One thing that will put an end to your muscle-building program is low energy. You can't perform your best—much less do your best work, or be healthy in your relationships—if you feel tired all the time. You want to be at peak performance, but how can you tell why your energy is so low, and what can you do to get it back up? Low energy is usually due to: lack of sleep, improper nutrition, and doing workouts that break your body down. Here are some tips for taking a critical look at your lifestyle, and making changes that will bring you back up to peak performance.
Life Check: How To Know Where Your Energy Goes
- Sleep tight: If you're working out daily then you must get eight hours per night of sleep (seven at an absolute minimum). Here's why: Our circadian rhythms work on a dark and light schedule, so from 10 PM to 6 AM our body is restoring itself physically. And, from 2 AM to 6 AM we restore mentally. So, try to get your body on a schedule of sleeping during those hours, so that you can maximize that restorative process. That means bed at 10 PM and up at 6 AM. For the best rest, try to sleep in a completely dark room. In the evenings, avoid doing any stressful work or watching intense programs (like, say, the news) right before bed. Only do relaxing things that will calm your mind. Prepare for bed by staying in low-lit rooms at night so that your body will gradually start to shut down. Then, first thing in the morning, open the blinds and let the sun in first thing, to try to help your body wake up as well. The more your body is allowed to adapt to the schedule, the better.
- Eat in threes: You should be eating a balance of foods from all food groups daily (including lots of fruit, veggies, grains, protein, dairy). At each meal, mix the three major types of food: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. This will help you avoid the blood sugar spikes and valleys that sap the energy right out of you.
- Quit the caffeine: Do you really need that cup of coffee? If you honestly think so, what does that say about your other habits? With enough sleep and the correct diet there's no need for caffeine—no matter how hard you work and workout. In fact, the more stress you have in your life, the less you need caffeine. Caffeine causes your body to produce cortisol, which is a stress hormone. So drinking caffeine produces the same physical results as mental stress, and breaks you down in exactly the same way. The less cortisol you have—produced by either stress or caffeine—the more energy you will have.
- Clear your head: Physical activity can be seriously restorative, if you watch the mind/body connection. Try to find physical activities that give you a mental break. For example: yoga, tai chi, pilates, hikes, swimming, massage. These are all good for the body in part because they are good for the mind. You can get some mental space away from the stresses of your day even as you build strength, balance, and flexibility. A workout shouldn't always be about getting big—take the time to turn some of your workouts into relaxation time. This will leave you rejuvenated for the rest of the day.
- Keep it short: If you're tired, there's no point in pushing yourself through a giant lifting routine. You won't be able to give it your all, and you won't get the benefits anyway. Instead, try to do short workouts where you can push yourself for a briefer period of time, and use that time for energy building. Try workouts that keep you moving, and get your blood really flowing. For example, the RealJock Metabolic Workout can be done in 30 minutes or less, and will get you up and going in that time. If you know a workout is going to be short you can push yourself more easily. Skipping workouts, on the other hand, with exacerbate your fatigue. You need the exercise to work off the stress hormones built up during the day, raise your metabolism, and get you physically fatigued enough for sleep. So, get in there and get on with it—but keep it short.
Remember to be honest with yourself about how you feel. It's no good denying that you're tired, and pushing on as though nothing is going on, because that just makes you ignore the causes of your fatigue. Instead, take your lack of energy as a sign that something in your life is out of balance. Then start taking a good look around at what you can change to give yourself your best chance to make the most of every day.
About Diakadi Fitness Tips: Diakadi Fitness Tips is a series of weekly features and interviews with Billy Polson and Mike Clausen, founders of the award-winning Diakadi Body personal training gym and creators of RealJock's 12-week Workout Programs. Billy is a certified Exercise Coach through the Paul Chek Institute as well as a Certified Personal Trainer through The National Academy of Sports Medicine. Have burning questions about your fitness that you want them to answer? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.