Energy impacts your focus, communication and movement, thus quality energy can help produce valuable work, optimal performance, and quality home/ social life. We notice days where it is on point, while other days we might feel just plain off. Although it’s natural to look into why we might feel a certain way, it can feel overwhelming. There are so many habit-based, environmental and metabolic factors that can affect energy. A great place to start is to look into your body’s natural rhythms and cycles including your circadian rhythm, cortisol curve, and menstrual cycle for women. Your body is smart, and these rhythms and cycles work for bigger goals, such as alertness/ performance, recovery, and reproduction. However, if they are out of balance, energy is usually lacking. First, check to see if your rhythms and cycles are in tune. If they aren’t, look into the nutrition and habits that support these systems. The key here is to work as much of this into your daily life as possible.
This is probably the most commonly known of your body’s rhythms. Sleep is the ultimate reset button! Most people know that it is associated with sleep, but it’s important to note that circadian rhythm deals with ALL 24 hours and how your wake hours affect your sleep. What we do when we are awake is in our control, so wake hours can provide helpful hints into adjustments we can make. Signs of a healthy circadian rhythm include feeling rested and energized throughout the day, you can fall and stay asleep with ease, and consistency with timing of your sleep/ wake cycle. Feel like your circadian rhythm needs some adjustments? Let’s take a look at what can influence it. Light exposure throughout the day has a huge impact on circadian rhythm. Pay attention to light exposure in the morning (morning walks are great for this), working environments throughout the day, and screen time. Hormones (especially melatonin) can also really make or break sleep. Light shuts off melatonin production, which is why it is important to get sunlight first thing in the morning, but light exposure in the evening (usally in the form of screens or artificial light) isn’t the best for us and our sleep. Other factors including excessive caffeine intake, improper cortisol levels, isolation, and lack of movement can negatively impact circadian rhythm.
Diurnal Cortisol Curve
Diurnal means “throughout the day”, and looking into your stress response throughout the day is a subset of your circadian rhythm. Cortisol, your stress hormone, is supposed to rise in the morning and decrease throughout the day. It has an inverse relationship to melatonin, so high cortisol means sleep and rest are probably suboptimal. It might be off if you are dragging throughout the day, feeling “tired and wired”, have sugar or salt cravings, difficulty getting up in the morning or falling/ staying asleep. Blood sugar balance throughout the day is key for cortisol to be in tune. Focus on all macronutrients and adequate fiber at meals and not going long periods of time without eating. Look into ways to consistently incorporate recovery, or activities that make you lose track of time. Vitamin C and magnesium are also crucial nutrients in the stress response.
This honestly (and intriguingly) is talked about the least in depth when it comes to your body’s cycles and rhythms. Truth is, it does affect our energy and mood differently at different times of the month. It’s important to realize this, educate ourselves on what to expect, and know that our health habits can give us some control over negative symptoms. How do we know when it’s off? Menstrual irregularity, mood swings, lack of energy, and pain that is debilitating and out of your control are telltale signs that our hormones need some nutritional support. However, it is normal and natural to have more energy during early on in your cycle up into ovulation, and less energy during the luteal phase up into your period. Some major nutrition pillars to support hormone health include eating enough, quality fats (help with hormone production), and B vitamin intake.
More in depth insight into each of these rhythms to come soon!