How to Optimize Your 'Energy Trifecta' to Beat Burnout

Making these few tweaks to your lifestyle can help boost energy levels over the long run — no caffeine required.

More and more women are facing an energy crisis, especially after this overwhelming year, says Amy Shah, M.D., a wellness and nutrition expert who specializes in internal medicine and allergy and immunology and the author of I'm So Effing Tired (Buy It, $17, Read on for her proven formula on how to boost energy, beat burnout, and feel recharged and rejuvenated. (Then try these tips to increase your mental energy instantly.)

How to Optimize Your “Energy Trifecta” to Beat Burnout
Alex Sandoval

You say our bodies are ruled by an "energy trifecta." What's that?

"Our gut, our hormones, and our immune system, which are all linked. Essentially, your brain is in the middle of this triangle, and these systems are communicating. What we have discovered is that our gut bacteria run the show. They are constantly talking with our immune system and our hormones and making decisions about our health.

For example, if we eat something that disagrees with us, our gut bacteria will say to our immune system, 'Hey, I think there's a foreign invader. Bring in the troops and check it out.' They also talk to our hormones and increase or decrease levels of things like cortisol or estrogen. How much energy you have is a reflection of how healthy your trifecta is."

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I'm So Effing Tired: A Proven Plan to Beat Burnout, Boost Your Energy, and Reclaim Your Life

I'm So Effing Tired: A Proven Plan to Beat Burnout, Boost Your Energy, and Reclaim Your Lif

How do we boost the trifecta and feel reinvigorated?

"Diet is the biggest needle mover. One study shows a rapid improvement in gut bacteria within three days of changing your diet. This is the easiest, fastest, most effective way to improve the energy trifecta.

We tend to reach for sugar and caffeine when we're tired, but those actually rob us of energy. What you need to eat is vegetables — six to eight servings a day, especially of prebiotic vegetables like asparagus, leeks, greens, and bananas. The type of fiber they contain feeds your gut bacteria and is instrumental in boosting your energy."

You've seen great success with a method called circadian fasting. What does that involve?

"Stop eating two to three hours before bed — it's that simple — and you'll be healthier and more energized. This is the way humans used to eat before electricity was invented, and numerous studies show it works. To do it, go 12 hours without food — say, from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. This gives your body time to rest and repair itself, a process that happens while you're sleeping. Melatonin, the hormone released before bed, tells the brain that it's time to get sleepy. It also speaks to the pancreas, signaling it to turn down the digestive enzymes and insulin.

But if you eat later at night, the body doesn't get the chance to do its repair work because the pancreas has to try to digest food when it should be resting. Also, you're more likely to have GI issues and even gain weight. Research shows that disrupting your circadian rhythms is terrible for your energy and your long-term health. I've found that after two weeks of circadian fasting, patients feel better, have more energy and focus, and sleep better. By three months, we see that digestion is improved and hormones are more balanced."

What are some other naturally effective ways we can gain energy and stop stress?

"Expose yourself to natural light shortly after waking in the morning. There are receptors in our retinas that are directly connected to the area of the brain that manages circadian rhythms. When you look at natural light, your brain sends your body signals that it's time to get going, focus, and be productive. It also tells your metabolism to start working.

As you're getting that morning daylight, do some deep breathing. Taking slow, deep breaths in, and exhaling even slower and longer than you inhaled, stimulates the vagus nerve that runs from your brain to your abdomen. That in turn counteracts adrenaline and helps you feel calm. Do this twice a day for 10 minutes at a time to get the benefits. Besides deep breathing, you can do yoga or meditation or take a walk outside. Anything that induces mindfulness and lets you check in with your body will have this effect.

The bottom line is that it's not hard to make little tweaks in your life that can give you much more energy. Get a little sunlight in the morning, do some deep breathing twice a day, and stop eating at 8 p.m. Just one of these changes can change everything."

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