Pinpoint the surprises depleting your energy and recharge your batteries, stat!
The drainer: dodgy posture
That colleague who always tuts when they see you hunching at your desk? Eye-roll – but they have a point. Turns out, the way we hold ourselves can majorly zap our energy stores. “When your posture’s poor, your endocrine system struggles to have a predominance of serotonin in the body, which helps you to feel vital and energised,” explains Dell-Maree Day, biomechanics expert and founder of The Invisible Exercise, a posture training technique. The result? “You have an imbalance in hormones that makes you go through those ups and downs throughout the day.”
Your move: Start by shifting forward at your desk so your bum is sitting on the front half of the chair. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor with your heels under your knees, which should be about 10cm apart. “Look straight ahead and think to yourself, I’d like to sit as tall and relaxed as possible,” says Day. “As you think that, you’ll feel your spine starts to stack itself up as the natural curve of your spine is reinstated.” Do this exercise for 30 seconds, every half hour at first, then increase to every 20, then 15. Eventually your body will naturally stay in this position. Not sure if you’re doing it right? Keep your slump in check with wearable posture trainer Upright GO – it tracks the muscles in your upper back and vibrates to let you know if you’re off course.
The drainer: swerving fat
Your lunchtime sandwich and piece of fruit may not cut it energy-wise. “If you think about lighting a fire, carbohydrates and sugars are like the kindling – they get the flame going, but it’s a very short burn,” says Dr Feng-Yuan Liu, dietitian and CEO of Metro Dietetics. “On the other hand, fats act like the big logs you throw on the fire to keep it going longer.” Nice.
Your move: Go for the long burn by getting enough good fats at lunch. “Healthy fats don’t have to be just olive oil and avocados, they also include things like coconut oil and animal fats, like butter, cheese, eggs and the fat in good quality grass-fed meat,” says Liu. Her ideal energy lunch: “A fatty piece of fish, like salmon, with the skin on, and a side of salad with olive oil, avocado, macadamia nuts and feta or parmesan.” Um, yes please.
The drainer: missing iron
Bad news guys: iron deficiency is on the rise – the Medibank Better Health index found more than one million Aussies were iron deficient or anaemic in 2016, up from 860,000 in 2008. According to Liu, a triple threat of factors contribute to this: “Firstly, we’re seeing a movement away from iron-rich foods, especially haem iron, the type found in animal sources and most easily absorbed by the body,” she says. “Secondly, [our general] food choices are lower in the vitamins and minerals that aid iron absorption.” Plus, we drink heaps of tea – tannins and caffeine both block iron absorption.
Your move: When you do sit down with your steak (red meat’s the best haem iron source), chuck on a side salad with capsicum and leafy greens – the vitamin C in these helps iron absorption. For vegos, you can get your daily intake from tofu, lentils, iron-fortified brekkie cereals and eggs. And lay off the extra cups of tea, especially around mealtimes.
The drainer: toxic mates
Meet a mate for coffee and always leave feeling like you’ve run a marathon? Giving that energy every now and again is one thing, but it may be time to reassess the relationship if your friend is constantly just take, take, take. “As cliched as it sounds, we can’t give from an empty cup,” says registered psychologist Nancy Sokarno. “We need to think about ourselves and our mental health as the priority.”
Your move: Sokarno recommends a thought diary, where you record how you’re feeling after every interaction you have. “They’re a really good way to put things in black and white, and not to interpret [our feelings] in our heads because then we overanalyse everything.” Look at patterns over time and work out which relationships are boosting your energy levels and which ones are depleting them.
The drainer: shallow breathing
For something we practise so often, the majority of us suck at breathing properly. Experts tend to agree that most people breathe shallowly, into their throat and chest, rather than deep into their diaphragm, which is under your upper abdominals. The issue? “If you breathe in a shallow way [...] you are communicating to your body that your life is in danger,” writes nutritional biochemist Dr Libby Weaver in The Energy Guide (Macmillan, $39.99). This produces adrenalin, a stress hormone that drains your energy levels.
Your move: Take some deep breaths before getting out of bed each morning, says Will Shannon, naturopath and president of the Australian Complementary Medicine Association. “Breathe into your diaphragm, hold, then exhale through the mouth. Do this several times, holding for longer intervals each time. "Try this trick whenever you feel stressed, tired or fuzzy and you’ll be good to go again. Boom!
This article was originally featured in the August issue of Women's Health