Easy Energy Boosters
Who isn't looking for more energy these days? Here's how to get it:
1. Take 15. The energy shortage most women feel is usually a consequence of hectic schedules: You're forced to respond to a call from your child's school and a new demand from your boss -- often simultaneously. The body responds by producing a brief, energizing fight-or-flight hormone called cortisol. Your heart rate and blood pressure soar, and as a result, your immune system takes a hit. So, if you're constantly stressed, you're more likely to get the flu or have serious medical problems. Take at least fifteen minutes to recharge every day -- go for a walk, call a friend or meditate.
2. Uncover hidden energy zappers. Make sure you're not a victim of these silent saboteurs:
- Low iron levels. About 12 percent of American women have an iron deficiency, which leaves them feeling drained. Vegetarians, dieters and active women are at an increased risk. Iron-rich foods such as meat, beans and cereals can keep iron levels high. Fruit or juice high in vitamin C can improve absorption.
- Unrecognized allergies. "Lots of people who complain about a lack of energy don't realize they could have allergies," says Heather Holmstrom, M.D., a clinical instructor at the UCLA Medical Group. Histamines and other chemicals released by an allergic reaction can make people feel tired, she explains. Allergies can also interfere with breathing, depriving your muscles of oxygen.
- Low blood sugar. Just before your usual wake-up time, your body releases a burst of energy to get you going. If you don't refuel by eating breakfast, your energy level plummets. Noshing on a doughnut will give you a temporary jolt, but eating protein and fiber can help you go for the long haul.
- Medications. Many drugs, including blood-pressure medication and some birth control pills, can affect energy. If you suspect that a medication is sapping your stamina, check with your doctor about making a switch.
- Poor sleep. The quality of your sleep can have as much of an impact as the quantity. "A woman may be spending eight hours in bed, but if she's not getting uninterrupted sleep, she'll be tired the next day," says Amy Stine, M.D., an integrative medicine physician at the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Complementary Medicine. One of the best ways to zonk out at night is to exercise regularly during the day. In studies at Stanford University, in Palo Alto, California, 30 to 40 minutes of moderate aerobic activity in the early evening helped people sleep more deeply than those who didn't exercise.
- Depression. Even mild forms of depression and anxiety are associated with low levels of serotonin, a chemical in the brain that can affect energy and mood. Serotonin-increasing drugs, such as Prozac, can help many patients feel significantly better; new research has also shown that regular exercise may provide a similar lift.