Natural Ways to Increase Energy During Weight Loss

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If you've just started a diet and your energy levels have dropped, you're not alone. Fatigue is a common complaint among new dieters. That's why supplement manufacturers and diet pill makers advertise energy boosting pills that grab your attention at the vitamin store. But there are natural ways to get more energy that is safer and more effective.

Easy Ways to Boost Your Energy

To learn more about the best methods to boost your energy levels, I talked to Dr. Holly Phillips, M.D.

You may have seen Dr. Phillips on the CBS news where she is a medical contributor. Dr. Phillips is also a Board Certified General Internist in private practice in New York and the author of The Exhaustion Breakthrough.  She gave me easy-to-follow tips to maintain your energy levels when you're trying to lose weight.

Malia Frey: Energy levels typically plummet at the beginning of a diet. What are the best ways to boost your energy when you are trying to lose weight?

Dr. Holly Phillips: There are a few easy things that can help.

  • Drink water all day long. Dehydration is one of the most common causes of fatigue, crankiness, and foggy thinking.  Even before your thirst mechanism kicks in (typically after the body’s hydration level has dropped by 2.6%), you’ll experience lethargy.  The Institute of Medicine suggests adequate fluid intake for women is 9 cups or 2.2L per day and for men 13 cups or 3L a day. One trick to make sure you’re getting enough is to buy 3 one-liter bottles and make sure you get close to finishing them by the end of the day.
  • Check your posture. Slouching doesn’t just make you look tired - it makes you feel tired too because it places excess strain on your back and hips. Plus, when your joints aren’t properly aligned, your whole body has to work harder than it should.  Additionally, standing or sitting tall will improve the flow of oxygen to your brain, which increases your alertness and attentiveness.
  • Expose yourself to light. Throw open the curtains and sit in a sunny window or stop outside periodically. Environmental cues play a huge role in the body’s energy cycles throughout the day. Regular exposure to light has been shown to maintain higher energy levels in people suffering from fatigue. Exposure to natural sunlight can also enhance your mood. If you work in a windowless environment, try to step outside for some light therapy for 5 minutes every hour if possible.

Malia Frey:  Are there any specific foods you can eat that might help boost your energy levels?

Dr. Holly Phillips:  Yes. In my book, The Exhaustion Breakthrough, I include a list of my top 10 energy boosting “superfoods.”  These are foods that not only pack more nutritional punch per bite than other foods do, they also have properties that directly support the immune system, boost energy stamina and longevity.  They should be incorporated into your daily diet.

Also, during my “7 Day Exhaustion Breakthrough Challenge,” I suggest focusing on foods high in magnesium (almonds, flaxseeds, fish) and iron (green leafy veggies, lean red meat) for an added boost.

  Magnesium helps the body convert sugar from food into fuel, and iron is involved in the production of red blood cells which circulate oxygen throughout the body.  Both are critical for good energy levels.

Malia Frey: When dieters get tired, they often turn to caffeine. Is that a good idea?

Dr. Holly Phillips: Yes and no. When you’re dead tired, caffeine can be an instant antidote, pepping you up and keeping you alert at crucial moments.  On the positive side, caffeine can increase levels of specific neurotransmitters in the brain that increase attention, concentration, and mood.  And moderate regular coffee intake, in particular, has been linked with decreased rates of diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and even certain cancers. But more is not better.

Caffeine is an energy sapping substance when it’s relied on too heavily. It may increase blood pressure and cortisol secretion, cause anxiety and contribute to insomnia.  And regular heavy drinkers can experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to cut down. The take-home message is that most people are fine enjoying a morning cup of Joe but then focus on other energy boosting solutions for the rest of the day.

Malia Frey: What about weight loss supplements that claim to boost your energy levels? Are they safe or effective?

Dr. Holly Phillips: No.Unlike the makers of prescription drugs, weight-loss drug manufacturers don’t have to prove their products are safe or effective before putting them on the market. And in recent years, several of these products have been shown to be unsafe and pulled from the market (including ephedra which was linked to heart attacks, strokes, and even several deaths).  While these products often contain large doses of caffeine which will give you an initial boost, the crash will leave you more wiped out than before, and the risks far outweigh the benefits.

Remember that it's normal to struggle with fatigue when you're trying to lose weight. Use Dr. Phillips' advice to boost your energy with natural methods rather than turning to pills or weight loss supplements. Her tips are easy to follow, safer and much more effective over the long run.

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