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4 Foolproof Energy Boosters

Restore your energy with simple diet and lifestyle changes that really work. From Michael F. Roizen, M.D., and Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., the authors of You: Being Beautiful: The Owner’s Manual to Inner and Outer Beauty.

If you blow a fuse in your house, you can’t expect to get power back by lighting a few candles and searching for food with flashlights. You’ve got to find the bad one, replace it with a good one, reset the system, and power up. Same goes here. To restore your energy — both at the “feeling great” level and at the chemical level — it just takes some awareness and action to get your body headed in the right direction.

Scoop Up, Power Up. Some ill-advised folks might say that the greatest nutritional discovery of the last decade has been the Baconator (at a whopping 830 calories, we don’t think so). The real nutritional heroes: DHA and ribose.

DHA: The active form of omega-3 helps constitute nerve membranes and keeps the nerves to your muscles firing, as well as helps encase muscles. You can get this in fish oils or from the algae that fish eat. Try 600 mg of DHA a day (equivalent to 2 grams of fish oil if you like that taste better).

Ribose: This special sugar is made in your body and doesn’t come from food; it helps build the energy blocks of your body. Of all the things you can do to combat the effects of knee-dragging fatigue, taking a daily ribose supplement is the one that seems to really turbo-charge some people who have diseases associated with low energy. (The only side effect is that some people feel too much energy, if that’s possible.) The data aren’t good enough to recommend ribose for all of us. But if you want to give it a try, start with 500 mg three times a day for a week or so until you get used to the taste (or find a smoothie, coffee, or tea to put it in). Then go to 5 grams three times a day for three weeks to get a sense of the effect. Then you can scale back to 5 grams twice a day. By the way, since we know you’re wondering: Each 5-gram scoop contains only 20 calories, since ribose isn’t metabolized as a sugar. Taking it won’t increase your chances of becoming mistaken for a Sea World attraction. In fact, since it is a bit sweet, you might think of it as a sugar substitute. As an aside, ribose has been shown to relieve fatigue, soreness, and stiffness after exercise, and some professional athletes have reported muscular benefits after taking ribose (again, the data are too weak to say it does or doesn’t work well, since the studies just haven’t been done).

Move More to Move More. One of the best ways to increase your energy is to jump-start it with some physical activity such as walking; that brings in more nutrients since nitric oxide is released from the linings of arteries to allow blood vessels to move blood more freely. One of the greatest things about your body is that it responds to what you’re doing through mechanisms called feedback loops. You tell your body that you want to watch Scrubs reruns all night, and it responds by downshifting energy production (don’t need much muscle power to change channels). But tell your body that you need to walk around the neighborhood or swim a few laps or do an early-morning stretch-to-the-ceiling routine, and it responds by giving you the energy you need. And we know it’s sometimes tough if you have pain or sore muscles, but it’s the best way to get rid of the pain or sore muscles — to strengthen those muscles and bring nutrients to them (and take away waste products). So take advantage of these feedback loops by integrating more exercise into your routine. And start early in the day, when you have the energy to exercise. Ideally, aim for 45 minutes a day of physical activity with at least 20 minutes a day involving the sore muscles. Start by doing gentle exercise such as walking or warm-water stretching. The trick is to do only the amount or intensity that makes you feel “good tired,” not “bad tired” or in pain afterward. Tell your body which way to go, and it’s going to follow. By the way, the average person who walks a dog for 60 minutes gets only 8 minutes of physical activity when actually measured by a pedometer.* You should get 100 steps on the pedometer for every minute of walking. (*A great pedometer is one of the four things we think you should overpay for — the other three being a heart rate monitor, a pair of cross-training shoes, and an eight-inch chef’s knife.)

Sleep Eight. Blame it on the invention of electricity, more demanding jobs, or great late-night TV on F/X, but we sleep a whole lot less nowadays than we used to. On average, Americans awake at 5:47 a.m. and do not hit the bed (not when we actually sleep) until after 10:15 p.m.; that’s Not enough. While you may think that sleep is just a good way to let McDreamy enter your subconscious fantasies, sleep has the ultimate restorative powers and you need it for your hormonal balance and for increasing the rejuvenating human growth hormone, which is needed to choreograph the looking and feeling beautiful dance in your body. Growth hormone is secreted primarily when we sleep and is dependent on your sleep. We’re just not doing enough of it. Eight high-quality hours a day will help you restore energy, decrease pain, and lose weight. If you have trouble falling asleep, you may need to include some sleep tactics in your bag of bedroom tricks.

  • Do nothing in your bedroom but sleep and have sex. If you work, watch TV, or work out to fitness DVDs in the room, you’re basically training your body to be alert in the bedroom space. Your bedroom should be a sanctuary from the normal hustle and bustle of life.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene. That means you should make a sleep schedule (plan your eight hours); before that eight-hour period starts, give yourself ten minutes to do the quick chores absolutely needed for the next day (such as making lunch), another ten minutes for hygiene, and ten minutes for meditation (all before starting the eight hours). Some people even dim the lights in their bedroom an hour before sleep to transition from artificial light to darkness.
  • Another helper: Make sure your room is cool; the ideal sleep temp seems to be around 67 degrees.
  • Add in a power nap. Just make sure to keep it under 30 minutes. Any longer than that, and you’ll slip into a stage of deeper sleep so close to the dreamy REM phase that when awakened from it, you’ll feel hung over and drowsy (that feeling, by the way, is called sleep inertia and is associated with making bad financial judgments and getting into auto accidents). At less than 30 minutes, a nap can be invigorating. Naps enable your body and brain to reboot and are commonly practiced in societies that boast great energy and longevity.
  • In terms of sleep supplements, the data aren’t good enough to love these, but some patients like valerian root (though it has an energizing effect in 10 percent of people), passion flower, theanine, hops (ask any college student), and melatonin, 0.5 to 3 mg (especially if you’re jet-lagged or working weird shift hours). Calcium (1,200 mg divided between two doses) and magnesium (400 mg) are also helpful. These can help you get to sleep and wake up refreshed with no hangover (which some sleep drugs cause).

Check Your Plate. You know us when it comes to food. We think it’s nature’s best medicine. These are the dietary tactics that seem to work best for increasing energy:

  • Drink as much water as it takes to keep your mouth and lips moist throughout the day, so that your urine is clear enough to read through. If you have chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia and have low blood pressure, you can increase your salt intake (try sea salt, when convenient, for the added minerals) when your body craves it. One hidden cause of fatigue is a little bit of dehydration. It’s something that many people can’t quite identify, so if you’re feeling a little low,a glass of water (and not a bag of M&M’s) may be the jolt you really need.
  • Avoid simple sugars — they end in -ose, like glucose, sucrose, maltose, dextrose, etc. (except ribose!) — syrups (another word for sugar), any grain but 100 percent whole grains (since grains turn into simple sugars), and saturated and trans fats.
  • Aim to consume high-quality protein such as nuts and fish and a low-carb diet, and include lots of fruits, vegetables, and 100 percent whole grains.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Michael F. Roizen, M.D., is a New York Times bestselling author and cofounder and originator of the very popular RealAge.com website. He is professor and chair of the Division of Anesthesia, Critical Care Medicine, and Pain Management, and chief wellness officer of the Cleveland Clinic. Mehment C. Oz, M.D., is also a New York Times bestselling author and the health expert of The Oprah Winfrey Show. He is professor and vice-chairman of surgery at New York Presbyterian Columbia University and the medical director of the Integrated Medicine Center and the director of the Heart Institute. They are the coauthors of YOU: Being Beautiful: The Owner’s Manual to Inner and Outer Beauty (Copyright © 2006 by Michael F. Roizen, M.D., and Oz Works LLC, f/s/o Mehmet C. Oz, M.D.)

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