Striking the optimal energy balance
According to prevention.com, you don’t have to radically change your diet to include nothing but high energy foods to ratchet up your energy levels. Chances are, you’re already eating many of the foods best suited for daylong energy. It’s simply a matter of eating them at the right time, in the right amounts, and in the right combinations.
What’s the ideal mix? High (but not exclusively) carbohydrates, moderate protein, low (but not no) fat. Think of a turkey sandwich with low-fat mayo, a small serving of spaghetti and meatballs, or a bowl of chili.
Distribute your calories equally among breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A skimpy breakfast, a hurried lunch, and a huge evening feast is about the least energy-efficient eating schedule imaginable.
Never, ever skip a meal. Especially breakfast! That is the time to wake up your body by providing it with the right kind of calories to burn for energy.
Eat five meals a day. The experts favour adding a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack to your daily meal schedule, and downgrading your other three meals accordingly to keep your total calories where you want them. This mini-meal plan is a super energy booster because you’re getting energy into your body right when you need it, you won’t be going too long between meals, and you’re less likely to overeat or under eat.
Vitamins and minerals don’t provide energy directly, but they’re big-time players in processing energy. So if you don’t get enough of them, you may find yourself waking up tired and staying that way.
Get enough vitamin C. Vitamin C helps produce carnitine, a molecule that helps your body burn fat for energy. 200 to 300 mg daily is enough for you to feel more energy, assuming that you were short on C. Try a glass of orange juice, a kiwifruit (70 mg per fruit), raw red or green bell pepper (142 mg and 60 mg per 1/2 cup, respectively), broccoli (51 mg per 1/2 cup cooked), strawberries (49 mg per 1/2 cup), and Brussel sprouts (48 mg per 1/2 cup cooked).
Be sure to get enough iron. Iron is a must mineral for energy because of its role in transporting oxygen via red blood cells to wherever it’s needed in the body. Too little iron creates a cascade of problems that end up lowering your metabolic rate—and your energy levels. A lot of women aren’t getting the 18 mg a day of iron they need in their diets. A half-cup of soybeans contains 9 mg of iron; a half-cup of baked beans, 8 mg; a half-cup of spinach, 6 mg; 100g of beef, 5 mg. If you think you’re anaemic or have significantly low iron levels, see your primary-care physician before taking iron supplements.
Reach for some protein. While fruit and whole grain cereal are fine morning choices, your breakfast carbohydrates still need to be balanced with some protein foods for more enduring energy. The fat-milk or yogurt you add to the cereal will work. Or go for eggs or egg substitutes with an English muffin or a slice of whole grain toast.
Shoot for 3 g of fibre per serving. Whole grains, unlike refined flour products, deliver energy laced with fibre, which slows down the digestion so that the energy is released over a longer period of time. That’s why whole grain, high-fibre cereals are an excellent breakfast selection for all-morning energy.
So if you skimp on breakfast, you run the risk of a lacklustre morning, since your blood sugar will probably be low and stay low, depriving your brain of the glucose it needs.
Stock up on oatmeal. A fibre-packed whole grain cereal, oatmeal is your best breakfast choice for long-lasting energy. Oatmeal has a fantastic energy-boosting ability with its soluble fibre content. The soluble fibre in oatmeal slows down carbohydrate absorption, thus keeping your blood sugar levels more constant. Both oat bran and rolled oats are high in soluble fibre; so on mornings when you don’t feel like eating oatmeal, try oat bran muffins.
A peanut butter sandwich (preferably with whole wheat bread).
Fruit and cheese
If you’re going to be exercising at lunchtime, make your mid-morning snack higher in carbohydrates than you otherwise would. If you exercise after work, up the carbohydrate content of your mid-afternoon snack. Those carbohydrates an hour or so before exercising will serve directly as energy to burn for your workout. It is also a great way to provide energy to your muscles during your workout.
You could have a half-cup of raisins (115 g carb), a half-cup of tropical trail mix (92 g), 10 pretzels (48 g) or an 225g of yogurt (43 g).
And eat your next meal soon after you finish your workout. Exercise itself lowers blood sugar, so enjoying a balanced meal afterward will help stabilize glucose levels and keep you going for the rest of the day.
The ideal mid-afternoon snack consists of the same mix of components as a good breakfast or mid-morning snack: a mini-meal that includes protein and some fat as well as carbohydrates—say, the other half of a turkey sandwich, or a couple more peanut butter crackers. This helps in avoiding the afternoon slump.
Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day to keep energy levels up.
Eat the right food combos
Avoid the energy traps
It’s also about avoiding the traps that can zap or drain energy—primarily processed and artificial foods, refined grains and sugar, skipping meals, and drinking too much caffeine and alcohol.
Top Energy Boosters
This mineral is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including breaking down glucose into energy. So when levels are even a little low, energy can drop.
The recommended daily intake of magnesium is around 300 milligrams for women and 350 milligrams for men.
Here are some suggestions:
Experts say that increasing physical activity — particularly walking — increases energy.
In experiments conducted by Robert Thayer, PhD, at California State University, a brisk 10-minute walk not only increased energy, but the effects lasted up to two hours. And when the daily 10-minute walks continued for three weeks, overall energy levels and mood were lifted.
Research has shown that both information overload and pushing our brains too hard can zap energy. But studies by the National Institutes of Mental Health found that a 60-minute “power nap” can not only reverse the mind-numbing effects of information overload, it may also help us to better retain what we have learned.
Stress is the result of anxiety, and anxiety uses up a whole lot of our energy.
Stress can leave you mentally and physically exhausted — even if you’ve spent the day in bed.
In much the same way, unexpressed anger can also deplete your energy levels. The reason is that we’re expending all our energy trying to contain our angry feelings.
This can be countered by programming more relaxation activities into our day. Exercise, reading, talking to a friend or listening to music. Whatever you find relaxing can help increase energy levels.
You may already know that it’s easy to confuse signals of hunger with thirst (we think we need food when we really need water). But did you know that thirst can also masquerade as fatigue?
The solution is simple: a tall, cool glass of water. This is particularly important to boost energy after exercise, when your body is likely to be craving fluids.
By cutting down on alcohol before bedtime, you’ll get a better night’s rest, which is bound to result in more energy the next day.
The key here is keeping blood sugar balanced so energy is constant.
Eating sweet foods gives you an initial burst in energy, but then it is followed by a rapid drop in blood sugar, which can leave you feeling low in energy. If this is repeated several times a day, it can make you feel very tired.
This can be counteracted by eating whole grains, that provide a steady release of fuel, so that energy is balanced and you are left feeling less tired.
If you’re constantly low on energy talk to a doctor about a blood test for thyroid dysfunction as well as anaemia.
Vitamin B complex plays a crucial role in fuelling the body with carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The best vitamin B-rich foods include wholegrain cereals, meat, poultry, salmon, eggs, milk and green leafy vegetables. You may also need to take a B-complex multivitamin daily.
Complex carbs will help keep blood-sugar and energy levels stable. Some of the better choices include wholegrain breads and pasta, whole oats and muesli, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth and root vegetables such as beetroot, pumpkin and sweet potato.
Eight hours of sleep per day is optimal for good health and vitality. Sleep is the time when cells produce and release proteins essential for growth and tissue repair. Lack of sleep can cause poor concentration and mood swings and weaken immune function.
Spirulina is as freshwater algae that are rich in vitamins B, C and D, as well as magnesium, zinc, iron and beta-carotene. They are important for strong immune function.
Caffeine stimulates the stress hormones production. That provides a temporary boost in energy but can also contribute to anxiety, irritability, muscle tension, weakened immunity and insomnia. For alternatives you might try dandelion root coffee or herbal teas.
Just 20 minutes outdoors is enough to feel more alive.
Your body needs food to function, and without it your energy and mood can deteriorate. Regular healthy meals and snacks can improve cognitive function.
Just a few stretches could also improve energy levels.
Plants can have effects on reducing the amount volatile organic compounds which can have both long and short-term effects, including energy-draining allergies and headaches, if not counter acted.
Laughter is a proven stress-relief, but studies suggest laughing can boost energy levels, too.
Environmental cues play a huge role in the body’s energy grooves (a.k.a. circadian rhythms), and sunlight can also help alleviate seasonal affective disorder.
Thinking faster (i.e. reading at a quicker pace, brainstorming in a group, or learning a new concept) made one group of study subjects feel more energized.
Researchers have even suggested a three-minute long cold shower could be enough to counteract some of the effects of chronic fatigue.
Deep breathing from the diaphragm gets blood pumping, which also may boost energy all day long.
Even mild dehydration can cause sleepiness, so try chugging a glass or two when fatigue strikes. Or, better yet, stay hydrated all day long.
Circadian rhythms can have a big impact on how alert we feel, but one study found feeling more awake (at any time of day) can be as easy is flipping on some lights.
Plan to do the most engaging or interesting task of the day during the sleepiest time of day (typically around 3 p.m.). One study found that being interested in a task makes it significantly easier to stay awake, even if you are experiencing an energy drop.
Being too cold may cause the body’s temperature to drop, so increase the temperature to fight off that drowsy feeling.
Talking with others made people feel more awake.
Lemon is considered a stimulating scent, and one study showed it improved subjects’ moods.
Slouching over the computer could cause fatigue earlier in the day. Sit up straight, though—that’s shoulders back, eyes dead ahead, and lower back slightly arched—to feel more energized and possibly even get a boost of self-confidence.
Getting away from the desk at lunchtime could help reenergize and refocus, too. Whether it’s a quick walk or a long lunch, take some time to wake up away from the glowing screen.
Some of the best adaptogen herbs to boost your energy include: ashwagandha, rhodiola, holy basil, liquorice root and ginseng.
These healing plants balance and restore the body’s natural ability to handle stress by regulating the adrenal system, which is responsible for controlling the way hormones respond to stress. Adaptogens don’t target a specific body part; instead, they help your entire body gently cope with stress, anxiety, and, of course, fatigue.
Incorporating adaptogenic herbs into your daily routine will help you feel calmer, less exhausted, and more focused.
Herbal tea can provide an all-natural temporary boost in energy levels without the risk of scary stimulants or processed ingredients.
Best options are green tea and rooibos tea. Green tea has many benefits to your body such as anti-aging and fighting free radicals. It is loaded with catechin, an antioxidant that helps fight damage in the body’s cell.
Rooibos tea is made from South Africa’s red bush plant, this refreshing red tea is packed with antioxidants including aspalathin, an antioxidant that regulates the adrenal hormones, helping to reduce stress and keep energy levels high.
This refreshing essential oil increases oxygen to the brain, which heightens focus and stimulates the mind.
Try dabbing a few drops on your wrists when you find your energy lagging, add some to your shower to get an early morning energy boost, or add several drops to a steam diffuser to breathe in the benefits throughout the day.
Essential fats have many important benefits for increasing energy levels. They help transport oxygen and keep red blood cells, the oxygen carriers, healthy. They are vital for the immune system, which is often taxed in people who take a lot of exercise. They are a backup source of energy and, they actually increase metabolic rate. Omegas 3’s are especially beneficial for exercise as they improve exercise endurance and lower insulin levels, which boosts fat metabolism. Aim for at least one portion of oily fish a week and eat seeds, avocado, nuts and their oils daily.
Eat sour foods before a meal. It stimulates the secretion of digestive enzymes so you get more nutrients out of your food, and therefore more energy. It also makes your digestive process more efficient. Try fresh lemon squeezed in water or apple cider vinegar in water.
When you go to your farmers market, a lot of times the produce was harvested less than 48 hours before you buy it, and because it didn’t have to travel far, it was allowed to really reach its peak, which means more nutrients.