How to Improve Energy Levels
Many people complain of a persistent lack of energy - whether it’s having a tough time getting out of bed, feeling tired after lunch, or just general sluggishness throughout the day. While no one can expect to feel energized all the time, a natural and healthy amount of sustained energy should be within reach. When it’s not, it’s likely that health and lifestyle factors are at play. Fortunately for you, there is plenty you can do to help bring back low energy levels.
What does it mean to have good energy? Ideally, it should be easy to wake up in the morning at your usual time, and you should be able to feel vibrant and alert throughout the morning hours. When you follow a healthy diet, eating the right foods, you should feel level energy until the evening hours. If you notice that you’re feeling run down throughout the day, or are particularly tired in the afternoon, unruly hormones could be affecting your energy.
Hormones and Energy
Numerous aspects of biology impact our energy levels. To understand why we feel lethargic or tired, it’s important to take inventory of our hormone health.
Hormones are signaling molecules that tell the body what to do in order to make biological systems run smoothly. For example, in the early morning hours, our levels of cortisol — a stress hormone — should be at their highest levels. This should trigger a natural waking around the time we usually wake up. Melatonin is another hormone that plays a role in sleep, specifically by making us tired. Ideally, melatonin increases after dark and is suppressed by light. Given the presence of relative darkness, our melatonin production should increase, and we should find ourselves getting slightly drowsy right around bedtime.
If these hormones are imbalanced, it can lead to problems falling asleep. Cortisol, as a stress hormone, is thought to be commonly over-triggered in many people. If your cortisol production is out whack due to stress, excessive caffeine consumption, eating too much of the wrong foods or being exposed to bright lights around bedtime, you could experience a rush of energy near bedtime, which makes it difficult to sleep.
When we artificially inflate our cortisol levels, our body’s level of stimulation goes to battle with melatonin. Unfortunately, melatonin never wins. We may eventually fall asleep, but never getting the proper amount of rest our body deserves.
- Take 15 minutes before bedtime to shut down. Turn off the TV, turn off your phone and relax.
- Limit caffeine consumption to the morning hours to keep cortisol at normal levels.
- Avoid eating too much food, or foods that are sugary within 3 hours of going to bed.
- Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible, turning brightly lit alarm clocks away from your face, and putting cell phones out of arm’s reach.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
If you feel like you’re low on energy, you may be wondering if the problem is your amount of sleep. Most experts agree that adults need at least seven hours of sleep. Our body needs to go through five 90-minute sleep cycles. At the beginning of every sleep cycle, the pituitary gland in our brain releases something called human growth hormone (HGH). Every burst of HGH our body gets helps us to repair any damage done to our body from the previous day. If you had a hard day - whether it’s physical or emotional - you need to take advantage of these sleep cycles. If you don’t, you’re cheating yourself out of the much-needed rest you need.
Nutrition and Energy
Nutrition can also be a factor in how easily you fall asleep, and how deeply you sleep. Our hormones sit in a state of homeostasis, meaning that they’re balanced by one another. When we throw off one hormone, we can have an affect on all of our hormones! Since what we eat plays such a huge role in keeping hormones in check, it’s something to pay close attention to. Both insulin and cortisol are particularly affected by food intake, and if these hormone levels do not remain balanced, it’s difficult to get a full night of sleep.
The best diet to promote restful sleep and sustained energy is a diet low in sugar and high in fiber, with plenty of healthy fat and clean protein. Additionally, avoiding coffee in the afternoon is definitely a good idea, as coffee can stimulate cortisol production and throw off insulin, disrupting your hormones and potentially making it difficult to fall asleep.
Finally, paying attention to the nutrients in your diet can be a helpful way to promote healthy energy levels, whether by encouraging restful sleep or by boosting energy during the day.
- Glycine: The amino acid glycine has been shown in studies to promote restful sleep. Glycine can be a great ingredient to ingest about 30 minutes before bed.
- Foods that contain glycine: Gelatin
- Magnesium: Magnesium is a mineral that contributes not only to sleep, but to general feelings of calm and content. Unfortunately, many people don’t get enough magnesium into their diets. Making sure you have enough of this important nutrient can make the difference when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.
- Foods that contain magnesium: Dark chocolate, avocados, nuts
- Calcium: The third nutrient in our sleep trifecta, calcium is an important part of any healthy-energy diet.
- Foods that contain calcium: Dairy, kale, spinach, broccoli
- Potassium: Potassium, magnesium and calcium work together to help promote restful sleep.
- Foods that contain potassium: Avocados, sweet potatoes, spinach, acorn squash
- Vitamin D3: Vitamin D3 is correlated with calcium absorption, and can be manufactured by the body when the skin is exposed to direct sunlight. However, given our modern indoor lifestyles, many of us don’t get the Vitamin D3 we need from sun exposure alone. Vitamin D3 is correlated with sleep quality as well as feelings of general well-being.
- Foods that contain vitamin D3: Cod liver oil, salmon, sardines
- Collagen: Collagen contains the amino acid glycine. Additionally, collagen supports mobility and recovery by promoting the health of the bones, joints, tendons and cartilage.
- Foods that contain collagen: Collagen Peptides, bone broth, skin, bones
- Iron: Iron transports oxygen through the cells, so when people are deficient in iron, they often experience low energy.
- Foods that contain iron: Red meat, beans, lentils
Collagen and Energy Levels
The presence of glycine to promote sleep is an extremely important component of promoting overall energy. But there are numerous other ways collagen can be a part of a healthy energy cycle.
Collagen is the main component of the body’s connective tissues, which include the hair, skin, bones, joints and digestive tract. This makes it an important component of your body’s cellular repair, energy production and mobility.
As we age, our natural collagen production tends to decrease — this tends to start happening around age 25. In order to keep our bones and joints healthy, not to mention our digestive tract and gut health optimal, we should support our connective tissues with collagen.
With collagen playing such a versatile role in healthy energy levels, you may be wondering how to get it into your diet. Unfortunately, our modern diets, which don’t often contain ingredients such as cartilage, bone broths and organ meats, tend to lack collagen. Collagen Peptides contain pure collagen from grass-fed, pasture-raised bovine hides. More than 90 percent of collagen peptides are digested and quickly absorbed by the body after oral ingestion.
Other Diet Factors to Consider
We’ve already covered how food can impact your hormones, so what kind of diet should you aim to consume? Most importantly, try to limit your consumption of sugar and starchy carbohydrates such as breads and processed foods. These foods are known to cause disruptions in blood sugar levels, leading to energy crashes.
Instead, fill up on complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and squash, as well as a diverse array of nutrient-dense vegetables containing fiber and phytonutrients. By eating a plentiful amount of veggies, you can help ensure you’re getting in all the nutrients you need to support energy levels.
Finally, protein and healthy fats are the main staple in energy production. Look for clean proteins from fish, grass-fed livestock and eggs. Aim to get plenty of healthy fats into your diet as well, not only from meat, but also organic butter, ghee, olive oil, coconut oil and avocados.
To get you started, here’s one of our favorite energy-boosting meal ideas:
Chicken and Veggie Lettuce Wraps
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 scoops Chicken Bone Broth Collagen
- ½ red onion, diced
- ¼ cup coconut sugar
- 2 tablespoons coconut aminos
- 1 tablespoon coconut vinegar
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1-2 teaspoons sriracha
- 2 cups shredded carrots
- ½ cup chopped green onions
- 1 head butter lettuce
- In a large pan, melt coconut oil over medium-high heat.
- Place ground chicken in hot pan and break up meat until no more pink remains, about 5 minutes.
- Add in minced garlic and garlic powder and saute for another minute or so.
- Add in Bone Broth Collagen, diced onion, coconut sugar, coconut aminos, coconut vinegar, ground ginger and sriracha and continue cooking until onion is softened.
- Add in shredded carrots and green onions and saute for 2-3 more minutes until vegetables are softened and sauce is thickening up.
- Serve chicken in butter lettuce leaves.
As you work to boost your energy levels, you may want to check out these energy-promoting products:
Collagen Peptides: A pure source of collagen, collagen Peptides are a great all-around wellness product to promote energy, recovery and mobility.
Beef Liver: Beef Liver is a whole food-based supplement that promotes energy by replenishing your body with Vitamins A, C and B12, as well as folate, iron, zinc, potassium, hyaluronic acid, and protein.
Collagen Creamer: Vital Proteins Collagen Creams are made from coconut milk powder. This healthy fat is a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT), which may help promote healthy metabolism and weight. The Collagen Creamers also contain nourishing collagen protein.