Why do I not have any energy? I'm only 18 years old, about to be 19.

Your question is a good one and it is one that is asked by many of my clients. Low energy levels can be caused by a slew of things. A stressful school or work schedule, lack of sleep, nutritional deficiencies, various health conditions (cancer, heart disease, depression, anemia, etc.), medication, and a poor diet may all lead one to feel sluggish and lethargic. I would first speak with your doctor and get his input on whether your fatigue is related to something that he could assist in treating. If it is not, then now is the time to evaluate your diet and lifestyle to see if energy boosting improvements can be made.

The first thing I tell my clients to do is to be sure they are eating breakfast each and every day. And the breakfast should not contain a lot of processed ingredients or sugar, as these will surely make you want to nap mid-morning. Start your day off right with a combination of a carbohydrate, protein, and healthy fat. Have a slice of whole grain bread with nut butter, a bowl of high fiber cereal and milk (top it with fresh berries for extra vitamins), or make a fruit smoothie with yogurt, fruit, and low sugar juice (Healthy Balance).

Next, be sure you are consuming the right kinds of calories. Sometimes with busy school or work schedules we don’t always make the best choices at meal times. It is easy to swing into a fast food restaurant and choose a meal that is high in fat and sugar. This meal is sure to be an energy zapper. So, plan ahead! If you have a long day of classes make sure you pack healthy things to snack on. Throw a handful of almonds into a baggie and nibble on this between classes. Carry fresh and dried fruit, trail mix, air popped popcorn, and protein bars with you through the day. And be sure you are making water or low sugar juice your drink of choice. Soda and fruit punch will cause a spike in your blood sugar levels and then unfortunately, the levels will come crashing down and you will feel very tired and fatigued. Also, be wary of “quick fixes” to provide you energy. Registered dietitians Tammy Shames and Lyssie Lakato explain, “So many people grab coffee or diet soda for energy. Although this will provide a short-term boost, it backfires. The mind and body get tricked into thinking that fuel was provided. Then when the caffeine rush wears off, the body realizes that it has nothing to use for energy, and the result is exhaustion and hunger, followed by overeating.”

Exercise is a known mood lifter and natural energy booster. Be sure to make it a priority and set aside at least thirty minutes a day to do something active. Even those with a busy lifestyle can find time for activity. Take a brisk ten minute walk first thing in the morning and at lunch. Find ten more minutes in the evening to ride your bike or play with your kids outside. If you can, get to bed early so you can get up a little early and go for a nice jog in the morning! I have had some of my favorite runs during this quiet time.

Be sure you are getting enough sleep. I realize that there never seems to be enough hours in the day to get everything done that you would like AND find time for sleep, but adequate rest is a very important part of our metabolism. Continually skimping on sleep can affect your metabolism and hormone production. Several studies have found that adults that get less than 5-6 hours of sleep each night are at higher risk of being overweight and have more fatigue. So, as often as you can, try to wind down your evening early and focus on making sleep a high priority in your life.

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