I find that the only way I can get the energy to stay awake for my morning classes and have the energy to ride after school is to drink coffee throughout the day. I know it’s not the best thing for me – sometimes I feel a little jittery, and I have trouble sleeping. Is there a better way to stay energized? - 17yo Coffee Drinker
Dear Energy Seeker,
I understand this loop you can get pulled into: first you have low energy so you drink coffee, but then you have too much caffeine and you are tired but can’t sleep at night. The next morning, you need for more coffee and the cycle starts over. I like to say that you’re doing alright if ONE coffee or caffeinated drink gives you the edge you need to feel your best, but when you rely on these stimulants to get through the day, then it should probably be addressed.
Given your concerns and your age, I would suggest that you focus on your sleep first. I know that juggling horses and homework can be challenging, but it is critical that you are getting enough sleep. Try to be in bed by 10pm every night to support your sleep cycle and to help you feel more refreshed in the mornings. Sticking to this over time will help your body balance energy and hormones, and get you in a natural sleeping rhythm that will allow your body to rest, recover, and feel ready for school in the morning.
Next, make sure you are eating well-balanced meals (including a fat, protein, and carb) and not skipping meals. Avoiding extreme highs and lows in your blood sugar levels will help you from feeling so exhausted. Coffee can raise your blood sugar too, so cutting back can only be beneficial to your overall health. Of course, adding in real foods (veggies, nuts, fruit, quality proteins) and cutting out processed food can also help to give you additional nourishment and avoid the blood sugar spikes you get from refined grains and sugar. I know it may be challenging at first, but getting enough sleep and eating right to fuel your body will help you naturally stay energized for your classes and riding!
"Juggling riding and a serious education is tough for any rider--being prepared is one way to make sure everything runs smoothly. For me, that means making a list of my tasks for the following day, as well as how long I allot myself to work on them. Beyond that, limiting screen time before bed and getting a good night's rest are keys for success that extend from the show ring to the classroom." – Chase Boggio, Tufts University Class of 2016, Economics & International Relations
I’m 19 years old and I ride 4 days per week, workout at the gym twice per week and eat really well (I became a vegetarian at 16 years old). However, I feel rundown and weak, like my body is aging faster than it should. Do you know what could be wrong with me? - Rider in College
Dear College Rider,
It sounds like you are trying hard, but not feeling well – that must be frustrating and I’m sorry to hear you are stuggling. I’m glad you are reaching out and while I don’t diagnose, and would certainly need more health history from you to make recommendations, I think it is clear that you have some imbalances that are causing you to not feel your best. It is common for teenage girls (especially for animal lovers) to go on a vegetarian diet. I know this is a hotly debated topic, and if you eat this way for moral or religious reasons, then I respect your choice. However, if you are on this diet in the hopes of optimizing your health, you may need to consider if it is the best option for your unique body and if you can get the proper nutrition your body needs from this type of diet. Also, as a vegetarian do you actually load up on vegetables, or are you reaching to processed foods such as breads, pastries, fake meat and soy products? If you eat dairy and eggs, are they the best quality you can find? If you are not supporting your body properly and maybe even consuming foods that you are sensitive to, you will likely find riding and exercise to be very taxing, which further wears you out. Eating a nutrient dense, real food diet that is appropriate for your body will give you the nutrition and energy you need to start feeling your 19-year-old self again.
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Kimball Willson is the founder of The Equestrian Health Coach and offers nutritional and lifestyle coaching to riders nationwide. Learn more about her programs, schedule a Free 15 Minute Call, and download your copy of “3 Common Health Mistakes that are Ruining Your Ride” at www.EquestrianHealthCoach.com