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Keep Your Energy High As the Sun Begins to Dip Low

Thursday, September 23, 2010
It's the first day of autumn and the sun has set on another summer. All over the country we're packing up our beach gear and airing out our heavy parkas — or light cardigans if you live a little farther south — for the upcoming winter. At this point, you may be feeling the compulsion to pull-on the sweats and ease into the butt-shaped indentation in the couch left over from last winter. But why? Who sucked out our energy and replaced it with the urge to carbo-load?

Well, your new cranky, lethargic demeanor is likely an effect of the change of the seasons. While, for most, the transition into spring welcomes feelings of excitement and renewal, the shifting to the winter months means just the opposite. Experts believe that these symptoms of depression are likely caused by a lack of sunlight. Depending on your latitude, you can soak up the sun for 16 or more hours each day. However, enduring the colder months gets you significantly fewer hours of sunlight each day.

Studies indicate that about 9 out of every 10 people suffer from dwindling energy levels and negative dispositions during the winter months. Furthermore, about 11 million Americans are susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which means they can experience full-on depression symptoms that result from decreased sun exposure.

You might be experiencing symptoms of sunlight deficiency if you are:
  • Constantly languid and unmotivated

  • Finding it difficult to concentrate

  • Packing on the pounds

  • Filling your plate with starchy and carbohydrate-rich foods

  • Opting for a solo night on the couch over rather than a night on the town with friends

Experts believe that these indicators are, in part, caused chemical reactions in your brain that are triggered by the levels of sunlight. When your optic nerve senses sunlight, your body secretes serotonin — a mood boosting neurotransmitter. At the same time, the production of melatonin, a hormone that lowers body temperature and prompts drowsiness, increases. Simply put, when you're not exposed to enough sunlight, you're likely to feel drained more often.

To keep both your energy and spirits high, try these tips for balancing the effects of sunlight deficiency:
  • Pop some Vitamin D Supplements: While the summer sun provides adequate levels of Vitamin D, supplements might be helpful when sunlight is scarce.

  • Keep a light box at your desk: for many who experience the depressive symptoms of the dark months, the Mayo Clinic states that Light Therapy, which mimics the sun's rays, helps their blues.

  • Keep moving: Exercise will not only boost your mood, but if done outside, can help you get more rays while the sun is up.

  • Drop the bag of chips: While the oncoming season might re-ignite your love of high fat, high carb snacks, resist the urge to crunch on unhealthy snacks. Instead, opt for Vitamin D rich foods such as milk, eggs, salmon, cod, and (yum) sardines.

  • Regular sleep cycles: Don't snooze your alarm and pull the covers over your eyes just yet. Going to bed and waking up at the same times each day balances your circadian rhythms so you feel more rested. Get out and enjoy as much sunlight as possible.

As we try to force smiles and combat the effects of the winter blues, just remember that the spring is inevitable. Until then, sunbathe near a window in your living room while blasting "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles and let the countdown begin: Only 177 days to go until spring.



5-Hour Energy Car is Making Its Way to the Head of the Pack

Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The pace of the NASCAR Virginia 529 College Savings 250 race may have been a touch over 98 mph, but the 5-Hour Energy car is building momentum at light speed.

Steve Wallace showed significant gains on the Richmond track, leaving 27 other drivers in the dust. Though run of bad luck left Wallace starting in the 25th position on September 10th, after several gains during the 2-hour race, he maneuvered into 16th place to finish out the day.

The 28th race in the Nationwide Series is slated for 3 p.m. on Saturday, September 25 at the Dover International Speedway. Last year at the Dover 200, Wallace crossed the finish in 12th place. However, if he continues to gain in the ranks as history predicts, it's not unlikely he'll place in the top ten at Dover.

His father and namesake of his racing team, Rusty Wallace, has conquered the Monster Mile three times and earned the fasted qualifying time at 5 races during his career. The 5-Hour Energy racing teams is hopeful that his son's #66 car follows in Rusty Wallace's racetracks.


Energy-Rich Super Foods that Keep You Focused at Work

Friday, September 10, 2010
If you constantly find yourself at your desk staring blankly at your computer screen attempting to prop your eyelids open, it might be time to make some changes to your diet. If your body has unbalanced levels of nutrients, carbohydrates and glucose, your energy and focus at work is likely waning.

According to the International Labor Office, poor diets are responsible for up to a 20 percent loss in work productivity. Making positive changes to your eating habits can double your efficiency at the office. By better understanding how your body uses the nutrients you ingest to fuel your brain functions and mood, you can begin to make positive changes.

Foods provide our bodies energy three ways: providing calories, delivering stimulants and boosting metabolism. While carbohydrates are your body's main fuel source, eating the wrong carbs can lead to a sugar crash which depletes your energy. Stay away from simple sugars like those in sweets and refined flour. These may give you a short burst of energy, but they prompt cells to suck vital glucose from your brain, which can leave you feeling weak and confused.

Instead of reaching for a sugary boost, choose your foods and beverages wisely. There are a range of healthy, energy-rich foods to select from. Pick one, or mix and match and enhance productivity with each bite.

Increase Energy:
  • Raisins: This wrinkly fruit contains potassium, which helps your body convert food to energy.

  • Nuts: Magnesium-rich nuts keep your body from producing lactic acid, the substance that makes you feel post-workout fatigue.

  • Chocolate: in addition to its mood lifting ingredients, chocolate also contains caffeine and theobromine, another stimulant.

  • Whole grains: remember: ditch the simple sugar and go for the whole wheat variety of breads, pastas and snacks. Crashes from simple sugars can stifle good judgment, analytical skills and memory retention.

  • Apples: the skin of apples, as well as those of red onions, berries and grapes, contains quercetin which helps you battle daily fatigue and stress.

Stay Alert & Focused
  • Green tea: Relaxes the brain to keep you out of hyper-drive, and instead, calm and focused.

  • Peppermint: simply the smell can help you concentrate on tedious tasks.

  • Lean meats:lean turkey beef, chicken and pork contain tyrosine, which increases dopamine and norepinephrine. These brain chemicals will keep you alert on the job.

Boost Brainpower
  • Eggs: Ditch the "egg-whites-only" policy. The egg yolk contains choline, which speeds up the signals of your brain's nerve cells.

  • Berries: Blueberries are linked to improved motor skills while strawberries can improve memory recall.

  • Green, leafy vegetables: Eat these to keep your iron levels in check. Lack of iron means lack of cognitive function.

  • Alcohol: moderate alcohol consumption yields positive brain benefits. Just to be clear, no one is advising you to drink at work to improve productivity.

  • Reduce Stress and Improve Mood
    • Water: H2O reduces stress hormones. Drinking 80 oz. of water a day also staves energy loss due to dehydration.

    • Fish:Not only do the Omega-3 fatty acids within build cell membranes, but they also can improve positive attitudes and make people more agreeable.

    • Flax seed: sprinkle a tablespoon in your morning cereal to get a dose of alpha-linolenic acid, which helps your brain process pleasure and keep you out of the dumps.

    • Brazil nuts & pistachios:
    • Brazil nuts are choc-full of selenium, a natural mood booster. Pistachios reduce stress by providing your body with fiber, antioxidants and unsaturated fatty acids.

    It might be difficult to break your old dining habits in one day, but over time, you can make some significant dietary changes that will improve your ability to function day-to-day. If you're feeling particularly sluggish, save these comfort foods for a time when you can afford a long afternoon nap:
    • Red wine: Not only does the alcohol within act as a sedative, but the grapes used to make red wine also contain high amounts of melatonin, a sleep hormone.

    • Fatty foods: Fat is digested at a much slower rate than other foods. To help aid the digestion process, your body pulls blood from your arms and legs, which leaves you feeling lethargic.

    • Grape Juice: Grape juice can limit your body's absorption of iron, which you need to turn the calories you eat into energy. There's nothing worse than falling asleep at your desk with a purple mustache.



    Increasing Productivity Via Your Workspace

    Thursday, September 2, 2010
    Winston Churchill once wrote, "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us."

    While he probably wasn't referring to the cubicle, the message still applies: The area in which you work can either be inspirational and high energy, or it can rival that of the dungy, gray half-walls featured reminiscent of Office Space. Large and small businesses alike are getting a lot of attention because of their decision to change-up their offices in favor of highly creative, yet productive work spaces.

    The increase in chatter regarding the quality of office spaces has led many execs to rethink their office design. They're chucking the cream, beige, taupe—and every other color referring to off-white — in favor of highly functional, visually pleasing designs.

    Research shows that the quality of the workplace environment is among the top three factors affecting productivity at the office. A well-designed office space is likely to increase morale, motivation, creativity and teamwork while squelching negative attitudes between co-workers. Because of this positive impact, a redesign can boost a company's performance by 20 percent or more. The health of your bottom line might be worth a new ergonomic chair or two.

    Creative, a workspace design firm with locations in Virginia, has made office redesign their business. Creative understands that meshing technology with furniture, flooring and wall systems can promote collaboration, creativity and innovation. They use their own Worklabs to test their theories and demonstrate their capabilities to future clients.

    Some offices are pairing cutting-edge design with age-old technique by instituting the principals of Feng Shui. Here a few Feng Shui principals that might get the energy flowing in your office:

    • Position the desk facing a door to welcome opportunities
    • Never sit with your back to a window. Instead, opt to sit with a wall or large object behind you to serve as supportive energy.
    • Seat mentors in the corner to the right of the entrance
    • Use water features to invite financial success
    • Clean up the clutter. Excess stuff sucks up a room's energy.

    As concerns about the workplace rise, you could lose your competitive edge in the area of employee retention and recruitment if you don't adjust. But, if you're tight on time or budget, focus on the most important aspects of a great workspace. Research shows that office workers want three things: a nice view, comfortable heating and air conditioning and cleanliness.

    However, if you're ready to make some big changes in your office, take some tips from these office design aficionados who have gotten it right
    • Googleplex: Each of Google's offices around the world feature their own identity, which often ties to the local culture. For example, there are ski gondola work spaces in the Zurich office facilities. Some commonalities between locations include bicycle and scooters for commuting within the office, massage chairs, bean-bag meeting rooms and napping pods to recharge. You can even score a free breakfast at the office in Zurich.
    • Offices of Pixar: These workspaces looks like they could come straight out of a Pixar movie. The unconventional office spaces are designed to foster the creativity vital to Pixar films.
    • Mindlab by the Ministry of Economic and Business Affairs in Copenhagen: Here, one of the most impressive office attributes is a room with walls made entirely of whiteboard material. Mindlab is definitely not a typical government office.