When it comes to cultivating energy, you probably never did it better than when you were a toddler. You'd come barreling out of bed in the morning, eyes wide and arms full of toys. These days, you're lucky if you can rouse yourself with multiple alarm clocks and a few cups of coffee. Snacks, if you have time to eat them, aren't the healthy kind. As for naps and early bedtimes, they happen on rare, unplanned occasions, usually when you're down with a cold or flu, or exhausted from running yourself ragged all week. With habits like these, it's no wonder that more than one-third of Americans say they're so tired that it interferes with work.
Depleted energy interferes with our lives. Feeling energetic "means having the vitality to do the things you want to do," says Mark Hyman, M.D., editor-in-chief of the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine and author of "UltraMetabolism." That vitality isn't just a state of mind -- it's a physical condition. Each of our cells contains hundreds of mitochondria, tiny "power plants" that combine the oxygen we breathe with the food we eat and then burn the combination to create energy. We know this process as metabolism. How energetic we feel largely depends on how well our mitochondria are functioning. To function optimally, they need quality fuel: a wholesome, varied diet, restorative sleep, and plenty of oxygen from regular exercise. But rather than enhance our vitality, we often sabotage it with "counterfeit energy" -- stimulants like caffeine that we think give us more pep but only drain our energy in the long run.
Getting your energy back is possible. Start by simply looking at your day. From morning until night, energy leaks abound. These daily habits may seem perfectly innocent, but over time they impair your body's vitality. The "fixes" aren't complicated -- they're basic lifestyle changes that yield profound results.
Text by Jessica Cerretani