Five ways to beat fatigue and have more energy

Winter is coming. As December begins, so does the holiday whirl. Office parties. Family get-togethers. Late nights spent trying to put together toys that have instructions written in a foreign language.

It can be easy to get overwhelmed, and feeling tired will make it more difficult to get through the month. So here are five ways to beat some of that fatigue, giving you more energy to face whatever is on your calendar.

 

  • Eat healthier food more often.

 

Most people understand the essentials of healthy eating: Eat several servings of fruit and vegetables every day, plus servings of grains, dairy, and a variety of proteins. Reduce fats, sugars and sodium.

But another way to evaluate how you eat is to look at how often you eat. The National Health Service in the United Kingdom notes that “a good way to keep up your energy through the day is to eat regular meals and healthy snacks every three to four hours.” This helps to keep your blood sugar levels more consistent, rather than spiking after large meals.

Just remember that if you’re eating more frequently, your meals should be smaller. Your daily intake should still remain around 2,000 calories, regardless of how it is eaten throughout the day.

 

  • Drink up.

 

Hydration is a key component of your diet. While you may not reach 64 ounces of water a day (and most doctors agree that eight 8-ounce glasses of water is a bit much for most people), drinking fluids throughout the day is essential. Not only can dehydration cause fatigue, it has also been shown to impair activity, alertness and concentration.

Don't drink your calories!If you’re drinking more than water (and most of us are), try to remember this mantra: Don’t drink your calories! Drinks can add up to a lot of additional calories throughout the day, particularly if you are drinking sodas or specialty drinks from the corner coffee shop. Aside from the additional calories, drinking sugary drinks may initially give you a spike in energy, but it is often followed by a crash, where you may have less energy than before.

When fatigue is a concern, the NHS recommends cutting two kinds of drinks: those that contain alcohol and caffeine. Even though a glass of wine or a pint of beer may help you relax in the evening, you won’t sleep as well after drinking alcohol, which means you’ll be more tired during the next day. And, like sugar, caffeine can cause spikes in your energy, leading to crashes afterward, making you feel even more tired.

 

  • Get moving.

 

It may seem counterintuitive, but if you’re feeling lethargic, taking a walk or doing some exercise is a great way to have more energy. WebMD points out that “Even a single 15-minute walk can give you an energy boost, and the benefits increase with more frequent physical activity.”

Yoga in particular may be especially helpful in increasing energy. A study done in 2009 found that after doing yoga once a week for only six weeks, the subjects had more energy and confidence that those that did not do yoga.

Exercising more may also help you lose weight, another factor in fatigue. “If your body is carrying excess weight, it can be exhausting,” notes the NHS. “It also puts extra strain on your heart, which can make you tired. Lose weight and you’ll feel much more energetic.”

If you’re struggling to fit exercise in during a busy season, here are some tips to fit exercise into your daily routine. You can also talk to a physical therapist about creating a safe and effective exercise plan. As musculoskeletal experts, physical therapists can evaluate your fitness and discuss what you should target to grow stronger and healthier. Search our clinic locator to see if there is a Physiquality PT near you that can help you develop a personalized fitness plan.

 

  • Make sure you're getting enough sleep.Catch some ZZZs.

 

Most of us don’t get enough rest to keep going — adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night to be well-rested. In addition, pay attention to your habits. If you get up and go to bed at the same time every day, and allow yourself some time to relax before bedtime, you will feel better and have more energy.

If you do fall short on shut-eye, the doctors at WebMD recommend a brief afternoon nap. They explain that “a 10-minute nap is usually enough to boost energy. Don’t nap longer than 30 minutes, though, or you may have trouble sleeping that night.”

 

  • Talk to your doctor.

 

Finally, WebMD reminds readers that fatigue may be a sign that something is wrong, particularly if it comes on suddenly or lasts for a long time. They note, “It is a common symptom of many illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, anemia, thyroid disease, and sleep apnea.” Fatigue could also be a side effect of medications. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you feel unusually tired, and make sure to tell her about any new medications if a different doctor prescribed them.

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The new nutrition guidelines: What you need to know

with advice from Anna Dark

The new nutrition guidelines: What you need to know

Every few years, the Departments of Agriculture and of Health and Human Services analyze their nutritional recommendations and release a new set of guidelines. If you don’t feel like reading through the three chapters and 14 appendices of the latest release, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, nutritionist and personal trainer Anna Dark will take you through the latest changes and updates.

Anna, who works at the Take Charge Fitness Program (a wellness program at Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Physiquality member in Tennessee), says there are three big recommendations that have been added to this edition:

Limit your added sugar intake to 10% of your daily calories.Limit your added sugar intake to 10% of your daily calories. This refers to any product or food item that adds sugars, like soda or cookies, as compared to fruit or even vegetables that may naturally contain some sugar. As the New York Times points out, “It is not the natural sugar in dairy foods and fruits that undermine health so much as the sugars added to foods like ice cream and fruit drinks and the enormous array of dessert and snack foods that Americans consume.”

This trend of increasing sugar in our diet is one of the reasons that the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is increasing. Anna points out that by limiting added sugar, we can reduce our chance of developing the disease.

Reduce your daily sodium intake to less than 2300 mg/day. This is another recommendation that isn’t too surprising; many processed foods rely on sodium, or salt, to improve flavor. The convenience can come at a cost: High sodium intake has a direct correlation to high blood pressure. Anna reminds readers that achieving healthy blood pressure numbers is an important goal for optimal overall health!

Less than 10% of daily calories should come from saturated fats. Evidence shows a diet high in saturated fats leads to cardiovascular disease, says Anna. The American Heart Association goes even further, recommending a daily limit of 5-6% of your daily calories. That means that if you’re eating 2,000 calories a day, about 120 of them would come from saturated fats, or 13 grams.

So the guidelines recommend limiting salt, added sugar and saturated fats. While this is the first time that the USDA and the HHS have specifically outlined these limits, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Past guidelines have always emphasized fresh fruits and vegetables over fatty and processed foods.

The guidelines no longer give a specific limit for cholesterol intake.One recommendation that has changed? The guidelines no longer advise a specific cholesterol limit, Anna notes, because after several studies, the scientists and nutritionists did not find enough evidence to give a specific limit. The guidelines do recommend limiting cholesterol, but note that foods often high in cholesterol are also high in saturated fats, so by limiting one, you’ll often limit the other. The exceptions to this rule are eggs and shellfish, which means that those foods would not be as limited as they were before.

As always, these guidelines are just a guide, not hard and fast rules. They are meant to give Americans tips on how to improve their diet and eat healthier food. This version even includes sample days for three different types of diets: An American diet, a Mediterranean diet and a vegetarian diet. It’s one way to evaluate your own choices to consider whether you’re making healthy choices whenever you eat.

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Nutrition for stronger bones and muscles

For most of us, it can be a struggle to make good decisions when choosing what to eat. If simply focusing on “good vs. bad” calories isn’t enough to motivate you, consider eating foods that will help strengthen your muscles and bones.

When choosing what to eat for strength, nutritionist Alyssa Cellini advises focusing on minerals and alkalinity. “Keep in mind,” she adds, “that this doesn’t mean that you simply eat a large quantity of mineral-heavy foods. It’s all about balance: consuming the right minerals, in combinations that assist each-other, while reducing the redirection of these minerals to contrast an acidic environment elsewhere in the body.”

What foods are rich in minerals? Here are some of Alyssa’s recommendations:

  • Leafy greens are rich in magnesium.It’s not everyone’s favorite choice, she notes, but it’s hard to find a food source that provides as much as the sardine. Sardines are rich in fatty acids (anti-inflammatory), minerals (calcium and magnesium), and vitamins A, D and K, and they also serve as a protein source.
  • Leafy greens like kale, swiss chard and spinach are rich in magnesium.
  • Oily fish like salmon (or a quality fish oil) are rich in vitamin D.
  • Herbs (dried) like thyme, basil, and parsley are rich in vitamin K.

When preparing a meal, you could add dried herbs to your sardines and enjoy over a kale or spinach salad with fresh chard and watercress. You’re on your way to a mineral-packed meal! “To make sure you keep your GI tract alkaline, and to prevent the mineral-stealing effects of poor digestion,” Alyssa adds, “have warm lemon water after eating.”

Alyssa reminds readers that it is far easier to prevent conditions like low bone density and arthritis with diet and lifestyle than it is to correct them. “Our bodies are all about balance,” she says, “and whether you know it or not, minerals meant for bones are also used to buffer an acidic environment caused by food or drinks.”   Read More

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