Party time is here. So here’s 10 scientifically proven ways to boost your energy and fight fatigue so you don’t need to miss a single hootenanny this year
ADD BUZZ TO YOUR MORNING
Try a hit of moringa powder first thing in the morning, an ancient wonder-ingredient made from the leaves of a sub-Himalayan plant. ‘It’s loaded with vitamins C and A, iron and protein, and works at a mitochondrial level – in the powerhouses of each cell,’ says nutritionist and author Vicki Edgson. But a word to the wise: ‘Don’t take it in the afternoon or you’ll be too buzzed to sleep at night.’ Edgson also recommends switching your cereal to a high-protein breakfast. ‘Think eggs or poached salmon with plenty of greens, an almond-milk smoothie with a spoonful of almond butter, dates and a banana, or buckwheat pancakes with grated Parmesan for that slow release of energy throughout the day.’
Is that 7am spin class killing you? You have our permission to stop right now. The fact is, late afternoon is the optimum workout time for boosting energy. Talk to your boss about pushing back your lunch break, because research from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine shows that just half an hour of exercise in the afternoon helps you sleep up to 45 minutes longer at night. Added bonus? You’ll also perform better at work ‘Just ten minutes of intense movement can work wonders,’ says Cathy Brown, personal trainer at The Third Space gym in London. ‘Try a five-minute jog, then eight Tabata sprints.’ That’s 20 seconds of maximum output, followed by 10 seconds of rest, for four minutes.
Until fairly recently, you’d only take an iron supplement if you were deficient or anaemic, but views are changing. In one study, published in the British Medical Journal, iron therapy significantly improved the energy levels of non-anaemic women. ‘This early research shows that some women might benefit from 17mg iron supplements each day – no more, though, as too much can be dangerous,’ says Dr Rebecca Hayes. ‘If you’re having periods, you need almost twice as much iron a day as men.’ You can get your iron in two forms: haem iron is found in meat, and is better absorbed into the body. Non-haem iron can be found in dark chocolate, beans, lentils and leafy greens. ‘If you’re a vegetarian, up your vitamin C intake, as this helps the body absorb non-haem iron from food,’ adds Dr Hayes.
SIT UP STRAIGHT
If you can’t escape the office, try adjusting the way you sit. ‘There’s a direct correlation between feeling stressed and poor posture,’ says personal trainer Luke Worthington, also from The Third Space. ‘Relying on your sympathetic nervous systems – the bit that activates your fight-or-flight response – causes a deep curve in the lower back as you slump forward.’ It’s a domino effect, people. ‘Your breathing becomes shallow, and your body’s pH level rises above 7.4, which can, in turn, lead to restricted blood circulation in the brain and feelings of fatigue and weakness.’
However, there’s a simple fix. ‘Two or three deep breaths with full exhalation will restore your body’s pH balance,’ says Worthington. ‘Breathe like a baby, letting your stomach expand first, then your chest. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, aiming for 8-10 breaths per minute. Exhale for twice as long as you inhale.’ Do this upon waking, before bed and at stressful points throughout the day, and see how much more alert you feel afterwards.
Yes, we all know multi-vitamins can help fight against seasonal sniffles, but some research suggests that a daily dose can also ward off stress, boost energy and even put us in a better mood. Sleep and energy expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, from the Nightingale Hospital, specifically recommends taking a vitamin B6 and B12 supplement, or eating foods rich in these before bed – try a glass of milk, fortified almond milk, chicken, cheese, nuts and seeds. ‘B6 and B12 aid optimal functioning of the nervous system, and boost serotonin and melatonin production – two hormones that are crucial for sleep and energy,’ says Dr Ramlakhan.
SPICE UP YOUR LIFE
‘Turmeric and rosemary. Turmeric and rosemary,’ should be your mantra. ‘Turmeric improves cognitive function. I add a teaspoon of turmeric powder and a teaspoon of raw cocoa powder to my smoothies, as both work to safeguard and, in the case of turmeric, even regenerate brain tissue,’ says nutritionist Miguel Toribio-Mateas. ‘Rosmarinic acid [the active compound in rosemary] also protects the brain and has been seen to enhance cognition,’ he adds. Sprinkle on meat or roasted veg – it can’t hurt, right?
Coconut milk could be your secret weapon against burn-out, according to Toribio-Mateas. ‘It’s one of the best sources of medium-chain triglycerides, which are known to increase fat oxidation and one of the most efficient ways the body creates energy,’ he explains. Whip up a smoothie with coconut milk, sugar-free almond or peanut butter and a banana for a sweet fix that will power you through your morning or line your stomach before a night out.
Forget making your eighth cuppa of the day or refreshing your Instafeed for the zillionth time, just take ten minutes away from your desk –preferably outdoors – and have a brisk walk. Researchers in the US have found that even this small amount of activity can improve your energy levels for a full two hours afterwards. If you really can’t make it outside during the day, walk across the office to speak to someone instead of emailing them, or take the stairs instead of the lift. Even these micro-bursts of activity are better than sitting in one position all day.
GET MINTY FRESH
That packet of mints that’s been languishing in the bottom of your bag for a month could be more beneficial than you think. In fact, even a whiff of peppermint oil can enhance memory, alertness and physical performance in just five minutes after sniffing or ingestion. Rather than chew on a dusty mint, though, pop a small bottle of peppermint oil in your handbag and waft it around mid-afternoon for a refreshing herbal lift. Try Japanese Oil of Peppermint Liquid Extract, £5.49, from Holland & Barrett.
TRY THIS HYDRATION HACK
The party season is here, but we’re not going to tell you to alternate each alcoholic drink with half a pint of water. Because nobody does that, right? However, what you can do is drink plenty of water when you get home instead, and avoid that dead-to-the-world feeling the next day. Doing this can make a massive difference to your morning-after energy levels. Dehydration will stop you thinking clearly and leave you shattered. And that’s before we mention the hangover. ‘Women need around 1.6 litres of water a day,’ says Dr Hayes. ‘We underestimate how important hydration is,’ adds Toribio-Mateas. ‘Make it more interesting by infusing it with different fruit and vegetables. Celery, lime and blackberries work great together.’ You might be better off putting this in a jug before you go out, though, because after a few drinks – knives, fruit… it could get ugly, or there’s a strong chance you just won’t do it at all.