Do you remember back to school when you learnt that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed into different forms? (Newton’s Law). It’s fundamental to life and specifically to our daily energy. We get energy from the sun via the food that we eat. We convert this energy for use in our body and this cycle repeats over and over. But what happens when the cycle doesn’t run as efficiently as it should? What can get in the way? This blog post aims to take a closer look at energy dips and five reasons that might be draining your body of energy.
Energy Dips and the Energy Cycle
A lot of people experience a dip in energy at certain times of the day and consider it ‘normal’. Likewise, do you ever feel like you get weeks when you just can’t find the energy to workout or concentrate properly? Sometimes, the reasons are obvious – seasonal changes, binge watching tv series into the night, newborn baby keeping you up. But sometimes, it’s not as obvious as you think. Or at least, you need a little hint to have that ‘a-ha’ moment. Here’s just a few reasons to consider.
Reason 1: Stress
Trying to do it all and keep up with the Jones’s is tough work. When functioning normally, your stress hormone cortisol should be highest in the morning and gradually decrease in time for melatonin to kick in and get you feeling sleepy in the evening. Chronic stress throws this pattern out the window meaning the body can remain on constant alert and your cortisol never really falls off. This can disrupt sleep but it’s also a massive energy drain.
The fix: You can’t always control stress but you can build your own resilience. Mindfulness as a practice has time and time again been show to have benefit on stress and fatigue. Try a simple reflection practice early in the morning or last thing at night. There’s a million apps out there to help like My Headspace.
Reason 2: Not Working Out
Being stressed during the day is bad enough on its own but combining it with poor posture (slouching over a computer) and barely moving between the desk and the couch means that you are never releasing that negative energy/tension. This can also mean that your body is not stimulated to produce more energy and/or isn’t capable of doing so efficiently.
Quick fix: Start moving! Exercise ramps up your endorphins, cognition and boosts cardiovascular health. Studies have also shown that 150 minutes of exercise a week helps with sleep (link). Research seems to indicate that it takes up to a month of consistency to start feeling the benefits of exercise. Pick something that you enjoy and go for it – hiking, tennis, football, walking, swimming….
Reason 3: Under recovering
If you’re at the opposite end of the scale and training all the time, you might be falling into another trap; under recovery. Long workouts also spike your cortisol which isn’t great if you’re already feeling stressed. By constantly asking your body to work and not giving it the rest it needs to perform, you could be seeing yourself under-performing.
Quick Fix: The quickest fix to avoid physical overload here is to take a rest week which includes gentle exercise in the form of a leisurely swim or stroll. If you can get some yoga and stretching in, all the better!
Reason 4: Under-eating
Food is your source of energy. As we digest and break it down into individual units that provide us with materials to make energy. While calories aren’t an accurate unit to base everything off of, the “calories in vs calories out” equation helps explain this point. If you’re expending significantly more than you are taking in over a long period of time, your body may start to make certain adaptations to keep you alive. Because at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. To ensure this, the body may start to reduce the energy it gives out i.e. calories out. This means that (sometimes without even realizing) you feel lazier and more lethargic.
Quick fix: Keep a food diary for the week and note down the times of day you eat and what you eat. You’d be surprised what it reveals!
Reason 5: Dehydration
You would be surprised how easy it is to be dehydrated and not even notice. Water has a huge role to play in the body, especially since it makes up over 70% of our make-up. In fact, as little as 3 percent or more loss of body weight due to dehydration can cause as much as a 10 percent drop in performance level. Mild dehydration can result in feeling lethargic and affect not only your performance in the gym, but your mood and concentration too.
Quick fix: Drink up! Make sure to get at least 8 glasses of water per day. And stick to water – sports drinks/fizzy drinks/flavoured drinks all come with added sugar that you just don’t need.
Reason 6: You’re missing key nutrients
Energy dips can result from the simple fact that you aren’t getting enough vitamins and minerals from you’re food. Specifically, the B suite of vitamins play a crucial role in the energy cycle. Iron too can affect your energy with low iron leading to poorly formed red blood cells that deprive your body of oxygen.
Quick fix: Consider your risk factors – generally low iron and b vitamins can strike vegans/vegetarians, those with digestive or thyroid issues or those with a very limited/processed diet. Likewise, high levels of certain minerals/vitamins can run in families. Striking a balance is very important so don’t go out there and just buy supplements. It’s best to get a blood test and talk with your doctor first.