The energy clock

Monday, April 27, 2009
Image: Getty
What time of the day is your energy at its lowest? Match your energy slump hour with a natural solution, writes naturopath Siobhan Jordan.

Problem: You're tired first thing in the morning (upon waking)
This may indicate sleeping issues — inadequate hours, poor sleep quality or difficulties in getting to sleep and/or waking.

For a healthy sleep, look at the following:

1. Aim for at least eight hours, or more if you're able to.
2. Avoid stimulation such as computer work and the TV right before bed.
3. Assess your bedroom environment. Make sure it's dark, quiet, well ventilated and that your bedding is comfortable.
4. Consider a herbal sleep remedy such as valerian root to aid relaxation and improve sleep quality.

Or is it stress?
Stress and associated adrenal depletion may also account for a sluggish start to the day. Include some dedicated relaxation practices such as meditation or tai chi, and consider herbs and nutrients that support the functioning of the body's adrenal glands (which produce our stress hormones).

Consider withania, Siberian ginseng, Korean ginseng or licorice and focus on the nutrients magnesium and vitamins C, B5 and B6. A good multivitamin and mineral may be a great energy investment to cover your bases, with the added bonus of containing the full range of B complex vitamins, which assist your body in turning food into energy.

Problem: You slump at 10am
Consider what you had for breakfast as slumping at this time of day may be a sign of blood glucose level (BGL) imbalance, which can often require dietary intervention.

Start your day with a low-GI (glycaemic index) meal, and be sure to include some protein. Pick one of the following to keep your BGLs on an even keel and avoid the mid-morning energy downturn: 1. Wholemeal bread with egg, a nut spread such as Melrose's 'ABC' (almond, Brazil nut and cashew) or ricotta and avocado.
2. Wholegrain cereal with milk, yoghurt, LSA (linseed, sunflower and almond) mix and fresh fruit.
3. Fresh fruit, yoghurt and LSA mix.

Problem: You're slipping off your chair at 3.30pm
Resist the sugar and caffeine and choose something more sustainable to get off the slump/high-energy roller coaster. Hydrate yourself with a water (if it seems dull, add a slice or squirt of lemon or lime) or a herbal tea and snack on a palm-sized serve of mixed nuts or a few crackers with hummus or cheese. Consider the following, too:

1. Avoid refined carbohydrates (biscuits, lollies, cakes, soft drinks etc) and make sure you include some protein in your lunch and a mid-morning snack if you have one (eg, egg, fish, chicken, tofu or lentils).

2. Take regular breaks from your computer and/or work area.

3. Get some movement. Take a short walk outside during lunch, have some stretch breaks over the day and go over to your colleague's desk rather than sending an e-mail to a destination five metres away. Sedentary lifestyles inhibit our health, so movement is a good way to pick up some energy.

4. Get outside for some fresh air and take a few deep breaths while you're there. Have an "airo" rather than a "smoko".

5. If this only happens at work, ask yourself this — are you happy with your job? Do you need something more challenging or perhaps less demanding?

Problem: Your eyeballs have hit the floor by 6pm
Do you get home and slump in the chair, transfixed by the TV and unable to pull together a decent dinner? Reflect on the following:

1. Are you getting enough exercise (dedicated and incidental)? We've all experienced the challenge of exercising when we're tired and pushing through to feel our energy rise again.

2. Is your schedule too hectic? Are you over-committed and without a moment to yourself? It's a tough one but we also know it's unsustainable, with poor energy often being the first sign of a problem. Get some support, take some time to reflect on your life priorities and get some you-time.

If letting go of the day's work is difficult, do something to mark the end of the work day and the transition into your home life. Consider a quick swim, take a walk, or have a park pit-stop for some time to refresh and refuel before going home.

Problem: You're drowsy at 8pm
Although drowsiness at night could be due to factors such as over-eating at dinner, some would argue that it's natural and normal to feel a tired around this time, so go with the flow. Many experts believe our ancestors slept 10 to 12 hours a night, working more with the cycles of daylight and dark. So perhaps we should connect to our ancestral wisdom, stop the stimulation, relax and prepare ourselves for a healthy and refreshing sleep. Turn off any unnecessary lights and/or switch them on to "low" and avoid mental stimulation from the TV, computer, mobile phone and so on. If you're concerned about an early slump hour, again look at factors such as overworking your body and mind during the day, and whether you're getting adequate sleep and exercise.

The top-10 energy checklist

1. Healthy sleep
2. Restoration/relaxation — take time out to yourself
3. Exercise
4. Hydration
5. Healthy diet — eat low-GI foods with adequate protein and avoid refined carbohydrates
6. Manage stress
7. Do what you love and prioritise your passions
8. Healthy work environment — take regular breaks and work reasonable hours
9. Take time out to have fun — remember to laugh and be silly
10. Healthy relationships

If you've re-evaluated the above and you're still tired, see your doctor to investigate possible medical reasons for your poor energy including anaemia, hypothyroidism (a low functioning thyroid) and sleep apnoea (a sleep disorder where breathing stops and starts).

Thank you to Blackmores' team of qualified naturopaths for their assistance compiling this article. To contact a naturopath for free health advice, ring free-toll: 1800 803 760

Brought to you by Blackmores.

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