There are countless factors that can contribute to people feeling drained, but lifestyle choices play a big role. In fact, plenty of seemingly harmless habits and everyday activities could be zapping your energy. The good news: With a few simple tweaks, you can recharge your battery.
If you’re feeling super-duper tired lately (like, “no amount of coffee can save you” tired), look out for these ways you might be unknowingly draining your energy.
1. You’re Going Overboard on caffeine
So, about that coffee. 62 percent of Americans drink coffee every day, with the average American downing more than three cups.
In moderation, coffee offers a slew of potential health benefits, including extending your lifespan. However, in excess, it can bring about less desirable side effects, including jitters, increased heart rate and blood pressure, anxiety, and insomnia, notes naturopathic doctor and clinical nutritionist David Friedman, N.D., D.C.
Read More: 5 Signs You Need A Break From Caffeine
You see, excessive caffeine ramps up your production of adrenaline, and after the caffeine wears off, it often creates a crash that leaves you feeling even more fatigued.
If you experience any of the aforementioned side effects as a result of your caffeination routine, you might be going overboard. Friedman recommends relying on less stimulating options, such as mushroom-infused coffee alternatives, matcha, or chai tea, which can give you a subtle lift without zapping your energy later on.
2. You’re Reaching for the Wrong Snacks
When that mid-afternoon slump hits, it’s natural to crave snacks that can give you a little boost. And while it often feels like the perfect time to reach for something that offers sugar, doing so ultimately leaves you right back where you started.
Processed, refined foods that contain sugar, flour, salt, or corn—even the ones that parade as healthy snacks—often fall short on the fiber needed to slow down their digestion, explains functional nutritional therapy practitioner Tansy Rodgers, F.N.T.P. As a result, you get a quick boost of energy thanks to a blood sugar spike but crash just as quickly as your blood sugar drops.
What to do instead? When you need that energy boost, Rodgers recommends grabbing a combo of complex carbohydrates (think whole-wheat bread, beans, sweet potato, oats) and a bit of protein and/or healthy fats. The fiber and protein or fats slow down digestion to keep your blood sugar—and energy—balanced. (These nutritionist-approved snack ideas all fit the bill!)
3. You say “yes” too often
No one wants to disappoint important people in their lives, whether it’s family, friends, or co-workers. However, committing to too much—even fun gatherings and activities—is guaranteed to drain your cup.
According to Friedman, the impact is two-fold. Not only do you leave yourself with too little time for yourself, but over-production of the stress hormone cortisol ultimately zaps your energy.
Whether it’s setting a rule about how many obligations you can commit to in a weekend or scheduling nonnegotiable downtime, give yourself an opportunity to reflect on how your busy calendar makes you feel and commit to taking action to bring it into balance. This way, you can look forward to events that should energize you, like gatherings with friends, instead of dread them because you’re over-scheduled.
4. You Never Take a Rest Day
It’s true: Working out consistently is excellent for your health—it can boost your energy levels, improve your blood pressure, help you sleep better, and even lower your risk of chronic disease. However, as important as it is to exercise regularly, it’s also important to give your body the rest it needs.
“When you exercise too much, too often, you can actually drain your energy because you put excess stress on your body and adrenal glands, secrete stress hormones that directly impact your hormone balance, and send your blood sugar on a rollercoaster ride,” explains Rodgers. Talk about too much of a good thing.
As a general rule of thumb, she recommends taking a rest day every three to five days, depending on how experienced of an exerciser you are. Just note that by ‘rest day’ she doesn’t mean ‘couch potato day’. Lighter exercise like taking walks, doing yoga, or stretching are great ways to keep moving without overtaxing your system, Rodgers says.
5. You’re on a strict diet
While achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can help you feel energized throughout the day, being in an extreme calorie deficit does not. Research, including a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, has linked falling short on the recommended daily calories for your BMI with lower than normal energy levels. (Makes sense considering that food is quite literally energy!)
If you’re trying to lose weight, The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Rebekah Blakely, R.D.N., recommends aiming for no more than one to two pounds of weight loss per week, unless otherwise recommended by your healthcare professional. “This allows you to eat well enough to get the nutrients you need for energy production,” she says. Since any caloric deficit (a.k.a. cutting of calories) can increase your risk of falling short on key nutrients, take a multivitamin to help fill any nutritional gaps when you’re trying to lose weight.
6. You don’t Practice a morning ritual
Many people wake up in the morning and jump right into whatever they have to do, be it commuting to work, taking the kids to school, or hopping right onto Zoom calls. While you might feel amped-up when you go from zero to 100 at the start of the day, doing so may actually be zapping your energy in the long run, leaving you exhausted later in the day, warns Dr. Josh Axe, D.C., D.N.M., C.N.S., member of The Vitamin Shoppe Wellness Council.
To remedy this, he suggests making time to start your day with a morning ritual that supports all-day energy instead of setting a frantic tone. “Drink a glass of water and practice a moment of mindfulness or meditation that will get you in the right headspace,” he suggests. Even if you only have five minutes to take a few deep breaths before jumping in, it’s a worthwhile effort.