Dear JJ: Even though I begin with the best intentions, some mornings I crash and feel like I'm running on empty all day. How can I create and maintain all-day energy without staying constantly caffeinated?
As a single mom raising two teenage sons and running two businesses, I understand how draining juggling multiple duties can become.
As a huge coffee fan, I also get how an organic dark roast can become just your ticket for days when you're running on empty and desperately seek a second wind.
"According to the FDA, 80 percent of U.S. adults consume caffeine each day, with an individual intake of 200 mg," writes Laura Schocker. "To put that in real world terms, the average caffeine-consuming American drinks two five-ounce cups of coffee or about four sodas."
Some people consume much more, particularly as high-sugar impact energy drinks, and such caffeine crutches coupled with lack of sleep and other obstacles can contribute to long-term energy crashes.
Many issues underlie our our-caffeinated, constantly tired modern-day energy crisis. I've found addressing these five things can make the difference between crashing and steady, sustained energy.
1. Sleep. I don't need to describe the caffeinated aftermath of a crappy night's sleep to zap your energy, make you feel lousy, and start the day's caffeine cycle. Even one night's poor sleep can adversely affect your hunger hormones and set the stage for cravings, lethargy, and a miserable day at the office. When your energy levels lag, lack of sleep might be your primary culprit. Aim for seven to nine hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night. If getting or staying asleep becomes a struggle, apply these seven shut-eye strategies.
2. Breakfast. Start your morning with a gargantuan dark roast and a high-sugar impact muffin or cereal and you're set for a mid-morning energy crash. "[S]ugary foods may seem like a good idea, as they may give you a quick burst of energy, but they're actually not as your blood sugar will wind up lower than before you ate the sugar," writes Shelley Emling. "Ultimately this 'crash' will sap you of energy." Instead, make breakfast a protein shake, which helps steady blood sugar to keep you full, focused, and full of energy for hours.
3. Caffeine. Coffee becomes a dose-dependent beverage: Whereas a cup gives you a boost, refills can create a jittery, wired-and-tired aftermath. Especially become aware about how that late-afternoon java pick-me-up affects your long-term health. "Caffeine is a known stimulant, and like any stimulant we take into our body, when it is no longer active we feel tired," writes Judith J. Wurtman, Ph.D. "It is possible to recharge our mental energy by consuming more caffeine, but doing so comes with a cost, namely a sleepless night."
4. Exercise. Exerting energy creates it, as you've likely discovered when a good workout gave you a second wind. Especially when you're running on empty, you don't have hours to spend at the gym. That's why I love burst training, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which you knock out in minutes a day. "When you do HIIT, you create an oxygen debt thereby elevating your metabolism," writes Jenn Zerling. "You also improve the production of growth hormone and testosterone, which directly lowers cortisol levels, allowing your body to mobilize fat out of your cells for energy. Isn't that the goal? Steady state training, such as walking or jogging steadily, does not achieve this." Keep exercise to morning or afternoon. Working out too close to bed can give you a second wind when you don't need it.
5. Stress. "The underlying cause of feeling fatigued, drained, lacking energy may really be ongoing STRESS," writes Helen Marie Loorents. "Stress is the worst toxin in the entire body -- worse than sugar! If you really knew what was happening to your body when you are stressed, you would do whatever it takes to keep stress at bay." Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or just a green tea date with your bestie: Find what works for you to control stress and prioritize it.
What strategy would you add to this list to maintain energy and focus? Share your idea below. And please keep those fab questions coming at AskJJ@jjvirgin.com.