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Boost your ENERGY: Never feel groggy after a sleepless night again.; We've tested food, energy drinks and exercise to see what's best at restoring your va va voom.

Byline: SUSANNAH OSBORNE

AFTER one drink too many last night you managed to grab just four hours' kip and haven't a clue how you're going to survive the day ahead.

Like most people, you'll probably neck countless mugs of coffee and scoff a bacon sandwich or two - anything to fight that fuzzy-headed feeling that makes concentrating impossible.

But is bacon better than chocolate for boosting energy? And is Red Bull better than coffee?

We took three Daily Mirror readers and simulated a heavy night out by limiting them to four hours' sleep. Then we plied them with pick-me-ups including coffee, chocolate and energy drinks - we even made them exercise.

With the help of Trainsmart exercise and diet consultants, we recorded their resting metabolic rate (RMR) - an indication of energy levels. When your metabolism is high you have lots of energy. But when it's low, such as after a sleepless night, your blood sugar levels drop and you feel exhausted.

Stimulating your body with food or activity raises your RMR so it works faster and you feel more awake.

Our results will help you find the perfect rescue plan to get you through the day.

Exercise

Steve Cousins' resting metabolic rate is 1575 kcal per day at the start of the experiment. After going to bed at three and getting up at seven, the last thing the 34-year-old feels like is a workout. "On a scale of one to 10 I feel around a four," he admits.

Weights and cardio - the highest energy boost

We make Steve do a short, heavy weights session followed by a 10-minute run on the treadmill. After just 39 minutes of exercise Steve's resting metabolic rate goes up to 2255 kcal per day - the biggest increase in any of the tests. "I'm now feeling more like a six out of 10," says Steve. His metabolic rate stays high for three hours.

Brisk walk - 2 hours of energy

When Steve's metabolic rate drops again he feels sleepy, but a 15-minute speed walk takes it right back up to 2099, leaving him wide awake. This rise lasts for nearly two hours.

Yoga - the winner, 3.5 hours of energy

Perhaps the most surprising result was when we asked Steve to do yoga. After a 20-minute session, Steve is a new man. His metabolic rate is elevated to 2142. Although this isn't quite as high as with the treadmill and weights, it remains high for three-and-a-half hours. Plus, he's feeling calmer and ready to tackle anything.

"I feel amazing, up to an eight out of 10. I've got so much energy," he beams.

VERDICT:

Although it's hard to get yourself going when you're feeling knackered, once you do, you'll feel energised very quickly. Even if you can't face a full workout, a 15-minute brisk walk to the sandwich shop could elevate your metabolism for up to two hours.

And while cardio and weights offer the biggest physical energy boost, something like yoga will also increase your mental alertness and relaxes you, so it may be the best solution.

Peter Byworth of Trainsmart says: "Unlike plying yourself with sugar or caffeine, exercise offers long-lasting energy and is much better for your health in the long run."

Trainsmart (01438 814 969) or www.trainsmart.co.uk design personalised exercise and weight-management schedules.

Thanks to Reebok Sports Club, 020 7970 0900 or www.reeboksportsclublondon.com

"I feel terrible," wails Alison Henry, 31, as she slumps into the comfy chair. "My muscles feel heavy and I just want to lie down!" Alison rated her energy levels at two out of 10 and her starting resting metabolic rate was 1567, which is slow and explains why she feels so lethargic.

Sugary doughnuts - instant energy hit

Fifteen minutes after scoffing three doughnuts and Alison is bouncing off the walls. "I've got lots more energy. But it feels like it won't last," she says.

"The doughnuts have given Alison an instant sugar hit," explains Peter Byworth. "Sugar is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream and the body can use it almost instantly - it's a very fast energiser." Alison's resting metabolic rate is pumped up to 2082 for about an hour.

A fry-up - two hours of steady energy

Alison's blood sugar has dropped and she feels sluggish again. This time

food

she tucks into a traditional English breakfast of sausages, eggs, bacon and beans. Her metabolism climbs again but this time it only reaches 1900 because the high-protein breakfast didn't contain sugary carbs like the doughnuts. However, her metabolic high lasts for two hours because protein releases energy more slowly than sugar.

Chocolate - maximum energy blast - the food winner

When the effects of the fry-up wear off, Alison desperately needs a doze. Instead, we give her a Snickers to see if we can get her going once more. After 40 minutes her resting metabolic rate has risen to 2091 - higher than it was after the doughnuts. This is because chocolate contains a small amount of caffeine, which gives an extra energy boost. And the peanuts in the Snickers are protein, which gives a longer-lasting boost.

VERDICT:

Grab a bar of chocolate for an instant hit, but remember you'll feel awful once the effects wear off. For a longer- lasting boost, a protein-packed meal or snack, such as nuts, is your best bet. Choose complex carbs such as wholemeal bread and pasta, as they release energy more slowly than their white equivalents.

Peter says it's best to eat little and often. "This keeps your blood sugar levels stable and helps you avoid crashing and burning," he says.

Drink

Michelle Le Blanc, 33, feels dreadful. She rates her energy level as three out of 10. Her resting metabolic rate is 1479. Normally after a late night she relies on coffee to keep her going.

Milky coffee - psychological effect only

When we gave her a large latte to guzzle, the results were surprising. Her RMR hardly changed which could be because a latte doesn't contain much caffeine. But Michelle still said she felt more awake. "This could be psychological," says Mark Clarke of Trainsmart. "Michelle thought she felt more awake because she expects to get that feeling from coffee."

Black coffee - caffeine hit after 20 minutes

The higher caffeine content of a double espresso made an impact - after 20 minutes Michelle's metabolic rate was up to 1750 and it lasted an hour and a half.

Lucozade - boosts energy fast but caffeine is better

Once Michelle's RMR has dropped back to normal when the coffee's effect wears off, we get her to try Lucozade. This time her RMR increases to 1704 after just a few minutes and she feels much better. However, being a sugar-based drink without any caffeine the effects only last an hour.

Red Bull - the winner, fast and lasting energy boost

Finally, Michelle tries Red Bull which is packed with sugar, caffeine and taurine - an amino acid which is supposed to raise energy levels. Her metabolic rate increased after a few minutes and reaches 1895. It stays high for an hour and 45 minutes, plus she feels energised and buzzing.

VERDICT:

Caffeine certainly boosts flagging energy levels, but it takes longer to lift your energy than sugar - about 20 minutes compared with almost instantly. But the hit does last for longer. Watch out for the jitters as too many caffeine drinks can leave you feeling on edge. People with heart conditions should consult their GP before

consuming high caffeine products.

The no-sleep survival plan

HERE's our must-have guide to help you get through the day when you've simply not had enough sleep...

DRIVING TO WORK

How you're feeling: You're groggy and irritable and finding it hard to stay awake. You're scared of losing concentration at the wheel.

The pick-me-up: Red Bull followed by a 20-minute catnap before setting off.

Why it works: "A caffeine drink will stimulate your body and brain, taking about 20 minutes to work. If you have a short nap you'll feel rested just as the caffeine starts to kick in," says Professor Jim Horne of the Loughborough Sleep Research Centre.

But don't nap for longer than 20 minutes or you may wake up during the deep stage of sleep and feel worse than before.

THE BIG MEETING

How you're feeling: Nervous and afraid of not getting your point across because you're so exhausted.

The pick-me-up: Eat a bar of chocolate 30 minutes before the meeting and sit in front of a bright light for 10 minutes.

Why it works: Sugar causes a rapid rise in blood sugar, which supplies your brain with an instant energy boost. Bright light suppresses melatonin - the brain chemical that triggers sleep. This will temporarily trick your body into remaining awake.

And should you feel yourself nodding off while your boss is speaking, tickle the roof of your mouth with your tongue - scientists don't know why, but it can keep you from snoozing!

THE AFTERNOON ENERGY SLUMP

How you're feeling: Drowsy, you can't concentrate, but you've still got masses to do before you can go home.

The pick-me-up: Exercise at lunch time. Even 15 minutes will do the trick. And make sure your lunch contains plenty of protein-rich foods and complex carbs.

Why it works: Exercise will kick start your metabolism, boosting your energy. Eating protein helps stabilise your blood sugar by releasing energy slowly, helping you avoid the big dips that can sometimes happen mid-afternoon, even when you've had plenty of sleep the night before. You can also try doing lots of 'bitty' jobs that are easier to concentrate on than one long task.Fitness facts

Margaret Thatcher claimed that while she was Prime Minister she only ever got three to four hours sleep a night. George Bush, on the other hand, got plenty of shut-eye on the night war was declared against Iraq. Dubbya went to bed at 11pm - just 45 minutes after his address to the US nation - with instructions he was not to be disturbed before 6am.

CAPTION(S):

Picture: MICHAEL PUTLAND/RETNA; Running gave Steve a huge boost
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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:M Health
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 11, 2003
Words:1672
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