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?