Raise your hand if your energy levels are a bit lacking right now. If you are, we’ll go ahead and assume you could use some extra help perking up. While it’s common to hit a 3 p.m. slump during a busy workday, that doesn’t mean you must succumb to an extra cup (or three …) of coffee to feel awake and energised all day long. In fact, that extra hit of caffeine might not be so good for your blood sugar.
Rather, energy specialist Ari Whitten, author of Eat for Energy, suggests some proactive (and unexpected) measures. Check out his tips below to increase your vitality long term:
“The research on sauna use is just mind-blowing,” says Whitten. For example, one study shows that participants who stayed in a 140-degree Fahrenheit sauna for 15 minutes, five times a week, reported significantly increased energy levels, as well as a calmer, more positive mood. And on a broader scale, research has shown that sauna bathing four to seven times per week enhanced longevity by 40%. “It’s very powerful stuff,” Whitten declares. “I’m a huge fan of sauna use.”
Of course, you only spend as much time in the sauna as you can tolerate, whether that’s 15 minutes or 40 minutes. Know your limits.
When it comes to energy levels, mitochondrial health is paramount. Your mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cells, which means they supply energy to every single cell. If your mitochondria are weak and struggling, you won’t feel your best – its as simple as that.
So what strengthens your mitochondria? According to Whitten, you’ll want to treat your mitochondria just like your muscles. “Mitochondria are stimulated and challenged by exposure to hormetic stress,” he explains, or short, intermittent bursts of certain stressors (like exercise).
“Just like lifting weights is a challenge to your muscles, [exercise] challenges your mitochondria and stimulates them to grow,” Whitten notes. In terms of the best exercise for your mitochondrial health, many experts are quick to praise high-intensity interval training (HIIT), as your muscles are briefly starved for oxygen (hypoxia), which stimulates the production of mitochondria. However any exercise that challenges you is a good place to start, says Whitten.
3. Breath Holds
If you’re feeling pretty beat, jumping into a quick 15-minute HIIT workout likely doesn’t sound too appealing. Great news: You can experience hormetic stress in a variety of ways, including breathwork practices. “[Breathwork] practices are the single fastest and most powerful way to improve energy levels,” Whitten explains.
Again, intermittent hypoxia (or brief moments of oxygen hunger) can strategically stress your mitochondria and stimulate their growth. Whitten suggests some simple breath holds: “You start with something very gentle, maybe a couple of breath holds where you’re holding an inhale for 15 or 20 seconds, and then you can work your way up,” he explains. Or you can try your hand at fire-breathing, where you breathe in and out through the nose, quickly pumping the belly, for about 30 to 50 breaths.
There’s no shortage of breathwork exercises for you to try if you’re curious. “There’s a lot you can work toward, and if you do it even for a month, I’ve seen really dramatic transformations in people’s energy levels just from this one practice,” Whitten adds.
To feel more vibrant and energetic long term, prioritise mitochondrial health in your daily life. There are plenty of simple methods that can help increase energy at the cellular level, which can help you feel more vibrant over the long term.