You are here

A recipe for energy management success

Nutrition, exercise, sleep, spiritual and emotional well-being – the components to managing your energy

Whether you are a budding college athlete or a weekend warrior whose competition days are but a fond memory, self-care is a vital part of anyone’s daily routine.

An often overlooked ingredient to a person’s overall well-being, said Dr. Brian Hainline, chief medical officer at the NCAA, is energy management. 

“We always talk about time management, but I don’t buy that,” Hainline said while addressing an audience at the NCAA national office in Indianapolis in July 2015.  “I think it’s all about energy management.  Whether your workday spans two or 12 hours, it doesn’t matter.  It’s really about how that day is focused and how you assess yourself.”

Energy management can be broken into different aspects that all apply to well-being. The most important sector of energy management is often forgotten – not only by college athletes, but everyone: sleep.

“When we look at today’s college athletes, we know with certainty that it’s a real problem,” said Hainline. “They are waking up at 6 a.m. after having been asleep for only a handful of hours.  Short nights are followed by early-morning workouts and coursework that involves complex decisions and tasks. In the end, college players are not empowered to be successful because they simply haven’t had enough sleep.”

After college, one’s daily routine often includes family obligations, commuting to and from work and on-the-job stress. It all creeps into healthy sleep patterns.  

The average person should strive for about seven hours of sleep every night, Hainline recommended. Sleep deprivation adversely affects tasks of neuromuscular control and quick thinking.

If sleeping seven hours or more is not possible, Hainline offered an alternative.

“When you can’t sleep, get out of bed and move into a comfortable chair that is not in your bedroom.  Choose a chair that you can actually sit up straight in and meditate – yes, meditate,” Hainline said. “When you meditate, you go into certain brain-wave patterns that are as efficient as good sleep.”

Sleep is only part of the puzzle in optimizing overall health. As we have often been told, breakfast ranks as the most important meal of the day for everyone.

“If the morning meal is a bowl of sugar-coated cereal and doughnuts, you are feeding your body with sugar and bleached flour. This gives you an intense energy boost and turns on something called insulin,” Hainline said.

Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your body to use sugar from carbohydrates in the food that you eat for energy. Insulin is often described as the key, which unlocks the cell to allow sugar to enter the cell and be used for energy.

“If that’s how you start your day, three to four hours later your body is going to be telling you that it needs sugar again,” he said.

To increase your energy level throughout the day, Hainline recommended starting with a well-balanced breakfast of protein and wholesome foods. 

And to no surprise to current and former players, exercise is foundational to effective energy management. 

“We know that through exercise, it actually reduces inflammation in the body, the kind of inflammation that leads to diabetes, vascular disorders, hypertension and high cholesterol,” Hainline said.

You can reap many benefits in a regular exercise routine by combining a series of moderate and vigorous workouts. But effective energy management does not stop there.  Spiritual and emotional well-being is also a cornerstone of sound health.

Hainline noted that the mind and body are one. We think that our emotions are separate from our physical bodies; the truth is that emotions such as fear, happiness or even love are preceded by physical changes. That’s why it’s important to care for ourselves mentally, emotionally as well as spiritually.

Spiritual energy management is the most overlooked aspect of energy management. Hainline emphasized the importance of effectively managing one’s spiritual energy and how such a commitment can add meaning to every day.

When all of the separate spheres of effective energy management are applied in your life, no matter your current or past athletic achievements, you can start to become the best individual possible.

We want to hear from you

We need your help. Taken together as a whole, the former NCAA student-athlete contribution to society is staggering. Better yet, many credit their student-athlete academic and athletic experiences as being the key to their life-long success. NCAA After the Game is looking to tell these compelling former student-athlete stories. If you know a good story idea, click on the link below and send it to us.

Submit a Story >