Energy: Where it has gone and how to get it back (Part I)

We all know what it feels like to be full of energy and often times we think it is only available to the young. Each year we struggle to find the same level of energy we had the previous year. Where does our energy go? Is it really our age, or can we get it back?

Although age is a factor, I have found it to be a small factor. After just turning 49 I am running as fast as I was when I was 45 despite undergoing major knee surgery in March of 2011, and 13 previous surgeries after I was hit by a semi-truck while cycling at age 20.

I have found four factors that affect energy levels the most: diet, training, rest, and stress. This article focuses on the first area where we tend to lose energy: diet.

Diet: Nutrition & Hydration

What you eat and what you fuel your body with determines your energy level. It is that simple. It is essential to fuel you body by eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. Think of your body like a car; you put the best type of fuel in your car so it runs well. Our body is no different. What would happen if you put sugar into your gas tank? Would your car even run? Food is fuel and it needs to come from sources that our body can easily digest, utilize, and convert into energy. If you are a high endurance/long distance athlete, protein and healthy fats are crucial. It is important to get protein back into your body within 30 minutes of exercise; my secret weapons to achieve this include almond butter and avocados.

If you are eating white bread, chips, crackers, or any types of processed food with corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, et cetera, you are not fueling your body. In fact, digesting these foods strips your body of energy. Furthermore, most of these kinds of processed foods are loaded with trans fats, which are the worst kind of fats for your body’s system. Start reading food labels and educate yourself about proper nutrition. Discover what good healthy foods you can fuel your body with. Remember food is fuel and your body needs the right kind of fuel to run (just like your car).

Hydration and water along with food is crucial to maintaining energy. Before you exercise you should take in as many ounces of water as half of your body weight in pounds. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, you should hydrate with at least 70 ounces of water before exercising. During exercise, you should take in 16 ounces for each hour of exercise. It sounds like a lot, but most of us are dehydrated on a daily basis. A few signs of dehydration while exercising include irregular or strained breathing, lack of sweating, or an increase in heart rate without an increase in effort. If this happens, find a shady area, rest, and hydrate.

Dehydration can lead to overheating, which can be much more serious. Signs of overheating to look out for include dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, diarrhea, or fatigue. Fatigue is often times a symptom of dehydration, not just tiredness. Although you may not feel thirsty, taking in a significant amount of fluids (at least 16 ounces) will rehydrate and reenergize you.

My next article will cover the second area that affects energy: training.

Read Part II

Sharon Starika is a runner and triathlete with over 20 years of competitive racing experience. She is a Guild Feldenkrais Practitioner and lives in Park City, Utah where she has a private practice. She teaches classes and clinics around the country and offers instructional online workshops so people interested can practice her methods anywhere.

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