Fitness Facts: Eating for energy

By Liz Cook
Registered Dietitian, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic

While an extra hour of sleep each night might not be a realistic possibility, the way you choose to spend your waking hours can have a big impact on your energy levels.

The post-lunch slump is no joke, and there’s a reason 5-hour Energy calls it “that 2:30 feeling.” What we put into our bodies can make or break our energy levels, which in turn can make or break our days.

One of the most important things to include in your meals and snacks for high-energy days is protein. Protein gives us steady energy that carries us from a meal or snack through to the next one.

If you exercise, protein also helps your body recover, which means it can help with physical fatigue as well as well general sleepiness.

Including lean proteins such as eggs or yogurt with breakfast can kick your day off right.

Adding chicken, turkey, fish, tofu and beans to your lunch and dinner will help you feel full and energized after each meal.

Finally, snacking on a handful of nuts or a cheese stick can give you a little boost of protein between meals to keep you feeling good.

Fiber is another component of our food that keeps us feeling both full and energized. When we consume complex carbs, which are carbs that contain fiber, the sugars from those carbs are released into our bloodstream more slowly, which gives us sustained energy.

On the flip side, if we consume refined carbs, with little to no fiber, we get a surge of energy followed by a crash. Opting for whole wheat toast, whole grain oats, brown rice, quinoa and whole grain pasta can help provide our bodies with slow, sustained energy.

Consuming healthy fats, specifically those high in omega-3 fatty acids, also can help us feel our best throughout the day. Like protein and fiber, healthy fats are digested more slowly and give us energy that lasts from meal to meal.

Omega-3s also help reduce inflammation and fatigue, which leaves you feeling more energized and stronger every day. Nuts, nut butters, avocados, fish, olive oil and avocado oil can help you get your daily dose of fatty acids.

It’s not unusual to see B vitamins marketed as “energy vitamins,” and for good reason. B vitamins help our bodies convert our food into usable energy for our bodies.

You can get a health dose of B vitamins from whole grains, meat, fish, eggs, nuts and leafy greens. Iron also helps us feel alert and energized by delivering oxygen to our cells and allowing them to function optimally. Including lean meats, fish, beans, nuts and leafy greens in your diet helps ensures you are getting enough iron daily.

Your overall food intake is also something to be aware of if you have consistently low energy levels.

Energy is measured in calories, which means the calorie number you see on the labels of the food you eat quite literally tells you how much energy is in that food. If we constantly choose low calorie options, we are choosing low energy options. Make sure you’re eating enough energy each day to be able to do the things you need to do!

Hydration is also key to energy levels. One of the top symptoms of dehydration is fatigue. I highly recommend getting yourself a big, reusable water bottle and keeping it filled up on your desk all the time.

Additionally, set yourself a goal of how many bottles you would like to drink per day, then break it up and assign times to check-in. For example, one bottle before coffee in the morning, one bottle before lunch, one bottle by the end of the workday, etc.

With all of that said, it’s still crucial to maximize your sleep. Aiming for 7-9 hours each night will help improve energy levels and keep them high all day. Frequent meals and snacks with the discussed components above – such as lean protein, fiber and healthy fats – will keep you alert and ready to take on whatever the day brings!

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Bible Verse

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