Exercise. We either love it or hate it. It takes a lot of energy to get to the gym and sometimes it feels like we have zero energy to get there. But, sometimes all you need to boost that energy is a bit of exercise! Seems like a ‘catch-22’ situation, right? However, when it comes to exercise and energy levels, things can be pretty simple to figure out.
When you’re exhausted or you’ve had a crappy sleep, the last thing you want to do is lace up your running shoes for a tough workout. If you’re like me, the very thought of powering through that HIIT workout or finishing your 5 km run seem impossible.
But, if you’re tired ALL the time, you may actually need to adjust your routine. Because exercise and energy levels are quite connected!
Feeling a little sluggish? Get out and do a 20-minute walk. All it takes is 20 minutes of exercise to decrease fatigue by 65%!
This is because exercise can be one of the most powerful tools we have to increase energy levels. It gets the blood flowing to the brain, which stimulates your energy. And, seriously, it only takes 20 minutes of low-intensity exercise to get there.
To increase your exercise and energy levels safely, try walking, yoga, simple stretches or a bike ride. All this can do so much more for your health and energy than coffee or energy drinks!
How Exercise and Energy Levels Relate
Your body was designed to move. Have you ever really focused on all the very cool ways your joints and muscles co-exist? I mean, we have opposing thumbs, we can climb mountains, and we can pull ourselves across monkey bars. Pretty amazing if you ask me! I am constantly amazed with how my body moves.
Which is why exercise and energy levels are so intricately connected. When you exercise, your body produces more dopamine, serotonin and endorphins – all of which are powerful mood and energy boosters. So, you feel more awesome!
Dopamine improves alertness and motivation. If you notice you’re tired after lunch at work, make sure you get in that 20-minute walk instead of scrolling through social media at the end of your lunch break.
Another super connection between exercise and energy levels is that exercise helps up sleep better.
If you’re sleeping well all the time, you will definitely have the energy you need (and want) to get through your busy day. And, have some left over for the ‘fun stuff’ in your spare time!
The Downside to Exercise
Yes, exercise is very, very important for your health.
However, we can also get too much, which will negatively impact your energy levels. Think of exercise and energy levels on a curved graph: When you do zero exercise, you have zero energy. Progress towards more exercise and energy levels increase at the same time. Then, though, there is a breaking point where exercise increases but energy decreases…This is when something called “overtraining” sets in.
And, remember, you need to feel refreshed and ready to hit the gym or the track, right? Well, exercising at the wrong time of day (i.e. at night) can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. It’s actually recommended not to exercise vigorously up to 3 hours before bedtime.
I know, I know…sometimes late in the evening is the ONLY time you have for exercise! But, if you can swing it, I highly recommend moving your workouts to the morning before you start your day. Yeah, it’ll be tough to wake up an hour or so earlier…at first. But, believe me, once you get into this routine and see how amazing morning workouts can be for you, you’ll never look back!
If you really can’t work out in the morning, stick to low-intensity exercises in the evening. Keep your high-intensity workouts for Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Overtraining and Poor Recovery
Yup, you certainly can get too much of a good thing! When it comes to exercise and energy levels, too much will eventually have the opposite effect. You’ll feel tired, you’ll feel sluggish, you will have no motivation.
A study done on the effects of overtraining showed that, over the course of 10 days, participants who were doing rigorous activity each day slowly decreased performance. They also complained of extreme fatigue and difficulty sleeping.
How To Know How Much is Enough
Like I always say, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!
If you aren’t exercising much right now, I highly recommend you suck it up and get moving. Aim for 4 days per week where you just go for a 20-minute walk or do 20 minutes of yoga. Gradually increase this as your body adapts to the exercise.
Most health organizations recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous activity. When you notice your energy levels increasing with exercise, that’s when you’re getting enough.
Now, if you’re like me and totally addicted to working out, pay attention to your energy levels if you start to feel more exhausted despite a regular routine. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking 2-5 days of active recovery (or just full out rest).
Nutrition for Exercise
Yes, what you eat is super important too. Naturally!
To optimize your performance and boost your energy, eat a diet that is rich in whole foods. Avoid sugar, dairy, wheat and junk foods that drain your energy (they’re all pro-inflammatory, a huge energy-buster).
Fuel up on whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and good protein (i.e. eggs) before and after a workout. If working out on an empty stomach seems to work best for you, that’s okay – just make sure to eat a healthy, whole foods-based meal afterwards.
Exercise requires energy so avoid working out while fasting.