By Andrew Heffernan
Energy is elusive: We all want more of it, but we don't always know how to get it. And sometimes the very thing we do to get more of it ends up draining it right out of us. If you're on the hunt for more energy, your first step is to make sure you're getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and making smart exercise choices (getting enough but not too much). Being consistent with those day-to-day habits will go a long way toward alleviating energy doldrums.
Got those taken care of? There are some steps you can take to give yourself a boost on days you need it. Read on to learn how to help increase energy for your workouts and the rest of your life.
Feel more energized and focused with the caffeine and L-theanine in LADDER Pre-Workout.
Let's say that a ton of deep sleep isn't in the cards for you right now: Work is stressful, there's a newborn in the house, the in-laws are in town. Or let's say you need an edge: Your energy is fine, but you need an additional boost due to a specific high-stakes event.
In those cases, supplements can offer support and help with your energy levels (or at least buy you some time before fatigue sets in). Lots of products claim to offer gigawatts of energy in drink or pill form (we're looking at you, energy drinks!). Here are some ingredients with sound science behind them:
The tried and true quicker-picker-upper, caffeine helps support cognition, physical performance, and alertness. In times of limited sleep, caffeine can temporarily help you maintain physical and cognitive abilities. Ideal amount varies, but 100 mg to 200 mg (that's about the amount of caffeine in a medium cup of coffee) appears to be the point at which most people feel a marked difference in alertness.* Remember, too much and you risk getting the jitters and developing a resistance to caffeine.
This amino acid is a lesser-known ingredient that helps delay fatigue. You can also think of it as a budgeting tool, helping you stretch your energy when supplies are dwindling. Beta-alanine is a precursor to carnosine, which helps keep muscle fatigue at bay when you're exercising, allowing you to run farther, lift heavier, and make more progress over time. Unlike caffeine, beta-alanine doesn't work instantaneously. You need to take it consistently for at least 30 days before you'll feel its effects.*
Finally, creatine, one of the most tested and effective performance supplements. Taken consistently, it helps give you noticeable gains in exercise performance, particularly in anaerobic activities requiring strength and power. Some studies suggest that creatine can also help support cognitive function. Like beta-alanine, you'll need to take creatine consistently for a few weeks before these benefits take full effect.*
All of these energy-extending ingredients are also found in LADDER Pre-Workout. Mix your preferred flavor — strawberry lemonade or tropical fruit — with 8 ounces of water, drink it down, and feel the extra surge of energy. This formula is developed to help delay fatigue and improve focus (a lack of which zaps energy) so you can go harder for longer!*
If you're feeling tired during the day, start by going back to basics: How's your sleep? What about your diet? Are you stressed? Are you overdoing it at the gym (or perhaps you've taken a break lately)? These can all be reasons why you are so tired.
Sleep deprivation is incredibly widespread and more common than you might think. Everyone's energy waxes and wanes, but if you find yourself dragging more than bouncing for days at a time, follow some of these steps to improve your sleep:
It might also be time to make a few dietary adjustments. Don't reach for sugar, which can give you a quick burst of energy then a bigger crash. Make sure you're eating when you're hungry, not going more than a few hours between meals or snacks — and not skipping meals. All of those habits can zap your energy. Research from 2016 suggests that low fiber and high sugar and saturated fat consumption may impair restful sleep.
Unsurprisingly, people who eat better and move more get better sleep at night. Sleep is a general-health indicator. The healthier your self-care habits, the better sleep you're likely to get. And plenty of studies have shown a positive relationship between sleep and exercise. And you don't need long, involved sessions, either. Just 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise seems to improve sleep that same night.
For energy throughout the day, focus on balanced nutrition and unprocessed foods.
"In general, eat as close to the ground as possible," advises Shannon Pierson, RDN, MS. That means sticking with whole, natural foods and avoiding processed ones as much as possible. Processed foods packed with sugar, salt, and refined carbs give you a sudden spike of energy — but that can quickly turn south and land you in an energy slump.
When you need energy during the day, focus on foods that help fight fatigue, including these:
And, adds Pierson, "try to consume a balance of macronutrients each time you eat." Instead of eating a carbohydrate on its own, have some protein and fat along with it. That might mean pairing your apple, brown rice, or whole grain pasta (all good sources of carbohydrates) with a piece of cheese, a hard-boiled egg, some yogurt, or a few slices of turkey, all of which contain both protein and fat.
"Each macronutrient digests at a different rate," says Pierson. "Carbohydrates are the fastest, then protein, then fats." Consequently, a balanced meal results in more sustained energy, rather than the spike-and-crash you might feel with a snack consisting purely of carbohydrates.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.