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FitSmart: January 2011

It’s hard to flip through a magazine or watch much TV without an energy booster ad or endorsement popping up. Our society is fast paced and it’s tough to keep up at the best of times. Now, companies have started to target those of us with occasional energy deficiencies and the market is huge.

January 5, 2011 
By Brad Lawrence

It’s hard to flip through a magazine or watch much TV without an energy booster ad or endorsement popping up. Our society is fast paced and it’s tough to keep up at the best of times. Now, companies have started to target those of us with occasional energy deficiencies and the market is huge. Energy supplements have become a billion-dollar industry, and you can get your energy any way you choose – through drinks, pills, patches and almost any other way you’d like it. The problem with this is that we’ve forgotten where energy is supposed to come from – a healthy and efficient lifestyle through proper diet, exercise and natural supplementation. Before diving into the energy boosting bottles, try controlling your energy the natural way.


Sound too obvious? It is. Your food is your fuel – simple as that. Try pouring terrible, low-grade fuel into your vehicle for a while and see how it runs. Your body works on the same concept; the better the foods you eat, the better you will feel. Give your body a chance. Try eating as well as you can for two weeks and see how you feel. Here are some key points:

  • Breakfast: Do not skip breakfast; it really is the most important meal of the day. Your metabolism needs breakfast as a kick start in the morning. Also, the longer you are awake and active without fuel, the more sensitive your insulin receptors become and this leads to a massive sugar spike when you do finally introduce food into your system. That sugar spike causes an energy crash later in the day and leads to fat storage within the body.

  • Hydration: Try to carry a water bottle whenever possible. Your body needs at least three litres of water a day; fatigue can set in without enough water.

  • Eat regular meals: Rather than eating three massive meals, eat small, balanced meals every two hours or so. Large meals and sugar intake cause big spikes in your blood sugar. Eating large meals can have a crash effect on your energy levels and this kind of routine stores fat in your body.

  • Protein: Make sure you include protein with all meals. Protein, among other things, promotes stability in your blood glucose levels. Choose more protein and fewer carbohydrates. Chances are, if you’re completely exhausted after lunch, you did the opposite.

It seems pretty basic, but sleep is even more important than we’ve been told in the past. Sleep recommendations are still seven or eight hours a night, but some people need as few as five hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep a night to function adequately. Find out what your body requires and try to achieve that. Shift work is hard on our bodies and it doesn’t make sense to shortchange yourself without a firehall tone bringing you out of bed.


Several vitamins play crucial roles in your sustained energy levels. Your diet is aimed at covering most of these; however, you won’t get everything you need, even with a perfect diet. The vitamin B group has been heralded as the energy group. Everyone should take a multivitamin and, ideally, a B-complex vitamin. Your body should be able to easily and safely absorb the extra B complex but be sure to consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking vitamins or natural supplements, as there may be risk of interaction with other medications you are taking.


Your energy level is the direct result of the energy you create. How many times have you dragged yourself into a gym against your will but left feeling great after your workout? Start strong with a good warmup and promise yourself a few great sets at the beginning of your training program. Once you get moving you’ll get motivated. Try to stay active and do something to better yourself every day.

Energy drinks

Energy drinks are relatively new compared to vitamins and research about eating and sleep. Basically, these drinks are built as a can of cola on steroids. Energy drinks and cola both contain sugar and caffeine but energy drinks contain quite a bit more of each. The caffeine in energy drinks is often bundled with other stimulants, commonly guarana or taurine, in order to have a synergistic effect in the body. In case you’ve lived under a rock for your entire life, cola and other forms of carbonated beverages aren’t all that great for you, and energy drinks are worse. A few European countries have banned the sale and consumption of energy drinks and others have issued cautions advising against their use.

On a positive note, these drinks do exactly what they claim: they create a feeling of alertness and awareness almost instantly. A few studies have noted that consuming an energy drink prior to working out can drastically increase muscle endurance in athletes, and can have a positive effect on mental function and mood. Energy drink companies typically point to these types of studies when people question the health risks of these products. The choice is yours; be sure to research and understand the risks involved with energy drinks and don’t become dependent on them.

Adequate energy levels are important and contribute to your health and well-being. We all need a jolt from time to time but try to sustain your body through a healthy lifestyle before turning to artificial energy supplements. Make sure your diet, sleep, training and natural supplementation are adequate. Your energy level is a direct result of the way you manage your body, and your body is worth managing well. Happy training.

Brad Lawrence is a firefighter with the Calgary Fire Department and a certified personal trainer who specializes in training and nutrition for emergency responders. E-mail Brad at

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