This is a big read. But if you’re a man who feels tired and lethargic a lot, if you’re gubbed at the end of the week, or struggle to keep up with the kids, if you’ve looked in the mirror recently and thought “shit, wtf’s happened to me?”, or wonder how long you can keep on going this way? This list might just change your life.
What if I told you some simple changes could transform your energy, so you can crush a week’s work, run rings around the kids without feeling burst, and be the ultimate fit, healthy role model?
What if in just a few week’s time, you felt drastically better, made progress with your fitness goals, and felt more in control of your health? Because you can. You really can.
Here’s 12 reasons many men feel tired and lethargic, and how to fix it.
Let’s dive in….
I can’t remember the guy’s name, but I’ll always remember what he said. I listened to him tell his story on the Jay Ferruggia podcast. One thing hit me like punch in the mouth: “We’re not guaranteed much in life, but rest assured one day is coming… You’re funeral”
Many men are working and stressing themselves into an early grave. One reason for this is time. Their lives revolve around work and kids, so aren’t left with much for themselves each day.
It’s easy to get caught in the busy trap. But the harsh reality is you won’t get fitter and healthier by chance. There’s only so long you’ll get by eating whatever, whenever, getting shit sleep, and periodic exercise bursts when your mood takes you.
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If time is something you struggle with? You have to make time. More time doesn’t just show up. There’s never a better time to start one new thing than right now. Your life quality depends on it.
Time hack 1: Set aside a little time each Sunday to plan your week ahead. Clarity makes progress.
Time hack 2: Make appointments for your exercise. Time-block them as non-negotiables. Whether it’s 2 workouts or 4, 60 minutes per day or 20, it’s all investments in the health bank account.
Time hack 3: Each time you cook, cook in bulk. Make healthier meals for dinner, and enough for the following day’s lunch. Or invest in some healthy meal prep delivery services.
The Army taught me a lot. One thing stands true in everyday life. Battles are won in the morning. Win the battles, you win the war.
Life’s full of little battles. Starting the day hungry, or on a crap breakfast is a fast ticket to the losing side. It’s hard to give a shit what you eat when you’re energy’s through the floor by 11:am, whilst handling whatever the day throws at you. Win the morning, you win the day.
Drink lots of water. Eat a healthy balanced breakfast. Fuel your brain and your body with quality protein, healthy fats, and some fruit and veggies. Now you’re good to go.
And anyway, breakfast is awesome.
Win The Morning Hack 1: Get up 15 minutes earlier if you normally don’t have time to make breakfast.
Win The Morning Hack 2: If you’re really tight on time, blend some fruit, healthy fats, veg, and protein powder together for a healthy, non-cook liquid breakfast.
Ever sleep 8-9 hours and still feel gubbed? The hours don’t count for much if your sleep habits suck.
It’s one of the first places I look with new clients who have energy problems. If you’re not sleeping well, and tired all the time, forget the workouts and nutrition, we need to fix this first.
A few simple thing’s will give you better sleep:
Sleep Hack 1: Go to bed at the same time each night – the body responds well to routine.
Sleep Hack 2: Get to bed before 11 pm – every hour before 12 pm, is worth x 3 the hours after, chemically.
Sleep Hack 3: Keep devices (phones, TVs, tablets) out of your room – Electrical devices give off radiation which messes with our brains, and sleep quality.
Sleep Hack 4: Keep your room pitch-black – Your body is covered in light receptors, the smallest of light at night is energizing, and can inhibit your recovery or pull you out of sleep.
Keep the bedroom for 2 things: Sleeping and humping.
Our bodies are in sync with natural day and night cycles. Light tells your brain: make cortisol (the daytime hormone). Nightfall tells your brain: stop cortisol, make melatonin (a recovery hormone).
All of our hormones are regulated during sleep. It’s also when we build and repair our brain and muscle tissues. But we prolong daytime in this modern age with artificial light: Lamps, room lights, and the worst offenders… Screens.
Screens produce the bluest light, which also comes from the sun. Your body receives those signals loud and clear, and keeps those daytime hormones, like cortisol revving.
Cortisol is commonly known as a stress hormone. It’s a good thing. It gives us the energy we need to work, move around, and do stuff during the day. But leads to all kinds of health and energy problems when it’s in chronic production.
Remember testosterone? It has a see-saw type relationship with cortisol. Too much cortisol suppresses testosterone. In simple terms… Tiredness, muscle loss, and fat gain. Not a good sales pitch in breeding season.
Light at night also inhibits melatonin production by 50%. Melatonin clears out our body’s waste products and regenerates healthy brain, bone, and muscle tissues.
Get in rhythm hack 1: Wak up and go to bed at the same time each day. The body loves routine.
Get in rhythm hack 2: Get daylight exposure as early as possible. Get outside first thing, or at least open all your curtains immediately.
Get in rhythm hack 3: Have a screen curfew, 30-90 minutes before bed, and get to bed before 11 pm.
Get in rhythm hack 3: wear some blue light-blocking glasses after dark.
Water makes around 60% of our bodies. But you’re always excreting water when you go pee-pee, or sweat.
Every electrical signal from your brain through your body relies on that liquidly environment. If your fluid balance is sub-par? You’ll feel tired, slow, lethargic, stressed, and hungrier than normal.
I don’t want to hear “but I don’t like the taste of it”. That’s the kind of stuff children say. Drink your water!
Hydration Hack 1: Start drinking water immediately on waking. Win the morning, remember?
Hydration Hack 2: Drink 1-2 large glasses of water right before each meal – association habits are formed quickly.
Hydration Hack 3: Get at least 2l per day. If you eat enough nutritious whole foods, you’ll get around 1l from food, which gives you a total average of 3L.
And no, don’t be counting your coffee or diet cokes.
Without protein, you die (yeah, it’s not just for body-builders).
Everything from your brain chemistry, hormonal health, bone, and muscle tissue relies on protein. When we don’t eat enough, we feel tired and sluggish, get brain fog, crave unhealthy snacks, and coffee to give us a boost.
Protein makes us feel fuller for longer. Plus, we use 30% of the calories from protein in the digestive process, as opposed to only 5-15% from carbs and fats.
Bottom line is, more protein makes you feel better, healthier, and helps you lose horrible belly fat.
Protein Hack 1: Look at the palm of your hand. That’s 1 protein portion size. Shoot for 1-2 palm-sized portions of lean meat, fish, or eggs at each meal.
Protein Hack 2: Aim for at least 5-8 portions per day, depending on your weight. Bigger guys need more protein. I weigh 169lbs, and I’m good with 5-6 portions.
Protein Hack 3: If you struggle to get enough from real food, use protein powder to help.
I tell many people they need to eat more protein, drink more water, and get their 5 a’ day. They’ll often say: “yeah, I eat protein. Yeah, I eat lots of fruit”.
But do you really? Do you really eat your 5 a’ day, every day, consistently?
There’s a huge difference between eating your 5 a’ day through habit, and doing it for a couple of days, when you get the odd health-kick. If I ask someone to keep a food diary for just 3 days, 9 times out of 10, I don’t see any more than 2-3 portions per day.
Veg and fruits build your immunity. They bring the fiber needed to digest all that protein. And you need the vitamins to make all your bodily functions work efficiently.
Without them, it shows up in your day-to-day energy.
5 a’ Day Hack 1: Eat 2 portions of vegetables or fruit at each meal. If you eat 3 meals per day, that’s 6 portions. Go you!
5 a’ Day Hack 2: Eat more veggies than fruit to minimise calories and sugar. Makes fat loss easier.
5 a’ Day Hack 3: Don’t like vegetables? Blend them all up in one speedy smoothie per day. Add some quality protein powder, healthy fats, and a portion of fruit to make it a nutrient-dense super meal.
Most men inhale their food. Like seagulls. We have teeth for a reason – digestion starts in the mouth, son. Winging huge lumps of unchewed food down your neck is mega stress on your gut.
It leads to bloating, poor nutrient absorption, and zaps your energy.
A lot smart people call the gut the second brain. I think they’re right. If your gut is stressed, you’re stressed.
Eat your food slowly.
Slow Eating Hack 1: Sit down to meals, put your cutlery down between each bite, chew your food until it’s mush.
Slow Eating Hack 2: Eat more meals around the table with family. Ask questions, engage in meaningful conversations.
Slow Eating Hack 3: When eating in company, identify the slowest eater. Try to finish your meal after them.
Without getting into the science, when you’re fit, you feel great. When you’re unfit, you feel shit. Can we agree on that?
Your body is designed to be physically active. Regular exercise and physical exertion boosts your brain chemistry, and raises testosterone levels naturally.
Anytime I finish a workout I feel great. Some frequent doses of that each week has a huge positive impact on your physical and mental wellbeing.
But it’s not all about chemistry. How you feel about yourself has a huge impact on your mood, which impacts your day-to-day energy… Imagine stepping out the shower each day, glimpsing a fit body in the mirror. Or getting ready for a night out, wearing shirts and clothes you love without trying to cover up a gut? That’s game-changing for your energy, and lifts up everyone around you, too.
Fit Hack 1: Build physical exercise into your life, gradually, life without it taking over – that might 60 minutes, twice per week, or 20 minutes per day to start.
Fit Hack 2: Maintain your start point for a month, then add a little more time, or one more session when you’re ready.
I see it too often. A guy goes from doing nothing to Insanity, P90X, or high-intensity cardio 4-5 times per week.
Listen, exercise is stressful.
You don’t need to crush yourself with soul-destroying workouts
If you already have a high-stress life (work, kids, home responsibilities, little time to yourself), leaving yourself in a pool of sweat, exhausted each workout is a great way to feel awful.
We don’t get fit and strong during workouts, we create damage and stress. We grow fitter and stronger in the recovery process. If you’re not recovering, you’ll burn out.
Your 20s are long gone, my friend.
I’m never short of clients asking me: “Are you sure this is really enough. I feel like I should be doing more?”
Those are often men in their mid-30s-50s, who have already failed multiple times in the past. Trust me on this, we achieve great results:
The point of training is to stimulate, not annihilate.
Intensity Hack 1: Take each workout to an 8/10 effort. Leave it feeling a little excited for the next one.
Intensity Hack 2: If you’re super stressed out, keep your efforts at 6-7/10 until you’re managing stress better.
This will burst some bubbles. But caffeine (high in coffee and energy drinks) doesn’t raise your energy.
^^ Read that again.
They’re stimulants. They create nervous system activation, leading to increased concentration, and little mood-boosts.
I love the boost I get from coffee. But I honestly believe coffee does more harm than good for our health. I drink it because I just love it. What can I say, only I’m only human, eh?
It does lead to some unsexy withdrawals on wearing off, though, like low energy, fatigue, low mood, sometimes anxiety. But we have a great way to fix that, right? More of the same.
When we spend so much time in and out of stimulation, we never really get a feel for our natural energy rhythm.
I just keep a strict limit on my intake. One coffee a day. Mid-morning.
Energy Hack 1: Hold off on caffeine until around 10:00 am. first thing. Let your natural energy rhythm pick up for the day first.
Energy Hack 2: Have a caffeine curfew at least 8 hours before bed, let the stimulant wear off so you wind down for better sleep.
Carrying too much fat is a huge stress on your body. And that my friend, is a drain on your energy. It’s also a sad truth a gut often leads to early death in men.
The most effective way to eliminate unwanted fat is building muscle. Which also counteracts the natural process of muscle loss with age. Science shows the better muscle mass levels we have, the better we age, and the longer we live.
Plus, most men don’t just want to be healthier, or slimmer. They want more muscle definition, toned arms, shoulders, to look great in a t-shirt. That comes from lower body fat, and decent enough muscle mass.
A routine dominated by cardio, HIIT, or certain follow-along workouts that have you prancing around your room, won’t do it for you. You need to lift weights, improve your body-weight strength, and increase the loads your body can handle over a long period of time.
For example, if you can’t do any pull-ups? Work on them. Get your first pull-up, and then get to 10, you’ll have more muscle in your arms and upper back for your efforts. Same goes for all other muscle groups and associated exercises.
Training Hack 1: Shoot for 2 strength workouts per week. Minimum. For the best possible results, do 3-4 per week.
Training Hack 2: Mastery of execution. Nothing matters more than mastering the form and technique of each exercise. Pick a few exercises that cover each muscle group. Nail them before changing things up.
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Dean McMenamin is an Army veteran, father, dog-lover and online nutrition & exercise coach helping busy men transform their bodies, regain self-confidence and be healthier role models for their kids. He's also a big eater of ice-cream.