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Don’t Doze Off Just Yet

May 13, 2015 02:00PM ● Published by Cate Reynolds

The man in front of me the other morning at the register in Wawa had about five or six bottles of liquids to purchase. I had never heard of most of them. Several were very tall cans (about half again as tall as most cans of soda) of some kind of Mountain Dew, but I didn’t recognize the flavors. And they were labeled “Kickstart.” The shopper also scooped up three or four little bottles from a display on the counter of 5-Hour Energy drinks. “What kind of night had this guy had?” I wondered. I guess some of us just aren’t morning people, I thought. But I also thought: if you are that tired, there must be a better way to fight fatigue.

Enter the helpful people at Harvard Medical School who have published an entire booklet, called Boosting Your Energy, to address the issue. They point out that fatigue is a symptom, not a disease, and it is experienced differently by different people. Assuming your doctor has ruled out serious medical causes, there are a few basic steps you can take to “recharge your batteries.”

Pace yourself. If you’re a go-getter, you probably like to keep going—but don’t risk overtaxing yourself. Instead of going through all your “battery life” in two hours, spread it out among morning, afternoon, and evening activities—with rest and meals in between.

Take a walk or a nap. There is nothing more satisfying than a short power nap when you’re pooped out. However, if you have trouble sleeping at night, napping can make insomnia worse. If that’s the case, get moving instead—walk around the block or the office to refresh.

Skip most supplements. You may have heard about energy-boosting or “anti-aging” supplements. There is no evidence that DHEA offers any real benefits, and the side effects remain a question mark. (You especially shouldn’t be buying it from ads in the back of a magazine, because you don’t know what’s in it.) Iron only improves energy if you are clearly deficient and that can be checked by a blood test. Getting too much iron, incidentally, can actually be harmful. B vitamins (B1, B2, B5, B12) help the body convert food into the form of energy that cells can burn, but taking more B vitamins doesn’t supercharge your cells. That’s a myth.

Fuel up wisely. A sugary roll from a bakery delivers plenty of calories, but your body tends to metabolize them faster, and then you can end up with a sinking blood sugar and fatigue. You’ll maintain a steadier energy level by eating lean protein and unrefined carbohydrates—such as low-fat yogurt with a sprinkle of nuts, raisins, and honey.

And we all know that burning candles at both ends and then expecting caffeine to re-ignite your wick every morning will only lead to very early burnout.

--Sarah Hagerty
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