Finding Energy When You Feel Like Your Tank is Empty

By , SparkPeople Blogger
By Beth Donovan (~INDYGIRL)

Shhh. I have a secret to tell you. I’m a recovering caffeine addict. I haven’t been your typical caffeine addict either, as in drinking colas, coffees or teas. Those things do have caffeine, but I’ve gone straight for the over-the-counter caffeine pills and have taken anywhere from 200-800 mg a day. That sounds like a huge amount and it IS, but it is also still easily gotten from 4 large coffees. That makes it sound innocent, doesn’t it?

Caffeine helps you feel alert and temporarily reduces the feeling of being tired. It gives you a higher capacity for mental and physical work temporarily, as well. The problem is that soon, a small dose is not enough and you need more to keep going at the same pace. Eventually you would even go through withdrawal without it.

In the meantime, caffeine triggers the production of adrenaline and cortisol--two substances associated with the body’s fight-or-flight response, panic attacks, and stress. Cortisol has been brought into question for causing weight gain, especially in the belly area. Caffeine also raises blood pressure. Other risks with too much caffeine are increased heart palpitations, headaches, restlessness, and insomnia, among others.

So why had I been taking these pills? Well, quite simply, I was exhausted and didn’t know any other way to feel better. I was fairly young when I started, in my teens. At the time I was the fat girl at school and wanted to slim down and have energy without eating as much. Then in my 20s, I was in the 300-pound range and needed energy to keep going at work. I actually fell asleep while working a few times, and my doctor discovered I had an underactive thyroid. In my 30s, I was in the 400-460-pound range and was bedridden from degenerative joint disease in my spine, pinched nerve bundles, herniated discs, bad knees, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. I could barely stay awake and was in pain if I tried to move. I justified that I needed them to give me the strength to move.

SparkPeople has a way of helping me look at my life in bits and pieces, instead of wanting to change it all at once. The latest campaign I’m on in my life is to increase my energy naturally and get rid of caffeine. You know what? It’s been working! I’m taking it slowly and it’s frustrating at times, so for anyone out the struggling with low energy issues or caffeine addiction, these tips are for you. (If you feel you are seriously addicted to caffeine, consult your health-care provider for help with weaning yourself.)

My number one upper is music. Music is very powerful. Have you ever noticed how music can transport you through time back to where you were when that song came out? It can tame the savage beast, make a celebration, relax a baby to sleep, make a movie an even bigger hit with the soundtrack, and even make you feel like dancing when you hear "your song"? Anytime you need a quick pick up, tune into a quick fix on your radio, MP3 player, computer, or whatever you’ve got handy.

I turn on upbeat music when I get up and have some V8 Fusion juice with my breakfast. I think the natural fruit sugars and vitamins help wake me up. Lean protein and fiber help keep me full, so I add natural nut butter and oatmeal or whole wheat bread. Fruit with protein is a great energizer for me.

It seems the more natural I keep my food, the more energy I have. When I buy processed frozen convenience foods like pizza rolls or mini tacos, I feel tired. If I eat a Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice with more vegetables and lean meats in it, I feel better. If I eat something fresh, like a tuna salad I made myself with fresh veggies and 100% whole grain crackers, I feel wonderful.

I make myself exercise at least 5 minutes at a time. I allow myself to quit after 5 minutes, but I have to do another 5 later. That’s on my super tired days. Usually I do more. If I put on music, it will usually keep me exercising until the next song. Make sure you pick out your most addictive music so you HAVE TO hear the next song.

I began taking vitamins. I now take a multi vitamin and a B complex. My doctor also found out I was vitamin B-12 deficient and is giving me shots. She said that vitamin deficiencies could make you very tired. Vitamins may be something to check into with your doctor if you are feeling really tired, especially the B vitamin group. That set of vitamins works with metabolism (converting food to energy), nerves and heart health. (Again, this is something that's unique to my situation; always consult your doctor.)

I'm getting more sleep and not burning the candle at both ends. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, it’s no wonder you’re tired. Set up a bed time routine to get yourself at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. (Find more tips on getting a good night's rest here and here.)

If you're exhausted every day, ask your doctor about sleep apnea, a breathing disruption during sleep that prevents proper oxygen from getting to the sleeper. It can be fatal. My brother-in-law died from it in his 30s. He did not get help. If you stop breathing or have very disruptive snoring, call your doctor and schedule a sleep study. Sleep apnea is notorious for leaving the sleeper exhausted the next day. Weight loss can help! I know because before I started to lose weight, I HAD moderate sleep apnea.

Negativity sucks the energy right out of me, so I do what I can to keep negative people out of your life. I’ve noticed that I can have bounce in my step and feel good until someone yells at me or has a really negative attitude. I have to let it slide off and just get away. In fact, sometimes I just have to tell someone in a “mood” that I need to be alone. Protect yourself. The first thing that happens to me when I get involved with someone in a "mood," is that I want to eat. I don’t particularly care what it is that I eat. I’ve learned that my yearning for food is a longing to get away or be comforted. So I get away, or I comfort myself by providing my body with something healthy. Don’t let negative people suck the energy out of you. It’s okay to opt out of their bad mood.

As of now, I am down to no caffeine pills a day--just some tea. I am have also updated my SparkPeople calorie range to lose weight just a little quicker in order to gain energy faster. I stay within SparkPeople recommended guidelines and am trying to lose 1.5 to 1.8 pounds a week.

If you need more energy, try:

Top 10 Energy Boosting Powerhouses

Energy Boosts at Work

Until next time, I wish you all happy Sparking!

How do you boost your energy? Do you rely on caffeine or drinks like cola, tea, and coffee?

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EVIE4NOW 5/13/2021
Will NOT give up my coffee. It is not the full one TBLS per cup but on the weak side. It is my substitute for water in the morns. Report
Good Article Report
Wow Report
Good article. Report
Interesting article, will try. Report
Music is one of the best suggestions I've read in any article ever! Well done! Report
thank you Report
Can I blame coffee for my weight gain? Sweet! Alright, only partly to blame. Eating more calories than I burned probably accounts for a lot of it. But to speak to one of the points, getting tested for sleep apnea doesn't necessarily mean going to a lab and getting hooked up to tons of wires. You can do it at home now!!! I haven't received my results yet, but it was easy. There are also a number of products that can help you get your snoring under control besides the CPAP machines. I use a tongue stabilizing device called Aveo that works for me. There are other types that are more like a night guard on steroids. A wedge pillow also helps me when I have a stuffy nose. There are also apps for your smart phone that can show you, and your doctor, how much you snore at night. The one I use is SnoreLab. Getting a restful night's sleep is so important. Report
This is something I really struggle with. I'm working with my doctor to make things better. I have coffee in the morning and some dark chocolate here and there, but that's it for caffeine. As I get healthier, I have more energy, so that's been motivating me. Report
I loved the article. Caffine can really kick your butt. I have little to no caffine on a daily basis, but when I took some Midol recently, I could not sleep and my hand were shaking. I think I had a small overdose of caffine. It goes to show that even small doses of caffine, like in pills, can really mess with your body. Report
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story. Baby steps get us where we want to be and avoiding the toxic negative influences is absolutely necessary. I'm looking forward to reading your update in the future. Thanks for posting! Report
Guilty on the coffee. Don't smoke, barely drink, eat healthy, exercise daily. ok ok I can cut down a bit - but seriously ya gotta let me have something! Report
I needed to read this -- glad I am finally getting caught up with my Spark mails-- tea is a big one for me but so are energy drinks that I have been working on getting off them and cutting down sugar too -- it's a Catch-22 for me right now but I will continue to work at getting down those caffeine boosts -- Report
Good for you! Stepping out to make positive changes takes courage. I also quit coffee and have felt the benefits from eliminating caffeine from my diet. Report
Thanks for sharing. That was a great read, and really inspiring. Go you! Report
This is a timely article for me. I came across it while sitting with a heart monitor on and it got me thinking about the caffine I consume in tea and coffee. I need to cut back more. I didn't know that it could contribute to weight gain because of the cortisol Report
I started having heart palpitations two months ago. After numerous tests and a short stint on a beta blocker, I've discovered that it's caffeine that is causing the palps. I didn't think that I had a "problem", but apparently my body thought otherwise. I have switched to decaf coffee and only occasionally drink a diet pop. The first week I experienced headaches and felt extremely tired. The longer I've stuck with it though the better I've felt! Report
I only use coffee in the morning about one cup to give me a morning boost. That does not last long and more coffee only makes me nervous but I am still sleepy. Since I am unemployed now I take a nap. That helps but I have to get my interest up so that I don't go back to bed. Report
I usually have plenty of energy (that is, before 9pm) but the main thing that saps my energy is overeating. One of the greatest things about starting Sparkpeople was that I no longer have tired afternoons. It is the best incentive I have to not overeat. Healthy living feels so great! Report
I'll admit it. When my energy is low low low... I like a couple of pieces of chocolate. When the weather is cold, I'll definitely grab a cup of tea and maybe a couple of pieces of chocolate. Report
I don't drink anything with caffeine regularly. Years ago I drank the Biggie size brewed ice tea from Wendy's plus a refill but my doctor told me to stop. I still miss those Biggie ice teas. I took a caffeine pill in college once to try to stay awake to study for exams and when I went to bed I was exhausted but my eyes wouldn't shut. They would not shut! It was like something was holding them open. Never did that again.

Just as someone below mentioned I do use exercise to boost my energy. I sometimes come home so tired I just want to sit but I exercise and all of a sudden I have more energy. It's amazing. Report
For close to 25 years, I was addicted to my diet soda-took at least 2 to get me going in the am and more throughout the day-at least 8 every day! About 10 years ago, I kicked the habit and went thru about 2 weeks of horrible headaches with the withdrawal-everyone steered clear of me during that time but once it finally got out of my system life was great! Now I indulge occasionally in a diet soda but only OCCASIONALLY! I am hooked on green tea with some raspberry flavoring now so don't miss the soda and a lot cheaper when I do go out to order water! Report
Thanks for sharing, although I am not a big caffeine drinker (once in a while I will have some) I do suffer from fatigue issues; hypothryoidism, adrenal fatigue, PCOS. I too, have found myself nodding off to sleep at my desk usually hits me around 1-2 pm. I am hoping to make new friends and be able to help each other out on our journeys to a successful and healthy life style change. Keep up the good work :) Report
I do love coffee, but sure don't drink it to give me energy. I drink decaff, I get more energy from a good work out. Dr. Oz does say coffee is good for the brain. Report
I love my coffee in the morning. Unless there are health problems, I think moderation is the key like in many other things. Report
This is by far the most powerful article you have written. I am still digesting, thank you, because it touches my husband's and lives so much. THANK YOU! Please keep up all the good work. Hugs, Elizabeth Report
I try to avoid caffeine at all costs...except the occasional chocolate treat and other natural caffeines like tea. My junior year of college I was very very stressed with classes and getting ready to go abroad. I got to the point where I had to cut out all caffeine because it was ripping up my stomach...the stress was already doing its work, and the coffee just made it worse. I actually couldn't even spend much time in my favorite coffee shop! So sad! But since then, I've tried to avoid coffee, especially during stressful times in my life. Report
I was diagnosed with Meniers Disease in 2007 and there is no treatment but a no CATS diet (caffeine, alcohol, tobacco or sodium). so I weaned myself off of caffeine. I was using it to wake myself up in the mornings, for years I worked afternoons. But when I went to working days at the age of 34, I became a coffee drinker for the first time ever. Now I drink a couple cups of decaf, but mostly so I can control the early morning hunger pangs before I eat breakfast, which I do after my morning routine of shower, makeup, etc. I frequently take naps, but I feel I'm better off without the caffeine. Report
I have to have my one cup in the morning. Not so much for the caffeine, but to actually mentally shift my brain to start the day! Report
Great article! Thanks for sharing your positivity! Report
Well I use to carry a 2 qt bottle of coffee to work,drank water also .started out with 2 cups before work, and after drank more coffee until went to bed.But not for energy,as I liked coffee over other drinks ,hot ,warm ,cold ,as long as it was black and strong. I still drink coffee now that I am retired ,but have lowered the amount I drink,and try to drink more water. Thou I never had a sleep problem over it ,but from teens into now I only sleep 4 to 6 hours.And when in 20s to 40s would go with none cause of being out doing things bars ,dancing,and haveing a good time. then go to work and start again .But now I still stay up ,and still like my coffee ,Just as bible says thou .over do anything it will turn bad on you.As one can even drink too much water and it will in time harm you . Report
good job on weaning off the caffeine habit Report
I enjoy my morning coffee, but have been drinking less in the morning, then having a cup later in the day to keep going. But the thing I do that gives me the most energy is my strength training workouts. I do six a week and that personal alone time with myself is like a meditation and the breathing and concentrating on the muscles increases the oxygen in my blood; I feel stronger and more energized after my workouts. Report
I used to rely on capaccinos to get me through those 'all-nighters' during college. Now I drink 1 to 2 cups of coffee per day in the morning. I find that on the days I don't drink coffee (which is usually on Sunday), I don't necessarily crave it. My unfulfilling job drains the energy right out of me, so I like the caffeine in the morning during the work week. Plus, coffee is chocked full of antioxidants! ;) I have no plans to stop drinking (or even cut back). There's nothing better then sitting on the porch in the morning and enjoying a warm cup of coffee. Report
I understand what you say about being with someone in a "mood". I realize much of my eating has been while in the company of negative or stressful people. I want to care about them without letting them drive me to the fridge. It is better now that I know myself alittle better.

Thanks for the post. We all must struggle on! We will win! Report
Good article. Report
Thank you once again for sharing, Beth. How is your job going? Report
I FEEL YOUR PAIN!! I had to quit caffeine, and I was a major junkie. Several times a day, just to pep back up and keep slamming into the next part of the day. (I wasn't getting enough sleep to keep me running so I relied on artificial energy, and wound up giving myself a heart problem for it last year. Now I'm off caffeine and getting enough sleep like I should!) I think it's awesome that you're still drinking tea though, because think about it - minimal caffeine, but still all those antioxidants! (Tea is a plant food after all!) Your article was so encouraging - glad to know I'm not the only one who's struggled to get on with life without my daily buzzes. Thank you for sharing! Report
This was great! I'm a coffee addict. I wasn't always, but when I read somewhere that the caffeine helps boost metabolism, I started drinking more. Now I'm up to about 4+ cups a day, which doesn't seem like a lot, but I absolutely crave it. And, it makes me just giddy when we're going somewhere and we stop for coffee at the gas station, and I'm over the moon for McD's and Starbucks (but I'm cheap, so we don't go to those places much for coffee).
I keep feeling guilty about my dependance on it, then I justify it by all the reports that say the anitoxidents are good for you, it boosts metabolism, and wards off dementia related diseases. I think a cup in the am and a cup with lunch is reasonable, but I go over that most days and way over that on weekends.
I love your tips, and I use many of them already, but I'm not ready to give up my coffee just yet. Report
I re-energize by getting up from the computer. Even if it's just a walk to the bathroom and stopping to get some water, it helps! Report
I drink 1-2 cups of caffeinated coffee at day at most. I do drink some decaf as well because I love the taste of coffee. Report
not so much, mostly I eat low carb. when I do that I have lots of energy. Eating even a small amount of carbs will drain me for the whole day. Report
"Don’t let negative people suck the energy out of you. It’s okay to opt out of their bad mood."
i love this....and definitely need to remember it!!! thanks for the great blog!! Report
"SparkPeople has a way of helping me look at my life in bits and pieces, instead of wanting to change it all at once." -- I love this line....and completely agree with you. Its all of those little changes, streaks, victories that add up to huge changes.

As always, wonderful blog with great tips. I had a hard time getting rid of the morning cup of coffee routine (it was actually 3 cups in a travel mug). But when I got over the initial withdrawal and replaced coffee with fresh fruit and fiber and make it a point to get my heart rate up for no less than 10 minutes before work, I have so much more energy throughout the day!

Keep up the amazing work and writing...xoxo Report
great blog keep on keeping on Report
My best energy booster for mid morning or afternoon is a glass of milk and an apple. It works the best for me. Report
Great blog, as always, Beth! Caffeine addiction is a tough one to overcome, but you can do it. When I ended up in the hospital with heart problems, the first thing they said was to give up the caffeine. Hmmmm..not to hard to make that choice! I agree with others here, once you give it up and eat only clean foods, you will have more energy. Exercise is my key. A good workout always energizes me. Report