As you may have read in my new book, Fast Track Triathlete, I believe the mission for a busy amateur should be to seek improvements in sport, while also aiming to thrive in health, work, and life. This starting mindset informs so much of the approach, as there becomes an equal tug between sports performance decisions and those decisions that assist in creating a platform of health and energy for both the rigors and joy of work, family, and friends.
We cannot break these two apart completely. Success is created through a sustainable and consistent training program that is specific enough to yield sporting improvements and is also supported by great daily habits. For the sake of the list below, I am going to make the bold assumption that the athlete has such a training program, consistently gets enough sleep, and retains a pragmatic and dynamic mindset in managing their training. With this in mind, treat the below as the 'add-ons'. The small, yet significant tips that can help improve daily energy, body composition improvements, and appropriate pick-me-ups when the energy does lag.
Top Five Tips for Better Energy Managment
Note: There are more to chose from but here are my top five sport, work, and life performance boosters in context of above:
- Post Workout Fueling: When training or exercising, especially in the morning, post workout caloric intake is critically important to your performance in the rest of the day. Not only will consuming calories shortly after your workout boost recovery, it will also reduce the associated stress hormones that rise with exercise (cortisol). Who needs to walk around following the workout with raised cortisol? Another key factor in your post-training fueling is an avoidance of what I call athletic starvation. Portion control and food choice are incredibly difficult if you fail to fuel following a workout, not only do you get very hungry, but the body will cry out for calories that have been depleted. That is why it is especially hard to resist the urge when your body screams for that lethargy-creating pizza or pasta or quick energy spike-then-crash cookie. Avoid this and set yourself up for success by consuming some protein and a carbohydrate following every workout.
- Skip the Sugars and Starchy Carbs: If you succeed in post-workout fueling, then the rest of your daily eating habits can be focused on nutrient-rich foods. Incorporate plenty of protein, vegetables and fat, with a minimal consumption of sugars and starchy carbohydrates. If you are seeking body composition improvements, then reducing evening carbohydrates outside of vegetables is a great approach. Further, breakfast should become your most important and unmissable meal of the day, even if it is consumed post-AM workout. Set yourself up for success with a robust breakfast, then manage your meals and carbs (I didn't say eliminate) for the rest of the day.
- Integrate Recovery: Your nighttime sleep is your most powerful recovery tool. You should ensure you schedule and commit to a consistent rhythm of positive sleep habits in a good environment (cool and dark). With this said, if the opportunity allows, aim to sneak performance and energy enhancing recovery into the day. Even a few minutes of quiet time, without electronics, and clearing the mind has been shown to be beneficial. If you get the chance for a 10-15 minute time to rest or be calm, your productivity will improve for several hours following. If not, get moving. Go for a walk, take a break, or even hop onto 10-15 min of a meditation app!
- Manage your Core Temp: Those afternoon energy dips are not just because you are overworked and underslept, it may well be a natural dip in your core temperature. As a part of your circadian rhythm, the body cools in the middle of the afternoon. You don't need a coffee, you don't need a Red Bull energy drink. Simply grab some caffeine free hot tea or hot water with lemon. It will perk you up for hours and will not disrupt your nighttime sleep.
- Stay Thirsty: With so much focus on hydration in training, the best place to retain hydration status is throughout the day. Think of it as energy water. People often feel sleepy and lethargic, as well as hungry, but don't realize those symptoms are because of dehydration. Sip water throughout the day, embracing the frequent pee-breaks to re-energize and move the body, which is what we are made to do. Not only will you begin your next training session at full hydration status, but you will succeed in managing energy throughout the day.
Enjoy and I hope this helps. Now get back to work!