Couch Potatoes Unite!

Principles of Energy

Lazy man eating on sofa and watching television
DreamPictures / Getty Images

If you've ever found yourself sitting on a couch, potato-like, wondering where your energy has gone, have I got a deal for you! No, I'm not promising you thin thighs in 3 minutes a day, nor am I guaranteeing you'll run a marathon by tomorrow. What I'm offering you is a simple way to boost your energy level. No pills, no gadgets, no gimmicks. You only have one task: Get up.

Energy 101

The only way to generate energy is to move your body.

The more you sit around, the more tired you feel. Your body generates energy from a variety of sources. When you do things like sprint to catch the bus, you're using your anaerobic energy system. The energy actually comes from ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which relies on glucose (i.e. carbohydrates) as its source of energy. ATP is to your body as gasoline is to a car and there is a limited supply. When you run out of ATP, your body shifts over to the aerobic system, which produces more ATP than the anaerobic system. The aerobic system relies on fatty acids, glucose and glycogen as its energy source. Fat produces 9 calories of energy per gram, while glucose only yields 4 calories per gram, so you can see why you'd get more energy and burn more fat with aerobic training.

The more you exercise, the better your body is at producing more ATP and, therefore, more energy. Being aerobically fit means your body stores more glycogen, which leads to improved endurance.

The American Council on Exercise says: "The greater the ability to make ATP aerobically at higher exercise intensities, the more "fit" a client becomes, and the greater the ability to burn fat." (Personal Trainer Manual, p 14). So, the more energy thing is good, right? But that's not all that happens when you're in good shape.

When you exercise consistently, your heart can pump more blood and it can also extract more oxygen from the blood pumping through your body.

Stop Wasting Energy

Making these small adjustments can really make a difference in your energy levels:

  1. Drink Up. Even a little dehydration can sap your energy, so keep a water bottle handy and sip it throughout the day, drinking more when you exercise.
  2. Eat Up. Isn't it nice to be told to eat? Your body needs fuel and fuel is food. Many people respond well to eating 5 or so small meals (around 200-400 calories, depending on your size) throughout the day to stimulate the metabolism. Skipping meals or not eating all day long can make you sleepy.
  1. Sleep Up. You need at least eight hours of sleep a night. Am I telling you anything you don't know? Hit the sack!
  2. Exercise. It's a dirty word, isn't it? But, working out doesn't have to be a miserable experience. Try to be more active every day; walk the dog, cut the grass, park far away and take the stairs. Or start an exercise program. You'll feel better and have much more energy.
  3. Have Some Fun. Whatever happened to fun? Fun is something you used to have back when you were a kid, remember? It's time to re-visit your childhood and spend some time doing something utterly pointless. Some ideas:
  • Call up a friend and talk about nothing for an hour.
  • Draw a picture of your cat.
  • Color in a coloring book.
  • Turn cartwheels.
  • Prank call your mom.
  • Race your spouse to the end of the street. Whoever wins buys dinner.

The point is that this activity should have no point. Get it?

Now that you know what's making you so tired, you're all over it aren't you?

Just making a few small changes every day can make you feel good. You can't change all your bad habits at once, so focus on one or two of the more heinous ones. Your first assignment: print out this article and slap it on the fridge. Then put on some shoes and go do something!