I don’t often write about men’s health and fitness issues. In fact, if you were to weigh the number of articles written about men’s fitness issues against those written about women, I’m willing to bet the ratio is well over 2 to 1.
Today, I’m going to try and balance that a little.
Most men won’t tell their friends, spouses or partners when they’re not feeling like a superhero. That’s stupid and bordering on sexist (reverse sexism? inverse sexism?)
Nobody has 100% in the tank all the time. I’m happy to admit it. There are days when I’d love nothing more than to grab the remote, hit the couch and binge watch Game of Thrones or Avengers movies or whatever. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.
The reality is that we all have peaks and valleys in our energy levels. It’s pretty normal for this to happen. Our bodies work in rhythms, after all.
Most of us are at least casually familiar with circadian rhythms. They’re defined as “any biological process that exhibits and endogenous, entrainable oscillation of about 24 hours.” In humans, these rhythms actually follow a “clock” of about 24 hours and 11 minutes (the length of a solar day,) but let’s not quibble over 11 minutes. (1) The presence of melatonin in the blood, the body’s core temperature and cortisol all play a role in this sleep-wake cycle rhthym.
Less familiar are ultradian rhythyms. These are shorter periods of bodily action or systemic functions. Blood circulation, blinking, pulse, appetite and even arousal (not that kind!) are examples of ultradian rhythms.
Arousal is an interesting one. It seems our arousal, or capacity for focused attention, runs in approximately 4 hour cycles. It’s related to dopaminergic function, or the ebb and flow of dopamine. Knowing this can be gold for managing energy and getting s*^t done (which we’re all about, right, guys?) More on this a little later.
First, let’s briefly cover some of the stuff that screws with your energy levels and what to do about them.
1. Sleep – You have to get adequate sleep. If I could identify a single issue impacting the energy levels (weight, sex drive, emotions, etc.) of nearly every guy I work with, this is it.
Poor sleep can be driven by poor sleep habits. Watching TV or being on your phone or computer can inhibit falling asleep and staying asleep. Working at night and sleeping in the day can also disrupt sleep. Stress and anxiety are no help, either.
It’s possible you may have a sleep disorder if you’re not sleeping well or enough, but chances are you’re not getting 7 to 9 hours a night because of work or lifestyle choices. Think about what’s really keeping you “up at night” and see what can be changed.
2. Low “T” – Low testosterone can cause energy level drops and fluctuations. As we age, levels drop. Since this hormone is a workhorse in the male body, we need enough of it is we’re going to maintain our vigor and energy.
Testosterone is responsible for everything from sex drive to muscle mass to bone density and then some. So reduced levels can leave you feeling fat, weak, cranky and not exactly feeling yourself in the bedroom, if you get my drift. (Yeah, NOW that’s what I mean!)
Have your doctor check you Testosterone levels. There are both prescription and over-the-counter solutions. Do your research if you choose to go the latter way. One product I absolutely know works for otherwise healthy men is JayLab Pro T-20 Renewal for Men. It comes with a money-back guarantee, which for me is always a good sign.
3. Thyroid issues – Yep, men can have thyroid issues, too. It’s far more common for women to suffer from hypothyroidism, but we men aren’t immune.
The cause may be autoimmune in nature, caused by an underlying condition. Any number of symptoms may occur, including:
- weight gain
- thinning hair
- muscle aches
- sensitivity to cold
- dry skin
Hypothyroidism has been connected to problems with low testosterone as well. Treating the thyroid problem may improve the testosterone issue. If left untreated, problems like neuropathy, goiter and even heart disease may become real for you.
4. Iron deficiencies – Another problem more common with women, but not exclusive to them, is iron deficiency anemia. Your iron levels can drop if you give blood too frequently (you’re such a giver,) eat a crappy, unbalanced vegetarian diet or suffer from internal bleeding, like from the stomach or intestinal tract (more common than you might think.) Low vitamin B-12 or folate levels can also be the culprit (again, diet-related.)
With this problem, you may notice a lack of energy to exercise or even an occasional irregular heartbeat. More common, though, are:
- extreme fatigue
- shortness of breath
- pale skin
- tingling in the hands and feet
Your doctor can test for iron deficiency. Most interventions are dietary in nature – changing eating habits or taking a supplement.
5. Depression – Yeah, I know, you’re good. Or maybe not. We men are terrible at recognizing when depression has sunk it’s claws in us. I’ll share my own battle with depression on these pages in the near future, but suffice to say I didn’t take it seriously enough early enough and it nearly got the best of me.
Depression symptoms include:
- decreased energy
- trouble sleeping
- feeling sad, empty, or hopeless
- loss of interest in the world
- difficulty concentrating
- feeling “slowed down”
- changes in weight
Nearly 7 million people in the US suffer from depression. It’s treatable and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t ignore it! Too often, untreated depression leads to dire consequences.
6. Diet and exercise – You had to know this was coming. If you sit around all day, or just have a job where moving around is not prioritized – you know, 80% of jobs in America (literally,) it will screw with your energy levels. You were made to move, so move!
Diet is also huge! A lack of vegetables and fruits and a dependence on processed and “ultra-processed” foods has sent our men into energy tailspins! Up to 80% of the average American diet can be made up of processed foods and food products which are actually designed to overcome the natural hunger satiation process!
That’s right! Science is working hard to get you to eat more crap, even when you’re full!
Here’s a really simple trick to improve your energy levels. Eat nothing but food in it’s natural form. Want dessert? Make it from fruit, real chocolate and other natural ingredients. We’re talking about boosting energy here, not weight or fat loss.
Do this one thing, along with drinking more water, and I can almost guarantee that, if you’re otherwise healthy, your energy levels will get a kick!
After that, add a 30 minute walk 3-4 times a week. I know it may sound like a lot of time, but just try it. Pretty soon, you’ll be looking for some other ways to add activity, like maybe hitting the gym or playing a sport.
There are some other, more medically-oriented things that can drag down your energy levels. I’ve dealt here with the most common and most lifestyle-oriented ones.
If we take care of ourselves even modestly well, we can usually count on having good to great energy levels most of the time. But many of us are in a bad spot when it comes to the things that can screw with our energy levels. We’re up against a lifestyle that discourages all the things that can keep us energetic, vigorous and ready-to-go!
Take a look at your own life and lifestyle and see if one or more of these things isn’t screwing up your energy levels. Then, make the simple changes first. If you need help, reach out!
Keep the faith and keep after it!
- Cromie, William (1999-07-15). “Human Biological Clock Set Back an Hour”. Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 2015-07-04.