Monday, May 24, 2010
  1. Drink a glass of warm water upon waking. Squeeze half of a lemon in it. This begins hydration after not drinking all night. It may also cause a mild laxative effect. The pH of the lemon juice will help maintain the stomach’s natural acidity so you will be ready to properly digest breakfast. Cold water first thing in the morning can be a bit harsh, and warmer temperature causes more G.I. track stimulation.
  1. Stay hydrated. Since you’re off to a good start, be sure to keep the water flowing all day. Sodas don’t cut it. They are loaded with sugar and chemicals. Diet soda is better than regular, but some artificial sweeteners are somewhat controversial. Stick with water and your body will thank you in so many ways. After all, we are composed of 70% water.

  1. Eat breakfast! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially after fasting all night. A balanced breakfast will provide you with sustained energy and blood-sugar levels through out the morning. This also kick-starts your metabolism. Breakfast means actual food, not just coffee and/or a ciggy.

  1. Take a good multi-vitamin daily. This is a very easy and inexpensive way to make sure you’re getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need to function at your optimum. Supplements have come a long way in quality and absorption. When you’re on the go, it is almost impossible to get all the recommended vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat. Worst case, you’ll pee out the extra vitamins you don’t require. Take your multi in the morning with breakfast. Taken on an empty stomach can cause upset or nausea.

  1. Don’t overdo your morning cup of coffee. Some of us are so addicted to caffeine that we can’t even feel normal until after that first cup. A warm cup of freshly ground brew certainly does hit the spot in the morning and is a ritual we all grew up with. The irony of coffee for breakfast is that in the morning our energy levels are highest, (assuming we had a good night’s sleep), and don’t require any boosting. In fact, the brain-inhibitory neurotransmitter known as Adenosine, which induces mental fatigue and grogginess, is at it the lowest levels when we first wake up, (Not to be confused with melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone). Adenosine then accumulates throughout the day, just as the buzz of your morning coffee is fading. Caffeine blocks our adenosine receptors and literally staves off mental fatigue. A cup of coffee in the morning is certainly okay, but if your cup is ‘bottomless’ and next thing you know you’ve consumed half a pot, then you are setting yourself up for dehydration and an afternoon energy ‘crash’, and you're stressing your adrenal glands by over-stimulating them.

  1. Consume caffeinated beverages strategically. A post-lunch or afternoon cup of coffee would serve us better than a cup at breakfast, if we follow our normal energy patterns more closely. So why not have two cups of coffee then? One with breakfast and then another cup post-lunch? Sure, but if you drink much more than 2 to 3 servings a day of coffee you will build up a tolerance to it and it will lose its efficacy. Instead, the only mental effect you’ll notice is when you don’t have any coffee and headache sets in. Too much caffeine in one serving can cause us to feel jittery, irritable, nervous, and even panic attacks in some. Caffeine is also a diuretic and too much contributes to dehydration, and chronic over-consumption can contribute to adrenal fatigue. Everyone has their own tolerance, but a normal cup of coffee, as in a Starbuck’s Regular, or standard mug at home, contains about 100 to 150 mg. One espresso shot contains about 80 mg. One dose of ‘No-Doz’ pills contains about 200 mg. A cup of black tea has about 75 to 100 mg. Green tea has less caffeine. Tea is healthier than coffee because all types are full of antioxidants and Polyphenols, that fight cancer. Tea also fights halitosis, as it kills bacteria in the mouth. Diet Coke has only about 40 mg of caffeine. And don’t forget to consider all of the caffeine you may be consuming in other areas of your diet, unknowingly. Chocolate/cocoa, energy-drinks and bars, diet pills and supplements, and most non-herbal teas, may contain caffeine.

  1. Eat well-balanced, smaller meals, frequently throughout the day. If you’ve read any of my postings up to this point, you’re probably sick of hearing this line. But it is so valuable and so helpful in many ways. The bottom line here is sustained and consistent blood-sugar levels and therefore consistent mental energy levels. Sustained energy comes from meals combining complex carbs, protein and some fat, resulting in a slow and steady insulin secretion during digestion. High-carb meals promote serotonin increase in the brain, causing us to feel pleasant, but somewhat sleepy. This is because carbs allow the amino acid tryptophan to pass through the blood/brain barrier, where it is a precursor to serotonin. At the other extreme end of the spectrum is that a no-carb diet leaves you in a constant state of low blood-sugar, and mental focus is almost impossible in this state. BALANCED EATING is the key. Small, frequent meals won’t inundate your digestive system. Digesting a large meal requires a great deal of effort from your body. Granted there are times when we feel a blood-sugar crash, (‘bonking’), and need a quick sugar snack. For times like these reach for whole fruit first. The fructose-sugar in fruit is sweeter than cane sugar, and fruit is packed with nutrients and fiber. And surprisingly, semi or bitter-sweet dark chocolate is very mentally energizing providing sugar, caffeine, dopamine increase, and even anti-oxidants. Be forewarned however, that these fun sugar buzzes are usually followed by a low.

  1. Take a post-lunch power nap, or meditation. Not all of us are nappers, or are in a work-environment that permits napping, but a power nap can work wonders in restoring your mental energy. A power nap, by definition means 25 minutes or less so that you do not enter into a deep stage of sleep. Ideally, you drift off into a light REM stage of sleep within 5 minutes of closing your eyes, and should wake before deep sleep. If you enter deep sleep, then it is better to nap for a full sleep cycle lasting up to 1.5 hours, otherwise you will wake up groggier than when you started. Meditation and relaxation-breathing can be substituted in place of a nap, and for those experienced in this sort of technique, it can be just as restorative if not more. The latter is also an excellent de-stressing method. During meditation you can recite a positive mantra to empower your subconscious. (Stop laughing…it works if you believe!)

  1. Exercise for at least 30 minutes per day. As you have already heard from me so many times before, exercise boosts your metabolism, allows you to vent negative emotions, is an outlet for stress-relief, and when not overdone, resets your mental energy. You will also feel good about yourself for the rest of the day. It is preferable to exercise in the morning when your energy and hormone levels are highest, but can be a great way to de-stress after work. Try to avoid exercising 4 hours before bed-time, because this can make it hard to fall asleep. If you absolutely do not have time to exercise, a brisk 10 minute walk can wake up your mind and stimulate circulation. Especially if you can walk outside in the sun and fresh air. If you don’t even have time for that, get up out of your chair and stretch for 5 minutes….you slacker!

  1. Get a 5 minute head, neck and shoulder massage. Okay, I realize this is wishful thinking, but perhaps you happen to be in the crew lounge on one of those lucky days when the free chair-massages are offered. Or, maybe a fellow crew member can give you a quick rub-down…just be tactful and politically correct when asking. A massage will re-store you in so many ways but primarily by stimulating circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid, and easing muscle tension at trigger points.

  1. Get a good night of sleep. The busier we get it seems the first thing to be compromised is sleep. However, nothing is more critical to restoring your mind and body than a good night of sleep. In fact, continued sleep deprivation leads to a compromised immune system and in the long term can worsen into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, CFIDS, and/or Fibromyalgia, FMS. A good night of sleep is literally the equivalent of drinking from the Fountain-of-Youth. This is because many restoration hormones are primarily secreted during the deepest phase of the sleep cycle, including Growth Hormone. Sleep requirements vary but 7 to 9 hours is recommended...an impossible goal for most of us I know. The irony of sleep is, sometimes when we are the most tired and badly in need of sleep we don’t sleep well or experience insomnia. You can combat this with proper sleep hygiene. You heard me correctly. You can’t just blow off sleep and take it for granted by staying up all night and trying to sleep during the day, or by consuming too much caffeine or alcohol, etc. If you experience insomnia, stay tuned for future health postings because I will present you with a sleep-hygiene checklist that you can use to fall asleep and sleep well. For now, just try to stick with consistent bed-times and wake-times that match the natural circadian rhythm for your time zone. I realize many of us deal with a redeye once or twice a week, but this can be dealt with too. Avoid caffeine, excessive alcohol, and intense exercise, 5 hours prior to your bed-time. Avoid mentally stimulating activities while in bed, (get your mind out of the gutter!). In other words, don’t do work in bed.

  1. Proactively cope with stress. Carrying stress around uses up valuable mental energy that you could be able to channel more productively. Mental/emotional stress can manifest itself physically in muscle-trigger points, hypertension and even disease in extreme situations. We can’t always control the challenges that come our way in life, but you do have the power to choose how you deal with them and the associated stress. I’m not trying to sound like Tony Robbins or some other ‘self-help’ chuckle-head, but take charge of your life and life’s stressors and come up with a plan of action to deal with them. Easier said than done, because some of us have some heavy burdens to carry. On a daily basis though, try some of the preceding suggestions, such as exercise, massage, or meditation, to ease your anxiety and stress. Stress and anxiety can be the biggest energy consumers of all.

Safe, (Not banned by the FDA), Mental Energy Enhancing Supplements:

  1. Caffeine. Stimulates central nervous system, causes secretion of gastric acid, releases free-fatty acids, increases basal metabolic rate, enhances endurance and improves reaction time, increases Dopamine levels and blocks Adenosine levels. Clearly when used strategically and not abused, caffeine is beneficial.
  2. Tyrosine. An amino acid that is a precursor to norepinephrine and enhances mental function and clarity.
  3. Ginseng. Look for the Chinese herbal form. All-around increase in energy and improved adrenal function.
  4. Gingko Biloba. Thought to help oxygenate the brain and improve memory.
  5. All B vitamins. Especially B6, B12, Pantothenic Acid, and Niacin. B vitamins are for adrenal support.

Be sure to take these in the appropriate doses. More is not better. Consider that a nap works better than all these put together, and is free.

Substances That May Reduce Mental Clarity or Cause Drowsiness:

  1. Melatonin. Sleep inducing hormone that is secreted based on natural circadian rhythm, and can be bought in supplement form. Take too much and you’ll feel groggy all night and all the next day, and experience vivid dreams.
  2. Tryptophan. This amino acid is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel pleasant and happy, but sometimes drowsy. Can be bought in supplement form as ‘5-HTP’.
  3. Valerian Root. A soothing and calming herb.
  4. Alcohol.
  5. Many types of anti-histamine, such as Benedryll.

This list is by no means all inclusive. Do not take any medication or herbal supplement without knowing what to expect or consult a medical professional if in doubt. Consider that vitamin and herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA.

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Katie
Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand
Hi.. Im Katie. I am 20 years old. I am a student nurse. I love learning about healthy eating and living healthy lifestyles. There are so many lies and myths about the food we eat today and I am determined to spread the word. If you have any questions don't be shy to ask. Email me at k_rotgans@hotmail.com P.S I am not a doctor, I do not diagnose conditions. I am just hear to educate myself and others. Any symptoms I address please see your doctor.
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