As wonderful as morning workouts are (when we can pull them off), they often get sidelined by sleeping in or reading the paper with a nice mug of coffee. Sure, we’re only human. But when we put off our workouts until after work, there’s a separate challenge to face: keeping energy up.
It’s all too common: We skip working out in the morning and promise to run after work only to have our best intentions foiled by a major energy slump in the afternoon that dashes any hopes of lacing up our trainers.
“Stress and low-energy levels go hand in hand,” says Erik Reis, a chiropractic physician and board-certified chiropractic neurologist at Minnesota Functional Neurology and Chiropractic in Minneapolis. “When the human brain perceives stress, it immediately sends signals to our adrenal glands, essentially telling them to get ready for some kind of ‘threatening’ event,” Reis explains. “Because we spend most of our lives in this stress-response state (and most of our energy responding to it), we have less energy leftover for a controlled-stress response, like exercise,” Reis notes. On top of that, even if we manage to squeeze in a workout after a stress-filled work day, we may not recover as quickly, notes Reis.
However, there are four easy, actionable and incredibly effective strategies for keeping your energy up at work so you have enough juice left for a workout:
1. GET ADEQUATE SLEEP
What exactly counts as adequate sleep varies by person, “but the average is about 6–9 hours. The big thing you want to ensure is that you get about 4–6 REM cycles every night, which occur about every hour and a half on average,” Reis says. Not only is sleep the way your body recovers, “but you consolidate memories while sleeping, which is important for athletes who are learning new techniques and drills. Think about sleep like updating your software,” Reis adds.
2. ENSURE PROPER NUTRITION
Reis explains that getting proper nutrients is important when it comes to keeping energy up. He advises leafy greens, low-glycemic index fruits like apples and berries and small, frequent and balanced meals throughout the day in addition to choosing organic and non-GMO foods as often as possible.
Amber Walker, a nutritionist and personal trainer, agrees. “Healthy habits are the way to maintain energy all day. Planning your meals and snacks will help you avoid that cookie in the break room, which will do nothing for your after-work workout,” Walker says. “Choosing non-packaged foods (the less processing the better) will keep your sugar intake low and help you avoid an energy-zapping sugar crash. Last, eat in moderation — nothing is going to kill your energy for exercise like eating four pieces of pizza at a work party.”
3. INCORPORATE MOVEMENT
Even though it might seem like an activity that depletes energy rather than conserves it, “simple things like a 5–10 minute walk brings more oxygen into your system and activates the brain’s frontal lobes and cerebellum which are responsible for creating memories, executive functioning and communication,” Reis says. Even though it’s a “break,” it’ll keep you more focused and on task when you’re back at it, leading to more efficient work and more energy leftover for a run!
READ MORE > 7 REASONS WHY YOU NEED TO WALK MORE
4. STAY HYDRATED
“Water is essential — 50–60% of our body is water. Not only do our bodies require it to function, water gets rid of toxins, too. When we’re dehydrated, everything slows down, everything is going to be harder and more difficult for your body. You’ll feel tired and more lethargic,” Reis notes. “Eight to 10 glasses per day is what you should aim for,” he advises.