HIIT workouts, autophagy, mitochondrial manipulation, more: science-backed ways to hack your system and uplevel energy.
1. HIIT it. For sustained stamina, without grueling hours in the gym: HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, alternates short bursts of powerful movement with low-intensity exercise or rest. HIIT revs up metabolism, boosts blood flow and enhances the ability of muscles to use oxygen, and studies show regular HIIT regimens measurably increase strength, power and endurance. For an immediate energy fix, start the day with HIIT—the super-short workouts fit with hectic morning schedules, and exercising first thing means you’re less likely to skip it later when you’re racing to make dinner or worn out from your day. Energize your a.m. with simple, streamlined (under 10 minutes, no equipment needed) routines; try jumping jacks, pushups, reverse lunges, burpees or forearm planks. Do each movement at max capacity for 40 seconds, then rest for 40 seconds. Repeat the whole sequence five times, or mix up workouts to keep it engaging.
2. Activate autophagy. Derived from the ancient Greek meaning “self-eating,” autophagy is the body’s way of clearing out debris—like an internal, ongoing detox. Old, damaged, flawed cells are destroyed or recycled and newer, healthier ones are regenerated, improving cellular metabolism and enhancing energy production. Dozens of studies suggest intermittent fasting safely and effectively triggers this process; the stress induced starving shifts the body into survive-and-repair mode, urging cells to clear out dysfunctional parts and optimize efficiency. To activate autophagy and uplevel energy, stop eating at 8 p.m. and don’t eat again until noon the next day; research shows 16 hours sans food safely stimulates cellular regeneration. Other ways to fire up autophagy: ultra-low-carb diets, caloric restriction, vigorous exercise and supplements—chaga, sulforaphane, resveratrol, hydroxycitrate and berberine mimic the effects of fasting, encourage cell turnover.
3. Get outside on the reg. Most of us spend about 90 percent of our lives inside—and boxed-in living seriously saps stamina. Artificial lighting and fluorescent bulbs disrupt cortisol, ramping up stress and fueling fatigue, and blue light from devices interfere with sleep-wake cycles and restful slumber. Natural, full-spectrum light from the sun normalizes circadian rhythms—the body’s internal clock that influences energy levels throughout the day. Sunlight exposure is shown to boost vitality and mood, and research suggests connecting with nature elevates energy, offsets fatigue. Clear cobwebs and sharpen mental stamina with daily outside ramblings: take a brisk walk in the park, gaze at the trees, soak up the sun. Even better, go barefoot—research suggests direct contact with electrons teeming on the earth’s surface restores disrupted electrical balance, resets internal systems and improves cellular energy production.
4. Sweat to the max… Environmental toxins like molds, pesticides, heavy metals and parabens build up in the body over time, interfering with cellular function, feeding inflammation and draining energy. Sweating escorts toxins from the body via the skin; in some studies, intense heat and perspiration measurably increased excretion of heavy metals like lead and mercury, as well as PCBs and other stubborn chemicals that accumulate in tissues and resist elimination. Vigorous workouts encourage perspiration, plus stimulate circulation, boost lymph flow and burn fat—the body’s primary warehouse for toxins. Amplify your sweaty endeavors: steam rooms and saunas dilate blood vessels, promote circulation and speed removal of stamina-sapping toxins, and studies link repeated sauna use with improved endurance and energy.
5. …then take a really cold shower. After a sauna or steam, a blast of icy water amps up circulation, speeds metabolism and instantly invigorates. The shock of cold stimulates sympathetic nervous system activity, prompting the body’s fight-or-flight response and triggering a surge of endorphins and other brain chemicals associated with alertness, clarity and vitality. Research suggests extreme cold exposure also dampens inflammation, enhances cellular function and slows aging. Some therapies involve full-body immersion in freezing water, often with ice, for extended periods of time—unpleasant, and potentially dangerous. Safer, and less painful: when you’ve finished showering, turn the water to cold for one minute, or as long as you can handle it. Or plunge your hands or face into ice water; start with a minute or two, and gradually increase time. Even splashing icy water on your face provokes similar results.
6. Manipulate (in a good way) your mitochondria. Called the powerhouse of the cell, mitochondria are the ultimate starting point for energy production—so keeping them healthy and happy means more stamina and youthful vitality. These tiny generating plants manufacture energy as adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a usable form that fuels all your activities; if they’re not operating at full capacity, you’ll feel the impact. But mitochondria are vulnerable to free-radical damage and the effects of aging, declining in number and efficiency and depleting overall stamina. Protect your powerhouses with science-backed strategies proven to work. First, minimize toxins—research shows environmental chemicals injure mitochondria and impair their function. Other studies suggest near-infrared saunas optimize mitochondrial output and offset damage. Add supplements shown to enhance cellular energy. Some of the best: glutathione, alpha-lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10, creatine and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+).