How can I increase my energy level?

March 9, 2013

Q: Recently I’ve had a hard time getting to the gym because my energy level has been very low. It just seems like I’m tired and lazy and in hibernation mode, which usually happens to me this time of year. I recently had a physical, so I know there is nothing wrong with me, but I just think I’m in a rut. Do you have any suggestions on how I can increase my energy levels to help get me back to the gym?

A: This time of year is hard for everyone, but there are certainly a few things to consider that can help boost energy levels.

Remember, your body is a very complicated machine that requires constant maintenance, so be sure to give it the attention it needs and it will respond in kind.

Eat high-energy foods

Oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice and whole wheat pasta are just a few examples of good complex carbohydrates that provide long-lasting, stable energy sources to help fuel your body throughout the day. Be sure to include these foods in your diet, and energy levels will most likely increase.

Be sure to properly hydrate

Most people associate dehydration with the cramps one gets in the side of the abdomen while running long distances, but what they don’t realize is that there are many other negative side effects that are not as obvious. Failure to drink enough water can also reduce blood flow to the muscles, leaving you feeling tired and unmotivated. On average, you should be drinking eight to 10 10-ounce glasses of water a day, but it’s also important to remember that the more active you are, the greater your water needs will be, so be sure to adjust accordingly.

Fuel your body

Think of your pre-workout meal as gassing up your car before going on a long trip. If you don’t put any fuel in your tank, you’re not going to get very far.
Therefore it makes perfect sense to fill up by eating a pre-workout meal 60-90 minutes before activity so you will have enough gas in your tank to power you through a tough workout for optimal results.

Do short, intense weight training

More is not always better when it comes to working out. In fact, spending too much time in the gym can lead to overtraining, leaving you tired and drained.
That’s why it’s important to get in and out as fast as you can while still getting a great workout.

You can accomplish this goal by reducing rest periods between sets, doing a few exercises that work a variety of muscles and keeping talking to a minimum.

Get eight to 10 hours of sleep

Even though some people think they can function well on five to six hours of sleep, research tells a different story. Most experts would agree the body can’t fully recover from a hard workout without eight to 10 hours of good old shut-eye. So make it a habit to get in bed on time, and you will be sure to recharge your batteries for greater energy.

Reduce sugar and simple carbohydrate sources

Foods that contain high amounts of sugar or processed carbohydrates will cause energy levels to spike and crash, leaving you tired and unmotivated. Good examples of foods to avoid are white breads, muffins, cakes, sugary cereals, doughnuts and sodas. Replace these foods with better choices that provide stable, long-lasting energy such as grains, vegetables, fruit and lean protein sources, and plenty of water, and you will be surprised at how different you will feel.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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