How to Exercise for Better Energy so That You Won’t Need That Extra Cup of Coffee
Hitting the gym before work usually makes me feel like the Energizer Bunny. By 9 a.m., I've had two cups of coffee, covered six miles of terrain, and feel ready to tackle my to-do list and clear my inbox. Every so often, though, my extracurricular sweat activities leave me more drained than invigorated. Jonathan Leary, DC, a chiropractor, expert in exercise science, and founder of Remedy Place, says there's a simple explanation. My energy-boosting fitness strategy could use a little fine tuning—and he told me exactly how to do it.
"When we talk about exercising for energy, we are focused on introducing strain to the body with muscle activation, which gives us an increased heart rate, and enables the body to release endorphins," says Dr. Leary. "Endorphins are those feel good hormones that are released as a result of exercise and important components for an energizing workout. They are responsible for keeping you awake and also contribute to positive changes in your mental health." His simple formula for channeling your inner-Tigger is simple: increased blood flow plus endorphin circulation equals energy.
Increased Blood Flow + Endorphin Circulation = Energy
Now that you know the basic principal of fitness that makes you want to go, go, go, here's what the formula looks like in practice. Dr. Leary says you want to look for workouts "that are going to keep your heart rate up for an extended period of time." This includes circuit training (with non-stop resistance), long runs, and cycling with little to no rest periods. "Essentially, any exercise or movement that requires constant strain on the body helps enhance your blood flow," he says.
Pick your favorite exercise modality, enjoy it for up to 60 minutes, and then—for the sake of your internal battery—stop. "After about an hour of working out, everything flip flops," Dr. Leary explains. "For instance, for the first hour or so (depending on your body) all hormones for muscle growth increase, then after about an hour your cortisol levels increase and start telling your body to break down muscle and store fat instead. So, really, there’s a scientific explanation for why you shouldn’t be straining your body too much."
Unless your body is accustomed to pushing it to the 60-minute mark with strenuous exercise, Dr. Leary says the undue stress will end up doing more harm than good (and making your more sleepy than stimulated). And here's the real kicker: if you're not setting aside time strictly for recovery (Icing! Foam-rolling! Theragun-ing!)—you'll never tap into the innermost energy reserves hiding within your bod. So take care of yourself—and reap all the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed benefits.
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