How to get the energy for a workout
Want to increase your energy levels and work out harder? Try these expert suggestions from performance nutritionist, James Collins - from tailoring your meals to strategic caffeine intake
James Collins, author of The Energy Plan, shares his top five tips to help boost energy levels throughout the day.
Read on to discover:
• When and how often to exercise
• How to fuel your energy demands
• How to use caffeine strategically
• How to recharge effectively
• The importance of a regular check-in
1. Get your daily dose of exercise
Aim to exercise once a day. This may mean hitting the gym or even just getting outside and increasing your step count – whatever works for you. This doesn't need take up lots of time – the latest research has shown you can get an effective workout done in just 13 minutes! Keeping active is important because studies demonstrate that when we meet physical activity recommendations, we feel more energised and less fatigued.
2. Fuel to your daily demands
It makes sense to tailor your food intake on different days to suit your body's needs. Very active days, either at work or exercising, increase your body’s fuel requirements. On these days increase the amount of low-GI carbohydrates with meals and snacks. Alternatively, not-so-active days will require less fuel.
Try our low GI recipes.
If you exercise at different times of the day, you may also need to consider how you fuel yourself. Check out what to eat if you exercise in the morning or in the evening.
3. Use caffeine strategically
Caffeine can improve alertness and physical performance. Having a coffee 45 to 60 mins before your workout allow levels to peak in the blood for training. Effects can be long-lasting (up to five hours or more), but can also disrupt sleep, so intake should be reduced later in the day. A flat-white containing two shots of coffee contains around 150 mg caffeine, but be warned, the amount of caffeine in different high street coffees and in energy drinks varies dramatically.
Read more about caffeine.
4. Recharge effectively
A good night’s sleep is crucial for memory consolidation and learning, weight management and for muscle regeneration, all helping to your body and mind to feel re-energised. Foods containing protein (particularly an amino acid called tryptophan) may enhance sleep, whereas as an energy deficit (e.g. following a weight loss diet) can reduce sleep quality.
Check out how to optimise your sleep.
5. Check-in weekly
Take 15 minutes each week to take time out and reflect on your past week's nutrition (how you feel, your energy levels) and then look forward to the week ahead – what you will eat, when you will exercise and how can you improve on this week's performance? This type of ‘check-in’ is the glue that allows you to keep refining your energy plan and see ongoing progress in how you feel and perform.
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This article was last reviewed on 13 September 2023 by registered nutritionist, Kerry Torrens.
James Collins is the author of The Energy Plan, published by Penguin.
James Collins is recognised as a leading performance nutritionist through his work with Olympic and professional sport. Over the last decade he has worked with Arsenal FC, England and France national football teams and Team GB. Previously elected president of the Royal Society of Medicine’s Food and Health Forum, he has a private practice in Harley Street where he sees business executives, performing artists and clients from all walks of life: jamescollinsnutrition.com.
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