Better Eating Habits: I Need More Energy!
While trudging through the day, all of us have felt listless, tired or unmotivated. After reaching this point, most people reach for caffeine or their favorite sugary food. Hang in there: Donât grab those calorie-laden boosters so fast; there are better, healthier ways to get your energy up.
Here are some things to look for to keep your momentum going throughout the dayânaturally and sustainably.
Carbs should be your main source of energy and are broken down into two types: simple and complex. Simple carbs are basically just sugar. Small amounts of carbs are good, and are found naturally in fruits and vegetables. Foods like candy bars, with added sugars, should be avoided. Theyâll provide a short spike in energy but leave you feeling sluggish before too long.
Complex carbs are divided into fiber and starch. These carbs will be your best bet for keeping your energy up and weight down. Some great high fiber foods include: fruits, vegetables, pasta, cereal, nuts and seeds. High fiber foods are also a great option because their bulk keeps you feeling full on fewer calories. Some good starchy options are whole grain foods, such as brown and wild rice, popcorn, oats; potatoes; and beans.
A study by the USDA Agricultural Research Service showed that people with low levels of magnesium also reported having low energy levels. There are a lot of high carb foods that also have high magnesium levels, like whole grains, nuts and beans. Some good magnesium-rich, mid-morning/late afternoon snack options are pumpkin seeds, almonds and cashews.
Contrary to popular belief, B vitamins donât give you a burst of energy by themselves. Still, they are an important part of your diet since they help convert food into energy. Most people get plenty of B vitamins naturally through the foods they eat; however, vegans and strict vegetarians need to be aware that B12 is only found naturally in meat products.
Like B vitamins, proteins are most helpful in converting food to energy, and most people with a well-rounded diet usually get all they need naturally. But again, vegans and strict vegetarians may need to combine foodsâlike rice and beansâto get the amount of complete proteins that their bodies need.
Also, many people find that a high-protein breakfast gives them more energy throughout the day. Just remember to supplement those eggs and sausages with some fiber-rich foods.
Some good protein choices are: almonds, beef, cheese, peanut butter, tuna fish and soy beans.
Thatâs right; fats can be a quick and efficient source of energy. Just remember that you should not get more than 10 percent of your energy needs from saturated fat, and your total fat intake should be between 25 percent and 35 percent of your total calorie intake. So eat fats sparingly, and try to limit yourself to mono- and poly-unsaturated fats.
Some great monounsaturated fat options are avocados, olive oil, sunflower oil and nuts. Polyunsaturated options include: soybean oil, corn oil, walnuts and many types of fishâlike trout, herring, tuna and salmon, for example.
No real explanation is necessary hereâcaffeine definitely gives you a boost of energy. If you really feel you need your caffeine fix, stay away from sugary drinks. Opt instead for coffees or teas. Just remember, relying too heavily on caffeine can ultimately impair your energy levels more than help them. Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it can dehydrate you. If you drink caffeine too late in the afternoon it will keep you up at night, and if you are not getting a healthy nightâs sleep, no dietary change can give you the energy levels you want.
No, drinking water wonât give you a burst of energy the way caffeine will. Letting yourself get dehydrated, however, has been shown to decrease energy levels, mood and concentration. So make sure you are drinking at least 8 oz. of water a day.
Other Good Options
If you feel like having small snacks between meals isnât enough or find yourself getting tired after eating large meals, you might want to cut out the snacks and eat four or five small meals. This will spread out your calorie intake and give you energy to burn throughout the day.
Lastly, donât forget to move around. If you sit down most of the day, try to stand up and walk around at least once an hour. At the very least, get your blood pumping by rotating your head and shoulders and flexing your wrist and ankles. These little moves work wonders in diving away mental sluggishness.