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Winter nicked your mojo? Then get your zing on with our fuss-free energy hacks
ow that winter’s nearly over, you might, like us, be struggling to shake off that sluggish ‘hibernation hangover’ from those long, cold months. So, we’ve collared top health experts and combed the latest research to find nuggets of wisdom that will help you feel as bouncy as a Jack Russell puppy…
007 is known to prefer a sub-zero shower, and personal trainer Lee Mullins, founder of London’s Workshop Gymnasium, also swears by a nippy wash to help get you going in the morning. ‘The sudden shock of the cold water will jolt you awake and help kick-start your day,’ he says. What’s more, research from the Czech Republic shows regular cold showers may even boost your immune system. Brrrrring it on!
‘Pep up oats with a sprinkle of seeds for an energy-packed start to your day,’ says Boots nutritionist Vicky Pennington. Try sprinkling your morning porridge with Natural Pumpkin Seeds £1.99/199 points (125g), which contain protein, healthy fats and fibre. ‘Combined with the wholegrain oats, this will give you a steady flow of energy until lunch.’
Slamming the snooze button on your alarm won’t give you more pep – you’ll only sleep lightly and feel groggier when you get up. The answer? ‘Set your alarm for the time you actually get out of bed,’ says Dr Guy Meadows, co-founder of the Sleep School. For a gentle wake up, try Lumie Bodyclock Starter 30 £56.99/5,699 points Boots.com only, which lights up gradually, to activate your get-up-and-go hormones.
People who listened to soft, slow, soothing music in the evening had better sleep quality
No, not champagne (sorry!). Consider Swisse Energy Ultivite Multivitamin £16.49/1,649 points (20 capsules), an effervescent tablet that contains magnesium, vitamin C and B-vitamins, all of which contribute to a reduction in tiredness and fatigue.
‘Sugary foods release their energy quickly but can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels, leaving you feeling low again,’ says Vicky. ‘Slow-release carbs keep us going for longer.’ Swap cookies for Nairn’s Gluten Free Oatcakes £2.15/215 points (160g), with cashew-nut butter, for a nourishing pick-me-up.
A study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that people who listened to soft, slow, soothing music in the evening experienced better sleep quality. So, we’re downloading Pure Shores by All Saints, pronto! This 90s fave was rated among the top 16 most relaxing tracks by music critic blogs and online polls.
If we can’t convince you to step away from the TV for too long, then the good news for all you sofa-dwellers is that just being a little more active can help you feel less tired. Yes, even tiny bursts of exercise – think dancing around to a favourite song in the ad breaks or doing star jumps – can help snap you out of snooze mode and put a spring in your step.
Sweating the small stuff (such as what someone might think about you) saps your energy, so NHS specialists advise setting aside 20 minutes to give any worries ‘air time’. Call a friend, type a list of pros and cons, or let your fears fall free-flow onto paper – a dedicated focus phase stops you fretting all day long.
Bingeing on box sets might be enjoyable, but being indoors so much is bad news for energy levels. According to the NHS, you need to get outside for ten minutes at least once a day, as exposure to natural light and fresh air makes you feel more alert. Time to press pause…
‘You can’t beat eggs for a quick, healthy meal after a long day,’ says Vicky. ‘Make a two-egg omelette, then top it with tomatoes and spinach leaves.’ Every ingredient contains a vital element that supports energy metabolism: ‘Eggs are rich in protein, tomatoes are packed with vitamin C and spinach is high in iron.’
No time to make a proper breakfast? No problem. Start your day with a tasty and nutritious spinach and berry smoothie (it’s easy to stock up on frozen fruit and veg). Just whizz in a NutriBullet Graphite £99.99/9,999 points Boots.com only (12-piece set), with a fresh apple for a hint of sweetness – and you’re done.
‘Get your bounce back after a big weekend with a sweaty workout, even if you feel very tired,’ advises Lee. ‘Running, Bikram yoga and strength circuits all raise your heart rate and help you sweat out toxins. If you’re so tired that it’s hard to get motivated to exercise, then tell yourself you can stop after five minutes – that’s just enough time to start feeling the benefits, and you’ll want to carry on.’
New research shows that walking fast for 30 minutes, five days a week, is the most effective exercise for keeping weight off (plus it’s free!). And trimming down is a win-win for energy, too – those extra pounds can put a strain on your heart, which makes you feel exhausted. Check out walkingbritain.co.uk for a range of picturesque walks near you.
Known as ‘ujjayi’ in yoga, ocean breathing (named after the wave-like hissing sound your breath makes) can help restore peace to a racing mind. Inhale through your nose, filling your lower tummy and lower rib cage, then your upper chest and throat. Exhale for a count of three. Keep a steady rhythm as you repeat – try and do it a minimum of 10 times. Sceptical? Don’t be. Research from Stanford University, in the US, proved this exercise can even help people with post-traumatic stress disorder get their energy back.
‘It’s actually a waste of energy,’ says Professor Paul Dolan, author of Happiness By Design (Penguin, £9.99). ‘Every time you switch tasks your brain has to work harder to refocus. Instead, try completing one task before doing the next – a Dutch study shows you’ll achieve more.’
According to the NHS, actively taking time out of your day to relax can help recharge your batteries. We like their thinking! Lighting a candle in the dark can also help – because in dim light, the pineal gland in your brain secretes the hormone melatonin, which signals to your body that it’s time to wind down. Try the Sanctuary Spa Classic Fragranced Candle £10/1,000 points* Boots Exclusive, lie back, and let the bliss wash over you…
*Never leave a burning candle unattended.
Words: Kate Faithfull-Williams
Photography: Alamy, Getty Images