If you find yourself yawning at your desk by midday or hitting snooze more times than you’d like to admit, you may wonder if there are ways to improve your energy.
We’re not talking about that 2 p.m. oat milk latte, which is probably draining your bank account and could be making it harder to sleep at night.
According to doctors, being a more energetic person may have less to do with what you drink or eat, and more to do with certain habits you need to ditch. Here are the biggest ways you might be sapping your energy — and what to do instead.
The Worst Habit For Energy Levels
The worst habit for energy levels might surprise you. According to Dr. Mary Valvano, a physician from BetterNowMD, it’s eating your biggest meal at the end of the day.
“The adage ‘eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and supper like a pauper’ is actually based in biology,” she said. “Cells in our body metabolize food differently based on the time of day. Eating the same meal at 8 a.m. versus 6 p.m. can affect our body’s ability to use it for energy.”
Eating a late meal, she explained ― especially very late at night ― can “impair our blood sugar levels and the ability to get optimal energy from the next day’s meals,” Valvano said.
By eating more at the beginning of the day versus the end, you may find that you may have a lot more energy throughout the day. That sounds like a pretty simple fix, right?
A big part of the reason eating a big meal at night is so problematic for energy levels is that it disrupts our sleep. According to Valvano, big, late-night meals mess with our body’s natural circadian rhythm. That makes it harder to get quality rest.
And Dr. Ruvini Wijetilaka, a board-certified internal medicine physician with Parsley Health, said that not getting enough sleep — especially deep sleep — will unquestionably drain your energy.
So if you’re in the habit of eating a large dinner and not getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night (which many adults don’t), that’s a habit you need to break right now.
Other Habits That Aren’t Great
So now you know that you need to avoid big meals at the end of the day and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. But what other habits could be draining your energy levels?
If you’re a consumer of energy drinks, we have some news for you: They’re probably draining your energy, according to the experts. Studies also show that energy drinks can endanger heart and brain health, cause inflammation, increase your blood pressure and more.
Other caffeinated beverages can help with energy levels, though. “Consuming caffeine from sources like tea, especially green or fermented tea, can help improve energy levels by supporting the mitochondria, which are responsible for producing energy in our cells,” Valvano said.
And if you live a sedentary lifestyle and eat a diet high in sugar and processed foods, that can definitely contributes to poor energy levels.
“Regular exercise can help improve energy levels by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the brain and muscles,” said Dr. Danielle Kelvas, a physician based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming.”
As for diet, “a diet that is rich in whole, unprocessed foods can help provide sustained energy throughout the day,” Kelvas said. “Focus on eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Avoid consuming too much sugar and processed foods, as these can cause energy crashes.”
Finally, chronic stress is a big reason for diminished energy levels, as fatigue is a known side effect of stress and emotional exhaustion. “Practice stress-management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga to help reduce stress levels and improve energy,” Kelvas suggested.
When To Talk To Your Doctor
A little fatigue here and there probably isn’t anything to worry about and can be fixed with a few simple tweaks, but if your fatigue lasts longer than a week or two, you should probably see a doctor, according to Harvard Health. This is especially true if you have other symptoms like fever, loss of appetite or shortness of breath.
“Low energy levels can be associated with various health conditions, such as infections, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism and sleep disorders,” Kelvas said. “Lifestyle factors such as lack of physical activity, poor nutrition and stress can also contribute to low energy levels. If you are experiencing persistent low energy levels, it may be a good idea to talk to a doctor.”