Where did my energy go?

5 Natural Energy Boosters to Help You Beat Fatigue [Podcast Episode #042]

From the moment you wake up in the morning it feels like your energy is already gone. You drag your butt all day long, maybe relying on a caffeine or sugar jolt to get you through those extra-sleepy time. Bedtime can't come soon enough!

Sound familiar at all? Far too many people go through life losing their battle with chronic fatigue. It doesn't have to be this way. Learn about the 5 natural energy boosters that you can use to reclaim your energetic self!

Episode Resources:

Where Did My Energy Go? 5 Natural Energy Boosters [Full Text]

Dave: Hey, thanks so much for joining me in this episode of the Make Your Body Work podcast. As you know, this show is all about helping you live a healthier, happier life. Today's episode is one I've been waiting to do for a long time because this is probably maybe the most often asked question that I get. It's all about energy levels. Let's listen to what Rita wrote in and said. She made it really brief.

She said, "Dave, here's a simple question for you. My energy, where did it go, and how can I get it to come back?" Like I said, Rita if you're listening, and to all the listeners out there, this is one literally I get it several times a week at week. "What happened to my energy? I'm tired all the time. I'm fighting chronic fatigue, and what can I do about it?"

As you'll hear in this episode, this is actually something that's near and dear to my heart because I went through a really awful bout with chronic fatigue about fifteen or sixteen years ago, and it took me forever to find a solution.

I'm excited to have a guest today who is going to share some insights that are really going to help you. Actually she shares the insight that solved my problem fifteen or sixteen years ago, and I wish I'd talked to her back then because it could have saved me a lot of doctor's visits. I know that you're going to get a lot of value out of this and are going to be able to walk away with some action steps that you can start using today to boost your own energy. I'm excited to introduce to you today Karen Wojciechowski.

Meet Karen Wojciechowski

Dave: Hey, Karen. Thanks so much for joining us on today's show.

Karen: Thanks so much for having me.

Dave: Yeah, I'm excited to have you. I get questions all the time about energy levels, and we'll get talking about Rita's question today about, basically that's what she says is, "My energy's died. Where did it go?" That's something that I hear all the time, and the more I've read about you online, the more I started to realize you are all about helping people find their energy.

Karen: Yeah, I love helping people boost their energy levels because, you know what, when you feel tired, when you feel fatigued, you don't have the energy to do all those other great healthy habits that helps you with all the other aspects of your life. You don't feel like exercising, and usually if you're tired you're going to be craving more sugary foods, it's harder to eat healthy.

All the things that I help people with to help them boost their energy can really flow onto other aspects of their life. They might find they're focusing on boosting their energy, but they've lost those couple of pounds that have been sticking around, or maybe their digestion is feeling better. I really love focusing on helping people boost that, boost their energy and help that part of their health because it just has this full on effect to all the other aspects of their life as well.

Dave: How did you come across that? When you say that, okay, it obviously makes sense. When we have good energy we'll make better healthy life choices, but how did you figure that out, or how did you come into this role?

Karen: Yeah, I think I just started to realize that whenever you ask people, "How's it going?" or you talk to people, it seems like everybody was either super busy or tired, seemed to be the standard answer. I think there's always this perception out there that if you're not super busy, and tired, and stressed out, then you're not trying hard enough. I really wanted to shake that up and help people enjoy life and be a bit happier through helping them focus on some of these things that can help boost their energy levels.

Dave: I love that you just said that because one thing that I've noticed as I get older in life is that we look at busyness as a badge of honor. If I'm busy therefore I'm important or I've got...

Karen: Totally.

Dave: ... something neat going on in my life. I've often thought about that when people say, "How are you doing?" I thought about saying, "Great. I didn't do that much this week," and just see what's the reaction.

Karen: Yeah, completely. I completely agree. It is almost like this badge of honor, and it so doesn't have to be. Yeah, I think slowing down and enjoying what you are doing ... That doesn't have to be a bad thing. That can be a good thing, and it's a really healthy thing, you know?

Dave: Yeah. Obviously we're going to get into some of the practicality side of this, but when you hear from someone ... Rita, she just says straight up, "My energy level, where did it go, and how can I get it to come back?" When you hear someone say that, which you obviously do all the time, what's the first thing that you dive into? Where do you look?

Listen to the Message Coming from Your Body

Karen: The first thing I'd say to somebody who's coming in saying, "Yeah, my energy levels are really low," I like to get them to try to think of feeling tired or feeling fatigued in a different way.

I really like to think about it as a message from your body. I like to try and get people to think about all these symptoms, including tiredness, that they're having as the way your body is communicating with you that it wants you to do something different.

It might want you to eat differently, or drink differently, move more, or even just breathe, or think in a different way. I really like to get people thinking about these are messages your body is giving you, so don't attach guilt or willpower or any of these things.

You're just listening to yeah, this is something that my body's trying to communicate to me, and so this is a good thing. It's given me a signal now that I need to change something up before I get worse symptoms or something happens down the line. The first thing I get people to do is try and think about it as a good thing your body's telling you, and now let's try and figure out what you need to do.

Your body clearly tells you when something is wrong. Are you listening?

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Dave: That's a really neat perspective actually because when you think about the ways that your body can communicate with you, there aren't actually that many. It can send out pain, you can have digestive issues, fatigue, but really beyond that there isn't that much so, like you said, that could be your body really crying out, "Hey, pay attention."

Karen: Exactly.

Dave: That's interesting. When you start to work with a client to discover what is the root cause then of this, or what is your body trying to say, how do you begin that process?

Karen: Generally when somebody comes to me and they are struggling with something like this, then we start to look at ... There's a bunch of things that can contribute to fatigue, but some of the areas that we start with are food, obviously, so what are you eating? We take a look at that. Moving. Movement and exercise is just such a big energy booster.

We look at food, move, what are you drinking, so water, coffee, those kinds of things. Then sleep and stress, so have a look at your sleep and where you are in terms of stress. I find those five things often have a really big impact on your energy levels.

Watch Out For Energy Depleting Foods

Dave: Yeah, I would agree, but when you think about those five, that's very broad. That's pretty all-encompassing, so maybe we could start with food, and you can give some ideas for the listeners. What can they start to look for? Are there specific foods that are energy detractors? Are there ones that people should be thinking about eating more of?

Karen: Yeah, totally. Yeah, it's super broad, but in terms of food ... Yeah, my philosophy in terms of food with everybody that I work with is really just try and eat real food where possible. We really look for where people can try to add in more real foods and crowd out maybe some of those things, as you said, that are energy depletors.

Some of the things that really can deplete your energy are things like sugar. Sugar's a huge one. Sugar and caffeine actually are really big energy depletors, and I know people hate it when I say caffeine because we're all really addicted to that morning coffee or for some people those three or four coffees throughout the day.

There are certain foods that deplete your energy. Look at your diet: What energy-suckers are you eating?

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Sugar, too, can be a really tough thing to give up for people, but I feel like having too much of those two things can really have a massive impact on your energy levels because from both of them you're getting these spikes of energy but then those crashes, which then cause cravings and can start that circle again where you're having coffee in the morning or throughout the day, sugar in the afternoon, and then you need your glass of wine in the evening to wind down, and then it all starts up again. It isn't great for having that all day energy.

Dave: You are making enemies all over the place. Coffee,...

Karen: I know.

Dave: ... sugar, and wine all in one sentence.

Karen: I do tend to make some enemies with comments like that for sure.

Dave: Maybe you could give the listeners then some hope. If someone, for example, was addicted to caffeine, that was their booster every single morning, if they were to wean off that or stop altogether, how long do you typically see in clients it takes before the body starts to compensate and starts to have a natural boost of energy as opposed to relying on a stimulant?

Food: Think About "Crowding Out" and "Adding In"

Karen: Everybody's different, and it really depends on how much coffee you're drinking, but I do tend to try and wean people off slowly. To be honest, I'm not saying that everybody needs to totally quit coffee or any of those things.

I like to really try and focus people on crowding out some of the things that aren't great for them by adding in all these things that are really good for their bodies and good for energy levels.

When we look at taking caffeine out, we'll just start to reduce it slowly and get down to where people are really only having maybe one, maybe two cups a day. For some people obviously removing caffeine altogether makes them feel a lot better, but everybody's different, and so we need to get to that stage. It depends on how the person is dealing with some of those other things we talked about.

If someone is in a really stressful job, and that's having a really big impact on their energy levels, then caffeine might not be something that's helping that person with their energy levels. That might be something that someone like that needs to cut out, whereas somebody who maybe doesn't have so many issues or stress, or maybe that's not an aspect for them, that's not something we're looking at, then having one to two cups of coffee a day could be really healthy for them.

Dave: I really like that message of it being a unique approach. What you just said, it resonates so strongly with all of the other guests I have on here. There isn't a cookie cutter approach, no matter what it is that you're trying to accomplish.

Karen: Totally, and I wish there was. It would make everything a lot easier.

Dave: Then there would be no podcast here because it would just be one episode. Do this.

Karen: Totally, totally, and that's not the way it works at all.

Dave: I wanted to follow up with something you said because, again, you gave some good wisdom about the idea of crowding out, that's the term you used, crowding out those things that maybe we are trying to want to wean out. What are some things that you would recommend that people use to crowd out coffee, crowd out sugar, wine, whatever it is?

Karen: I try and focus on crowding out so that we're focusing on these things that we are adding in rather than constantly thinking about restriction or what we're trying to avoid. I think that once you start to add in more of these healthy things, you naturally start to just want less of the sugar or less of the caffeine, and so it makes it easier to make a longer term sustainable change, which I really love to help people be able to have habits that can set them up for the long term.

Things like, if we're looking at coffee, drinking more water can be really ... It sounds so simple, but drinking more water can really help with your energy levels, and it's amazing how many people just don't, either forget to drink water or are going around really dehydrated really. If you're drinking more water and you are feeling a little bit better, you generally don't always necessarily need so much caffeine.

The best way to stop eating unhealthy foods is to gradually crowd those foods out by adding healthy choices.

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Also things like healthy greens, having maybe a green smoothie in the morning so you're adding more vegetables in. That's starting to make you feel more energized. Maybe you're relying less on the coffee and the sugar. Healthy fats as well are really important, and I feel like lots of people shy away from healthy fats.

Having people bring in lots of greens, lots of veggies, some healthy fat, some healthy protein, drinking lots of water, throwing in a green smoothie, and then giving them lots of options of other things that they can drink like other teas, or maybe some hot water and lemon, or even kombucha.

It's not a warm drink, but it's something else to drink that can be really good for you, or some homemade hot chocolates with some raw cacao you could make, or some turmeric tea with some turmeric, and cinnamon, and nutmeg, and a little bit of honey with a bit of almond milk or something like that, so giving people all these options of things that I want them to include rather than just focusing on taking these out.

Dave: Really great ideas. I like the idea of turmeric tea. Turmeric has so many health benefits for particularly reducing inflammation. I love that one.

Karen: Yeah, it's really good. You should try and make it. Actually there's even a couple of cafes even around here that have started to bring it out on their menu, which is awesome. I was so excited the first time I walked into a café and saw a turmeric tea made just like I was describing. In a café, you can go out even and have this amazing, healthy option instead of a coffee.

Dave's Fat-Deficiency Experience

Dave: I love that. One thing that I just wanted to mention, and this it really hit close to home when you were speaking about eating healthy fats. I'm not sure if I've told this story before on the podcast or not, but when I was about twenty or twenty-one, I went through a year or two where I had really bad sleep problems and was just chronically fatigued all the time.

The pinnacle, I realized I had an issue when I was on a conference call at work and fell asleep, and I woke up because I was drooling all over the receiver of the phone. I was like, "This isn't normal. Something's wrong." Long story short, I saw a whole ton of different doctors and was on all kinds of prescription medication, and nothing was working, and eventually it was through diet that I "healed myself."

I was just fat deficient. The more that I started studying it and learning about fat soluble vitamins and just what I was doing to my body by being so restrictive ... All I did was start adding in nuts, seeds, avocado, cooking with a lot more oil, and literally in a month I was healed. I just thought what a testament to how your diet dictates how your body functions.

Karen: Wow. Isn't that amazing? It's such an amazing story of how these things can have such a big impact.

The Consequences of Living with Low Energy

Dave: Yeah, and before the call actually, you and I were talking about some of the symptomatology that people might experience when low energy creeps in. You mentioned weight gain is one of them. When people are low energy, all these lifestyle choices translates into gaining weight, and then quite often people will see that as the problem and really want to tackle the weight when in reality that's just a symptom.

Karen: Totally. They're so connected because, as you were saying, if you feel tired all the time you're not going to want to feel like going to the gym, or going for a walk, or going to do any of these kind of exercise things.

Also a lot of the times when you're feeling tired, they're the times that you're going to crave things like sugar that will give you those quick energy fixes, the quick boost of energy, and so it makes it much harder to stick to your regular healthy eating lifestyle when you're really tired all the time.

It's also harder then to meal plan, or prep things, or maybe cook. You're more likely to feel like just grabbing some takeaway or going with the easy option because you're so tired before. I think sometimes people don't realize almost that they could have more energy.

I've had somebody say to me before, "Oh, I work full time, so isn't it normal that I should just come home from work at 5 and be too tired to do anything?" I'm like, "Well, no. We can get you to the stage where that [inaudible 00:15:57] ... "They're like, "Oh, no. I work full time, so isn't that normal that I'm just going to be exhausted at 5?" I'm like, "No.

We can get you to the stage where you can be doing some things in the evening. You're too young. That's too early to feel so tired." Sometimes people don't realize that they can ... They're amazed at how much better they can actually feel, so they might focus on other things like weight loss or some of these symptoms of, as you said, having low energy levels.

Doing nothing makes your body tired, even though it might feel relaxing. Get up, move, and gain energy!

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Dave: It's interesting when you're talking about someone who says, "Well, isn't this normal?" When our energy or whatever it is, something changes over a very long period of time so it's a gradual change, quite often we don't even realize that we're in poor health, and the idea of something being much better than what we're experiencing is even hard to believe because it might have been ten years since we experienced something like that.

Again, I can just relate. I remember for myself all the sudden the only reason I thought I was weird is I shouldn't be falling asleep on the phone, but other than that I didn't even realize it. I want to dive into ... We talked about food and some of the replacements or things that you can use to crowd out some of the unhealthy energy boosters. What about exercise? You talked about movement. What do you recommend to your clients?

Use Movement to Boost Your Energy

Karen: Just honestly that, get moving, because every client's going to be different. It totally depends on where they are right now. How much exercise are they doing? Do we just need to get them off the couch and going for a thirty minutes walk every day? Is that going to make them start to feel better?

To somebody who can really obviously ramp it up a lot from there. Also it depends if, is the person, as I said, is stress a really big thing for them? I think stress can be really huge when it comes to energy levels, and so maybe for those kind of people more restorative practice.

Maybe making sure that they're doing yoga a few times a week might actually have more benefits than an hour on the treadmill or doing some weights or something.

I think everybody's different, but in the same time just doing some kind of exercise is huge for energy boosting. In saying that, anything you can do to build muscle, obviously, can really help with energy boosting as well, so doing some resistance exercises, even if it's just some body weight exercises at home, some squats, or some simple exercises at home that you can do can really help as well.

Dave: Thank you for mentioning the fact that something like yoga or some of those more gentle forms of exercise are okay. I know it's sort of a pet peeve of mine. I think that we've been done a disservice by some of these workout programs like, I don't know, a P90X or an Insanity, all this really high intensity stuff. I think people expect that that's what exercise has to look like, but your message is that's not true.

Karen: No, not at all. Everybody's different, and you have to do what ... As we were saying with the food everybody's different, the exercise is the same. Some of those really high-intensity things like the P90X might not be great for somebody who is struggling with some of those other symptoms of stress, and as you said, might benefit more from something like yoga or some of those other more restorative practices. I'm a big fan of yoga. Yoga's amazing, and yoga can be a great workout, too.

Dave: I totally agree. I'm not taking anything away from yoga. It just is different, and unless you're doing hot yoga, it's not like you're dripping in sweat, in most cases anyway.

Karen: No, totally. I agree. I just like to encourage people to do more exercise and start moving more, get up throughout their day, sit less, things like that.

Key Energy Booster: Drink More Water!

Dave: Nutrition, movement, and then your five. You gave us five. What was number three on your list?

Karen: Drink more water.

Dave: Drink more water.

Karen: Simple, but big impact on energy levels for those people that aren't drinking enough.

Dave: Do you have a baseline that you recommend?

Karen: As a minimum, you want to try and be drinking half your body weight in ounces of water. You start there, but it depends on how active you are or what climate you're in, and so I get people to check their water for me, and we have a look and try to get them drinking enough.

Dave: I remember I heard a personal trainer one time giving a talk about hydration, and he said, "Drink 'til your pee don't stink." That's really stuck with me, and actually this is kind of personal, but when I go to the washroom, I always look at it and think, "How yellow was it? Did it have that urine smell in it?" I think that's a nice little rule of thumb.

Karen: I really like that one. I actually do the same. Yeah, that's totally true. I forget about that, but I do check it out like, "Oh, maybe I should be drinking more water." Totally, so that's a much better one. That's a great rule of thumb for the listeners for sure.

Dave: Okay, good. We both just grossed everyone out. Thank you. Drinking water was number three. Number four?

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Karen: Sleep. Get some sleep. Sleep can be a huge topic on its own as well, but I think that trying to get people to see sleep as a health activity like exercise, like it's important and to prioritize it. Then helping people with trying to make sure they black out the room is really important.

Try to improve the quantity of your sleep wherever you can, but also improve the quality. Making sure you're in a dark room, making sure that you try to turn off your screens, it's hard for people, but if you can an hour or two before you go to bed, or maybe having an evening routine to ease you into being able to sleep once you get to bed.

Sleep is a big one when it comes to fatigue, and I think people have a lot of trouble with sleep today.

Dave: You know what I really liked? Just that mindset shift you gave there is think of sleep as a health activity just like you would exercise.

Karen: Yeah, because it really is. Sometimes it might be more beneficial to get a couple extra hours of sleep than even wake up and hit the gym. I'm all for, obviously, incorporating exercise wherever we can. It's so important, but so is sleep.

Dave: I love that. I am taking that away for myself. I would never miss a workout, but I would easily sacrifice two hours of sleep if I was really busy.

Karen: You know what, if you're sacrificing two hours of sleep because you're busy one day and usually you get really good sleep, you probably won't even notice the difference. They say even if you have got something where you're going to have a night where you know you're going to get less sleep, you're super busy, see if you can even bank it up.

Have a couple of nights where you have a bit of extra sleep to get before you know that you're going to hit this time where you have less sleep. That might sound really over organized in terms of sleep, but having to plan your sleep for the week like you plan your workouts, but it just has so many restorative benefits. It can be really important for you, and people can notice a real difference when they're not sleeping well.

Dave: Wouldn't it be...

Karen: I'm a big fan of sleep.

Dave: I think it'd be so awesome if you could actually just lie down and flip this sleep button. Okay, tonight I'm going to get eight hours. Tomorrow I'm only getting six, so I'll get ten the next night. That'd be great.

Getting enough rest can be as important as doing enough exercise. Don't skip out on more sleep!

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Karen: Yeah, it's harder in practice, but I think if people can at least try and think of it and prioritize it a little, it can help.

How to Reducing Your Stress

Dave: Karen, you said number five was working on reducing stress, correct?

Karen: Yeah, because stress has such a big impact on your energy levels. We started the call, we were talking about how everybody's so busy and stressed out these days, so trying to get people to do some things, some deep breathing, even when they are stressed, or just trying to have them think about how they're breathing.

When you're stressed you're taking a lot of short, sharp, shallow breaths, and so getting people to think about their breathing and take some deep breaths can be really helpful. Things like a meditation practice, yoga, as we talked about. We work on seeing if we can bring just a few of these little things in. Some of these things can really help with your sleep, too. The stress can feed into how you're sleeping, how you're eating, how you're moving, so it can be really important to work with someone through some of those things.

Make Your Body Work Takeaway

Dave: Yeah, I love that, and for the listeners out there, I'm going to drop in the resources for this episode some examples of deep breathing or guided meditations that you can try out. Karen, maybe after the call I'll get you to give me some suggestions as well. Just for the listeners, you go to makeyourbodywork.com/42, and it'll take you to this episode, and you can check those resources out.

Karen, I'd like to keep this super short and really actionable, and so we always end on what's called a Make Your Body Work Takeaway, and that's just something that someone could do today if they were suffering from low energy levels like Rita talked about. What is the one thing that you would have someone start with?

Karen: Yeah, the one thing they can do today is really start with this idea of crowding out by adding in these energy boosters. Up your healthy greens, add in some healthy fat, and drink lots of water. I don't know if that counts as three, but really focus on putting those good things in so that you can start to crowd the other things out.

Dave: I love that positive thinking. I think too often we're always trying to avoid, avoid, avoid, and I like that move towards positivity.

Karen: Yeah, I think it just helps with the mindset around making some of these changes, and also turning them into longer term things. Even with everything, it might take a while, but if you can start to change from, "I can't have the ice cream," to, "I really want the blueberries because they make me feel so great," it means that eventually you won't have to use willpower anymore. That will be the way you think, and then it becomes easy and much more sustainable.

Dave: Now, Karen, you've been generous enough, you've got a free gift for all of the listeners. Maybe you could quickly tell us about that, and where can they go to claim theirs?

Karen: Yeah, awesome. I've got a 3 Day Energy Boosting Detox. I've got some recipes in there for you. I've also got some nonfood challenges to get your energy levels going in three days. You can just go ahead and go to realenergyfood.com/energy.

Dave: Great, and again, I'll put that in the resources so anyone listening, if you go to makeyourbodywork.com/42 to this episode, in the resources you'll see the realenergyfood.com/energy link, and you can go directly there and start your 3 Day Detox. Karen, really appreciate it. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom, and I'd love to have you back some time, because I know we're just scratching the surface here.

Karen: Awesome. I would love to come back on. It's been great to chat with you.

Dave: Karen, thanks again for joining us today, and thanks for all the wisdom you brought and for sharing some really specific action steps that people can use to rebuild their energy. I know that's so important just for feeling well, but also for weight loss, and for getting the most from your workouts, and all these other things that sometimes we see as our big problem, but really those are just symptoms of an underlying cause which could be problems with our energy levels, so thank you for your wisdom.

Thank you to you, the listeners, for tuning in today. Really appreciate it. As I've said many, many times, without you there would be no show, and without your questions there would be no show, so feel free to send me your questions. You can reach me at dave@makeyourbodywork.com, and just so you know I read every single email that comes in, and I try my best to personally respond to every single one as well.

Even if your question doesn't make a future episode of the podcast, I'll still respond to it and hopefully can help you out. Now if anyone wants some additional help getting into a good health routine, getting into a good fitness routine, I'd love to be your coach.

I run a program called the 10 in 4 Challenge, and that's what it's all about: helping you really dial in your diet, helping you find an exercise program that works for you, and helping you get some results. If you're interested in leaning down, toning up, and feeling great, check out 10in4.com, and like I said I'd love to start working with you. Thanks again for tuning in, and I can't wait to see you here again next week.

Thanks for joining me today!