Feeling sluggish? How about fatigued? Are you low on energy? Do you turn to sugar and/or caffeine to give yourself a boost?
Learn how to improve your energy and feel your very best with healthier eating practices.
There is a lot of truth to the old adage ‘you are what you eat’. Daily food and beverage choices do matter when it comes to health and wellbeing. Putting poor quality fuel in your tank will ultimately result in a quick burst of energy followed by a major crash. This cycle over time can have a negative impact on mood, energy level, and quality of life.
Eating more plants, starting the day with a nutritious meal, and making smarter food and beverage choices can all rev up metabolism and fight fatigue. Improving nutrition and planning ahead can make all the difference.
Give yourself a boost by eating for energy with these tips in mind. You will soon be on your way to feeling more alert, energetic, and powerful!
1. Eat More Plants. A whole foods, plant strong diet https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/plant-based-diets/ is the way to go when your goal is to ward off fatigue (not to mention all the health benefits that go along with it!). Consuming a variety of colorful or deep pigmented fruits and vegetables in addition to nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains ensures you get proper nutrition and adequate amounts of nutrients like folate, iron, and magnesium. Start by aiming to get the minimum of 2 ½ of vegetables cups per day and 2 cups of fruit per day. Smoothies http://plantbaseddietitian.com/scrumptiously-salubrious-smoothies/ are a great way to add more vegetables and fruit into your daily routine. Just be mindful of what goes into your smoothie since the calories can add up quick. In summary, eat the rainbow - especially non-starchy vegetables! Enjoy as much as you want!
2. Eat Quality Foods for Energy. Choose whole, healthy unprocessed or minimally processed foods that are nutrient dense rather than calorie dense. Nutrient dense foods will provide lasting energy and are those that are rich source of macronutrients and micronutrients (foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs). In terms of beverages, drink water (more on this later)! On the other hand, processed and artificial foods drain energy making you feel sluggish and fatigued. By avoiding foods such as packaged cookies, chips, candy, fried foods and soda (think of most of the ‘foods’ located in the center aisles of the grocery store or at checkout), you can take contrl of your energy level and avoid unnecessary empty calories that promote weight gain.
The following are examples of healthy whole carbs, protein, and fats:
· Sweet potatoes
· Whole Fruits (apples, oranges, berries, banana, kiwi)
· Brown rice
· Whole grain pasta
· Dark, leafy green vegetables
· Cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli)
· Beans and lentils
· Whole grain pasta
· Seeds- pumpkin, sunflower, chia, and flax
· DIY Trail mix https://www.thehealthymaven.com/2015/08/how-to-build-a-healthy-trail-mix.html
· Nut butters
· Seeds- pumpkin, sunflower, chia, and flax
3. Start your day with a champion’s breakfast. You may already eat a good breakfast every morning, but let’s make it great. Research shows that eating a healthy breakfast regularly can improve health and your performance on memory-related tasks as well as minimize impulse snacking and overeating at other meals. It’s important to think about including enough protein, fiber (in the form of vegetables or whole grain carbohydrates), and healthy fat at breakfast to feel satisfied and full. This will translate to feeling alert and energized until lunch!
Examples of healthy breakfast options:
· A serving of unsweetened low-fat Greek yogurt with a handful of DIY granola http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/11/smitten-kitchens-big-cluster-maple-granola.html and fresh berries
· A hardboiled egg with toasted 100% whole grain bread and a spread of avocado
· Spinach, banana, and peanut butter smoothie with unsweetened almond milk
· Toasted 100% whole grain bread with almond butter and sliced banana
4. Plan Ahead. Have you ever felt ‘hangry’ !? https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Hangry Skipping meals or waiting too long before your next meal can lead to irritability, an energy crash, and overeating at your next meal. Often times, food choices are unhealthy when you’re starving which can zap energy later. You’ll be able to improve your nutrition not only at home, but also when traveling or eating out by planning ahead. Weekly meal planning takes some effort in the beginning, but it does get easier once you get into a routine. Deciding what you’ll eat ahead of time is a great way to stick to healthy choices and to keep calories in check. Depending on the day, you’ll have to adjust your plan accordingly. For example, on days when you’re more active or working out, you made need an extra snack (i.e. apple with 1 tbs. of peanut butter) to keep you going strong.
5. Drink Water: Staying well hydrated is essential for good health and can keep you from feeling fatigued. Currently there is no specific recommendations for plain water intake. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/data-statistics/plain-water-the-healthier-choice.html. The recommendation for total daily water (consumed from foods, plain drinking water, and other beverages) is 11.5 cups for adult women (2.7 L) and 15.5 cups (3.7 L) per day for adult men. http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/Reports/2004/Dietary-Reference-Intakes-Water-Potassium-Sodium-Chloride-and-Sulfate.aspx . Approximately 80 percent of total daily intake comes from water and other beverages including caffeinated drinks and the other 20 percent comes from food. In other words, watery foods and other beverages count towards your total daily consumption. For most people, 6-8 cups of fluids will generally be enough, but keep in mind that you may need more on days that are particularly hot and when you are engaging in activities that make you sweat. On those days, consuming a little more water (consider an additional 1.5 to 2.5 cups) is suggested to compensate for the loss. You can drink flavored seltzer water or make your own cucumber or lemon infused water. This is a great way to add flavor to plain water or switch up your water routine.
6. Skip the afternoon coffee run. It can be tempting to go for the late afternoon coffee run, but, if you’re feeling low on energy, caffeine is not always the best answer. In addition, it can add unnecessary calories and sugar if you opt for one the specialty coffee drink like Starbucks Vanilla Frappuccino. https://www.starbucks.com/menu/drinks/frappuccino-blended-beverages
Caffeine is a stimulant which can give you a false sense of energy. After the caffeine wears off your energy level can end up lower than where you started. https://www.theenergyblueprint.com/caffeine-fatigue/ In addition, consuming caffeine in the afternoon can negatively impact sleep which can lead to more fatigue and irritability the next day. There are many health benefits of tea and coffee, so don’t give it up completely. Next time, replace the afternoon caffeinated beverage with a quick walk, deep breathing exercises, or some gentle stretching. You’ll be surprised on how it lifts your energy and mood.
Just one note of caution- it’s important to speak with your health care provider to ensure that you’ve ruled out and addressed any underlying health conditions that make be contributing to your fatigue like a thyroid issue. Once everything checks out fine, consider starting with one small manageable step to increase your energy and build over time. There is no time like the present to start feeling your very best!