Lifestyle

You’ve been hitting the gym for some time. You’re making it part of your regular routine and putting in the hours; always trying to bust out the right number of reps. But after all that work, you don’t feel like you’re maximizing your workout due to a lack of energy. Sometimes you find your energy lacking and wondering why you can’t run as far or lift as much as you usually do. It could all come down to your diet.

Nutrition is important for every aspect of our lives. Exercising and eating well go hand-in-hand for living a well-balanced life, but some gym-goers aren’t getting the nutrients they need to crush their goals in the gym. While they may find themselves drinking protein-packed smoothies after their workouts, they’re not providing their bodies with the necessary fuel beforehand to maximize all the energy they’re spending.

It’s time to put a little more thought into what you eat before working out so you can reach your goals faster and feel healthier in and out of the gym. It won’t take much effort, and the results will be well worth it. Here are five great pre-workout foods to help you boost your energy before a workout.

5. Almond Butter

Simple. Nutritious. And oh so tasty. Almond Butter is rich in calcium, protein, and filled with the good kinds of fat. While it’s nutritionally comparable to peanut butter, almond butter is packed with even higher amounts of Vitamin E and iron, helping make the higher price tag a little easier to stomach.

For a healthy, energy-boosting pre-workout snack, all you have to do is spread some almond butter on a few apple slices, celery sticks, or try adding a Tbsp into a smoothie. And if you have a little more time, check out our delicious almond butter stuffed french toast for a delicious pre-or-post workout meal.

4. Blueberries

Having the right kind of sugar can help you excel in the gym. No, this is not an excuse to chow down on your favorite candy bar – you’re looking for the natural kind of sugar! Reach for a handful of blueberries for a sweet pre-workout snack. What makes these tiny fruits so effective for exercising is that they’re a complex carb, which helps provide sustained energy for the gym.

Another benefit of blueberries is that they’re known to improve brain function. Besides giving your memory a boost, they’ll also enhance your focus — perfect for keeping you on top of your game and staying in the zone when working out.

And if you’re wanting to start your morning off before heading to the gym, check out awesome Blueberry Banana Protein Shake.

3. Protein Balls

You’ll have to spend a little time in the kitchen (very little), but having some homemade protein balls on-hand before hitting the gym is well worth it. Not only do they taste great, but they’re far cheaper than buying protein bars and are perfect highly-customizable snacks. After mixing in some protein powder, feel free to add in natural peanut butter, raw honey, coconut, oats, cranberries, cinnamon, or whatever combination you prefer.

Not sure where to start? We’re a bit partial to our recipe.

2. Greek Yogurt

Greek Yogurt has exploded in popularity over the past few years — and for good reason. Besides being loaded with probiotics, helping keep your weight in check, and strengthening your bones with calcium and Vitamin D, Greek Yogurt is also an ideal pre-workout food.

Carbs provide that extra energy you need for your workouts and Greek Yogurt is loaded with them. Not only that, but you’ll find a healthy amount of muscle-building protein to help you blast through a run or weightlifting session. Another awesome benefit is that Greek Yogurt can stave off hunger, which is perfect for when you’re in the middle of a long workout.

1. Oatmeal

Filled with complex carbohydrates to deliver slow-release energy, oatmeal is an unsung hero when it comes to pre-workout foods. Incredibly easy to make (just add hot water!) and inexpensive, make this breakfast classic one of your go-tos whenever you’re ready to hit the gym.

Pro tip: for an even greater extra energy boost, add in some protein power or a Tbsp of almond butter to your oatmeal.

And if you’re just not an oatmeal person, give this tasty recipe a chance to change your mind. Check out our Overnight Oats for a new take on an old classic.

Blog Post

Sometimes we get to the gym and we’re tired or sleepy. It happens to everyone once in a while, which is completely normal. However, if you constantly have low energy levels at the gym and it’s starting to affect your training, then you may need to look deeper into the possible reasons why this may be the case. This way, you can fix it and get back to training hard.

Why You Have Low Energy Levels at the Gym

1. You’re not getting enough sleep

One of the most obvious culprits of your tiredness is not getting enough sleep. While we all may have bad nights, if you are consistently getting fewer hours of sleep than you should be, then this will start to greatly affect you in your day-to-day life, including the gym.

Not only will this mean that you will be too fatigued to lift as heavy as you should be, or be running as long or as fast as you could, but you won’t be recovering properly. Your muscles break down during training, and it is actually when you are resting that it begins to repair itself. Without adequate sleep, you are not giving your body the chance to heal. Not only will this stall your progress but you will also increase the risk of injury.

2. You’re not eating enough

You need food to fuel yourself for the gym. With the exception of those who train fasted*, most people need healthy food to help give them the energy for training. If you are too tired at the gym, then you may need to up your food intake, or adjust what you eat for better results.

For example, if you are training within a few hours, then a bigger meal with slow-releasing carbohydrates is best. If you are training within an hour or less, then go for a quick snack with fast-releasing carbs so that you can get energy faster.

Just think of your body like a car. Without fuel, the car won’t be able to drive for long. Once it runs out, it will splutter and eventually run out of steam. This is exactly the same with your body. Without the nutrients from food it needs, you will also eventually run out of energy. And when you’re in the gym, this will become painfully obvious.

*If you do train fasted as well, make sure that you eat a well-balanced dinner with plenty of protein that will sustain you until after your workout.

3. You’re overtraining

One common mistake that people make is overtraining. This is when you train too much at the gym, to the point that it begins to be detrimental to your physical progress as well as your mental state.

Some warning signs that you are overtraining include:

  • You can’t sleep at night
  • You’ve lost the motivation to go to the gym
  • Your performance dramatically drops
  • Your immunity levels decrease
  • You’re constantly sore and aching

If you find that you have experienced some of these signs, then give your body the rest that it desperately needs. Take a day or two off from the gym, and see how your energy levels fare when you come back. You should feel much more energized, motivated, and ready to tackle training.

Just be sure that you include rest/recovery days into your normal gym schedule. This can make sure that you are consistently working out hard, without risking your body to do so.

4. You’re dehydrated

We all know that water is so, so important. You need to be constantly replenishing your fluids so that you stay hydrated. Losing water means that you’ll also be losing electrolytes, which is essential to your muscles during a workout.

If you start to become dehydrated, this could be one of the reasons why you have such low energy levels at the gym. So make sure that you keep drinking water not only throughout your workout but also before and after it.

You know if you’re dehydrated if your urine is more yellow than clear. If that’s the case, then drink up!

Have you found that your energy levels are constantly low when you’re at the gym? Make sure that you look after yourself, and that you’re resting and sleeping enough. Also, focus on your diet and ensure you’re eating what you should be most of the time (but don’t forget to treat yourself in moderation!). Making these changes can really help amp up your energy levels at the gym and make sure that every training session is a great one.

Workout with Jefit

Jefit is a fitness app that comes equipped with a customizable workout planner, training log, as well as a members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, advice, and wins, to get you closer to your fitness goals today.

Have you ever had low energy levels at the gym? Why is that so? What helped you fix this? We would love to know! Let us know in the comments below!

5 Foods You Must Eat Before Workout To Boost Energy

When it comes to workouts, it is essential to keep your body running. For that, fuelling up with right foods and hydrating with right fluids is of utmost importance. The food you have before heading to the gym has a lot of importance. It can make or break the deal as eating the right foods at the right time is essential for recovery of active muscles. Apart from this, what you eat before workout depends a lot on the intensity, length, and type of workout you plan to do. So in order to balance the glucose concentration in the body and boost up the energy levels in the body, here’s a list of 5 foods that you must eat at least 1 hour before workout. Read on to know more about them.
Banana
Banana is a healthy source of carbohydrates. Having it before your workout will provide your body the fuel that can help you stay active for longer period. You can also add bananas in your smoothie.
Boiled Egg White
For a pre-workout meal, protein stands out to be the most important of the entire lot. Hard-boiled egg white is an excellent source of protein and can provide you with a good dose of your daily protein requirement. Eating enough protein will not only help you avoid hunger cravings, but also prevent the body from using your muscle to provide energy for the body.
Oatmeal
This whole grain has the tendency to keep your blood sugar stable during workout. So eat a cup of oatmeal at least an hour before your workout and maximise your performance.
Dry Fruits
Dry fruits can provide you with instant energy and are loaded with easily digestible carbs and proteins. They are an excellent source of antioxidants as well.
Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are a powerhouse of omega-3 fatty acids and having them 1-2 hours before a long, intense workout can help provide energy, protein and antioxidants to the body.

Why do I feel exhausted and sick during exercise?

A lot of factors can contribute to why you may feel ill during exercise. The first things to check are nutrition, hydration and energy levels.
Nutrition: do you have fuel in the tank? A lot of exercisers think you’re supposed to work out on an empty stomach and this isn’t true. So if you go into a workout with no fuel on board, this can possibly cause you to feel bad and perform poorly. Did you eat TOO much before a workout? The opposite can be true sometimes as well. Working out with full bellies can be counterproductive to how you feel during a workout.
Hydration: are you drinking enough water throughout the day and during the workout? Slight to moderate hydration can lead to drops in exercise performance.
Energy levels: How are you feeling overall? Are you fighting a cold? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you just flat-out tired from a rough day at work? All of these things can contribute to feeling exhausted and sick.
If fatigue may seem like it’s coming from something other than your daily habits, please check with your healthcare provider ASAP because a more serious medical condition could be underlying your exercise induced exhaustion, nausea, etc.

Dear Donovan,

I’m on a strict diet that indicates the food groups, servings and portions that I must have at each point in the day. But I also exercise for roughly two hours each day except for Saturdays and Sundays. However, after exercising I feel famished and weak, but I’m sticking to my diet. Also, I’ve heard that post exercise you must have high protein foods. Is this true? How can I curb my weakness and hunger pains post physical activity? The diet consists of starch, meat, milk at breakfast, fruit, vegetables and fat. The portions are all small. At most I consume 3oz of meat, which is at lunch and 2oz at breakfast and dinner. So far I’ve lost 12 pounds in three weeks.

Congratulations on your 12-pound weight loss. This you have done by making a lifestyle change which involved diet changes and exercise. However, you mentioned that you are having some challenges in balancing your diet with your exercise programme. This results in you feeling weak and hungry after a long exercise and workout.

It is normal that when we exercise the body uses up its glucose stored for energy. On your weight loss diet the carbohydrates/glucose level is usually kept low. Therefore, you might start exercising with a low level of stored glucose. This coupled with a high demand for glucose during your lengthy exercise programme can cause you to feel weak. Eating small meals throughout the day can keep the glucose level normal. In addition, eating a yoghurt or a fruit 45 minutes to an hour before exercising might also help.

It is generally thought that it is a good idea to eat/drink protein meals after exercising. However, what you eat after exercising should be a function of your goals. For example, if you want to lose weight or you want to gain muscle, weight training is usually geared towards growing muscles whilst cardio is mainly used for weight loss. During the process of weight training we usually deplete the muscles of glycogen and we also break down muscle tissues. After muscle-building exercises we usually need to replete glycogen and also grow back muscles. It is therefore better to eat protein with carbohydrates during weight training in order to replace the depleted glycogen in muscles and also start building the muscles back.

However, in the case of cardio workouts, the main aim is to burn extra calories and force the body to use up its fat reserves. Also, during cardio workouts the body usually undergoes hormonal changes. For example, the body suppresses insulin production and releases other hormones like growth hormones, adrenaline and epinephrine which helps in fat mobilisation and breakdown. It is therefore important to control carbohydrate intake after cardio exercise in order to reduce the fat burning process. Also, if you are doing cardio exercises to lose weight, have a meal replacement shake, chicken salad or even yoghurt after exercising. These will provide enough protein and fat to start the muscle rebuilding process. In addition, you want to keep the body in the fat burning mode as long as possible.

However, it should be noted that there is no need to fill the body with high protein after cardio exercising. The body cannot store protein. Hence high protein puts a lot of pressure on the liver and kidneys. Therefore, you do not want to eat a meal that is high in protein or carbs just before exercising. In this case you will mainly be burning the calories of the meal you ate. In addition, ensuring that your body is fully hydrated before, during, and after exercising would be vital. It should be noted that if you lose more water than you drink, the body will become dehydrated. This dehydration can cause you to feel weak, so in a nutshell keep hydrated.

Also, the fact that you are doing two hours of exercise can also make you feel weak and hungry. When we exercise the body does not only burn calories but carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and glucose are also used up. If the body does not have enough of these substances you will not be able to complete an extensive workout when you are feeling tired. Also, you feel hungry after a good workout because you have burnt a lot of calories. Feelings of hunger is the body’s way of telling us that these calories need to be replaced. However, if you replace all the calories that the body burns during exercise this could slow down the weight loss process.

After a good workout, a light snack such as coconut water, fruit, or even some ginger or mint tea could be helpful. However, for the sake of your weight loss goals, you will have to bear some of your hunger pains.

We will answer your weight-related questions

Are you struggling to lose weight or just need some advice on living a healthier life? Tell us about your health issues and we’ll have nutritionist and wellness coach Donovan Grant answer them for you. Grant has over 12 years’ experience in the fitness industry and is the owner of DG’s Nutrition and Wellness Centre, Suite 16, 39 Lady Musgrave Road, Kingston 5. Send your questions to [email protected] jamaicaobserver.com.

Put simply, if you need to ask “Am I working hard enough?”, the answer is likely “no”.

Why? Well, when we have spent absolutely all of our energy in the gym, we’re usually out of breath, can feel our heart pumping out of our chest, and can’t fathom another rep or set. This isn’t to say we need to feel absolutely exhausted after each workout, but the point is, there are telltale signs that our training has been hard and we’ve pushed our body to its limits.

This means that consistent high-intensity workouts with little break is arguably more damaging than a progressive workout regime with intensity peaks and rest periods.

However, ahead of diving into a list of signs suggesting you’re not working out hard enough, it’s crucial to flag that training smart can sometimes triumph training hard.

It’s important to remember that exercise is itself a stressor on the body, and we need to have periods of low-intensity so that our body is able to take us to the next level during a challenging workout.

Now that that’s covered, I’ll admit that the opposite can be true – if you never push yourself during your training sessions, your fitness progress will become stagnant and your motivation to work hard will suffer as well.

If you’re new to exercise, or feeling unsure as to whether you’re working out hard enough, the best way to monitor exercise intensity is to use a heart rate monitor.

If you use a fitness watch to track your heart rate, a quick glance at your watch will tell you if you’re nearing your max heart rate – pushing your body too hard well and truly in the ‘red zone’. And vice versa, you’ll know if you’re not putting in enough effort and need to turn on the jets and work harder.

Interested in some other telltale signs you’re not working out hard enough? Listen up!

1. You’re Clock Watching

If you’re in the middle of a hard set, your energy and focus should be on the exercise you’re performing – not wondering how much time is remaining in your workout.

Some athletes call this mental state a ‘trance’ whereby your mind is completely concentrated and mindful of your breath and body, and all other distractions are far away.

To encourage entering this zone, I’d recommend plugging in some serious workout beats, not training directly in front of a gym clock, and setting a timer for each of your sets to ensure you stay focused.

2. You’re Not Seeing Any Results

If you’ve been consistently going to the gym, limiting the number of refined carbohydrates and sugars you eat, and you’re managing your stress (including getting quality sleep), but still not getting stronger, fitter or seeing any changes on the scale or to your dress size, then it’s time to reassess your exercise intensity.

If insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’, then the same applies to relentless exercise with no physical improvements.

If this sounds like you, I recommend trying a new type of physical exercise (get out of your comfort zone) or seeing a personal trainer to shake things up and learn new ways to challenge your fitness.

3. You Never Experience DOMs

DOMs, aka delayed onset muscle soreness, is something every athlete – from rookie to elite – should experience. Why?

Because even mild muscle soreness is an indication that you have caused micro-damage at the muscle fibre level which results in the muscles repairing themselves and getting stronger!

This doesn’t mean it’s good to permanently feel like you can’t lift your arms or walk the day after a killer workout, but if you’re never sore post-workout, it’s a tell-tale sign that you didn’t stimulate your muscles enough, and you need to train harder!

4. You’re a ‘Chatty Cathy’

Working out should be enjoyable, and having a friend to keep you company during a longer workout can definitely help the time pass faster.

But, if you’re always able to hold a conversation midst workout, it’s likely you’re not working very hard.

When we push ourselves physically our breath becomes short as our body looks to use oxygen to help us train harder, so if you’re looking to see physical results from your training, keep the chat post-workout.

5. ‘Train Insane or Remain the Same’

Too often I have clients who come to me expressing how their 30-minute treadmill run in the morning just isn’t bringing them any physical results anymore.

Interestingly, this problem is simply due to physical adaptation, which refers to the incredible ability our bodies have to undergo stress and adapt to our physical demands.

If you continuously perform the same physical task every day, your body no longer feels challenged and stagnates.

A heart rate monitor can easily assess whether you’ve become physically adapted to your training and will tell you when you’ve dropped out of the ‘red-zone’ (80-100% of your max heart rate).

In sum, judging your workout intensity by how much you’ve sweated or the time spent training might lead you down a disappointing path when it comes to achieving your training goals.

Instead, strap on a heart rate monitor during your workouts so you can see very clearly when you need to up the intensity. Monitoring your heart rate is so easy now with all the wrist-based heart rate monitors available, so grab yourself one and get training!

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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.

Tips for Avoiding Muscle Fatigue When Exercising

Whether you are starting to work out for the first time or you are a professional athlete, muscle fatigue is a normal side effect of exercise that may put a damper on your routine. Fatigue is your body’s way of adapting to a fitness regimen and making you aware that you have reached your metabolic/psychological limit.

The following healthy lifestyle changes and tips can help keep you from hitting a wall in your workout:

1. Nutrition – Maintain a well-balanced diet that includes complex proteins, fruits, vegetables, and carbohydrates. You should increase the amount of carbohydrates you eat, beginning seven days prior to exercising, to about 40-60% of your caloric intake for aerobic athletes and 30-35% for anaerobic (nonaerobic) athletes. This will maintain your muscles’ glycogen levels, which are depleted during exercise.

2. Eating Schedule – Eat a light meal or snack about two hours before working out. It is not recommended to work out on a full stomach or an empty stomach. Make sure to eat within one hour after you work out. This will help repair and refuel the muscles that were broken down during exercise.

3. Hydration – Drinking water throughout the day and drinking sports drinks during exercise is crucial to prevent dehydration, electrolyte loss, and muscle fatigue. It is recommended to drink 10-12 8-oz glasses of water daily. While exercising, it is recommended to drink 125-250 ml of an electrolyte-rich sports drink every 10-20 minutes, or 1.5L per hour. This will replace the water and nutrients that are lost due to sweating.

4. Endurance – Improve your aerobic capacity. As your respiratory muscles begin to fatigue, oxygen will be redirected from the muscles of your limbs to those of your diaphragm. One way to improve your endurance is to gradually increase your aerobic workouts with interval training. You can also use a respiratory muscle-training device, a piece of equipment that allows you to inhale and exhale against resistance, increasing lung capacity. Whatever method you choose, as your endurance increases the added boost of oxygen in your blood will keep your muscles working for longer periods of time and prevent lactic acid buildup.

5. Body Mechanics – Use correct form when exercising. Pay attention to muscle imbalances and incorrect movement patterns; follow a regular stretching program. The right strength and flexibility will help you achieve correct form during exercising. If you can’t perform an exercise with proper form, then you need to either decrease your weight or modify the exercise. Improper body mechanics decreases efficiency and in turn burns more energy than necessary.

6. Rest/Recovery – Complete a warm up and cool down for 5 to 10 minutes each time you exercise. Start off slowly and gradually increase workout intensity levels so that your muscles are gradually challenged and can build over time. Allow adequate rest between workout sessions and strength repetitions. Make sure the rest break is enough to catch your breath between exercise sets. Listen to your body – fatigue is a sign that recovery has not taken place yet. If that is the case, then perform active recovery, which means participating in low impact, low intensity exercise such as walking, light swimming, or yoga. Do not return to higher intensity exercise until you feel fully recovered and recharged.

Posted: 4/16/2012

Authors

Marla Ranieri, PT, DPT
Rehabilitation Department
Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center
Hospital for Special Surgery

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Have you ever worked out in the morning and felt like you had less energy later in the day?

Exercise is supposed to increase your energy, so you might be confused or turned-off to morning workouts if they leave you feeling worn-out later in the morning or in the afternoon.

In prior articles, I’ve written about the benefits of working out before work, and I’ve also written about how to do it– even if you’re not a morning person. In this article, you’ll learn three reasons why early-morning exercise could actually decrease your energy, and you’ll learn how to ensure that your next (or first) morning workout gives you more stamina, not less.

Reason #1: You didn’t get enough quality sleep the night before.

Some people cut back on sleep in order to work out early. However, this usually catches up with you and just leaves you feeling tired in the late morning or in the afternoon. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep, and you’ll be more likely to feel energized after early-morning exercise.

If it’s not possible to get at least seven hours of quality sleep before a morning workout, you are probably better off putting sleep first and working out later in the day. A number of the leaders that I interviewed for Work Stronger told me that they prioritize sleep over exercise- even though exercise is important to them as well. One example is Dr. Josh Riff, CEO at Onduo, a joint venture launched in fall 2016 between Sanofi and Verily Life Sciences (formerly Google Life Sciences).

In his free time, Josh has competed in ultra-marathons, cross country skiing marathons, and other extreme endurance challenges. Clearly, Josh leads an active lifestyle. However, he believes that adequate sleep is even more important. “As I’ve gotten older and wiser, I’m willing to skip a workout occasionally in order to get more sleep,” he says. “I know it will help me at work the next day and help me be stronger when I do exercise again.”

Reason #2: You worked out too hard and/or for too long.

If some exercise is good for you, more is better, right? Well, not always. Think of your exercise intensity and duration like a bell curve. You can do too little, and you can also do too much. The key is figuring out the right exercise volume (duration, intensity, and frequency) that will provide you with the greatest energy boost. I refer to this as your High Performance Sweet Spot.

How hard and how long you should work out on a given day depends on several factors, including your goals, your current fitness level, how hard/long you worked out the days before, and how hard/long you plan to work out in the days to come. How well-rested you are (see above) and how well-fueled you are (see below) are also factors to keep in mind.

In general, 30-40 minutes of focused exercise (including a warm-up and cool down) is a good duration to target. Beginners will probably want to keep the intensity lower and stick to 30 minutes or less. If you are fitter, you can probably train harder or longer- if you want. Just keep in mind there is a point when training harder/longer becomes counter-productive for anyone, no matter how fit you are.

Reason #3: You didn’t fuel yourself properly.

The harder and longer your morning workout is, the more important your fueling strategy becomes. Many people put a lot of time and effort into morning workouts but give little or no thought to what they eat and drink before and after. This a huge mistake that can leave you feeling worn-out or cranky all day long.

Whether or not you should fuel-up before a morning workout is somewhat of a personal preference, so experiment and find out what works best for you. You might prefer to fuel up before and after (my preference), or you might prefer to exercise on an empty stomach and only fuel up afterwards. If you choose the former and time is limited, a smaller and/or liquid meal before your workout is a good option.

Either way, proper post-workout nutrition is absolutely essential. If you skip breakfast or scarf down a typical, low-value breakfast (i.e. muffins, bagels, processed cereals, granola bars, sugary drinks, etc.), your energy can really take a hit later in the day. The best breakfasts provide a nutrient-dense balance of quality protein, fibrous carbs, healthy fats, and vegetables. Better fuel will provide steadier, longer-lasting energy. It will also help your brain function more effectively.

Proper hydration is often overlooked, but it’s also very important- before, during, and after a morning workout. If you work out in the morning, be sure to drink at least 16-20 ounces of water beforehand, and drink more water during and after your workout, too. Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. You need a lot of it to feel and perform your best and to support a number of essential functions. Dehydration can lead to cramping, nausea, headaches, fatigue, irritability, weaker athletic performance, and reduced mental capacity.

Note: It’s normal to feel a bit depleted immediately after a workout- even if you are well-rested and well-fueled. However, you should feel fresh again once you re-fuel and re-hydrate.

Summary

As discussed here, morning workouts provide tremendous benefits, and they should increase, not decrease, your energy later in the day. If you feel worn-out after exercising, it’s probably because you didn’t get enough sleep, because you worked out too hard or too long, or because you didn’t fuel yourself properly. Get enough sleep, exercise at the right volume for you, and fuel yourself properly, and your next (or first) morning workout will set you up for a stronger, more energetic, and more productive day.

P.S. Have you taken the habits assessment at StrongerHabits.com?

This assessment measures your current habits in four key areas that impact your energy, your stress, and your performance. You can to take the assessment for free. It takes less than 3 minutes, and you get your results immediately. How strong are your habits?

About the author: Pete Leibman is the creator of StrongerHabits.com, the founder of Work Stronger Consulting, and the bestselling author of Work Stronger; Habits for More Energy, Less Stress, and Higher Performance at Work. His work has been featured on Fox News, CBS Radio, and CNNMoney.com.

author Pete Leibman at work (left) and competing in a fitness challenge (middle)

Feeling tired lately? Not just want-to-go-to-bed-early tired, but so weary that you struggle through your workouts or can scarcely muster the energy to drive to the gym or tie your shoes for a run? Depleted cortisol levels may be to blame.

Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands, small triangular glands located on top of both kidneys (see illustration below). Cortisol’s main job is to mobilize your body’s response to physical, emotional or psychological stresses, whether they arise from an injury, from a bad day at work or from an awful commute. Hence cortisol’s reputation as “the stress hormone.”

Cortisol is powerful stuff, and great to have available in a pinch. Get overly stressed on a regular basis, though (a condition known as chronic stress), and your adrenal glands go into overdrive. They obligingly churn out increasing quantities of the hormone, which tends to inhibit the release of other hormones, including many of those that are key to digestion and healing.

Having constantly elevated cortisol levels can, over time, lead to a variety of ailments, including weight gain and a weakened immune system. And eventually, if your overtaxed adrenal glands go too long without getting a chance to rest and recuperate, they can get worn out — so worn out that they lose their ability to create even normal, baseline levels of cortisol. The result? You get fatigued. Very fatigued.

A “Real” Problem?

Ask your doctor about adrenal fatigue and you may just get a blank stare or be told it doesn’t really exist. This is because mainstream medicine does not yet recognize adrenal fatigue as an official health condition.

“The conventional medical model is a disease-based model,” explains James Wilson, ND, DC, PhD, author of Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome (Smart Publications, 2002). “But adrenal fatigue isn’t a disease — it’s a subfunctioning of the adrenal glands.” And so, he explains, the condition isn’t even on the radar of many conventional docs.

There is a recognized disease in which the adrenal glands fail almost completely: Addison’s disease, which affects about one in 100,000 people. Doctors treat it with synthetic cortisol and diagnose it with a simple clinical test in which they inject patients with ACTH — the body’s chemical signal to release cortisol — and then measure the strength of the ensuing cortisol response.

The problem with this test, according to Wilson, is that it’s all or nothing. Only patients who are found to be almost incapable of producing cortisol are diagnosed with Addison’s disease. Everyone else, including anyone whose adrenal glands are quite weak, but not weak enough to be life-threatening, is considered healthy. In other words, “You’re normal until you take one more step off the cliff and then ‘suddenly’ you have Addison’s disease,” says Wilson.

This loser-take-all diagnosis may soon change, though, with preventive treatment methods becoming more widely embraced. Medical researchers are now observing chronically low cortisol levels (called hypocortisolism) in patients with a host of stress-related diseases and disorders other than Addison’s disease. These include posttraumatic stress disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and even some allergies.

Symptoms and Solutions

Wilson notes that long before it causes disease, adrenal fatigue can produce a host of disruptive signs and symptoms. In addition to persistent fatigue, these include subclinical depression, low sex drive, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and weakened immune response to infections. “The symptoms of adrenal fatigue are many and varied,” Wilson explains, “because cortisol goes to virtually every part of the body. So when cortisol levels drop, lots of different systems are likely to be affected. There’s no single sign or symptom that indicates, ‘Aha! We have adrenal fatigue.’”

Long before it causes disease, adrenal fatigue can produce a host of disruptive signs and symptoms. In addition to persistent fatigue, these include subclinical depression, low sex drive, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and weakened immune response to infections.

One of the most frustrating aspects of adrenal fatigue is that its dragged-down symptoms can do a real number on your fitness regimen. When you’re feeling tired, depressed or always fighting off a cold, maintaining your workout routine can be darn near impossible. But ironically, the best way to fight adrenal fatigue is to — you guessed it — exercise.

Moderate exercise not only strengthens weakened adrenal glands but also stimulates the immune system, eases stress, improves mood and addresses just about every other direct and indirect consequence of adrenal fatigue, according to Wilson. A study in the journal Endocrinology (July 2003) found that regular exercise increased the size and cortisol output capacity of the adrenal glands in mice.

But not just any type of exercise will do. Wilson suggests a moderate program that equally balances cardio and strength training. The general consensus is that although both types of exercise have been shown to increase cortisol production individually, a tag-team approach is likely to be most beneficial.

Breaking the Cycle

Working out can be difficult if you already suffer from adrenal fatigue, because you simply may not feel that you have the energy. So it’s important that you do whatever you can to overcome that inertia.

To begin with, “exercise at a time of day when you tend to feel comparatively good,” Wilson says. It may sound obvious, he notes, but it’s importantbecause people with adrenal fatigue tend to experience a consistent fatigue pattern, with highenergy points around noon and 6 p.m. By timing your workouts to coincide with your personal high points (whenever they occur), you can break the Catch-22 cycle that keeps you down.

You also need to closely gauge your reaction to your workouts and adjust them as needed. For instance, if you suddenly hit the wall in the middle of a particular session, don’t push yourself. Do a shorter or easier workout than the one you planned, or, if necessary, call it a day, rest up and try again tomorrow. If you’re finding that your typical training sessions are taxing you more than usual, cut back. “If you become inordinately fatigued within 90 minutes after your workout,” notes Wilson, “or if you’re more tired the next morning after a workout, that’s a sign you’ve overdone it.”

Finally, try to maintain the frequency of your exercise. Aim for easy workouts that allow you to train at least four times a week. Gradually, as your adrenal glands recover, you’ll be able to do longer and more intense workouts. And that will help bring your whole body up to speed.

15 Tricks to Have More Energy and Motivation to Exercise

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If you’re having trouble getting yourself to the gym because you’re so. damn. tired.—or, you make it there, just to fight the urge to fall asleep on the decline bench—you’re far from alone. There are days when workout motivation and energy is totally MIA. What’s a lady to do??

Turns out, talk isn’t cheap. Mantras, rewards, and other little tricks of the mind can be the perfect way to jump-start your motivation on days your energy is lagging and you’re seeking solutions for how to get energy to work out, says sports psychologist JoAnn Dahlkoetter, Ph.D., the author of Your Performing Edge. “If you find a ritual that works for you and repeat it over time, your body will instantly respond when you need that extra push,” she says.

Keep reading for all the tips you need to get energy to work out and build your own get-motivated ritual.

How to Get Energy to Work Out

So we asked a few world-class athletes, trainers, psychologists, and readers how they how to get energy to workout—yes, even (and especially) when they don’t quite feel like it.

Get mojo from your mini-me.

“When I used to swim, it was always for external goals, like scholarships or world records,” ex­plains Janet Evans, who won four gold medals at the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games. As a 40-plus mother of two, she returned to the pool to attempt to qualify for another Olympics. “Now it’s more personal. I remind myself that I’m showing my daughter that if you set a goal and work hard for it, you can achieve anything. Yesterday she said to me, ‘Mommy, you smell like chlorine.’ And I said, ‘Get used to it, girl!'” (Related: Why You Should Add a Mother-Daughter Trip to Your Travel Bucket List)

Go for instant gratification.

Sure, exercise can help lower your risk for cancer, heart disease, and a slew of other scary illnesses. But those long-term benefits seem awfully abstract when you’re trying to tear yourself away from The Good Place to go to the gym. “Our research found that the women who stick with exercise programs are the ones who do it for benefits they can experience immediately, such as having more energy or feeling less stress,” says Michelle Segar, Ph.D., the associate director of the University of Michigan Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center for Women and Girls and the author of No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring you a Lifetime of Fitness. She suggests starting a journal to jot down reasons to exercise that will pay off today—to be more alert for an afternoon meeting, to snap less at your kids—and reviewing it when you need a push. So long, Kristen Bell (although we still love you, girl!); hello, treadmill.

Star in a mental movie.

“Visualization is a great tool: I see myself at my healthiest, fittest, and strongest, doing different athletic endeavors. This motivates me to go the extra mile and skip the junk food,” says Jennifer Cassetta, a celebrity trainer and holistic nutritionist in Los Angeles. “Picturing yourself accomplishing something may create a neural pathway in your brain in almost the same way as actually com­pleting the feat would,” explains Kathleen Martin Ginis, Ph.D., a professor of health and exercise psychology at The University of British Columbia in Canada. “It also gives you a burst of confidence that you can succeed, which makes you more likely to continue your training.” Here’s how to get energy to work out using all five senses: See the clock at the finish line, hear the roar of the crowd as you turn the final corner of the race, and feel your arms pumping as you stride across those last few yards.

Use mint over matter.

If you need an extra kick to get yourself out of that desk chair and onto the stationary bike, pop a stick of peppermint gum into your mouth. “The peppermint scent activates the area of our brain that puts us to sleep at night and wakes us up in the morning,” explains researcher Bryan Raudenbush, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University. “More stimulation in this area of the brain leads to more energy and motivation to perform your athletic tasks.” (Speaking of motivation, check out how to get energy to work out after taking a break from the gym.)

Check your meds.

Although drowsiness and fatigue are common side effects of many over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications, some are more likely than others to make you sluggish, says Zara Risoldi Cochrane, Pharm.D., assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. Antihistamines, commonly used for allergies and in cold medicine, can cause fatigue, even if they say “non-drowsy” on the box. “These medications work by blocking histamines, which help promote wakefulness,” Risoldi says. Drugs for anxiety, antidepressants, and some pain medications may also lead to lethargy. If you think your pills are to blame, talk to your pharmacist, who can help you find an alternative medication that won’t leave you wanting to curl up in bed instead of go out for a run.

Repeat yourself.

Feeling discouraged? Do a workout you know you can rock. Research has proven that those who were confident they can keep up an exercise routine are the ones who do it regularly. “It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy,” says sports psychologist Kathryn Wilder, Ph.D.. “The more you believe you can complete the workout program, the more you’ll actually follow through with it.” Let’s say you dream of running a marathon, but the longest race you’ve done is a half, and the full 26.2 miles gives you the heebie-jeebies. Build up your confidence by registering for one more half before you move on to a longer distance.

Get it over with.

Researchers in Australia have figured out a possible reason morning exercisers tend to keep at their fitness routine. In a study published in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Physiology, subjects were able to complete a 3,000 meter run faster with fresh brains than after completing a taxing mental task. Why? All that thinking makes you feel tired before you’ve actually exhausted your muscles. So the worst time to go to the gym is when you’re mentally kaput after a stressful day at work. Trouble is, bouncing out of bed and into your sneaks is easier said than done, and it can feel nearly impossible to figure out how to get more energy to work out before work. One trick? Good old bribery—of the caffeinated variety. If you make it to that morning class, reward yourself with a java on the way home. (Need more motivation? Check out eight incredible health benefits of a.m. exercise.)

Pump iron.

Your body uses iron to transport oxygen throughout your body so your heart and muscles can give you the energy you need-so if you’re lacking oomph, you may be lacking iron and have anemia. The risk is greater if you have heavy periods or do not eat red meat since heme iron is the most readily absorbed form of iron and is only found in animal sources, says Mitzi Dulan, R.D., co-author of The All Pro-Diet. Even mild deficiencies can cause fatigue during your workout, but talk to your doctor before self-diagnosing because iron overload can also be harmful. If you don’t eat meat, try these nine iron-rich vegetarian eats.

Let go of your inner geek.

A study from the University of Alberta in Canada found that humiliation in gym class (dodgeball, anyone?) can turn people off from fitness for good. Amy Hanna of New York City can relate. “I was a klutzy kid who hated PE,” she says. “But when I started working out as an adult, I realized that it’s about meeting my own goals, like running 10 miles or squatting my body weight. When a couple of women I know recently asked me to help them get in shape, I knew that the horrors of junior high gym were behind me.” Reminding yourself that you’re not being judged or graded can help you shake off the PE-class blues, says Billy Strean, Ph.D., a professor of physical education at the University of Alberta. “Going to the gym isn’t about performing for someone else,” he explains. “The only person you have to impress is yourself.” (Related: 7 Ways to Make Your Post-Workout High Last Longer)

Engage in friendly competition.

Hop on a stationary bike next to someone who’s superfit and you’ll be motivated to work even harder, according to a study from Santa Clara University, which found that college students who exercised with a fitter partner exerted themselves more. Ask a friend whose abs you admire if you can tag along on her next workout (here’s how to choose the best workout buddy for your fitness squad), or introduce yourself to that superstar in your Spinning class and make sure always to grab a bike next to hers.

Read about it.

When world-champion indoor track star Lolo Jones needs a little extra oomph, she heads to the bookstore. “If you’re in a lull, the best thing to do is to pick up a book about your sport,” Jones says. “Go read about running or biking or whatever your passion is. You’ll be eager to try out the tips you learn.” We love getting lost in the life stories of amazing athletes. Two titles to check out: Solo: A Memoir of Hope, about Hope Solo’s rise to superstardom as the U.S. women’s soccer team goalkeeper and an Olympic gold medalist, and Road to Valor, a must-read for history buffs about two-time Tour de France winner Gino Bartali, who helped Italian Jews escape persecution during World War II. (Build your library even more with these five best running books.)

Join the club.

“When I talk to my nonrunning friends about my workouts, their eyes tend to glaze over, so I joined a local track club,” says Lisa Smith, of Brooklyn. “It’s great to share stories with them, and the social aspect keeps me com­ing back and working harder.” In addition to the camaraderie and support, group training fosters a healthy sense of guilt when you’re searching for how to get more energy to work out, Martin Ginis says. You don’t want to let down the team by blowing off a workout, right? “Talking to your friends can also distract you when you’re exhausted and tempted to quit,” Smith says. Find a gang to pass the miles with at the Road Runners Club of America’s website, or if you have kids, check out seemommyrun.com, which has more than 5,400 jogging groups throughout the United States.

Tuck in early.

Could your pillow hold the solution for how to get more energy to work out? Getting more zzz’s can put a little extra pep in your step, science says. In one Stanford University study, when basketball players logged 10 hours or more in bed a night for five to seven weeks, they sprinted faster, made more accurate shots, and felt less fatigued. Con­sistently going to bed 30 or 45 minutes earlier instead of watching TV or scrolling through Insta may pay off at the gym.

Fine-tune your workout.

Lindsey Vonn, the Olympic champion downhill skier, psychs herself up with boom­ing bass and rocking rhymes. “Listening to rap—Lil Wayne, Drake, Jay-Z—in the morning before my races gets me fired up to go 90 miles per hour,” she explains. She’s onto something. According to research at Brunel University in England, listening to music can increase your endurance by 15 percent because your brain gets distracted by the songs and may miss the “I’m tired” signal. Plus the emotional connection to beloved tunes can give you a sense of euphoria that keeps you going. Try these tricks to DJ your way to the ultimate dance party workout playlist.

Give yourself permission to take an active rest day.

We’re all for hitting it hard during your workouts, but since exercise breaks down your muscles, constantly pushing yourself and training on back-to-back days can break you down. “Your body grows stronger to prepare you for the next workout when you give it time to recover,” says Leslie Wakefield, director of women’s health programs at Clear Passage Physical Therapy in Miami, Florida. If you also have insomnia or develop chronic injuries, you may be overtraining. While the ideal amount of rest varies for each person, plan at least one day of rest and one day of cross-training into your weekly fitness schedule, Wakefield recommends. And if you can’t stand to do nothing, gentle, restorative yoga also counts as “rest.”

  • By Marisa Cohen

If you’re struggling to wake up in the morning and dragging all day, don’t be so quick to blame last night.

While poor sleep is one of the biggest reasons many of us feel exhausted, there are actually several other culprits—and some of them start before you even leave your house. But that’s a good thing, because you’re totally in control of these morning habits. Here’s how to overcome them so you feel alert all day.

You Spend An Extra 20 Minutes In Bed On Your Phone

For once, it’s not your phone that’s to blame—it’s spending the extra time in bed that’s the problem.

“The bed is meant for one main thing: sleeping,” says Raj Dasgupta, M.D., a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “If you stay in bed, then it gives your mind the feeling that it’s time to sleep and not start your day.”

Even worse, he says, is if you fall back asleep. If your “just 10 more minutes” turns into an hour, then you’re waking up from REM sleep instead of the lighter stages of sleep that you would’ve woken up from had you gotten out of bed the first time.

Waking up from that deeper sleep can actually make you even more tired throughout the day than someone who got less shut-eye but woke up from a lighter stage of sleep.

Bottom line: When you wake up, get up.

Related: The Morning Habit Most Men Skip, But Shouldn’t

You’re Glued To Your Fitbit

Fitbits and other fitness trackers are great at motivating you to get in a few (or a few thousand) more daily steps, but if you’re also using it to track your sleep, you might actually feel more tired, says Dr. Dasgupta.

It’s not that the Fitbit can’t help you sleep better, he says, it’s that most people wake up, take a look at their crappy sleep score, and immediately start stressing out.

“You think ‘I’m going to have a bad day’ and ‘Anything that doesn’t go right today has to be because of my sleep,’” he says.

That not only makes you stress, sucking the energy out of you before you even brush your teeth, but it also puts you in the mindset that you should be tired—even if you actually aren’t.

You Don’t Rehydrate

There’s a reason you wake up with stinky morning breath: dehydration.

As you sleep, your body continues to soak up the water you drank during the day. That means you’re going (ideally) about 8 hours without replenishing your water supply. If you don’t rehydrate, then your energy levels will wane.

Research from the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory shows that even mild dehydration makes you tired and irritable.

Get drinking before you even head out the door. Kate Zeratsky, R.D.N. at the Mayo Clinic, suggests 250ml of liquid, whether it’s coffee, water, or tea.

Related: 4 Signs You’re Dangerously Dehydrated During Your Workout

You Shower At Night

A hot, steamy shower can relax your muscles, wash away stress, and… put you to sleep, right?

Actually, according to Dr. Dasgupta, it does the opposite. While it might seem counterintuitive to take a warm, relaxing shower to wake up, it works.

As you fall deeper into sleep, your core body temperature drops to somewhere around 15°C.

So “taking a hot shower at night is kind of like exercising at night,” Dr. Dasgupta says. “It’s not a good idea because it increases your core body temperature, so it takes longer to cool down and get to sleep.”

On the other hand, he says, taking a warm shower in the morning can boost your body temperature from frigid sleeping conditions to warm, energized, and fully awake.

That said, preliminary studies suggest that cold showers can improve mood in people with depression, and winter swimming (for the brave) can reduce fatigue.

So while the jury’s still out on the ideal temperature for feeling energized, one thing’s for sure: You should take a morning shower. Adjust the hot and cold knobs to see what temperature perks you up the most.

Related: This Guy Took Freezing Cold Showers For A Week, Here’s What Happened

You Exercise After Work

It’s hard to drag your butt out of bed and into workout clothes, but your morning walk, run, or gym time will make you feel more energized as the day goes on.

Exercise of any kind floods your body with feel-good endorphins while simultaneously delivering oxygen and nutrients to your tissues, according to the Mayo Clinic. Extra oxygen to your tissues means your heart and lungs will work better and give you more energy throughout your day.

Don’t have the time for an hour-long (or even 20-minute) workout? A quick walk around the block or 10 minutes of stretching can help you wake up.

Related: 5 Body Weight Exercises You Should Be Doing

You’re Spending Too Much Time Inside

Blue light helps you wake up because it decreases your levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. And the best place to get it from is the sun.

That’s because the sun also emits vitamin D, which is crucial for keeping up your energy levels. Research shows that people who have a vitamin D deficiency are more likely to have chronic fatigue syndrome, and correcting the deficiency boosts their energy levels back to normal.

While Zeratsky says going out in the sun is better for a quick energy boost, taking a vitamin D supplement will also help you feel more awake if you’re low on the nutrient.

It won’t give you an instant boost, but it will help regulate your energy levels over time.

Related: 7 Ways To Boost Your Energy Without Caffeine

Your Radio Is On The Wrong Station

If you regularly hit the gym, chances are you don’t slog away on the treadmill without music—heart-racing, get-you-going music.

Try the same technique to power through your mornings. Research shows music between 120 and 145 beats-per-minute is best to motivate you to run faster or, you know, get out of bed.

Don’t know what that sounds like? Try songs like Pharrell’s “Happy” or Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

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