleep. They think this could be a contributing reason to why people become so bummed after an injury or a surgery—because they can’t exercise their body the same way (study).
Skipping the gym will save you an hour or two that day, but at the expense of far more future energy. This is useful when trying to promote muscular or endurance adaptations, since it forces your body to adapt. Their moods became worse and their reaction times slowed significantly, leading the researchers to suggest that overreaching could affect the speed of information processing in the brain (study).
The goal of these workouts is to use all of the trainee’s energy to willingly beat themselves to a pulp.
You can gear into a deload week when you’ve got big exams or an important meeting coming up, boosting your energy. Building up a healthy, vibrant body is all about perfectly balancing recovery with stimulation, rest with activity.
For an extra boost, set up next to a window or use a very bright light, like the Philips GoLite, to stay alert (study). This might not be because of a lack of energy, but because completing your to-do list would take more time than you realistically have. That way you can plan and execute the important things the next day, rather than just reacting to what seems urgent. Willpower is like a battery that drains over the day that is fully recharged by getting a good night’s sleep.
In the book Willpower, the authors discuss research that found that the most successful people, had more willpower overall… but didn’t even seem to use much of it. If you do it for a couple months (with an appropriate training workload), your body will automate this process. Because these habits have longer term energy boosting effects, they will also give you more willpower overall.
This means forgetting about fads or short-term fixes and going back to the fundamentals: sleeping, eating, and exercising well.
To wake up energized, get lots of bright blue light exposure (like sunlight) early in the day and start moving. Indiscriminately eat whole foods—reckless amounts of fibrous carbs (fruits and veggies), enough protein to support your physical activity and body composition goals, enough overall food to avoid hunger, not so much food in a meal that you feel sluggish afterwards, and enough fluids to avoid thirst. This will allow you to gradually turn these practices into a lifestyle made of habits that you love and can keep up without even thinking about it. You know what you want to do, and you might even know how to do it… but you don’t quite feel like tackling it right now. If this system existed on its own, we’d gradually become less alert over the course of the day.
Exercise is the most inexpensive and simple way of improving our sleep, and the risk of negative side effects is very small (study, study). Even the amount of light they got during the summer was considerably less than what our great grandparents would have gotten in the winter (article). Getting bright morning light is helpful against insomnia and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This stops the alerting signals from your biological clock and allows your body to start preparing to fall asleep. If you’ve got (quite) a few bucks to spare, you could even outfit your place with Philips Hue lightbulbs, which can be controlled by your phone and programmed to dim and change colour temperature at night. Even after making people live in bunkers or caves with no daylight, social elements helped them stick to a 24 hour day.

The researchers noted that many studies point to social interactions being a major zeitgeber (cue for our biological clocks). We’re not sure at what point light pollution becomes disruptive, or how bad it truly is for our health (article), but blacking out your room is a good way to play it safe. In Willpower, co-written by the famous researcher Roy Baumeister, they wrote that we only get a small amount of willpower each day, and if we want to truly capitalize on it, then the best thing we can do is to use that willpower to carve out enough time to sleep. Heat promotes wakefulness and gets us out of deep sleep (REM and slow wave sleep), easing us into waking up. If you’ve got money to spend, you could look into timer-controlled curtains or blinds that open automatically. It negatively affects your: energy, concentration, alertness, mood, memory, endurance, and more (study, study, study, study, study). Our kidneys are amazing at regulating our level of water use to match our typical intake, so your usual amount is usually enough. It’s quick and easy to make, easy on the appetite (appetite tends to be low when first waking) while not leaving you hungry, it’s full of fluid to help with hydration, and the protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals will be great for your longterm health, body composition and energy. This study found that taking 400mg of caffeine 6 hours prior to bedtime was still soon enough to disrupt your sleep by at least one hour. Traditionally it’s been used as a sedative to improve sleep, and recently two double-blinded studies have shown that having chamomile tea before bed improves sleep, reduces anxiety (in people who struggle with poor sleep and high anxiety) and seems to improve a few different health markers.
While it doesn’t have sexy marketing, your liver, skin, kidneys, and lymphatic and gastrointestinal systems are incredible at detoxifying your body. Exercise will also improve your sleep, ignite your libido, build your stamina to last throughout the entire day, and increase your mental alertness (article, study). Much like “gaining” an extra hour by staying up past your bed time, you’ll need to pay it back with interest soon. However, because your body will be spending its finite resources adapting, your energy levels overall will be a little lower. At first their motivation is able to sustain them, but eventually their willpower will deplete and they’ll be forced to listen to their body’s urges to calm down (oftentimes causing them to get sick or quit the program). We leave the gym feeling like we got a good workout in. If you do one of these workouts in the morning you should have most of your energy left for work, and if you do it at night you should fall asleep easily and sleep deeply. When you’ve conquered that intense period, you gear into your regular training routine. A dose of bright blue light beats out caffeine for boosting alertness and cognitive function! You might be very efficient at tackling all the unimportant tasks that land in your inbox, but being productive means knowing what you must do to succeed and prioritizing those things above the less important distractions. Making a decision, any decision—even a little tiny one like what to eat for breakfast—drains your willpower. They found that these people would use their willpower in short sprints to consciously turn desired behaviours into unconscious new habits. However, we’re typically quite alert in the evening—even after being awake for a dozen hours. Even on a cloudy day during in the middle of a cold winter here in Canada, a farmer would have been exposed to more than 1000 lux—far brighter than indoor lighting. Because we’re used to seeing things outside, blue coloured light gives us the most accurate colour depiction.
But once the social cues were removed, these poor lonely and daylight starved test subjects started to slip into a 28 hour day (study). During the night, the temperature falls, so our bodies use it as a cue that we should be gearing down for bed.
The light outdoors will always be much stronger than indoors and will let your body know that it’s daytime, causing it to send out wakefulness signals, and the movement will help too. And even with as little as 2% dehydration, your peak physical performance will suffer (study). If you want to double check though, for optimum health and performance you should be aiming to pee clear by lunch, and then keep it clear for most of the day afterwards. This is a common issue among younger people, those in desert-y climates, endurance athletes, and city folks optimistically trying to lend a hand at their Uncle-and-Aunt’s farm.
For example, those eating a plant-based diet may want to check with their doctor about supplementing with iodine, vitamin D, vitamin B12 (study, study, study) and creatine (study). If caffeine does agree with you, it’s best to get it from a more natural source like coffee or tea rather than an energy drink. And you can’t trust yourself—the participants didn’t think the caffeine was even affecting them!
This is comparable to how a fit person would feel after coming back from a short jog, or after a friendly game of soccer. And occasionally you prioritize your health and fitness goals, investing your energy in your training to bring you to new levels.
At that point it will no longer use willpower, and you can use that willpower to develop a new healthy or productive habit—perhaps eating super well. By balancing training stress and recovery you’ll become stronger and fitter over time. So maybe you whip out your iPad in bed to occupy yourself instead of just lying there waiting. Aside from being warm and delicious and delivering your caffeine, coffee and tea both include super healthy micronutrients. Being able to fall asleep well is only one part of sleeping well overall so keep caffeine well away from your bed time. And it’s naive to think that all of our time in a given block can be spent productively because our willpower is even more finite. But we can’t do the same thing with driving in traffic—because traffic is never the same. They would be full of energy and instinctively doing all the important things they want to: eating healthy meals every night, hitting the gym consistently, getting a good night’s sleep, etc. One study found that just reading on your iPad before bed, because of the light, can delay your sleep by as much as an hour and cause you to feel sleepier in the morning (study)!
While being either too cold or too hot will disrupt your sleep, being too cold will ruin your sleep the most (study).
When this happens you need some rest, and it’s usually better to go take a real break.
Our willpower allows us to tackle challenges that may be good for us but are difficult to do.
This biological clock and the systems it runs (including our circadian rhythm) allows us to feel alert even as the day wears on (article). Exposure to this type of light when it isn’t daytime throws off our biological clock and keeps us awake at night. In 10–15 minutes, after standing up and taking a stroll, drinking some water and a having a small snack, you can get back to it with a fresh start. We need to spend it wisely, not let it drizzle away by flicking through emails or doing unimportant tasks that make us feel like we’re working. That anxious, hurried and frustrated worry about showing up late for work as you inch slowly along the highway doesn’t get better with time. Dan wrote that people are often happier with smaller places with a shorter commute because it doesn’t wear down their daily energy before and after work.

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