How often do you find yourself reaching for a Red Bull or ordering an extra large coffee with a triple shot of espresso so you can make it through your afternoon meetings? How many times have you skipped the gym or hit the drive‒thru window on your way home from work because you were too tired to face the treadmill or kitchen? If you do these things (or any variation) several times a week, then you obviously need more energy.
Energy is one of those rare topics in the fitness world on which most experts seem to agree. Unlike raging debates over "good" vs. "bad" carbs or whether there's such a thing as too much cardio, virtually everyone cites nutrition, exercise, and rest as the elements required to boost energy without chemicals or stimulants. Let's consider why:
Simply put, food is fuel for the body. It only stands to reason, then, that without a steady and sufficient food supply, your body will not be able to function properly. This is why missing meals or trying to survive on an extremely low daily caloric intake will leave you feeling weak, sluggish, and irritable...and why most crash diets eventually fail. Instead of starving yourself, a more effective approach to weight loss is to fuel your body with healthy, nutrient‒dense foods such as lean proteins, fruit, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. But as always, exercise moderation to avoid overeating.
On the surface, it may sound counterintuitive to say that exercise increases energy. However, numerous research studies conducted at the University of Georgia, Cal State Long Beach, and many other academic institutions indicate that even low intensity exercise is enough to reduce fatigue and increase energy. The basic explanation for this boost is that the more you exercise, the more energy your body produces to meet your aerobic needs. Often, all it takes is a simple 15 minute walk to get the energy production started, which means you don't even have to go to the gym to reap the benefits (especially if you have quality home fitness equipment).
Muscles need time to repair and grow, which is why rest days are so important to any fitness regimen. Just as no world class bodybuilder or marathon runner will do the exact same workout two times in a row, you should coordinate your own gym activities to avoid taxing the same muscle groups on consecutive days.
While perhaps not as complicated or profound as E=M, the formula Nutrition + Exercise + Rest = Energy is certainly worth remembering. If you're lacking the energy required to get through everyday life, then it's time to make sure you're getting enough of these three essential components on a daily basis.