You do not need a PhD in biochemistry to understand that food is fuel and that it affects our energy levels. Nevertheless, you have to be intelligent if you’re eating for energy. “Particular eating strategies will surely help you ward off fatigue,” says Stacey Whittle, RD, a registered dietitian in the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
Ironically, the very food we so frequently rely on for rapid energy—concentrated sources of sugar, like candy bars or pop—are the very foods that you should avoid if you need enduring energy, say specialists.
Here’s why: Your body uses food for energy by turning it into blood sugar, or glucose. Carbs convert most easily into this ready-to-burn off fuel, making them your macronutrient of choice for energy eating. The problem is that some simple carbs, like sugar, tend to break down so fast that, after supplying a short lived explosion of energy, they leave your blood sugar low, your energy insufficient, along with your strategies for the day action. Complex carbs, like grains, replace this spike-and-dip act with a steady energy supply that keeps you going at full throttle.
Striking The Optimal Energy Balance
You do not have to drastically change your diet to contain nothing but high energy foods to ratchet up your energy levels. Chances are, you’re already eating a lot of the foods best suited for daylong energy. It’s just a matter of eating them at the perfect time, in the right amounts, and in the ideal blends.
What is the ideal combination? High (but not alone) carbs, moderate protein, low (but not no) fat. Think of a turkey sandwich with low-fat mayohinnaise, a small portion of spaghetti and meatballs, or a bowl of chili.
Distribute your calories equally among breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A skimpy breakfast, a hurried lunch, as well as a huge evening feast is all about the least energy-efficient eating schedule imaginable. “What do you need all those calories for if you’re going to bed?” says Debra Wein, RD, cofounder of Sensible Nutrition Connection in Hingham, Massachusetts.
“Anybody who’s ever done justice to a Thanksgiving dinner understands that you get tired when you overstuff,” says Ann Grandjean, EdD, director of the International Center for Sports Nutrition in Omaha, Nebraska.
Never, ever skip a meal. “Many women skip breakfast,” Wein says. “And some may even skip lunch since they believe it’ll help them lose weight.” But by skipping breakfast or lunch—or both—not only are you depriving your body of calories just when it needs them the most, you are also likely to compensate with a lethargy-inducing pig-out when you do eat. So much for weight loss! “And in the event you keep missing meals, the result over time is an overall malaise,” Wein says.
Eat five meals a day. The pros favor including a midmorning and midafternoon snack to your everyday meal program, and downgrading your other three meals appropriately to keep your total calories where you would like them. This mini-meal plan is a superb energy booster as you are getting energy into your body right when you require it, you will not be going too long between meals, and you’re less likely to overeat or undereat. “Should you watch your portion size and take time for this midmorning and midafternoon snack, you’ll be surprised at how positively your energy levels are affected,” Whittle says.
Wein proposes the following energizing calorie allotments: If you’re a reasonably typical weight-watching girl, your calorie count each day will most likely drop between 1,400 and 2,000. If you are at the higher number, shoot for 500 calories at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with midmorning and midafternoon snacks at 250. In the event you’re down at 1,400 total calories, your meals should be 400 calories each, with two 100-calorie snacks.
*Julia VanTine and Debra L. Gordon are authors of Maximum Food Power for Women, the publication from which this post is excerpted.[pagebreak]
If you’re heavy, slim down. “Carrying around 10 or 20 pounds of excess weight in the type of body fat is like dragging an anchor,” says Wayne Askew, PhD, professor of nutrition and director of the section of foods and nutrition in the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. “The best method to feel dynamic will be to keep a proper body weight for your height and frame size.”
Forget crash-dieting. It’s rather hard not to get enough calories in our food-privileged country, but lots of women go out of their way to do just that. Low-calorie diets—fewer than 1,200 calories a day, depending on your size—can sap your energy. To begin with, it’s more challenging to get the nutrients you need when you go below 1,800 calories a day. And, though every woman has different calorie needs, have fewer than 10 calories per pound of body weight is clearly too low, Grandjean says. “The body compensates by going into a lower gear.”
The Power Duo
Vitamins and minerals do not provide energy directly, but they’re big-time players in processing energy. So in case you do not get enough of them, you may find yourself waking up tired and staying that way. Plenty of variety in fruits and vegetables is the best approach to get the entire array of micronutrients, from vitamin A to zinc. However, for energy, try these two strategies:
Drink tons of fresh orange juice. Believe it or not believe it, maybe one out of three women isn’t getting enough vitamin C, says Carol Johnston, PhD, assistant professor of food and nutrition in the family resources department at Arizona State University in Tempe. Vitamin C helps generate carnitine, a molecule that helps your body burn fat for energy. “Folks probably have up to a 50% drop in muscle carnitine levels when they are vitamin C-depleted,” she says. Johnston thinks 200 to 300 mg daily is enough for you to feel more energy, assuming that you were short on C. You can get that much without supplementing if you drink orange juice (one 8-oz glass a day) and eat a diet high in vitamin C-rich foods, including kiwifruit (70 milligrams per fruit), uncooked red or green bell pepper (142 mg and 60 milligrams per 1/2 cup, respectively), broccoli (51 milligrams per 1/2 cup cooked), strawberries (49 milligrams per 1/2 cup), and brussels sprouts (48 milligrams per 1/2 cup cooked).
Be sure to get sufficient iron. Iron is vital mineral for energy because of its role in carrying oxygen via red blood cells to wherever it’s needed in the body. Too little iron creates a cascade of issues that end up lowering your metabolic rate—and your energy levels. Lots of girls are not getting the 18 mg a day of iron they need in their diets. A half-cup of soybeans contains 9 milligrams of iron; a half-cup of baked beans, 8 mg; a half-cup of spinach, 6 milligrams; 3 oz. of steak, 5 mg; and 3 ounces of fried oysters, 6 mg. If you think you are anemic or have significantly low iron levels, see your primary-care physician before taking iron supplements.
“When you wake up in the morning, you’ve gone 6 to 8 hours without taking in any calories,” Wein points out. “That is the time to wake up your body by supplying it with the right kind of calories to burn for energy.”
So if you skimp on breakfast, you run the possibility of a lackluster morning, since your blood sugar will most likely be low and stay low, depriving your brain of the glucose it needs. Here’s how to eat a true power breakfast:
Hold the pancake syrup. Sweet breakfasts are an energy catastrophe, since nothing plummets your blood sugar faster (after an initial increase) than concentrated forms of simple carbs like corn or maple syrup. Pouring one of them over refined carbs like white flour pancakes or waffles exaggerates the effect. Whittle warns that any sweet topping with corn syrup in it—like the typical maple-flavored syrup or a lot of jellies—is an especially great bet to spike-and-dip your blood sugar to lethargic levels. So try some healthier and more energizing alternatives, she indicates. Go for French toast made with whole grain bread and egg substitute, or utilize a whole grain flour like buckwheat in your pancake or waffle mix. Top them off with your favourite fruit instead of syrup.
Reach for some protein. While fruit and whole grain cereal are excellent morning options, your breakfast carbohydrates still need to be balanced with some protein foods for more putting up with energy, Whittle says. The fat-free milk or low-fat 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 fiber per serving. Whole grains, unlike processed flour products, produce energy laced with fiber, which slows down the digestion so the energy is discharged over a longer duration of time. That is why whole grain, high-fiber cereals are a superb breakfast selection for all-morning energy. “Look for one with at least 3 g of fiber per serving,” Wein says. “Some have 8 g or more. Eat it with fat-free milk, and you’ve got a perfect equilibrium.”
Stock up on oatmeal. A fiber-packed whole grain cereal, oatmeal is your best breakfast option for long lasting energy, says William Evans, PhD, manager of the nutrition, metabolism, and exercise lab at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences/Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Little Rock. Evans credits oatmeal’s energy-boosting ability with its soluble fiber content. Much more compared to the insoluble fiber in, say, wheat bran, the soluble fiber in oatmeal slows down carbohydrate absorption, hence keeping your blood sugar levels more constant. Both oat bran and rolled oats are full of soluble fiber, so on mornings when you don’t feel like eating oatmeal, attempt oat bran muffins.
Ace Midmorning Assemblies
Faced with an interminable meeting, it’s all too simple to rely on the doughnut-Danish-bagel axis: low-fiber, protein-free, high-purified-carb foods that yoyo your glucose levels. Rather, reach for steady-energy allies. Here are a few suggestions from the pros:
A peanut butter sandwich Make it with whole wheat bread, also it will get the macronutrient mix that will keep your eyes open as well as your brain hum. That is since the fiber in the whole wheat and also the protein (and fat) in the peanut butter will ration out the energy with time. “Even in the event you’d like to add just a little jelly, it’s definitely going to be absorbed slowly because of the peanuts, which have fat and fiber, which means that your blood sugar will not plummet,” says Whittle. Another good option is peanut butter on apple slices. An apple is nearly pure carbohydrate, with simple sugars, but the energy it provides will be metered over time by its own fiber and by the peanut butter.
Fruit and cheese Chop up half an apple (for carbohydrates) and blend it with 1% cottage cheese (for its protein and some fat), and bring it to work for balanced midmorning fortification, suggests Whittle. Equally healthy editions are low fat cheese on whole grain bread or a little salad with tuna and chopped apples.
Vim In The Day
Lunch should leave you invigorated, not asleep at your workstation. Make these adjustments to come back strong for the day’s second act:
Take it simple. Ample lunches of 1,000 calories or more are proven energy sappers. “Portion size is essential,” says Whittle. “Most people overeat at lunch.”
Pass on pure pasta. Unless you are planning to run a marathon after lunch, it’s probably not wise to overemphasize pasta or some other refined carbohydrate at lunchtime. “Susceptibility to grogginess after a high-carbohydrate lunch is more common in girls than men, and in individuals over 40,” Grandjean says. Better carb choices are fiber-rich whole grain bread, brown rice, and beans or lentils instead of white bread, white rice, or white pasta.
Push the protein. Along with picking fiber-rich unrefined complex carbohydrates, the next best thing you can do to ramp up your afternoon energy levels would be to cancel your lunch carbohydrates with a high-protein food, Whittle says. Superb noon protein alternatives are soy hamburgers, seafood, tuna, turkey, or cottage cheese.
Construct a high-energy salad. “Just a salad” is a common lunch request by weight-seeing girls, however a plateful of not much more than lettuce barely qualifies as energy food even for rabbits. “A typical lunch should be 400 to 500 calories, so salads usually just are not enough,” Wein says. Instead, she proposes making your own lunch salads with energy in mind. “Pick dark leafy greens, which are higher in nutrients and fiber,” she says. “Add many different colorful vegetables including carrots, peppers, and broccoli. And always contain a low fat source of protein such as chickpeas or broiled chicken to round it outside.”
Power Up For Lunchtime Workouts
If you’re going to be exercising at lunchtime, make your midmorning snack higher in carbohydrates than you otherwise would. Should you exercise after work, up the carb content of your midafternoon snack. “Those carbs an hour or so before exercising will serve directly as energy to burn for your workout,” Wein says. It’s also an effective way to provide energy to your muscles during your fitness regimen, she adds.
You can have a half-cup of raisins (115 g carb), a half cup of tropical trail mix (92 g), 10 pretzels (48 g) or an 8 oz cup of low fat yogurt (43 g).
And eat your next meal shortly after you complete your fitness regimen. Exercise itself lowers blood sugar, so loving a balanced meal afterward will help stabilize glucose levels and keep you going for the remaining part of the day. (Need some lunchtime work out thoughts? Check out Noontime Burn And Business.)
Defeat Afternoon Slump
As any woman knows, the workday doesn’t end when you leave the office. After-hours errands, or what have you, put lengthy demands on your stamina. A midafternoon snack can help see you through. Plus, you won’t get home so starving that you inhale the first thing that you get your hands on, or overeat at dinner.
The ideal midafternoon snack contains the exact same blend of components as a good breakfast or midmorning snack: a mini-meal which includes protein and some fat as well as carbohydrates—say, the other half of a turkey sandwich, or a couple more peanut butter crackers.
Eat To Win Against The Heat
If you see that you just tire more easily in the summertime, heat itself isn’t necessarily to blame. “Dehydration is what makes you tired,” Grandjean says. That’s because your body will really keep its cells hydrated at any cost, she says, so in the event that you don’t replace water lost through perspiration, it will just take water out of the circulating blood, reducing your blood volume. “As your blood volume goes down, your heart has to work a little more difficult,” she says. “Your body adjusts to that by slowing down, and that impacts your general feeling of energy.” So your daily 8 or 9 glasses of water become more important on hot days, and, actually, might not be enough on some days.
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