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Tired? 6 steps to re-energize ASAP

Feeling sluggish, lethargic, or drained of energy are common complaints in today’s fast-paced world.  While occasional fatigue is relatively normal, in certain circumstances, persistently low energy levels can significantly impact your quality of life and productivity. 

My intention is to help you further evaluate your level of energy/fatigue and identify potential causes so you can implement targeted interventions as needed.

Firstly, although we tend to use these descriptors interchangeably, it is helpful to distinguish the difference between energy and fatigue because they are different (1):

  • Energy is the potential to perform (physical/mental activity), typically involving physical, emotional, and cognitive vigor.  Vitality/vigor is a good synonym for energy.
  • Fatigue is a feeling of weariness, physical/emotional/cognitive tiredness or exhaustion, and lack of energy that doesn’t go away after resting.  It tends to be disproportionate to the prior activity. Good synonyms include exhausted/sluggish/tired.

Common causes of low-energy/fatigue include:

  • Insufficient sleep, e.g., sleep apnea and/or poor sleep habits
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Chronic stress/anxiety 
  • Psychological causes, e.g., depression/grief
  • Biochemical causes include:
  • Micronutrient deficiencies, e.g., anemia 
  • Dehydration 
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Muscular fatigue - phosphocreatine depletion and excess acidity 
  • Neurotransmitter imbalances

The most common solution, irrespective of the cause, is caffeine!  But, when you appreciate the biochemistry behind how caffeine works, you’ll see why it doesn’t truly resolve the issue. Here is why:

  • Caffeine enters your brain, where it competes with a chemical called adenosine (2) 
  • Adenosine is a neuromodulator (a subset of neurotransmitters) that makes you feel tired when it plugs into the receptors in your brain. For example, you produce a lot of adenosine at the end of a long day. In the morning, if you don’t sleep well, you’ll still have adenosine in your brain, making you feel groggy.
  • Caffeine binds to adenosine receptors in the brain and blocks them, preventing adenosine from activating them…and this is how it promotes wakefulness.
  • So, caffeine increases energy but doesn’t actually reduce fatigue.

This is why nutritionists often joke that consuming caffeine is the nutritional equivalent of beating a dead horse!

If you’re feeling constantly fatigued/low energy, my recommended action steps are as follows:

  • Take my energy quiz to assess your status
    • Keep your scores somewhere for your future reference.  
    • If necessary, take action on one or more of the steps outlined below and retake the quiz in
      14-28 days to assess your progress.
  • If your quiz scores aren’t as good as they should be, consider taking any/all of the following 6 steps:
    1. Make sure you’re sufficiently hydrated
      Even mild dehydration can impair cognitive function, decrease physical performance, and contribute to fatigue.
      Obviously, plain water will never be as potent as caffeine, but being dehydrated is definitely a trigger for fatigue.
      Aim to consume approx. 1/2 your ideal body weight in pounds in ounces of water every day, away from food and ideally stop hydrating ~2-3 hours before bed.  For example: if you're 150 lbs you'd consume ~75oz of water/d.
      Note, please do not consume more than 100oz/d.
    2. Get up & outside early!
      Studies have shown that exposure to morning light can enhance alertness and concentration (2)  
      Early morning light also helps sync your body’s internal clock, promoting better sleep patterns and overall well-being.
    3. Regulate your blood sugar 
      Fatigue, especially afternoon fatigue, is one of the most common symptoms of blood sugar regulation.
      Regular exercise and eating balanced meals are prerequisites for healthy blood sugar.  
      Stabilizing blood sugar is a foundational part of my practice —if you need help with this, let me know! 
    4. Practice sleep hygiene, and aim for a minimum of 7 hours per night
      If I had to choose just two from the plethora of resources on this topic, they’d be as follows:
      - Implement the power down hour - no screens (of any sort) for at least 1 hour before bed
      - Watch Dr. Matthew Walker’s TED talk and/or read his book “Why We Sleep”.
    5. Make sure you’re having a healthy bowel movement everyday 
      If things aren’t moving regularly in that department, you’re definitely more likely to feel sluggish.  Again, this is an essential part of my practice—if you need help with this, let me know! 
    6. Request basic labs to facilitate the evaluation of potential causes:
      The labs I like to see when I’m working with anyone navigating fatigue/low-energy issues are as follows:  
      Complete Blood Count, Comprehensive Metabolic Panel, Hemoglobin A1c, Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, Vitamin D, and Ferritin.  

Feeling constantly low energy is worthy of your attention and further evaluation.  I do not recommend you just chalk it up to aging! 

When you’re eating well and enjoying a healthy lifestyle, you’ll find you don’t need to rely on caffeine. One of the first things my clients report after our initial work together is that their energy levels are significantly higher, and they feel like a younger version of their old selves.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions/comments.