It’s 5 pm, you’re just getting home from work, and you barely have the energy to drag yourself up your front steps - never mind hit the gym for a full workout.
While you know that exercise is essential and you’re committed to staying on track, how do you muster up the energy to get yourself off the couch and into your workout gear?
There was a time when you thought the boundless energy would never fail you, but whether it be from a lack of sleep or being overworked, we’re all bound to hit a wall at some point - but what do you do about it?
Some of it may be due to age, some to lifestyle habits, but whether it’s biology or behavior, we have some easy fixes to help get your energy back and hit the gym hyped to kill your workout.
Most Common Causes Of Low Energy
Before we dive into how to boost your energy levels, let’s first cover some of the reasons why you might be feeling a little zapped.
Chronic stress can significantly affect your energy levels, and there are several reasons for this. The first is your stress hormones. Constantly being in a fight-or-flight state leads to elevated cortisol levels, which can eventually become chronically high.
In a situation like this, the adrenal glands become overtaxed by excess cortisol release and can’t keep up with the cortisol production necessary to sustain optimal body function.
As a result, you start to feel tired all the time. On the other hand, chronic stress also affects sleep. Several studies show that “stress-related worry and rumination” can cause sleep disruptions and increase the risk of insomnia 1, 2.
Not enough sleep
Sleep and energy go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly. If you’re not sleeping enough, you’re not going to have enough energy to get through the day or your workout - it’s simple as that.
Sleep is divided into two stages: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (non-REM). The former is active sleep and where most of the dreaming happens, whereas the latter is quiet sleep---both are important for energy levels.
Non-REM sleep is divided into three stages, the last of which we call deep or slow-wave sleep. Slow-wave sleep is where your body does most of its renewal and repair, but it’s also the most important stage for energy metabolism 3.
People who don’t get enough sleep - and enough deep sleep - tend to wake up feeling less refreshed and less energetic. But just as deep sleep restores the body, REM is also essential for restoring the mind.
Scientists believe that it’s in REM sleep that the brain clears out unnecessary information and strengthens learning and memory 4, 5.
Hitting the sack at a decent hour and practicing healthy sleep hygiene can make a world of difference to your energy levels.
Just like your body requires nutrients to perform in the gym, it also requires nutrients to sustain energy metabolism - any shortage in nutrients can lead to insufficient energy production and serious feelings of fatigue.
In the realm of diet, we have both macronutrients - protein, carbs, and fat - and micronutrients - vitamins and minerals - that both play critical roles in energy production. While the big dogs like carbohydrates and fat significantly influence energy levels, so do micronutrients.
If you’re struggling to lift well or get to the gym, it could be that you’re not eating carbs (or the right carbs) or enough healthy fats. While fats have been titled the devil, not all fats are evil. Cutting out fat or going low-fat may help you drop a few pounds, but it will not favor your energy levels.
Caffeine is the perfect compound for boosting energy, so how is it that it can also deplete energy? In low to moderate amounts, caffeine has many benefits on energy levels and performance, but long-term excessive consumption will deplete your body not only of nutrients but energy, too.
High intakes of caffeine can interfere with sleep and stress the adrenals, which cumulatively leads to sluggishness and fatigue.
While caffeine can be a hard habit to quit, if you need more than three cups a day (or more than 200-300mg), it might be time to force yourself to cut back. It will suck for a few days, but once your body adjusts and your sleep improves, your energy will be through the roof.
Going hard at happy hour
Taking the edge off a stressful day with a glass of wine or a beer might sound like a good idea, but how does going overboard with the alcohol impact your energy? It all has to do with sleep.
Most people think alcohol gives them sound sleep, but it reduces the time you spend in REM, leaving you with a lighter and less restorative sleep 6. So, if you’ve ever woken up feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck - and not from the hangover - there’s your reason.
Plus, alcohol is seriously dehydrating, which further contributes to fatigue.
Lack of recovery time
If you’ve been able to get into the gym to hit some fierce training sessions, but now you can barely get yourself up the stairs, you could be zeroing in on overtraining territory. Just as you need sleep to help restore your body, you need sufficient recovery time to help your muscles and energy stores recover.
While you may take a day or two off a week to rest and recharge, if you’re dragging yourself through most of your workout, it might be wise to tack on an extra day of rest or dial down your workouts.
6 Tips For Getting Your Energy Back
So, with that said, how do you bounce back and get your energy levels back to par? Here are our best tips for endless, natural energy.
Get enough sleep
Sleep equates to energy. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’ll be dragging your butt through your entire day and won’t have enough energy to work out - guaranteed.
Ideally, you want to aim for 7 to 9 hours of good quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. One of the purposes of sleep is to restore brain energy; if you’re not sleeping enough, that can’t happen 7.
If you find you struggle to get enough sleep, take a look at your daily habits:
- Are you drinking coffee after 2 pm?
- Are you using screens (cell phone, TV, laptop, tablet) before bed?
- Are you doing stimulating activities in the evening?
- Is your bedroom hot?
- Is external light entering your room/is your room pitch black?
Getting your sleep hygiene on point is key to getting a good night’s sleep and increasing energy levels.
Eat a balanced diet
A diet high in refined carbs and sugar will zap your energy faster than anything else; they spike your blood sugar like no tomorrow and when the glucose is moved out of the bloodstream, guess what happens? A massive crash.
Instead of loading up on carbs, choose balance. That means a good amount of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats.
A balanced diet also means loading up on micronutrients that support energy production. The B vitamins play a huge role in energy production, as do magnesium, iron, zinc, and vitamin C 9.
If you want energy through the roof to get you through your workout, ensure you hit your macro and micronutrient intakes daily.
Give your body enough rest
Rest is essential for all body functions, especially energy levels. If you’re struggling to get through your workout with a triple scoop of an extra-strength pre-workout, chances are your body is giving you a big sign it needs a break.
Consider scaling back on the intensity or duration of your workouts, or swap them for lighter exercise. Taking a de-load week is also a great idea if you’re hitting a wall with your workouts.
While de-load doesn’t necessarily mean halting all activity, it does mean swapping out the heavy lifts and high-intensity circuits for something lighter and more restorative.
Sit in the sun
Vitamin D plays a massive role in energy metabolism, and getting out in the sun for 15 to 20 minutes daily can significantly benefit your mood and energy levels.
Your body naturally produces vitamin D from UVB rays, and if you’re struggling with energy levels, consider getting some sun. Studies show that supplementation with vitamin D can improve fatigue in otherwise healthy people with a vitamin D deficiency 8.
But remember, to maximize vitamin D synthesis, you want to be out between 10 am and 2 pm when the UV index is at its highest, with maximum skin exposure.
Cut back on the coffee
Caffeine stimulates the production of cortisol and adrenaline, both of which serve to increase arousal. But once that coffee is metabolized, hormone levels return to normal, and your energy will plummet through the floor.
As a result, you’ll reach for another cup to boost your energy. It becomes a vicious cycle that eventually ends up in adrenal burnout.
If you can’t immediately scale back on the caffeine, ween yourself down and swap out half your regular coffee for decaf - or trade it for tea. Not only will you kick your addiction, but you’ll also reclaim your sleep.
Take a clean pre-workout
Pre-workout supplements are notorious for being filled with garbage and excess caffeine - but they don’t all have to be that way. If you want to put a little pep in your step to power through your workout, reach for Pre Lab Pro.
It’s a next-generation pre-workout formula designed to turbocharge your training sessions. Combining five ultra-powerful ingredients with NutriGenesis vitamins and minerals, Pre Lab Pro optimizes the necessary pathways during workouts to unleash the greatest muscle and fitness benefits without any side effects. It’s pure power in the most convenient way possible.
- Drake CL, Pillai V, Roth T. Stress and sleep reactivity: a prospective investigation of the stress-diathesis model of insomnia. Sleep. 2014;37(8):1295-1304.
- Kalmbach DA, Anderson JR, Drake CL. The impact of stress on sleep: Pathogenic sleep reactivity as a vulnerability to insomnia and circadian disorders. J Sleep Res. 2018;27(6):e12710.
- Halson SL, Juliff LE. Sleep, sport, and the brain. Prog Brain Res. 2017;234:13-31.
- Züst MA, Ruch S, Wiest R, Henke K. Implicit Vocabulary Learning during Sleep Is Bound to Slow-Wave Peaks [published correction appears in Curr Biol. 2019 Oct 21;29(20):3549]. Curr Biol. 2019;29(4):541-553.e7.
- Cirelli C, Tononi G. The Sleeping Brain. Cerebrum. 2017;2017:cer-07-17.
- Stein MD, Friedmann PD. Disturbed sleep and its relationship to alcohol use. Subst Abus. 2005;26(1):1-13.
- Dworak M, McCarley RW, Kim T, Kalinchuk AV, Basheer R. Sleep and brain energy levels: ATP changes during sleep. J Neurosci. 2010;30(26):9007-9016.
- Nowak A, Boesch L, Andres E, et al. Effect of vitamin D3 on self-perceived fatigue: A double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial [published correction appears in Medicine (Baltimore). 2017 Jan 20;96(3):e6038]. Medicine (Baltimore). 2016;95(52):e5353.
- Tardy AL, Pouteau E, Marquez D, Yilmaz C, Scholey A. Vitamins and Minerals for Energy, Fatigue and Cognition: A Narrative Review of the Biochemical and Clinical Evidence. Nutrients. 2020;12(1):228.